Switching From Acoustic To Electric Guitar As A Worship Leader

Our first Listener Q&A Episode! Podcast listener, Rick Flood asks for advice on how to switch from leading worship on an acoustic guitar, to leading from an electric. Brenton, Sam and I share our tips, ideas and concepts on how to approach leading from an electric guitar, and how it differs from leading on an acoustic. We talk tone, pedals, strumming patterns, chord voicing, mixing and more.

If you’d like to submit a question for a future episode email me at alex@worshipleadertraining.com  or call and leave a voicemail at 831-607-WLT1.

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Alex Enfiedjian 00:04 Hey everybody, this is a short bonus episode for you. I’ve been getting a lot of emails with different questions about different topics. And I thought it would be great to bring on some really great worship leaders, friends of mine who have a lot of wisdom and insight and can help answer some of these questions. So from now on, maybe once a month, I’ll do a bonus episode where I answer a listeners question. And if you want to email me a question you can do that Alex at worship leader training calm, or if you want us to, like feature your voice on our podcast, you can even call in and leave a voicemail. It’s 8316007, w l t 1831607, w l t one. And both of those links will be in the show notes. But yeah, contact me in the future. If you have a question you want us to answer on the episode and we’ll bring on some qualified guests to answer those questions. So I do have two qualified guests here. I have Sam kousaka and Brandon Collier. Hello, guys. Hey, hello. Sam is a worship leader at hope chapel in hermoza Beach. And Brenton is a worship pastor in Monterey, California at Calvary Monterey. And they’re both awesome, guys. So I want to read this question from one of our listeners. This is a question from Rick flood. Rick, thanks for writing this question to us. The question is this, I have always led worship with an acoustic guitar. But recently I switched to leading with an electric. This has been a huge learning curve for me any pointers on best practices for this even pedal suggestions, chord, phrasing, etc. Our band setup has an electric lead player. And I am trying to figure out how to blend the two effectively, I’m sticking to light rhythm leaving the leads to the other player. Also, any pointers for my sound guys who are running sound. Thank you for any pointers you have. So let’s just jump right in guys, Rick is switching from an acoustic to an electric guitar for leading and he’s looking for help. What would you guys say?

Unknown Speaker 01:59 Yeah, I’d say I mean, the first step if if, you know similarly to if you’re leading from an acoustic guitar, if you’re leading from an electric guitar, it’s pretty simple. Just just work on getting good as an electric guitar player, you know, that’s where it’s got to start. There are a lot of different you know, techniques and, and ideas that will be helpful that we’ll probably get into. But I think big picture wise, if you’re not a strong electric guitar player just to begin with, then you’re definitely not going to be a strong leader leading from the electric guitar. So that doesn’t mean you have to be the most extravagant electric guitar player, the most advanced, the most intricate, but it just means whatever you’re trying to accomplish on that instrument, make sure that that you’ve got it, you’re comfortable with it, you can play it easily and, and effortlessly and confidently. And then add singing on top of that, you know, but it’s got to start there, just just developing as an electric guitar player first, before choosing to leave from electric I think, Sam, any thoughts.

Unknown Speaker 03:05 But one thing that popped into my head as you’re talking Branton was when you start playing electric switching from acoustic, at least in my case, when I first started playing electric and seeing at the same time, I would be thinking about the note that I was playing on electric. And so sometimes that would affect my voice. And so I definitely think, and I agree with you that confidence is a huge thing that Yeah, you should definitely be confident on electric guitar before you start leading with it. Because otherwise, it just becomes a distraction.

Alex Enfiedjian 03:33 Yeah, cool. Confidence. comfortableness comfortableness, if that’s a word, so maybe like, let’s talk a little bit about tone, you know, he asked about tone. So I, I lead from electric maybe once a month, otherwise, I want the acoustic and for me, personally, I’m not like an insanely great electric guitar player, I can, you know, fool most people. But for tone, I don’t want to mess with all these different pedals while I’m leading. So I kind of just set my guitar, right between clean and over driven. And so that way, if I play lightly, and fingerpick, it’s clean. And if I dig into it a little harder with my pick, it adds a bit of dirt to the tone, but I’m not constantly stepping on pedals while I’m trying to lead to try to change the tone between verses and choruses. How about you guys? Any any thoughts on tone?

