Mid-Cities Worship | Ten Tips to Be an Amazing Worship Guitar Player
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Ten Tips to Be an Amazing Worship Guitar Player

Guitar Blog.018

07 Mar Ten Tips to Be an Amazing Worship Guitar Player

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. –Psalm 33:3

1.  Be a Worshipper

Playing at church is not a performance. You have the amazing honor and responsibility of leading your congregation in worship. This fact should drastically affect what you play, as well as how you play it. Do your part to help create an environment where people can worship Jesus. This includes your body language, movements, and attitude. SIDE NOTE: It’s much easier to do this well when you have done #6 and have prepared properly.

Pedals2. Be You

The most meaningful compliment I receive is when someone hears a recording and says, “I bet that’s Chris Davis playing guitar.” I have received this compliment several times and I always feel accomplished when I hear it. It means I play like me, and not someone else. Don’t try to be someone else. The world already has a Lincoln Brewster, we need your contribution. There are probably a handful of guitarists that have really influenced your playing. Take the pieces of what they do best, add your own flavor, and develop your own sound. Some of my influencers include Eric Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Lincoln Brewster, The Edge, Johnny Buckland, and John Mayer. My goal is not to sound just like them, but to incorporate some of my favorite aspects of their playing and/or tone into my sound.

3. Be Teachable

If you know it all, it is impossible learn anything new. Always be looking for opportunities to learn from others. Surround yourself with good musicians and invite feedback. I’ll say it again, INVITE FEEDBACK. Ask people you trust (and maybe even some you don’t) what you could do better. Don’t just ask guitarists. Ask other musicians (particularly bass and keyboard players) for their opinion of your playing and/or tone. You might be surprised what you hear. Don’t be defensive when they give feedback. Listen carefully, think through what they say, and work on the things you feel are important. I try to do this as often as I can.

4. Be a Tone ConnoisseurCoffee

The term connoisseur means “an expert judge in matters of taste.” A great coffee connoisseur knows there are many different factors that can affect the quality of a cup of joe. There are the obvious things such as the quality of beans, water purity, etc., but there are also many small things that drastically affect the coffee. How the beans are roasted, stored, ground, and how the coffee is brewed to name a few. One weak link in the minute details, and the connoisseur will be able to taste the difference.

Great guitar tone is much like this. Like any coffee connoisseur, you should know your instrument, as well as the many tools available to achieve great tone. Guitars, amps, pedals, wiring, and even different picks can drastically affect the tone of your guitar. Know your gear. Invest in quality equipment. Play around with different tones and sounds. Learn from others (but don’t just copy them, see #2). Great guitar tone can really help you become a better player. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true.

5. Be Precise

I once saw an interview with one of my favorite guitarists, Eric Johnson. He stated the he regularly practices a single phrase for up to several hours, listening closely to make sure every note sounds the way he wants it to. While I’m nowhere close to that meticulous when it comes to practicing, I think it shows that we can all grow in our practicing skills. The expression “practice makes perfect” is not true! I believe “practice makes permanent.” Practicing only makes you better if you practice the right things. If you practice the wrong things, lazily picking up tabs on the internet without paying attention to style and technique, you may end up doing more damage to your guitar playing than good.

Practice with precision. Practice with a metronome. Practice your scales. Learn all the notes on the neck. Pay attention to muted strings that should be heard and open strings that should be muted. Good guitar players practice, great guitar players practice with precision.

6. Be Prepared

This is similar to #5, but different. Do your homework before you go to worship rehearsal. Make sure you know your specific parts and tones when you show up. This is common rehearsal etiquette, but I am always surprised by the number of guitar players who think worship rehearsal is the appropriate time to learn the song. Don’t be that guy. Show up prepared. As you grow in your skill, the time needed to prepare will become less and less. However, this may take a major investment of time in the beginning.


