Your acoustic guitar is an incredibly powerful tool. Its melodic and percussive nature allows you to create lots of energy and dynamic if utilized properly. Unfortunately, many worship leaders are under-utilizing this versatile instrument because they have never been taught a handful of simple techniques that can take your acoustic guitar playing to the next level. Whether you lead alone (just you and your acoustic guitar), or you have a worship band, using the six techniques outlined in this episode will help you grow as an acoustic player and better utilize this incredible instrument for God’s glory.
The first half of this episode is a playthrough of a popular worship song (5:00 – 14:43), demonstrating the techniques in action. The second half is an overview and explanation of each technique in detail (14:45 – End). Feel free to skip to whichever part you’ll find most helpful. And don’t forget to listen at “normal speed” on your podcast app!
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Alex Enfiedjian 00:11 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of the worship ministry training podcast. My name is Alex Enfiedjian. Your host, thanks so much for tuning in this month. If you are a new listener welcome, we release one new episode per month and I do my very best to try to make those episodes as helpful and practical as possible. My goal is to help you as a worship leader Excel musically, theologically and pastorelli. And if we can be a small part of raising up an army of World Class worship leaders like you, then I counted a huge privilege to get to invest so much time and energy into this podcast and our website. By the way, our website is worship ministry training. com Go ahead and check it out. There’s a lot of free resources there. And some helpful articles as well as all of the back catalogue of this podcast. So worship ministry training calm. So speaking of practical episodes, one of our most popular episodes today is the using vocal cues to help your church sing episode. And I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can check it out if you haven’t heard that one. But the fact that this episode is by far the most downloaded episode that we’ve ever released shows me that there is a huge need and a huge hunger for extremely practical coaching on the mechanics of worship leading and musicianship. So today, we’re going to do a similar type of episode, I have my guitar in my hand. And I’m actually going to play through and show you and talk about utilizing your acoustic guitar to its full potential, utilizing your acoustic guitar to its full potential. Since coming to my new church in March of 2017, and working with some of the worship leaders here, whether they’re volunteers or if they’re, you know, paid staff, one thing that I’ve come to realize is that many worship leaders are very, very basic in their acoustic playing, meaning they stick to one strumming pattern that they’re comfortable with, and one set of chord voicings. And needless to say, this is a huge under utilization of this incredibly dynamic tool called the acoustic guitar. Because with the right techniques and a little bit of practice, you can actually create a ton of dynamic and really make a song come alive, only playing your acoustic guitar. So hopefully, by the end of today’s episode, you’ll have the tools you need, and some tips to really utilize this incredible tool to the full potential. But first, I want to tell you about a new recommended product that we have come across and who are now sponsoring our podcasts. They are all Claire’s in ear monitors. So if you don’t know anything about owl Claire, it’s a company that makes incredible sounding in your monitors for very cheap. Now we purchased some sets of cochlear monitors for my team here at Calvary Chapel, South Bay. And they love the way that these things sound like they rave about it. And so I don’t have my own set of custom in ears from ALC Claire, although maybe one day they’ll send me a pair. But several of my team members have them and love them. And so I’m excited to offer them as a recommended product you can purchase a pair of Al Claire monitors right on their website if you go to Al claire.com. That’s a lclair.com. And I’ll put a link in the show notes. And if you want 10% off your purchase, you can get that by entering the code w MT podcast w MT podcast at checkout that will get you 10% off, they’re already cheap in your monitors. I don’t think there are companies out there that are making as great of a sounding monitor for such a low price point. So be sure to check out Claire’s in your monitors at alclad calm and use the promo code WM t podcast. Okay, let’s jump into our episode for today.
Alex Enfiedjian 03:56 Alright, so I’m here with my acoustic guitar in hand, and I realized that it’s probably better that I show you a video of what I’m doing so that you can see what my hands are doing. So I’m going to record a video at the same time as I record this audio and I will upload it to YouTube and put a link in the show notes of this podcast. So if you want to see what my hands are doing, when you hear the different things that I’m explaining, you can click the link and watch the video and hopefully that’ll be helpful for you. Okay, so let’s jump into the six ways that you can utilize your acoustic guitar to its full potential. What I’m actually going to do is I’m going to start by playing through a song and showing you all the different techniques in action. And I will more than likely stop and explain what I’m doing along the way and then afterwards, we’ll do a brief recap of the different points in a more systematized structured explanation type of way. So I’m going to play through Paul blush and Brenton Browns song Hosanna praises rising. And so I’ll just jump right in. I’ll play and I will stop along the way to explain the difference. techniques that I’m using. So, song starts like this.