Unknown Speaker 04:18 Yeah, so I think there’s like two types of electric guitar worship leaders. There’s the one we would be talking about here, which is more of the rhythm electric player. And then there’s, like, if you only have one electric say, and you have to do believes as well as the stuff, that’s the only time that I would say, stepping on pedals is a necessity. But other than that, I think that you plan you say for the light drive, and your finger pick, it’ll be clean and then dig in dirties up a little bit. So,

Unknown Speaker 04:44 yeah, it’s pretty crazy. You know what you can accomplish, just with, like you’re saying, Alex the feel of your fingers versus your pick. You know what you do with your tone knobs what you do with your volume knob, what you do with which pickup you’re on, there’s so Much ability to shape the tone just like right there at your fingertips without feeling like you have to have a ton of pedals. And so, I’ve actually simplified my electric rig quite a bit through the years, and I’ve got all kinds of pedals and pedal for just about everything that I’ve used through the years. And sometimes I’ll pull something off and put one of those on for like a song that really needs it. But yeah, my basic rig is, you know, probably the same stuff. Most people have some drive, some reverbs, and delay. And, you know, tuner volume pedal, that sort of thing. And I tried to just keep it really simple and work on those effects ahead of time, and figure out what I need for this set. And then just try not to Yeah, just be be hitting all kinds of different things. Because that really is, is difficult to do. Like if you do have to change settings quite a lot from song to song, even practice, like in addition to practicing your park, practice that sequence of changes on your pedal board, and memorize it and then make sure you can do it quickly. Because you also don’t want to get caught saying Okay, I need to turn off my overdrive and switch to this longer delay and go from a light reverb to saturated reverb. And then when it comes down to the moment you hit the wrong thing or you it ends up being this long, awkward pause because you forget. So it’s almost like that’s just another part that you need to practice and get comfortable with. But start simple, you know, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Alex Enfiedjian 06:29 Yeah, I think for me again, like I’m not crazy, amazing electric player, but I’ll usually just have some reverb from the amp. And then I’ll use a little bit of delay, like I’ll use like a short slapback delay for the upbeat songs. And then I’ll just make it really simple to switch to a slightly longer, like quarter note delay for the slower songs. And it’s like literally one button press for me because I don’t want to have to think about like, I gotta, you know, and even if the tap tempo is not like exactly right on, like, if I have a moment to tap it in correctly, I will but if it’s like we’re jumping right into the next song, like, no one’s gonna notice if my quarter note delay is like slightly off. It’s more about the texture. So yeah, I think I think you’re right on Brenton for rhythm. Just keep it simple. You know, I think I heard like Chris kilala talked about his pedal rig. And he’s like, I just have drive and delay. And that’s it, you know. So even though it’s fun to buy a bunch of pedals, if you’re doing rhythm, you don’t really need to any thoughts on strumming? What would you tell this person how to change his strumming up from you know what, what he was doing on acoustic to what he’s doing on electric,

Unknown Speaker 07:35 I guess with strumming. I’ve run into a lot of people who like to use sort of the same strum. And probably it’s not a huge deal. But I’ve always encouraged people and like students to master different types of strums, listen to the types of styles that you’re playing. I mean, it all depends on the song. But with rhythm, I really think that it’s just holding down the groove. And not getting outside of that not getting too crazy. I prefer when I’m playing rhythm, I don’t really bite in with my pick as much it’s not as firm, I kind of let it loose a little bit. So it’s kind of more generally and you can kind of hear the the syncopation of the strong but not. So that is just like, super in your face.