7. Be Creative

Have fun with the music! Great guitarists have the ability to create guitar parts that sound new, stick in your head, and make the song better. This is a muscle that has to be strengthened over time and requires hard work to develop. Go off the page and make new guitar parts for existing songs (in your practice time, not in rehearsals). Experiment with different tones and effects. When I have time, I like to work this muscle by taking the multitracks to a popular worship song, load them into Logic, mute the guitar parts and record my own parts to the song. This is a great exercise if you have the equipment and ability to do so.

8.  Be Well-Rounded

Learn to play different styles of music. You probably have a favorite style that you like to play, but learning new styles can help you grow immensely as a guitar player and a musician. One of the best things I did was to learn jazz. I am by no means an excellent jazz guitarist, but some of the key concepts in jazz such as chord voicing, chromatic melodies/lead lines, modes, and chord structures expanded my mind to think outside of the box in which I was trapped with my guitar playing. Understating these concepts really helps me when playing in more gospel style worship settings. For example, the time I recorded guitars for Grace Covenant Worship on songs like “Triumphant King” among others.

9. Be Quiet

Silence is golden. Sometimes the best guitar part you can play is no part at all. Many guitarists feel like they have to be playing all the time. This should not be so. In the Mid-Cities Worship song, “Closer,” the electric guitar part (aside from some random swells) does not even start until almost three minutes into the song!

Also, “be quiet” could apply to playing during rehearsal moments. Don’t noodle on your instrument while people are working out parts, talking, etc. This is bad rehearsal etiquette and is quite honestly just annoying.

10. Be a Humble Servant

Is a “humble guitarist” an oxy moron? Some might think so! We guitar players tend to be somewhat opinionated and sometimes prideful. However, that does not have to be the case. How do we avoid this pitfall? The key is to remember that we are servants of the Most High God. Psalm 18:27 says, “For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.” Serve God. Serve your church. Serve your worship pastor. Serve the other musicians on the stage. A servant doesn’t vie for lead lines and solos. It is hard to be prideful when you have the attitude of a true servant.

Those are my 10 Tips! What tips would you add? What questions do you have? Feel free to comment below.


Chris Davis is the Lead Pastor of Worship Arts + Missions at Mid-Cities Church. He and his wife Sheila have three amazing boys. Chris provides leadership for the staff and casts vision for Mid-Cities Worship. He loves coffee, making music, worshipping Jesus, and hanging out with people.

Chris Davis is the Lead Pastor of Worship Arts + Missions at Mid-Cities Church. He and his wife Sheila have three amazing boys. Chris provides leadership for the staff and casts vision for Mid-Cities Worship. He loves coffee, making music, worshipping Jesus, and hanging out with people.

  • David Parker
    Posted at 13:10h, 07 March Reply

    Great information Chris…Even at nearly 70 years old and having played for most of my life I am still lacking in my guitar playing skills…Your information is a wonderful reminder as to the things I need to get back to doing to get better at playing…You can teach an old dog new tricks…if the old dog will listen…keep up the great work…God Bless…

  • Jeremy Bowen
    Posted at 13:13h, 07 March Reply

    Excellent article, Chris! Thank you so much for writing this. It shows me that I have a lot to learn in many of these aspects. Be blessed in all that you do!

    Your brother in Messiah,

    Jeremy Bowen

  • Bryson Breakey
    Posted at 14:24h, 07 March Reply

    Great blog, really helpful for me as I work on my craft! Thanks for recording these thoughts for the rest of us!

  • Evan hankins
    Posted at 18:02h, 07 March Reply

    Wow. What an honor to see this guy grow up to be such an amazing guitarist and godly man.

  • John Hamrick
    Posted at 19:39h, 11 March Reply

    Well said, especially #5 which reminds me of “An amateur practices til he can play it right. A pro practices til he can’t get it wrong.”

  • John Malone
    Posted at 13:20h, 12 March Reply

    Good points,One you missed is Play for the Song and not yourself. God Bless

  • Be An Awesome Worship Guitarist | Worship Links
    Posted at 17:02h, 14 March Reply

    […] Chris Davis shares a great list of tips on how to be a really effective worship guitarist. It’s not just about pedals and swells and dotted eighth delays. It’s about contributing to the team and congregation. […]

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