Alex Enfiedjian 05:11 Okay, so before we go on from the intro, so instead of just starting the song full on open strum that doesn’t give the song anywhere to go, right? So you want to create dynamic, you want to start quiet and kind of thumpy. And so what am I doing? Well, I’m strumming shallow, I’m only strumming three strings at a time. I’m palm muting. So it’s not letting the guitar resonate. And I am doing a little melody line with my fingers. So it’s kind of adding some interesting texture instead of just going. I’m going okay, so that’s the intro. So that kind of gets this sort of policy vibe going to it. And so let’s jump into the verse.
Alex Enfiedjian 06:18 That’s just a little I paused for a second. You know, kind of like, Don’t strum, you leave a beat open, and it kind of feels like okay, there’s a little change, and then it jumps back into the verse, by the way, there’s construction going on at our church. So if you hear some beeping in the background, I’m sorry. So let’s jump back into the verse. Oh, couple of things that I want to show you right there. So when I get to that, it would be the D chord because I’m using Keepo. It’s, I’m kind of opening up the palm muting a little bit. So it’s really muted here muting it again. We find strange.
Alex Enfiedjian 07:33 Okay, so a couple things there. I did, I did the five chord shape, instead of playing it like a D like this. I played it like this like an open C chord. So it’s like, oh, it’s strong, and then back to the tight. Right? It makes it interesting when you’re pressed. Bill.
Alex Enfiedjian 08:26 Okay, so right there, I get to the course. And now I’m doing the open strings open strum and I’m my strumming on the first chorus, I’m just doing straight down strums. I don’t want to make it too complex, because then I have nowhere to go later. So I’m just down strums and I’m accenting the two and the four like the snare drum. So Jose,
Alex Enfiedjian 08:57 that’s another little thing you can do is you can kind of act like the snare. So you know, you’re you’re doing like a, like a fill almost so. So that’s the chorus. So Jose
Alex Enfiedjian 09:59 so let’s talk about bursts. So I didn’t want to go back to this. Because that would just be the same thing that I did the first time. And that’s not interesting to your ear because your ear gets bored easily so, so verse two, I did sort of a palm mute on the, on the first part, and then open strings on the bottom. So it’s kind of like
Alex Enfiedjian 10:31 because there’s no singing there, I’m going to open it up a little bit for that D chord.
Alex Enfiedjian 10:44 And I’m using my my pointer finger and my pinky finger to alternate some of those higher pitch notes on the lowest the high strings to kind of just give you some ear candy. And then when we get to the second half of verse two or three, whatever is called, it would be a noxious to do the exact same thing again. So now I’m just going to change my strum pattern a bit, and I’m going to go key. So I did all straight down strums, and I kind of like built the intensity.
Alex Enfiedjian 11:24 It’s just you’re creating movement, you’re using your guitar, you’re using your, your picking hand, your strumming hand and your fingering hand to create movement to create mood to create energy, instead of just playing Down, down, up, down, down over and over without any changes. Because you want to really, like I said, utilize your guitar to the full potential. So all things new record.
Alex Enfiedjian 12:04 So what I’m doing there is I’m like it’s like a strong, and I’m kind of leaving. I’m doing some subdivision there straight down. I’m not doing up, down up, down up. I’m just doing straight down. And then back to that. Still a bill. Welcome. We see, well, we see the face. You can just leave it open, you know, your press, because it’s really
Alex Enfiedjian 13:17 down. You don’t need to keep struggling you just leave it open. Just outline the chord changes. Do when we see and how you can build it when we see.
Unknown Speaker 13:25 We find strength to face even the hardest. I say that every time by the way, in your prayers. Allah
Alex Enfiedjian 13:54 now I’m playing the chorus not down strums only now it’s like it still needs another layer. So now I’m going to do up and down strums.
