I love leading worship with an acoustic guitar. But, I REALLY love leading with an electric guitar. I think the reason for this is because as a young musician, I was more of the rocker type. As a teenager, I used to practice guitar solos for hours. Many of my early musical opportunities had me playing electric/lead guitar. Also, electric guitars give the musician more of a chance to experiment and be creative with sounds and riffs. Here are a few things that I’ve learned about leading worship with electrics that I hope will help you if you are thinking about doing the same:
Leading from electric guitars opens up more opportunities for acoustic guitarists. In most churches, there are usually an abundance of acoustic guitarists. Quite frankly, I don’t want to be stingy with that spot on my worship team. So, by switching to electric guitar, it positions me to be able to still play guitar, but to also get out of the way and let others join in as well.
Leading from electric guitars gives opportunity for leadership. If someone else is on the acoustic guitar duties, they are now in more of a leadership position in the band. They will be in a spot that either starts, finishes, or carries a song. And this also trains your worship band to not be completely dependent on you. Essentially, these first two reasons are about fulfilling Ephesians 4:12 in equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Many times, we as leaders must simply get out of the way for that to happen.
When leading from electric guitars, be sure to find the right guitar. This just simply boils down to tastes and preferences. What might work for one person, would probably not work for another. For me, I love Fender Stratocasters and Gibson Les Pauls, but I would hate having to lead worship with them. For leading worship, I prefer a telecaster or a semi-hollow body guitar. If you are thinking about switching to electric, give either one of those a try and see which one you like.
When leading from electric guitars, use different chord voicings. Bottom line is, you don’t want three guitars playing the same kind of chord. It will sound muddy and clumsy if all the guitars are playing an open G chord. It’s not difficult to learn different ways to play chords though. They are all over the internet. With some google searches, and a little practice, you will be able to play chords up and down the guitar neck. This way, the guitars compliment, not compete with each other.
When leading with electric guitars, make sure you have a drummer. This one is more of a soft rule. You certainly can play electric guitar without a drummer, but be mindful of the song choices and arrangements. It might sound a little goofy if you are hammering away on some distorted chords without someone on drums. Plus, without a drummer, your band may need you on acoustic to help drive the songs. So, if you don’t have a drummer, it may not be time to switch to an electric guitar.
When leading with electric guitars, remember to play less. Worship leaders with acoustic guitars are used to playing a lot. It is usually up to the person in this role to keep things together. If you are on electric though, you need to not be as busy. By doing so, you open up space for the other instruments. This goes back to how you want every instrument to complement, not compete with each other. When playing electric, you also don’t have to be super fancy. Remember, your role is to lead in worship, not nail an awesome solo. If there is a distinct electric guitar riff in the song, learn it but don’t get too carried away. Just try to stick to your chord voicings and arpegios and you will be fine.