Guitar for Church Pt 3 (Dynamics, Depth and Mood)

26 May

Without a doubt the most important part of our music in church are the lyrics. Therefore, through our playing we are trying to serve the lyrics, highlight the lyrics, give the lyrics room to breathe and connect with the congregation. It’s important then to remember dynamics, depth and mood.

Where you are in the service will generally have an effect on the way you play. If a song has been chosen to begin a service then the mood will tend to be more rousing than a reflective song that comes after a sensitive sermon. This will effect how you play. You’d play “Forever” at the start of a service quite differently to “Once Again” after a moving sermon on Gethsemene.

Moreover, depending on where you are in an actual song, you’ll want to play differently to suit the mood. Think about that classic third verse of “In Christ Alone.” You’re singing about Christ’s body lying dead in the tomb. The mood dictates that you pull back your guitar playing. But, half way through that verse:

Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave he rose again!

Again, you’ll want to signify the triumph of this with your playing. So where you are in the song will have an effect on how you play.

In order to achieve this I often think about having several types of ‘strum.’ Am I picking, am I strumming a basic pattern, am I playing a chord on the first beat and letting it ring out, am I palm muting and playing quite aggressively? As well as helping to signify mood I think having several different strums can help give depth to a song.

Consider something like “Blesssed Be Your Name.” The song is, for all intense and purposes, 4 chords repeated in a cycle over and over again. So to give depth (and to signal shifts in the music) different strumming styles could be used in the verse, pre-chorus, chorus and bridge.

The same is true for hymns with many verses. If you don’t vary the strum on occasion between verses than the song can drag and rob the lyrics of their power. It’s just as possible to distract from what is being sung about with over playing as with under playing and boring people.

Another way to add depth is to explore the possibility of playing a song using a CAPO or shifting chord shapes up and down the neck of the guitar. This isn’t being lazy (in fact it’s hard work!) and it will help to increase the musical richness to accompany rich lyrics.

*Really all my thoughts are an amalgamation of things I’ve picked up from either Bob Kauflin or Jamie Brown. I am much indebted to them both*


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