Hey, everyone. I'm new here, but I love this website! I lead worship for our church's youth group and I play in the church praise band. In the praise band, I always play electric and sing harmony, but I seem to have found that when I lead the group for the youth, it's much easier and more natural to stick with acoustic rhythm. I'm the only electric player in the praise band, so I have to cover everything from rhythm to leads, and I sometimes find it hard to focus on singing and actually leading worship rather than just playing well. I wish I could use electric more easily in leading worship, but acoustic is really my strong suit. Are there any electric players here who understand my dilemma? Any tips or advice that you could give in this area would be greatly appreciated!

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I lead on electric for two years. There is a lot more you can do with effects, etc. with electric. Tone has alot to do with it, too. Get a setup that has a full, fat sound.You have to train yourself to think acoustic while playing electric. It just takes time and discipline. Concentrate on playing the pocket. The hardest thing for electric guitarists is to not noodle. Another challenge is finding an electric that works well with capos. It can be done though. I do prefer acoustic for leading, but I needed electric to drive the set. I'm kind of rambling, but I hope it makes sense.
Do you normally just play acoustic chords then, or do you do all the fancy electric rhythm parts? This is a big struggle for me. I normally play with a nice overdriven Marshall sound with some acoustic chords. If I'm not doing that, I use regular distortion with power chords. What do you do? Do you do leads in between lyrics much?
I lead from both and don't feel that it's any more difficult to lead from one than from the other, as long as I put in the necessary practice time. Complex parts can be challenging on both instruments, and if I am under-prepared my focus will be on playing rather than leading. If I am well prepared, then playing parts with interest, as well as solos in instrumental transitions, don't distract me any more than strumming a typical set of chord changes would. My advice would be (if you desire to play challenging electric parts while you lead) to practice the songs to the point where you don't have to concentrate so much on your parts.
Jason, I ran into this exact issue about a year back when I started with my new worship team at the end of 2008. I am the *only* guitarist, with a team of pianist/keyboards, bass and drums. I pondered long and hard about this, and even did it a few times either way. However, in the long haul, I ended up with the electric.

One of the big reasons is what Rob H. is says, you have more tone options. You can really set the mood of the song. However, for me, I actually use a POD XT Live modeling multi-effects. (Here me out! I used to be a tone snob too!) I use it because from song to song (or even verse to chorus), I can conjure up different sounds. I pre-program the board during the week and tap my way through the set on Sundays. Ideally, I'd use some of my nicer vintage pedals and amps, but because I am often also the lead vocalist, so I need things dead simple. The multi-effects floorboard lets me breeze through changes without building some crazy MIDI control rack/rig. Leave that to the pure lead guitarist that can fiddle with stuff on stage.

So I would suggest that if you play electric, branch out. Get more sounds. Some 70's funk/auto-wah, big 80's flanger, country twang, Nickelback/Mesa heavy sound or even emulate an acoustic. Use the full tone palette of the instrument. I'm sure you've got a great tone with your current single-sound (Overdriven Marshal w/ EL84s?) set-up, but it may turn into a one-trick pony.

“Variety's the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor” - William Cowper (1731-1800), Poet & Hymn writer

