Yesterday, I led the entire worship service without a guitar in my hand. It was simultaneously more frustrating and more rewarding that I had imagined.
Naturally, I’m still processing the good and bad and seeing how I can improve next week. (We’re doing this for all of April, you know!)
Before I get to it, I have to acknowledge our very brave acoustic guitar player, Brian. He stepped into a situation that was new and untested. He did a great job and had the best attitude I could have hoped for.
Now…did it work? And was it worth it?
- Engagement – I’ve led worship in this church for over four years and I never seen our congregation respond the way they did today. I don’t think it was a fluke. I think having a worship leader free to respond physically made it easier for congregants to do the same. They sang louder and were much free with raising hands, applauding God’s glory, etc. While physical reactions should never be the measure of worship “success,” it was a very new thing for Bethel.
- Band – I think the band played better. They had to listen to one another and had to know their parts. There were a few spots where the band wasn’t as sure of the music and it was all the more obvious since I was there covering it up with my guitar.
- Mix – At the end of the service, I had the band play instrumentally (without me) and I thought the mix was superb. Whereas the mix is sometimes dominated by my acoustic playing, the sound yesterday was much more balanced. I think it specifically improved the quality of the playing with our piano and B3.
- Click – We struggled with tempo a bit. I work pretty hard at keeping good rhythm and in a couple of spots, my guitar would have helped us out a bit. Now, since clicks aren’t a necessity, this wasn’t a big deal. But it can be frustrating in the in-ears to consistently fight the metronome.
- Last song – The final song in our set is usually a bit more loose, since we’re transitioning into prayer time before the sermon. The band wasn’t confident on the song and did not play it well. Both sets were murky when it came to the end. If I keep going guitar-less after April, it might be wise to grab my acoustic for at least the final song.
- Complaints – Most frustrating part of the day was some musicians and tech team telling me how “weird” it was for me to not play guitar. But I figure better congregational engagement, band development and increasing volunteers are all important enough to endure a little weirdness ons tage.
We’ve still got some challenges ahead; the band’s got to be more sure of the material. And since we’re using a rotating crew of players, each week’s mix and rehearsal is going to be unique. It was a great day and I’m glad we did it.
*By the way, that picture may be the best thing I’ve ever seen.