Being able to talk and play guitar at the same time (and say something that’s actually coherent) is quite a useful skill to have as a worship leader. Having music in the background of spoken word adds a nice atmosphere. Actually pulling it off is a bit difficult – you’re stuck trying to do two fairly complicated things at once (public speaking and public guitar playing), and your brain gets tied up into a pretzel.
With a little practice and a few practical tips, you’ll be able to pull it off in no time. So, here are four tips I’ve learned that have helped:
01. Play a familiar chord progression, and don’t change it
You want your brain to go on auto-pilot when it comes to the guitar playing. The more thought you can put into what you are saying, the better. Make sure what you are doing on guitar follows these rules:
- The progression needs simple. Stick to 2 to 4 basic changes.
- The chords (or notes) you are playing need to be easy. You don’t want to be moving from the 14th fret down to the 2nd during your progression.
- The progression should not change for the duration of your talking. You’ll get lost. Trust me.
02. Think about what you are going to say ahead of time.
The more prep the better. Feel free to memorize, but in many cases you may be following the Spirit or the moment of the song. Even then, before you start talking, at least have a basic roadmap in your mind of what you are going to say. Also remember, the fewer words you can use to communicate your point, the better.
03. Pause during the chord changes.
Pause your speaking during the chord changes. You don’t want to do something so abrupt that it disrupts the cadence of what you are saying, but you will find that with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to let your speaking part flow with the changes of the chord progression.
Trust me – don’t try it for the first time in a congregational worship setting. You might make it through OK, but chances are good that you’ll trip up a bit. Try it at home first. Even better, try carrying on a conversation with somebody while playing a chord progression.
I must confess that I was very afraid of playing while I talked for a long time, so I went years without ever doing it. With just a bit of practice, it will become easier and easier, and the more you do it, the more confident you will become. Good luck!
Have you ever tried this and said something totally inaccurate (theologically or otherwise)? If so, let us know in the comments.
The latest mistake I made involved the welcome. I lead worship for two different churches every week, so one morning a few months ago I welcomed the congregation to the wrong church 🙂