Lastly, I find that I have more options with chording on the electric guitar. Seems odd, but you can power chord and mutes much easier and play open chords when you want. Although I can play the acoustic, but if I wanted to be honest with myself, I'd say my electrics are just easy to player. Some of the necks I have, like this tele play like butter. It's one less thing that I have to deal with, so I can focus on the important stuff, like vocally leading the congregation.
This is good! I like what you're saying about using a variety of tones. I actually go with the multi-effects pedal msyelf like you. (dig tech rp 350) I guess I didn't really clarify, but I don't use a real Marshall amp. I meant that I use a Marshall amp model on my effects unit. I guess, I must say, that I haven't experimented a whole lot with all the effects and things. I probably should, but mainly, I just always focus on having a nice amp sound and dialing in just the right amount of drive with my volume knob. I think acoustic is my stronger suit also. It just seems to come more naturally to me. I'm learning to be more creative with electric, though, but it's a little harder coming. I really wish that I had a Taylor T5 or at least could install a Fishman piezo in my Strat so that I could interchange between both with the same guitar! That would be Heavenly! Also the action and feel of the strings on acoustic and the comfort of strumming with my arm rested on the box just makes it feel fuller and more alive.
Dude, I just wanted to add that before you go and pick up a Fishman Piezo pick up check out:
This company has complete bridges that have piezo pick ups install with a computer chip to emulate an acoustic sound. I saw a video on their site of a dude strumming a strat and it sounded better than any acoustic guitar I've ever heard running through a P.A. You can also use the same bridge with a different computer chip to turn your guitar into a guitar synth or use both computer chips and you have all 3 types, acoustic electric and guitar synth. That would be my dream guitar you would have so many options for all types of meetings and times of worship.
In regards to your question I play both electric and acoustic. For the steady rhythm necessary for leading I prefer an acoustic. BUT if there is only one guitar for a fuller sound go with the electric and learn your parts completely. That still may make it hard to play and sing at the same time. Try listening to some of the songs Hillsong puts out. Besides having 4 or 5 guitars per song the electric guitar part is usually so off from the vocals that it makes it almost impossible to sing and play them at the same time. The song TAKE IT ALL for example. It's always best to have 2 guitar players if you can. One electric and one acoustic. TTFN
I've always been intrigued by this idea, but never enough to pay to have any of my electric guitars mangled. What I've been toying with is the idea of the Boss AC3 acoustic simulator. I've seen them used in couple of concerts and they were pretty convincing.
I lead worship with an electric, and I believe it is more difficult for one reason only;

In modern worship, everyone expects to be lead by a continually strumming acoustic guitar!

I know this sounds like a rant, and maybe it is a little. But allow me to explain myself.

You see, I learned to play guitar by going the classical route, not that I'm some whiz kid when it comes to classical guitar (in fact, I hardly ever play it anymore), but that's how I learned. When I got my first electric, I would play scalar runs, double stops (sometimes triple), and arpeggios. To this day, I don't like strumming. And when someone strums an electric the way they would an acoustic- I cringe. It just doesn't sound good to me.

So fast forward to the first time I ever got to lead worship. With my trusty telecaster in hand, and no acoustic guitar in the worship group. It was not very smooth...

I told the drummer that we would play the song at about 110 bpm, and its in two, not four. I told the bassist to emphasize the thirds of each change, and go to eighth notes during the chorus.
"Okay, count us in" I said.
The drummer looked at me sideways, and said, "Why dont you start the song?"
"Because, I need the rhythm section to lay down a good groove for this song, I am just going to play arpeggios."
"Oh,", he replied, "what are arpeggios?"
I play an arpeggio for him.
"So, your not going to play the chords then?" asked the bassist nervously.
"No I'm not." I said, getting a little annoyed, "Now lets just play the song... ready? one, two, three, four!"
The drummer started going at the speed I had indicated, and the bassist started playing the root note of the first chord, but just as quickly, they stopped.
"I'm sorry," apologised the bassist, "but what are thirds?"
I took a deep breath, and said to myself, 'I will keep my cool'. Then I told him it didnt matter at the moment, and just to keep up with the chord changes.
"Okay." he said begrudgingly.
"Why dont you just play the song normal?", inquired the drummer.
"What is normal?" I retorted.
He held up an air guitar and made the international sign for strumming.

That's a true story, and eventually, I had to strum each song in our set list that night. the rest of the group seemed as if they could not function without a continually strumming guitar! Now, eventually I was able to teach them how to be a rhythm section that was independent of whatever instrument was leading worship, but it took a few months.

These days, I still lead worship, and I have a great group! I taught them to play without relying on a strummed acoustic guitar (and in fact, we don't even have an acoustic guitar in our group). Unfortunately, worship has become a stylized form, maybe even its own recognizable genre, where an acoustic strums, drums play a steady rock beat, bass uses only eighth notes, and keyboards overplay their flourishes. I was able to escape that pattern, but I had to re-educate the whole team to do it.

Sorry for the long post.
Love this post. Made me grin.
I hope you can get someone to record (audio or AV) for us some day... I would be interested in hearing what the results are now.
I use too use a POD XT Live. I used an Line 6 300 electric for about a year. But found that most of the time I was using an accoustic setting. I like the ease of playing an electric. But after about a year of programming different set ups on the POD XT I went back to an accoustic. Still use the POD for delay and a bit of over drive. For me, it's just way simpler to lead with an accoustic. But occasionally I will switch to strat or es335. Mostly because that is what I have available. Just trying to keep it simple.
Maybe you need to replace the POD...perhaps with a Fender Blues Junior or Blues Deluxe.


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