Acoustic worship sets can actually be very powerful. You don’t need a big band or huge sound system to see your church respond in worship. Led well, acoustic worship sets with small, simple teams can lead to passionate praise and intimacy during corporate worship.
Whether you’re part of a church plant with a small team or a large church with a huge team. Embrace small. Try these 11 tips next time you lead an acoustic worship set, and you’ll be surprised how much your church responds, and how loud they will sing. Send this episode to anyone you know who leads acoustic worship often.
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This episode is sponsored by my Worship Set Building Course. A huge part of leading acoustic worship well is building cohesive, beautiful Christcentered worship sets. And not a lot of worship leaders have been trained how to do that. But in my set building course.
I will give you a step.
Step by step process that will help you build beautiful, thematically, musically cohesive worship sets that will help bring out more engagement from your church’s worship times. You can get this course and five other courses for just $99 on my website by going to Worship Ministrytraining. Comcourses that’s Worship Ministrytraining. Comcourses. If you need help building stronger worship sets and seeing more engagement from your Church, go to Worshipministrytraining. Com courses today and check it out.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the Worship Ministry Training Podcast, a monthly podcast for worship leaders and worship team members. My name is Alexandria, and I am your host and thank you so much for tuning in to this very practical episode about how to lead acoustic worship sets. Well, we’re going to be talking all about that. How can you get up on stage with an acoustic guitar and maybe a Cajon player and really make worship an engaging and amazing experience for your congregation? And I’ve been wanting to do this episode for quite a while because I think most worship leaders exist in a context where acoustic worship is the norm.
I think the big band, the big lights, the big speakers. There are only a few churches in each city that have that experience. Most churches, many of you listening exist in a much smaller context. You have less musicians to pull from. Maybe you’re part of a Church plant. Maybe you’re just taking your Church through a transition from traditional music to contemporary music, and you have to go gently and slowly. There are a lot of reasons why acoustic worship contexts are actually the norm. And that’s why I wanted to do this episode was to give you some practical tips on how you can still take that small team and create an epic, engaging experience for your congregation.
And recently, I led Worship Acoustically two services in a row. I did a Thursday night acoustic with just me and my guitar and a kick drum on my foot. And the Sunday after that, I did acoustic piano, a kick drum on my foot, and three vocalists in doing those two services. It really helped bring together a lot of thoughts that I’ve had floating around over the years about what really makes an acoustic set work. And so that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. And I see personally a lot of benefits from acoustic worship.
First of all, I’ve personally found that the Church actually engages more during acoustic worship sets, and I have a theory as to why this happens. I think they can actually hear themselves sing. They’re not overpowered by a loud band, and so they feel like they’re expected to participate. So in my personal experience, whenever I lead worship acoustically, I see greater engagement. I see more singing. I hear the people more. I see people raising their hands crying. It’s actually a quite powerful experience for uniting the Church.
It really strips things back, simplifies and helps people realize that they are a part of the experience. It’s kind of like Matt Redman’s song Back to the Heart of Worship. You got to simplify, strip things back and just sing together to the Lord. So I found that acoustic worship sets are actually very powerful and we shouldn’t undervalue them. That’s one benefit is that people participate more. The second benefit is that there are a lot of people in the Church who actually appreciate quiet and reflective worship.
As worship leaders. We feel like we’ve got to have this big band to make it epic and powerful, but actually many people in the congregation actually like to sit down and reflect and actually hear themselves or hear the Holy Spirit. And sometimes when we’re really loud and big, it can overpower those quiet, intimate moments and those quiet communings with the Lord. And so my wife, she loves acoustic worship. She would way rather prefer it. And I heard from two other people recently who said I prefer acoustic worship and they were young, so that’s the second benefit is you’re serving a different portion of your congregation.
And then the third benefit of acoustic sets is it gives your band a break. Like if you do have a lot of musicians or you do have a big band sometimes just giving them a Sunday off to come and worship themselves instead of always utilizing their talent is very healthy. So giving your band a break is a third benefit of acoustic worship sets. So what I’m going to do in this episode is share with you eleven tips for really making your acoustic sets work well for your Church.
And then what I’m going to do at the end of the episode is I’m going to actually put the audio from those two services that I led acoustically so you can hear these tips in action and you can listen along if you want or if you don’t care. You can just skip those worship sets. But I’m going to include those two worship sets that I led recently so you can hear them with all the good and the bad so that you can actually hear these tips in play in a service.
So here we go. The eleven tips of leading and acoustic worship Set well, number one is to actually set up your acoustic set with talking about it by speaking up front. So don’t just start right away. Countdown timer of your Church gets to zero and you just get up there and start strumming and singing. No, actually, take the time to talk to the Church about what’s happening. You say something like Church. You might notice that there’s no musicians on stage today, and that’s because sometimes we like to simplify things so that we can all focus on what really matters, which is lifting our hearts and our voices and our hands to the Lord together.
