If you’ve read my other posts, hopefully by now you are starting to see the value in knowing and embracing your role in the band. The role the acoustic guitar plays is so important to study for a couple main reasons: 1. The role of the acoustic guitar in a modern worship band has changed quite dramatically in the last few years. 2. The acoustic guitar plays a vital role in the overall sound of a modern band. When used correctly, it adds to the excellence of the sound.
To help explain what the role of the acoustic guitar is, I will start by outlining what it is not. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and visualize ourselves standing in a worship service in, let’s say, the year 2003-not that long ago! There is a worship leader on stage with their acoustic guitar and their backup band- or at least that’s the mix we are hearing. What we had there was a popular style of mixing a band. The acoustic guitar was out front driving the bus from the intro to the end of the song. That was popular for many reasons. It was fairly new, (keyboard driven mixes were becoming less popular), it was easy, (the worship leader lead, everyone else followed), and it *sounded awesome! (*note the past tense).
Where are we now? Here’s the shift: Modern bands are more driven by low sounds in addition to the electric guitar as the primary mid-range instrument. What this means is that drums, bass, and electric guitar are the “core” of the modern sound. It is possible to create a good modern sound with only those three instruments and vocals, but to make a GREAT sound we need acoustic guitar and keyboards.
I believe that the acoustic guitar has a couple different roles in modern worship music.
1. In a full band: Fill up space and follow the hi-hat. (If the drummer doesn’t play a rhythm on the hi-hat, then you don’t need to play it either.) Know the places in the song where you will be featured. Play full chords, but know that the most important strings in the mix are your two littlest ones. Don’t over play or play out of rhythm. A good sound tech will hear you clashing with the hi-hat. (You will lose that battle: mute.) ALWAYS play in good acoustic guitar keys. This will help your sound to mix well with the rest of the band and just sound prettier. (That’s always a good goal:)
2. In an acoustic set: This is the time to get creative. Maybe learn the electric guitar leads from the full band version of the song and see if they sound good in your acoustic band. Don’t drive the whole time. Let your instrument be a piece of the pie. (The pie is the band… )
I’ll leave you with a quick capo cheat sheet. It’s good to know all of your chords and scales, but the capo makes your instrument SOUND BETTER! (There’s a reason they don’t write horn concertos in E:)
These are the keys to know backwards and forwards:
A, C, D, E, G. (Get goin’ on some theory. Memorize these keys. A good way to practice this is to play a popular chord progression in all these keys. Ex. Blessed Be Your Name: 1, 5, 6m, 4.)
Here’s how we play all the others:
Suggestions for the key of:
A= play in A, or Capo 2 (G)
A#/Bb= Capo 3 (G)
B= Capo 4 (G)
C= play in C, or Capo 5 (G)
C#/Db= Capo 1 (C)
D= Play in D! It’s awesome!
D#/Eb= Capo 1 (D)
E= Play in E
F= Capo 1 (E), or Capo 3 (D)
F#/Gb= Capo 2 (E), or Capo 4 (D)
G= Play in G, or Capo 5 (D)
There you go! Have fun finally hearing your strings ring out in Eb:)
Learn your role, know your part, embrace your team.