Alex Enfiedjian 14:41 All right, well, hopefully that was somewhat helpful. So let me just talk through a couple of things I was doing so dynamics, the first way to utilize your acoustic guitar is to utilize dynamics. That means the loudness and the softness, the intensity, or the lack of intensity, the complexity or the lack of complexity. So a couple things that I’ve mentioned Don’t always strum all the strings if you just strum shallow first, I’m just strumming three strings there, then when I strum all the strings, it actually matters. If I’m just strumming all the strings all the time, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t add anything because it’s it becomes monotonous. So strum shallow use, you know, just a couple strings at a time. Now, something I will say, and I know, maybe this will offend you, because you’re like a very talented acoustic guitarist. But I see a lot of worship leaders, when they play in the G shape or whatever, or even not the G shape, they don’t mute certain strings, you have to mute certain strings. So for example, when you play the C chord, or the C two, in the key, or in the G shape family, you have to mute the E string. Otherwise, it sounds like that. So I see a lot of guys are even when they play the D, strumming all the strings all the time, you can’t do that you have to mute certain strings. So when you play the C, don’t play the open D. And when you play the D don’t play the open E or the open a just play the lower ones. So that’s just super important. But that’s not what my main point was. My main point was, don’t strum all the strings to create dynamics drum shallow, and then strum all the way open for the choruses or something like that. So try strumming shallow for the verses. The second thing I would say about dynamics is try fingerpicking. So like if you’re gonna sing the song, you know, if you, which is old song, but I’m old. So there you go. If you do that, like don’t start with a full strum. Don’t do that, you know, start with just finger picking, you know.
Alex Enfiedjian 17:05 And I’ll say something about finger picking our ears like stability, and they don’t like too much variety. So pick a common tone. So if you noticed every time I’ve changed chords, I was always still playing that note. So
Alex Enfiedjian 17:24 that note No. are yours like a common tone, they like they like stability. So when you finger pick, you know, try to pick a common tone and work around that tone with your chord changes. So, but try finger picking with the beginning of songs that are quiet so that you have somewhere to go later. Okay, the second thing about dynamics is try palm muting. So palm muting is what I was doing at the beginning of Hosanna. It’s just laying your palm on the bridge of your guitar covering the string so they don’t resonate. That’s not palm muted. That’s palm muted, and you can vary the intensity of the palm muting, so like and then open it up here. So palm muting is another way to create dynamic. So don’t just play full strum all the strings the whole time, create dynamic. So that’s one way to utilize your acoustic guitar to the full potential. The second way is strumming patterns. If you noticed in Hosanna, I went from simple to complex. So the first chorus, I went all downstrokes. And I mentioned that I was using the two and the four beat as like the snare hit. And the way that you do that is you play the bottom strings. And then you play the top strings on the two and the four so.
Alex Enfiedjian 19:02 So strumming patterns simple to complex is start, maybe start the first chorus, just straight strumming shallow strumming, meaning not all of your strings. And then the second chorus, maybe do the full set of strings, but still straight. And then for the last chorus do complex and full so that way the song changes as it progresses and builds in intensity and complexity. So strumming patterns, you know, and I would say to many worship leaders, I know and I’m probably guilty of this, we have our favorite strumming pattern or strumming patterns and we only do those but really try to learn some different strum patterns. And I’ll try to find some resources to put in the show notes for you guys to learn different strumming patterns. The third way to utilize your acoustic guitar to its full potential is different chord shapes, chord shapes, and I want to just say this to worship leaders everywhere. It’s really important that you are able to play in the actual keys of a song because I know a lot of worship leaders, they just put the cable on and they play the G shape for every single song. Like I’ve even seen some famous songwriters in Nashville, they, when they play a song, they always use the G shape. But every key family, or every chord family has its own set of feelings and nuances. And I would encourage every worship leader to learn how to play all the different chord families. So learn all the chords in the key of D, learn all the chords in the key of A learn all the chords in the key of G and be able to play those different chord families. And I’ll show you a couple examples here in a second. But don’t be one of those worship leaders who just keeps moving to keep up the neck and strumming in the G family chord shapes. Because you’re missing out on something, you’re not capitalizing on something that God has put into this instrument to bring out different nuances and feelings for different songs. So let me just show you an example of that. So coming out found is an old song in the key of I played in D. So I’m in the key of D I’m playing in the D chord shape. So that’d be D, G, A, B minor. Right? So that’s the chord family. See how those chords have a certain feeling to them. So come now found
Unknown Speaker 21:21 to sing, how do I play every play say to my heart to sing.
Alex Enfiedjian 21:33 So that’s one way you could play it in the D family. Or you could put a cable on and you could play it in the key of D using the C shape courts come now
Unknown Speaker 21:47 to mA two to see
Alex Enfiedjian 21:52 it feels totally different. It’s a totally different feeling even though it’s the same key, but it’s using a different chord shape family or you could put the cape away appear and play it in the G shape g family. So the same key key of D come now
Unknown Speaker 22:11 to Mahara to see nine rays.