And so I’m going to need you guys to sing out. I’m going to need you guys to participate. You’re going to need to be the rhythm section today to clap your hands, to be the drums. Really want us to just go after the Lord together. So let’s lift our voices to the Lord in this acoustic set together. So you kind of just set up the whole morning with what we’re doing. I think that will play into the strength of the set that’s the first thing is to set up your set by speaking about what’s happening.
The second tip to improving your acoustic worship set is to use relative keys or to use a single key. There’s nothing more awkward than getting to the end of a song and then having to put your Capo on and kind of get into the next key, because with acoustic sets, you have no other instruments to hide behind. It’s just you and your acoustic or you and the piano. So you really want your keys to flow well. And that’s very important is that you correlate your keys to work well together.
Typically on an acoustic set. I’m going to play all in one key. If I do change keys, it’s going to be to a relative key, and I’m going to have a way to do that. That’s not distracting. So I’m going to make sure that I practice ahead of time to ensure that it’s a smooth transition. And if you want to get a free relative keys cheat sheet, you can get one on my website by going to Worship ministrytraining. Comresources. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but you can see which keys work well together.
But like I said, typically, I personally am going to just have one key, and I’m going to play all the songs in that key, and that allows me to flow really well from song to song without any awkward pauses or transition moments. And that brings me to the third tip, which is to use backing pads. Backing pads are the ethereal sounding, fluffy pad found in the background. You can get MP threes, or you can download apps from the App Store on iphone or ipad or Android as well, and you can just pick a key and it plays this background humming sound that kind of just fills in the space, fills in the gaps between songs, kind of just glues everything together.
And I would encourage you to try using backing pads for your acoustic sets. Loop community has some on their website. If you go to Loopcommunity. Com, they have the prime app and you can get some pad sounds in there on your iphone or your ipad. Just be careful that your iphone notifications are turned off because you don’t want to notify your whole Church that you’re getting a text message through the PA. It’d be awkward. So use backing pads during your acoustic sets is the third tip.
The fourth tip for having amazing acoustic sets is to pick the most loved songs.
You really want to pick songs that the Church loves to sing songs that are actually easy to sing. Songs like Bless the Lord, O My Soul. 10,000 Reasons right? Or Praise the Name or even old school like My Jesus, My Savior, Lord, there is none like you Shout to the Lord. I think it’s called Shout to the Lord. All your lettuce sing songs that people know well, songs that people don’t have to think about, songs that can be stripped back from a band and still work. Those are the types of songs that you want to pick.
Okay, so make sure you’re not picking songs that have tons of electronic parts or some really important guitar lines that if it’s not there, it’s going to be awkward or long instrumentals, right? You want to pick really well loved, well known songs that work in an acoustic setting. The fifth tip for great acoustic sets is to focus on the voices. So like I said in the beginning, when you’re telling the Church, Hey, I want you to lift your voices to the Lord sing out today. Well, one way you can help them do that is by having some really great singers on your stage if you have them.
So make sure you’re putting strong singers on the stage that week. Singers who can sing harmony singers who can lead songs. But you want the set to really highlight the voices. You really want the harmonies to come through clear and loud and beautiful, like a choir. If you’re going to take away all the instrumentation, at least highlight the voices and get some strong harmony singers on your team that week. So that’s the fifth tip. Focus on the voices. The next tip, number six, is to use your guitar percussively.
Use your guitar percussively. You really want to not just strum up and down, up, down, up, down, up or whatever. You really want to use your guitar to emphasize rhythm. Since there is no drummer, you want to emphasize rhythm on your guitar so you can do things like palm muting. And then on the two and four counts, you can hit the strings harder to act as a snare drum. So you kind of want to be the drum with your guitar strumming. And you’ll hear this in the two MP three files that I’m going to put at the end of this episode.
You’ll hear me doing this with my guitar during those sets. You don’t just want to be kind of sloppy up and down strumming. You want to be dynamic. You want to use palm muting. You want to use different phrasing and I have a whole podcast episode about how to use your acoustic guitar more effectively in worship. And so I will link that episode in the show notes. So if you need help with your acoustic guitar playing, check the show notes. Check out that episode about how to use your acoustic guitar more effectively, but that’s a real big part of making acoustic sets work is that you have dynamics with your playing, with your strumming.
Obviously, if you’re leading from keys, that’s a whole different story, and I’m not a keys player, so I can’t help you there. I’m sorry. So that’s number six is to use your guitar proclusively, and you’ll hear that. I think in the audio files at the end of this episode, the next tip number seven is to cut instrumentals. Okay, since you don’t have electric guitar or piano or big drums to make an instrumental build with time, you have to cut those out. You have to cut those out or cut them down.
So if you usually do, like an eight bar, turn around after the chorus, just cut it out. Go to a four bar or a two bar. Cut your intros out. Cut your outros out. They don’t need to be there again. You’re highlighting the voices anyway, you’re highlighting the words anyway, and so just keep the songs flowing together. Keep the thoughts and the themes flowing together, and cut your instrumentals and your intros and your outros. That’s number seven. Tip number eight. We have three more tip number eight is to choose singable keys.
