I love lead guitar. I love playing it and I love listening to it. When I produced my album Let Heaven Come Down I made sure there was plenty of lead guitar.
But when I lead worship, guitar leads are rare.
To me, corporate worship should be participatory and God focused. A guitar solo is neither (unless you count air guitar). Picture this: You're singing a meaningful song that focuses your mind on Christ's sacrifice and you're worshiping God with gratitude. The chorus ends and the guitarist breaks into a solo. What do you do? You probably stop and listen to the solo. Your focus has been shifted from God to the soloist. The solo becomes a distraction. Oh, there may be a few well connected souls who will worship through the solo, but for the majority of us (especially us guitar players) we've been disconnected.
So does that mean that we never play solos at our church?
No, but I am very purposeful in the use of solos. Here are some of my guidelines:
Solos are appropriate during prelude songs, offertories, or “specials” where the congregation is basically just listening anyway.
A solo can help energize and “loosen up” a congregation during a “call to worship” song. The type of song is important here. Never solo just to solo. It has to fit.
Short solo bits between the verses and chorus can be appropriate if not overdone.
Lead guitar work can help build a song during the final chorus if it is weaved in and out of the vocal lines.
Solos can work well during quiet instrumental worship times as long as they are not flashy and are melodic (no minor pentatonic riffs over a song that's in a major key - pleeeze).
Of course, if the solo is part of a melodic intro to a song then it's appropriate.
Remember, the key is to enhance the praise, not draw attention to the soloist. Use the Holy Spirit's guidance and common sense. If you're not sure, don't do it. It's better not to solo than to play inappropriately. These guidelines are not just for guitar but apply to any lead instrument such as sax, flute, violin, etc. Play your instrument skillfully but, most importantly, play it musically.
Nov 26, 2007
I love what you are saying here. I am the vocal director for a worship band and your direction here applies to vocalists as well. I have trained my vocalists to not do vocal embellishing just because they can. We allow it more during opening, offering specials, or other music outside the worship set. During the worship set it is rarely used unless it specifically builds a dynamic along with the band (when you sing a chorus three times, the band is building, but you just need that extra build on the last chorus).