What's Wrong With Your Music

I was talking to a worship leader about his music. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but there was something wrong. It just didn’t sound right. Not contemporary enough or something.

Looking at his set list, I figured he was probably trying to do contemporary worship with golden oldies like “He Is Exalted” and “I Love You, Lord.” I was shocked to see he was doing current worship hits from Hillsong United and Lincoln Brewster.

“You’re doing all the current songs, what’s wrong?” I asked. He just couldn’t articulate the problem.

After I visited his rehearsal, I heard the problem: 40- and 50-year-olds trying to play music written by 20-year-olds with synth patches and guitar effects from the ’80s. They were playing modern songs in an old-fashioned way and it just didn’t sound right.

Over six years ago when I started WorshipIdeas.com, the main question churches had was, “How do I start doing contemporary worship?” Most churches were in transition from traditional to contemporary.

In 2008, the vast majority of churches have made the transition. People who come to my worship conference classes reflect this. They no longer are wanting to know HOW to transition from traditional to contemporary, they want to know how to DO contemporary.

For instance, at my worship leader friend’s rehearsal was a mid-40s guitarist who had the cheesiest ’80s chorus and reverb on his guitar. He still thought that was cool, and it was back in the ’80s. It just doesn’t work on a modern worship tune.

As a keyboardist, I grumblingly admit that guitars are where it’s at in the current worship style (in a few years things will probably shift back to keyboards — it’s all a big cycle). This is a big issue. Guitars are vitally important to your sound. I’m amazed at how much my HymnCharts arrangements change when my guitarist friend, Adam Fisher, lays down some guitar tracks.

So what do you do with an out of touch guitarist?

Option 1: You keep the guy in your band and settle for music that doesn’t sound right. Nobody’s feelings get hurt. You probably won’t attract many people under 30 to the church as they are so tuned into music, and you probably won’t get modern players in your band either. In fact, the pastor of the aforementioned church was frustrated that most of the congregation was over 40.

Option 2: You kick the guy out of the band and find a 25-year-old to take his place.

Maybe there’s a 3rd option where the ball is in the court of the mid-40s guitarist. Kindly explain that you would like him to play the guitar EXACTLY as he hears it on the recording. He may not even own the proper pedals: If budget allows, buy the proper pedals or borrow them. Once he has the pedals, he may not know how to use them: Show him how, and if you don’t know, find someone who does. Partner with a local music store and have a modern guitar workshop for your praise band. Make every effort to equip those in your ministry. It wouldn’t hurt to find a 25-year-old modern guitarist anyway and have him share the stage with the 40-year-old.

It’s all about change, and we worship leaders, of all people, know how people luvvv to change, don’t we! If the 40s guitarist is willing to grow, learn and change, he’ll continue to be a valued member of the praise band. If he stubbornly refuses, maybe it’s time to look for a new player.

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dchapman@churchleaders.com'
Arranger/composer Don Chapman is the creative energy behind several websites devoted to contemporary worship: HymnCharts, WorshipFlow, and WorshipIdeas.com. He's the editor of the weekly WorshipIdeas newsletter that is read by over 50,000 worship leaders across the world.