Choose singable keys. Okay, because your Church when their voice is not hidden by a big band when their voice is exposed because it’s an acoustic set, they’re going to be more sensitive to how their voice sounds because they can actually hear themselves. And so if you’re trying to push them up to sing notes that are way too high for them, they’re going to feel uncomfortable. They’re going to feel unconfident. They’re going to feel self conscious and they’re not going to sing. So I’ve seen this mistake made a lot by young worship leaders is they’ll do like an early morning service, and they’ll pick a high key that works good for their voice, and the room is not singing.
Why? Because it’s early morning. It’s a small room and there’s a hesitancy to try to push out those high notes that early in the morning, right? Our voices aren’t warmed up and so definitely pick lower keys. When you do an acoustic set in the second audio file that you’ll hear at the end of this episode, you’ll hear that I did the song Oprah’s the name really low for my voice. It was too low. Actually, I could barely hit some of the notes, and I could have very easily transitioned from the key of F that I was playing in into the key of B flat because it’s a relative key, and that would have been really nice for my voice, my voice sits really nicely in that range.
I would have been able to sing that song much better. It would have been a lot more comfortable for me, but then be flat with just an acoustic guitar would have been way too high for my congregation. It would have been way too high for the people without allowed full band to encourage them to risk pushing their voices at high. And so I chose deliberately to prioritize the people’s comfort over my own comfort or my own desire to sound good. So I actually chose to stay in a really low key because it would help them participate and sing more.
So you’ll hear that in the second MP three at the end of this episode. All right, two more tips. That was number eight. Singable keys on the lower side. Number nine is to encourage your team. If you have one to multitask, that means for you. Maybe you have a kick drum on your foot with your right foot, and you’ll hear that in the MP three files that are coming up in a few minutes. I play the kick drum both when I’m playing by myself and when I have the piano player with me.
So I’m doing two things. I’m playing acoustic guitar, actually three things singing and I’m playing the kick drum. But you can also ask other people to multitask. For example, if you have a singer who has decent rhythm, give them a tambourine and say, hey, I want you to hit this on your leg on the two and the four counts for every song. Or give a singer a shaker and say, hey, I want you to shake this next to your microphone while you sing into your microphone.
And so when you have a small team, if each member can contribute different layers, then you get more out of the team. You get more out of the sound. And so, like I said, try using a kick drum for me. I like to use an electric kick drum. We have a little electric drum pad by Elisa, and I hook up a Yamaha foot trigger to that, and I just step on it. Whether it’s a four count or sometimes I’ll do a slightly more complex pattern, but it really just helps create energy in the room.
The low end beat rumble beat. And then when you do that in conjunction with your percussive acoustic guitar playing, you can really create a sense of rhythm, even though you don’t have a band. So multitasking. Using your singers and whatever musicians on stage to multitask in conjunction with the pad that we talked about earlier is the 9th tip for having a great acoustic set. Two more is to use Tags or parts of songs. So you’ll hear in the MP three coming up that I flowed from one song, and then I tagged Bless the Lord O my soul, worship his Holy name.
And then I tagged again here I am to worship on top of that. So it’s like tag to tag to tag part of song to part of song, to part of song that all flows into this seamless thematic experience. Okay, so use portions of songs. Since you don’t have a full band to make it super dynamic, you can just use the best loved parts of songs and keep the train rolling forward. So that’s number ten last tip is to actually encourage participation from your people. Like I said when we started, the tips was to talk to the Church up front.
You can actually tell them, hey, guys, I want you to be the drums today or sing it out, or you guys sound beautiful and you’ll hear in the recordings that I actually say that while we’re singing, they’ll sing and you’ll hear them sing. And I’ll say, you guys sound beautiful while I’m actually leading a song. So you’re actually encouraging them to sing, out and participate and lift their voices even more. So those were the eleven tips. Number one set up your service with speaking. Number two, correlate the keys.
Number three. Use a backing pad. Mp three. Number four. Pick most loved songs. Number five, focus on the voices. Number six. Use your guitar proclusively. Number seven, cut out the instrumentals intros and outros. Number eight. Choose lower keys. Singable keys number nine. Try multitasking or using different musicians to play multiple things. Number ten, use Tags or portions of songs and number eleven verbally encourage participation from your people. So those are the eleven tips for putting together a great acoustic set. And now I’m going to go ahead and play two services, a fully acoustic service where it was just my voice, my guitar and my kick drum, and then another service where it was my voice, my guitar and my kick drum, a piano player and two other vocalists.
So you can kind of hear all of these things in action. If you don’t want to listen to those services, that’s fine. Hopefully these tips were helpful, but if you do listen to them, enjoy. And hopefully you can hear these principles in practice.
And I would say if you’re listening at 1.5 speed, turn your podcast player back to normal speed so that the songs don’t sound super weird and hyper speed. And that way you’ll get a feel for how it actually felt in the room.
So this will be my goodbye to you all for now. You are very loved. You are very valued by God, and you are valuable to his Kingdom. So keep your head up. Keep your eyes forward. Keep looking at Jesus and keep serving people with humility and excellence. And I will see you next month for another helpful episode.