When was the last time your acoustic guitar skills were challenged by a worship song? It’s rare these days for a worship song to venture outside of the arena of common simple chords and easy strum patterns. Most of the time this is fine since the point of worship music is not musical complexity but spiritual focus on God. However, God wants us to be skilled in what we do and to bring our very best. We should always be open to doing new things, being uncomfortable, and looking for ways to grow. Healthy people grow! This is true literally and figuratively.
My Growth Story
I remember when I started playing guitar, once I got past one-string songs, I was challenged by the strumming patterns of Jars of Clay. I learned that, and then I moved on to Dave Matthews’ acoustic stuff, which challenged me on weird chord shapes and strum patterns. Then I got into worship music, and I discovered Israel Houghton’s stuff. This was the culmination of all my years of playing guitar and stretching and learning. I felt like I had been prepared for some of his songs because of the growth I had experienced as a musician. Growth put me in position to serve my team and my church with excellence when I was needed.
It’s good to be stretched & uncomfortable more often than you want to. Let’s face it, most of the time you’re probably not going to want to be stretched! 🙂
It is our natural tendency as humans to drift towards stasis — or equilibrium. In fact, our bodies are made for this. Our temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc… all need to be evened out and constant in order for us to remain healthy. Even in our personal and professional lives most of us resist change. It takes a conscious effort to push yourself out of your comfort zone into the unknown path of resistance, but this is the only way greatness is achieved.
So why all this about growing? Again, it’s VITAL for you to grow to stay alive. This relates directly to your journey playing worship music.
Shake Things Up
In a great book, called Jump Ship by Josh Shipp, he talks about how settling is natural for us and that we sometimes need to “shake things up” in our lives. He likens this to how some juices say on the bottle “Shake Well. Settling is Natural.” Sometimes this is a choice to do something different with your time, and sometimes this is something major like changing careers.
I hope you’re inspired and challenged at this point. If you’re not, let me know why in the comments 🙂
For everyone else who has made it this far, here’s where things get tangible and actionable…
How can you “Shake Up” your acoustic guitar playing?
Here are some things you can do to help you continue moving the needle in the direction of progress playing acoustic guitar for worship.
Figure out where you are now and where you want to be.
You have skills you’ve mastered, skills you are currently working on, and skills you haven’t picked up yet. You have to have some degree of self-awareness to know what you do and do not know. This is helpful in all areas of life, but especially when it comes to playing guitar. Celebrate how far you’ve come, but always keep an eye out for tips and techniques that you see others doing.
You may also have a friend or see someone in a video playing a chord you’ve never seen before or making a sound you haven’t heard before. Take note of that and try to figure out what they’re doing.
Identify your next step and take it.
If you’ve always played songs in the same chord shapes (key of G….capo… everywhere!), then it’s probably time to start getting comfortable with the key of C or E. Just don’t try to do everything at once. Progress requires patience and steadiness.
Your immediate next step may be to Google some replacement chords or different chord shapes you can use instead of the ones you’ve been stuck on for years. Then after that, you’ll reassess your situation and look for that next set of chords to master.
Side note: Get my Free Chord Cheat Sheet for over 60 chord substitutions to make acoustic fun again!
Get someone to hold you accountable.
We hear about accountability partners a lot in church settings. It’s important, though. The Bible has a lot to say about us as Christians living out our lives in community with each other. It’s the way God built us — “iron sharpens iron.”
When you’re trying to get better on the acoustic, you could get some accountability from your worship band-mates or a close friend. You could also challenge yourself with a deadline. You could plan to use a new set of chords on a familiar song (capo in a different position) the next worship service you play in. Then you have a due date on your efforts, and you will be accountable to your team and your church.
Check out the Acoustic Worshiper Community to connect with me and other worship acoustic guitar players so we can help each other get better!
Measure your progress.
We measure what’s important. That’s a line I’ve heard in leadership a lot. It makes perfect sense, too. How will you ever know if you meet your goals if you don’t stop and measure your results?
Measuring your progress doesn’t have to be elaborate, but you do have to take a step back and evaluate what happened. Did you play the song correctly? Did you get that song memorized by Sunday and play without your chord charts? You don’t have to keep a spreadsheet or anything (unless that’s your thing… 🙂 then more power to ya!), but you need to know what direction you’re heading in so you can correct your course if need be.
Iterate 🙂 (Rinse & Repeat)
Once you’ve achieved something, take time to recognize and celebrate that. Then set your eyes on the next small step you can take. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned so far in life is that consistency wins every time. Eventually.
It’s better to be a steady-moving glacier with incredible force than to be a massive explosion that’s burned out in a second.
Do what you can do well, and do what you will do. Be Excellent!
It’s Your Turn
What will you do with what you’ve just read? Let me know where you are in your journey. What skills need improvement? What areas of your acoustic playing are you unsure about? I would love to help!
Leave a comment below and check out the Acoustic Worshiper Community to get some motivation, help, and accountability from others (and me).