As long as people can understand your leading. The reason people tend to prefer acoustic is that the smooth voice can easily project over the dingdingding of the guitar. When you play an electric, you are essentially playing an ORGAN. Its tones are thick and heavy, rich, and they make your body vibrate. It's enjoyable (I don't even play guitar, but I see the catharsis on the Electric guy's face) -- BUT remember that first, you are a worship leader.
Rick Cogbill (below) illustrates with Lincoln Brewster. LB is a consummate musician who plays with lots of fingerwork, not just a blamablamablama strum -- his tone is clear and precise, and doesn't get in the way of his singing (and he makes sure the voice is properly mic'd).
I suffered many things for three years at the hands of a youth pastor whose voice blended perfectly with his Electric, and thus was indiscernable. That was almost as grievous as the youth pastor who led worship from the drum set (no Countryman in those days) Consequence? A time came when he put his name in the hat for a pastoral election. He did not gain the votes. He was a fine and caring man, but his insistence on driving many people nuts with worship leading strewn with random drum noise probably cost him a ministry and the church two or three years in limbo.
Always consider the church as a whole, and as much as possible, the individuals within, when making decisions about instrumentation. The louder and bolder, the greater is your responsibility to be clear and followable.
I almost never lead with acoustic anymore. I liken it back to when I was kid. If I have to choose between the 64 pack of crayons or the 16 pack, the choice was easy. I use a variety electrics (I probably have about 10+ guitars at this point) and my POD XT live into the house to avoid stage volume issues.
I spend weeks ahead of time crafting my presets for each and every set. I customize the sounds every Sunday. I go from echo-y modulated delay of U2, to raunchy thick distortion of Green Day, to boomy rectified sounds of Nickelback, to twang of Grand Ole Opry. Rarely do I use the same sound for two songs. Especially if I need to tap-tempo the delay, temolo or other effect.
Add to that, with my range of guitars, I can pick between mellow Burstbuckers Pros (humbuckers), clean single-coils (Gold Lace Sensors), Tele bridge or even nastier true USA Gibson P-90s, there aren't too many sounds I can't somewhat emulate. Hollow Body, Teles, Strats, LPs-types.
I agree with Greg, the vocals have to match the sound. However, not every patch has to be Crunch or Fuzz. I've gotten great fat, almost pad like sounds from my guitar. I can also add in the odd mini-riff and intro.
How a person plays the electric has a lot to do with as well. I mean slowhands (aka Eric Clapton) is just so clean. Slash is messy, he's all over the place, but that's his style. Edge is minimal, but relies a lot on his sounds. I can use big-fat, complex open chords or slosh around with power chords, etc.
Technology is great. What someone can do with my guitar today is absolute astounding. You can get great sounds at a reasonable price that only pros with rack gear could dream of. With a little effort beforehand, tap-tap and I'm there. Simply amazing.
(Yes modeling isn't 100%, but let me tell you, I have 50's National Tube, I had the JRC chipped TS-9, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Big Muff Pi, etc. I rarely take them out of the house now with the POD XT Live. Most of the congregation can't tell the difference. They can however tell if service is delayed because of temperamental equipment or overly complex set-ups)
People are also very used to listening to Electrics on the radio now. I would even guess that electrics outnumber acoustic guitar by maybe 2-1 on standard radio play.
"However, not every patch has to be Crunch or Fuzz. I've gotten great fat, almost pad like sounds from my guitar."
I played out for the first time in a while, just a few weeks back, using a simple board with ordinary pedals. The keyboard player had to check a couple of times what was going on with his rig because he thought the sound he heard was coming from his keyboard. You can do some interesting things with a volume pedal and delay, and it's all very simple.
Just some general observations/questions from years of playing electric guitar at many different churches
1) Strumming an Acoustic guitar is more forgiving in space/sound then an electric
2) What sounds great in the bedroom/practice room (low and high and no mids) may doesn't cut at church with other instruments and the church's acoustics.
3) All the equipment you have made a difference to the sound - (No point in having a $1000+ guitar/amp and running it through a v.cheap chorus pedal!)
4) Unless you have an amazing PA (wo)man - they may not have a feel for miking and mixing an electric guitar. The number of times I've moved the microphone so that the mike isn't focussed at the block of wood in the middle of my 2x12"
5) Guitar amps tend to be very directional - I had a great sound 2-3 m away from my amp and blown the left side of church away whilst the right hand side heard nothing!!!
5) Does your guitar style fit the electric guitar and the songs you are playing? When leading with electric guitar, I change my guitar style to be rather hendrix-esq (think little wing) and hardly ever strum
6) Are you good enough to play it and sound good?
7) Can your church accept the guitar or do they think its a step toward Rockstardom?
8) Do you worship when you play? Obvious, but some people are distracted!
It is possible to play lead/lead worship/sing all at once - I've done it using a Marshall JCM 800 (lovely warm clean sound and mean Distortion!), I usually had a bass player, drummer and optional keyboard. I've a big guitar sound and generally play with lots of fills and extra bits.
Acoustic guitars can sound pants in the wrong environment too, with some halls highlighting the tuning deficiencies most suffer, rather than the tonal issues that electric guitars suffer. You just need to be able to make the right choices to minimise congregational punishment. Not everyone can hear bad tone and not everyone can tell if something is out of tune, and so often you will have a mixed reception whatever you play.
Hopefully by the time most people are playing with other musicians they've realised that making the EQ 'smile' is a mistake in a band context, unless they're doomers.