Alex Enfiedjian 08:20 Yeah, and I’d say for strumming on an acoustic you can get away with more, down, down, up, up, down, like you know, a lot of up and down percussive stuff but on an electric it just sounds annoying. So I would say simplify your strumming for sure. Like you know, do more straight eighth notes or open like just on the chord change, just strum it out, you know, strum out on each chord change like, basically simplify, try palm muting a lot for the verses. So one of the things I’ll do is like in my strumming on my electric, as opposed to my acoustic, I’ll straighten it out a bit, I won’t do all the up and down in between percussive stuff, I’ll kind of just like do straight eighth with a palm mute, maybe like up higher on the neck for the verses. And then when the chorus comes in, I’ll just like open up and go down to the one position and just strum like a whole note for each chord change. And let the you know, let the drums carry out the subdivisions of the beats and stuff. So I don’t know. Any other thoughts on that?

Unknown Speaker 09:17 Yeah, couldn’t agree more. I mean, it sounds really simple. But don’t underestimate the power of that, that one strum. You know, if you’ve got some nice tone, that’s really gonna go a long way in sounding really, really nice in your mix. And you’re right, I say, you know, in a sentence, I would just say, don’t try to strum your electric guitar like you do your acoustic guitar. You know, it’s pretty much that simple. I can’t think of any song I personally do that with, because there’s only so many subdivisions in your measure, and entertainment, what your trends are doing. And then you know, maybe if you’re leading from electric but you also have someone else who’s playing acoustic guitar, this is really not necessary. So, yeah, I go back and forth like you stand between Pick using a pick in and using my fingers playing electric guitar quite a bit. And I do a lot of like picking work as a rhythm electric player. So I’m not doing like a, you know, a down up strum pattern very often. Usually I’m doing, you know, picking notes within a chord to make it just kind of like more melodic and musical sounding, we’ll get into chord voicings in a minute. But if you do some, some inversions, or some voicings that are higher up on the neck, or on some of the higher strings, you can kind of almost sound like a lead guitar player without really even doing, you know, too much just picking within the chord voicings. And then if you do, you know, a lot of what I’ll do is with finger picking is it may be a finger picking pattern, or it may just be like plucking two or three of this strings at a time, as I’m moving between positions. And then with a little bit of delay that’s going to ring out and sound really nice. Usually,

Alex Enfiedjian 10:52 yeah, you really want to avoid like open chord strings, I really like that you’re, you’re picking out a little pattern, a picking pattern in the chord voicing and kind of adding this melodic element because you can’t, you just can’t play the electrical and acoustic, it sounds bad. So that’s really good. Let’s talk a little bit about chord shapes, then. So one of the things I think is like, don’t just strumming the one position on the neck, you know, like, open G, regular D, like, there’s a lot more creative shapes you can use when you’re playing on electric. So maybe Brian, you want to talk a little bit about that.

Unknown Speaker 11:24 Yeah, definitely. So I say, the first thing to do is get really comfortable and confident in your bar chord theory. So knowing and understanding first where your root six and root five barre chords are. And maybe start with those and then not even playing all six or five strings on those chords, the playing combinations of strings that can be sequential strings. So like, you know, three strings in a row. So like your D, and your G and your B string all in a row like in an F shape or something like that, like up higher on the neck, or they can be out of sequence. So you could do like for a D chord, you know, your root on the D note and then skip the D string all together and just play the next two notes on the beat in the in the G string or something like that. Because like within a root six barre chord shape, there are like seven or eight pretty quickly identifiable chord voicing combinations without moving anywhere, you know, you could you could play the bottom two strings, you could play the next two, you could play all three, you could skip some strings. And so if you if you start there, and then you know, find some nice voicings within that shape, and then arpeggiate, those voicings or you know, find a picking pattern within them, you’re gonna get some really nice melodic, interesting sounding chords that you can utilize way up the neck and down the neck by only learning two shapes, basically your your movable e shape, which is your root six barre chord or your moveable a shape, which is your root five. And then if you want to take it kind of a little bit further, there’s of course root for root three shapes, which are basically like triad shapes, which sound really nice up the neck too. It’s good, Sam, any thoughts?

Unknown Speaker 13:08 Yeah, stay away from open chords. The only time I think I’ve ever played one position, open chords like an open G would be or D and stuff like that is when I’m strumming just on the downbeat. And it’s really driving or something. It’s a huge song. And then I guess for when I’m leading rhythm, I do typically stick to the fourth position barre chord triad shape, because there’s a ton of just major key or major scale stuff that you can do in there with your picking. And when you move a little bit of fingers. So yeah, getting the theory behind all of the, you know, the cage stuff is, I think, a huge part of playing electric guitar and leading at the same time.

