The 5 Guitar Players You Meet at Church

I have played on a number of worship teams and led a few different ones as well.  In my experience you tend to run into similar characters everywhere you go.  For some reason you run into the same type of people wanting to play guitar at every church you go to.  So here is a quick list (over-generalized and over-stereotyped for more comedic effect) of what to look for next time you are auditioning a new guitar player for your worship team.

The Modern Hippie – You’ll find this guitar player standing bare foot (no matter the temperature) on stage with an acoustic guitar slung around the neck.  Rough jeans with holes in the knees and back pockets help detract attention away from the bed-head hairdo with or without dreads.  Don’t be mistaken, this is a very talented individual who can probably play chords that involve dislocating 3 out of 5 fingers.  Their proficiency however can be masked by their inability to play well with others at times (they live and exist in their own world).  Also notice the absent minded approach to life as they will often show up to rehearsal or service missing guitar cables, a strap, or a tuner – that is if they remember when they need to be there in the first place.  It’s nearly impossible to gauge their commitment level but if you can deal with the eccentricities, they are a great guitar player to work with.

Hans Solo – If you read the sheet music or chord chart for this guitar player it most likely says Intro: SOLO, Verse 1: SOLO, Chorus: SOLO, Solo: SOLO…. and so on.  This particular guitar player will have a heart of gold and ears of cement. If you allow them to have an amp make sure it’s in another room or completely covered with a sound-proof box.  Otherwise there seemingly endless volume knob will continue to move past the Spinal Tap setting to a whole new level of guitar.  Look for them to be from the Baby Boomer generation and constantly talk about all the “Christian Rock” in their music collection; i.e. DeGarmo and Key, Petra, Stryper, and more. With the right coaching you can contain the outbursts to more appropriate times but be warned that the outburst (with guitar solo face and all) will show up at unexpected times. Note: this type of guitar player can manifest itself in the bass guitar as well – they are great by themselves but do not play well with others.

The Texture Artist – Don’t ask them to play chords.  Actually don’t ask them to play more than a few strings at a time.  Their strength lies in adding style not substance.  Armed with a pedal board that would make The Edge jealous they thrive in the existential transcendent sound that is too much delay.  If they were allowed to let their last not of the worship set ring until the sustain ran out you would still be waiting.  Their equipment bag has everything from and ebow to a real bow. They don’t talk much and normally tend to like to fade into the background even though their hipster hairdo and clothing draws more attention than the rest of the stage combined.  If you could use a little texture added to your sound they are the perfect person to add but don’t expect them to know when to turn off the texture.

The Recording – They can reproduce anything you hand to them.  From rhythm to lead to sonics and more.  Just don’t ask them to play something that is not on the recording.  These guitar players are not good at playing by feel.  They stick strictly to what they learned from the recording.  Want a cross picking patter to fill in? Was it on the recording?  Want them to vamp on a specific chord progression while you read a scripture? Was it on the recording that way? Want to combine elements from two different versions of the same song? Yeah right!  If you are looking for a guitar player to nail a specific part you heard then this is your person.  But if you want to speed up the tempo or change a chord progression to help it grow differently, don’t depend on this guitar player to figure it out quickly.  Another variation of this type of guitar player is the one who can only play the chord chart in front of them even if there is a wrong chord on it that you changed (just write a new one for them it will save you many headaches).

The Theorist – This guitar player wants you to know the why behind everything.  Do you want to know why the key of Bm is perfect for this song… of course you did.  But beware sometimes this guitar player can let their head get in the way of their playing.  They can over think some of the easiest things.  They are their own worst enemy.  If you are able to coax some confidence out of them and get it from their head to their hands, they are great to have around.  This is one of the only guitar players you will find that can play sheet music as oppose to chord charts.  The problem? They tend to prefer sheet music which could mean more work for you in preparation.  If you ever have a quick theory question do not make the mistake of asking this guitar player because there is no quick answer.

Did I miss any? Where do you fall?  At times I have fallen into just about every category listed above which may be why they wrote themselves pretty easily.

He's a nice guy

12 Comments

  1. Kevin riner   •  

    Good stuff Nathan. I tend to fall a little in all of them. I guess that makes me well balanced. :)

  2. Mike Jeter   •  

    Nice. I have one more guitarist for you: The “Everything Sounds Like What I Listened to in High School” Guitarist. Graduated in ’03: U2 or White Stripes, because everyone uses über delay or is rootsy. Class of 94: everything will sound like Soundgarden/Matchbox 20. ’84, a funky clean guitar and you’ll bring out a synth to play your solos on. ’72 Classic or Southern Rock ala Allman Brothers…which leads us back to your Modern Hippie.

    I always ask potential guitarists two questions to get a feel of what they will do: What are you listening to? And when did you graduate high school?

    • Nathan Sutliff   •     Author

      Ha Ha nice, yes i can easily see that making a ton a sense as I look back on guitar players I have played with in the past. You could almost create a “best of” band with the right combination. Good stuff.

  3. rhoy pamparo   •  

    nice list … me, probably the last 2 and a little bit of Solo/Texture 😉

  4. nitoy gonzales   •  

    great…we have 3 over our church…we are old fashioned but i can see them on your post….

  5. Morgan Harper Nichols   •  

    I was trying not to see faces pop up in my head as I read each one but it turned out to be impossible…

  6. Nathan Crawford   •  

    Hans Solo = Hilarious

  7. Erik Lindeen   •  

    Awesome stuff.

    How about the Baby Boomer who only plays Ovation Acoustics or Steinberger electrics?

  8. Mr. Frustrated   •  

    I got one. The roundabout guitarist. The guitarist Who’s played everything, everywhere but can only play it the way they learned it.

    Will say “I know that song” but don’t ask him to play it different rhythmically or in a different key that their “known” key, or YOUR playing it wrong.

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