Quality and price only have a very loose relationship. *Some* Behringer and Danelectro pedals will happily sit alongside MXR, Dunlop, TRex, Visual Sound et al and the boutique stuff in terms of sound quality.
PA people may require training and help, if you can find one with the time and humility to accept it. There was a funny pic around a while back with a microphone pointed at the amp head.
Beamy guitar amps are a major bugbear, and may be one of the reasons electric guitars have a bad rep. Using smaller (5-15W) amps can help, as can carefully researching and experimenting with different speakers and cabs, plus taking care over amp positioning. Some speakers, like the Eminence Cannabis Rex, are brutally directional, and multi-speaker cabs often worse than 1X12s because of interference patterns between the drivers.
Playing style is VERY important. Strumming is fine. Strumming it like an acoustic is not. Strat types are much more forgiving and are more responsive to good strumming technique than Les Paul types. Shredding-style guitars with locking trems tend to sound dull when strummed. There will always be exceptions to this.
The last 3 are excellent points regardless of instrument.
All your points are true and good!
I must admit bad tone is alot less offensive then bad tuning. (the number of times, i've wanted to rush to the front and adjust for people mid song!). A bad tone just leads to the guitar disappearing into the mix
Thank goodness that there are more and more small good yet affordable(non-beginners practice) amps available.(heaven is a mesa boogie!)
Choice of guitar is also key, single coils V humbuckers pickups is a tricky one to go on. Strats/Telecasters can be sound thin/treblely on distortion whilst the humbuckers can be overwhelming on a clean sound.
I've yet to see someone use a Flying V to lead worship (I'll try and be the first!)
The other thing to watch is the effects - too much reverb!!!
Strats don't find their way into our worship very often but Telecasters are very versatile with the bridge pickup on and the tone near halfway. Humbuckers are excellent through a Fender Vibrolux Reverb (my rig is often this). In fact, I really don't see enough folks talking about Fender amps on this forum, the range of tones from Blackface to Sliverface to Brown Deluxe all find a great place in a worship setting.
That's it! No wonder I can't get that amp to sound good in the PA. I've been pointing it at the head. So where do you put it?
One small point on the wattage of the amps - a 100 watt amp is only twice as loud as a 10 watt amp. That means that you can do little to change the perceived volume without a major change in wattage. Further, I have an 11 watt amp that will make your ears bleed at half volume. Wattage is only loosely related to volume. But also, if you're trying to run the amp at or near breakup, it is typically good to have the lower wattage to avoid punishing volumes.
But hope folks aren't using distortion all the time - a good Fender Blackface clean tone is great for worship and for that, the wattage needs to be 50 watts or higher to avoid breakup. Of course all of this is related to the size of the venue. A 100 watt stack can get swallowed up in a large hall setting.
Also, "minimise congregational punishment" seems like a weak goal, yes? I thought the goal was to create a beautiful sound, free from punishment.
"multi-speaker cabs often worse than 1X12s because of interference patterns between the drivers." - when have you experienced this? I've never actually heard anyone complain of this in 4x12 or 2x10 stacks. I've heard bad cabs that that had bad speakers, but modern cab design is pretty well set. As long as you stick to a good name, they've chosen the right combination of speakers and cabinet.
Greetings fellow worshippers. I used to play only a Taylor 710 ce (dreadnaught, cut-away, electric [Fishman]). It didn't allow much for lead/fills and wasn't very convincing for more rocky songs . I tried using an acoustic effects pedal [not a good fit for me]. Finally the band practically begged me to get an electric. - as if they had to twist my arm...
I found an Epiphone "Dot" that really caught my eye. It is a strummable electric if the strings aren't too light. I was surprised how versatile it really is. The humbuckers and individual volume and tone give a good range and "voice." It does the job for when we have many or few musicians. I run it through a mic'd Roland 30 W "Cube."
Our P&W leader lets the musicians have a lot of leeway. If we have a set that is better off with the Taylor, I don't hesitate to use that for the whole set. [Drives the sound guy crazy because he has to adjust the board.] Our pastor likes the set to flow so there really isn't time to change guitars. I adjust my playing style and the semi-hollow body seems to do the trick for a variety of song styles within a set.
Thanks to all for your input. There have been several good comments which I found very interesting and informative. After a whole year of searching for the right combo, I think I finally found a place where I can stop pouring money into the bottomless pit of one more tone. I definitely believe leading worhip is all about Him and only a little about us. Even our breath we get from Him. But along with His endless blessings to us, I do believe it is alright to have some techy fun along with the fun and privilege of representing our congregation before Him in Worship. When I took over the lead worship assignment, I felt that God gave me a mission statement. "Be organized enough to avoid chaos, yet trust enough to worship with total abandoned" (remember David in his underware). My latest routine that seems to be working pretty well, is to start with an upbeat energy song using the Electric (Taylor T3B) sometimes with a short solo lead in lick and some fun effects to match. After our opening song we have a fellowship hand shake moment. That allows me to switch to the accoustic (Wechter Thin Line with Fisnman) for the remainder of the set. I play both through a Line 6 Pod X3 Live, direct to the house. The X3 live has several acoustic models to pick from, and of course about a million for the electric. I know to many out there, that may sound kinda high on the techy gadget hog, but I am blessed to be in my retirement years and this is my main thing these days. In stead of Motorhomes and Boats, I have a couple nice guitars. I'm probably having more fun in the Lord than should be leagal, but so far so good.