Alex Enfiedjian 13:48 Yeah, and you know, just to encourage our listeners, because if you’re like, Oh my gosh, they’re like speaking a different language. Well, one, let it kind of spur you on to learn some of these things. But to also like, for me, it also sounds slightly like a different language. What are some of the phrases that you know, Brenton and Sam are talking about, because I play a lot by ear and I know exactly what they’re saying. And I’ve learned it by ear. But that’s just because I’ve been doing it for a while and like I’m comfortable with it. But what they’re really saying is like get comfortable all the way around the neck of your guitar, like know how to play an E in the one position, know how to play it up on the seventh fret, and then know how to play it up in a triad on the top three strings, you know, so that you can jump in between all those three spots for a verse and a chorus. You know, so like, just for an example, like I might do, like, let’s just say I’m doing a meet, this is amazing grace, and he, I might just do like a palm muted open E string type thing for the verses and then in the chorus, I might jump up to just all the way up to the seventh fret, e open like just play the bottom three or four strings on the E open E chord and then when I go to the four chord, which is the A, I’ll just lower my pointer finger down to the next thing and hit the open A string and ring The bottom three out, and then I might jump up higher and do like a little D shaped triad thing up higher. So if you can get comfortable with maybe those three positions, you’re going to be really versatile in adding adding energy to the song like I even led a men’s retreat last weekend. And it was, for the most part, it was almost a three piece and it was with me on my electric. So I had to create the energy changes by knowing how to move around the neck of my guitar. So really, it kind of all boils down to what they said at the beginning, which is practicing, get comfortable. And then in terms of mixing all answer that real quickly, you know, you might want to look at compressing your guitars, your electric guitars, like maybe two to one ratio compression, or maybe three to one ratio compression, just so that the the peaks don’t stick too far out of the mix. And then also like maybe roll off some of the bottom end like high pass up to I don’t know, 120 180 I’m not a real sound guy, but just get some of the low end rumble out of the microphone bypassing. And then if you have capability to pan, you can pan left a little bit on your rhythm, and write a little bit on your lead guitar, just to you know, create some separation in the room between the two guitars. So that’s a little bit about mixing. Any any final thoughts guys, for for Rick, and for any of the other listeners who are wanting to switch to an electric?

Unknown Speaker 16:16 Yeah, just say like, if you have a chance to, to play electric on a team or with a group somewhere where you’re not leading, like, take advantage of that, you know, and that just comes back to what I said at the beginning, which is just get really comfortable, and really strong on whatever level of playing that you’re hoping to achieve. You know, again, it doesn’t have you don’t have to be the best player in the world. But you know, find try to seek out opportunities for you to practice with with other people. Because that’s just going to translate all the better when you’re actually singing and leading

Alex Enfiedjian 16:48 fam, anything that you think we missed, maybe that would be helpful.

Unknown Speaker 16:51 The one thing that I can think of is a good resource that I like, if you can multitrack calm. I don’t know how many people use tracks but you can isolate other artists specifically in the worship their mixes. And so you can isolate a guitar and you can hear what that guitar is doing on that track. And they might have six guitars, which is just for the record or whatnot. But you can you know, see which one plays more important role, all that kind of stuff. I learned guitar listening. So and looking at books and the different chord shape stuff. So I really do think that there’s nothing better than your ear. So like all this all the skill stuff and the learning the cage and stuff like that. A lot of it comes out when you pick up stuff in different songs you figure out how to play it, it leads to other things so

Alex Enfiedjian 17:39 awesome. Great guys, thank you so much for your wisdom and for our listeners again if you have a question you would like us to answer in a kind of like real world worship leader setting with other real world worship leaders like shoot me an email Alex at worship leader training calm or call and leave a voicemail 831607 w lt one and I’ll put the links again in the show notes. Thank you guys for being here. Thank you and God bless you.

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