Alex Enfiedjian 22:16 So I think my personal favorite is in the sea family. So learn the different chord families and learn how to use a capo to capture the feeling that you want for the song, find which chord family feels best for that song, and really be able to utilize different chord shapes. Speaking of chord shapes, there are some really cool chord shapes that you can use. So for example, like when we were playing Hosanna we were in the key Bay, but I’m playing in G now. So when I went to the pre chorus when we see so that’s just a C chord up in the five position. And it’s nice, it’s different. I also see a lot of worship leaders, they do this the you know,
Alex Enfiedjian 23:19 it’s like, you know, that’s great, but sometimes it’s good to play the E minor like this. Like Actually, you know what I mean? Or the C sometimes it’s better to play it like this, instead of like this. So it just depends on the song and the feeling that needs to be conveyed, but be able to play this different shapes. But here are a couple other cool shapes that not a lot of people know about. And this is where that YouTube video might come in handy. So if you want to see you can click the link so you guys probably already know these but like, you could play it a cutie like or you could play it like this, which is much more interesting. Or like in the key of G you can do like let’s say our God is greater. That’s a minor instead of just like this. c g, that’s the one chord instead of playing g like this MD
Alex Enfiedjian 24:43 so those are different shapes to play the same chords also notice that I was able to play the G up on the neck so know your way around your fretboard.
Alex Enfiedjian 24:56 See that same note, so be able to play depending like for our guide is greater I like to do that like,
Unknown Speaker 25:05 and if I Guys and welcome sad again,
Alex Enfiedjian 25:16 right that’s more cool than so learn different chord shapes and be able to play them around the neck. I will say to you about the cables, like if you want to check out our free kebo cheat sheet, you can download that at worship ministry training, comm slash resources, there’s a KPI cheat sheet there. And there’s also the chord families cheat sheet there as well you just enter your email and you can download all that for free. The other thing I wanted to talk about is to utilize your acoustic to its full potential is walking notes. And you you saw me do that in hosannah, where I was like, so I’m using my bottom fingers to play some walking notes. And you can do that up high or down low like um, but here are a couple examples of how you can use walking out so like for everlasting God in the bridge, or not the bridge, but in the instrumental part won’t grow up. Cool. And then also in like the stand like for me,
Alex Enfiedjian 27:07 that’s just some nice your candy. And now if you have a full band, you might not need to do some of that stuff. But if you’re just by yourself, it’s it’s it adds a lot. And then you can also do some of those walk downs on the lower strings too. So like
Alex Enfiedjian 27:32 something like that, okay, so use a walking notes, and I guess they would be called passing tones. So learn some of those passing tones and be able to add some ear candy to your guitar playing. The other thought that I wanted to share. The other way to utilize your guitar to its full potential is to do some percussive feels like I was telling you in Hosanna, you know, like, you can do stuff like that or even while you’re actually strumming the song,
Unknown Speaker 28:00 you are the goddess say this way.
Alex Enfiedjian 28:09 So it’s like it’s like a snare hit. Or if you’re doing like our God, say you’re using as a snare. So those are just little things you can do. So a couple other tricks before we wrap up, you can also stop playing, that’s that’s the trick is let your band fill in some of the sound, or like before chorus you can stop. So I’m trying to think of a song as an example. My song too temptation when I can stand or fall on Jesus right here ready.
Alex Enfiedjian 29:23 So just a little stop there. It sucks the energy out of the moment so that when you hit on the downbeat, it kicks back in and it feels even stronger than if you had played all the way through that moment. So stopping before a chorus or like I said, if you’re playing with a band don’t always play a lot of times I’ll start playing first verse and then when we get to the second verse, I’ll lay out and it just feels different. And then I come back in on the chorus so it adds the energy back into the mix. So those are the six ways to utilize your acoustic to the full potential dynamics strumming patterns, chord shapes, slash cables, walking nodes, percussive fills, and a couple of other little tricks. I probably left some stuff out but I feel like this is a good at least a good primer a good place to get started so if you have any questions or thoughts or comments you can email me Alex at worship leader training.com Be sure to check out owl clair.com for custom molded in ear monitors at incredible prices and they sound fantastic from what I hear. So enter w mt podcast at checkout to save 10% other than that, check out worship ministry training comm to see all those free resources I talked about in this episode. And I will see you next month for another great episode. Thank you guys for being listeners. Please share this episode with your friends. I would love it if you could share this episode with as many people that you think would be helped by it. Alright, God bless you guys have a great month.