Getting A Little Too Satisfied With The Status Quo

When I started playing guitar at the ripe age of fourteen, my goal was to be the best guitar player at my school. Within my first year I began learning some very difficult songs. I also learned solos by Jimi Hendrix and Slash which took me tedious hours to get them down pat. Once I reached college I started playing only Christian music with a band called Mordecai’s Courage. The music we began to write together was of a different nature than what I had grown up learning. It was more melodic and did not require so much of the “shredding” and rippin’ blues licks that I was used to. This proved to be a challenge for me but over time I was able to change my style in order to accommodate the alternative rock that MC was creating. By the time MC called it quits around 2003 I had become quite comfortable with playing more melodious lead guitar.

During this time I had also began playing with my church’s praise team. I really felt like a little fish in a big pond at this point because most of the other members knew their instruments far better than I knew mine and they knew music theory far better than I did. They were always changing keys on me and playing songs in key other than what was written on the chord sheet. Not only this but they also expected proper lead guitar. This was a lot for me to take in and several times I came close to dropping from the praise team because I felt I just was not up to par with the rest of the team. But thanks to my brother-in-law (who was also on the team), I began to understand scales and relative minors and the components of what makes a chord progression. All of this helped me to get a better handle on playing lead guitar as well as playing in other keys. I finally came to the point where if I knew what key we were in (i.e. what chord to start on), then I could easily figure out the rest of the chords by ear and by understanding how most modern popular music is written. This helped pave the way I think for my later role as a worship leader. I now find myself helping less experienced musicians work through the same hurdles that I once had to overcome.

But now I am at another interesting crossroads. I feel that my tenure as a praise and worship leader has caused me to neglect my first love, lead guitar. The reason I started playing in the first place is so that I could rip up some blues/rock scales and imitate my guitar heroes (Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde). In fact I can remember in the first month or so of learning guitar I thought an electric guitar was called a lead guitar. So I at first was telling my mom that I wanted her to buy me a lead guitar. Wow, that was so long ago. Holy, moley, I just did the math. I started playing guitar fifteen years ago!

I realize that I waste a lot of time. I get online a lot and play around and watch YouTube videos. If I want to regain my lead guitar playing prowess then I need to spend that time refamiliarizing myself with the major and minor pentatonic scales and relearn how to incorporate them. I also need to get my chops up again because I can not fret as fast as I once could. So this is my resolution: I will not waste my spare time with idleness but will redevote myself to excellence in guitar playing. So it’s time for me to take out my lead guitar…I mean electric guitar, fire up the ol’ Marshall and scrub off a lick or two.

Put out the spotlights one and all
Let the feelin’ get down to your soul
The music’s so loud you can hear the sound
Reachin’ for the sky and tearin’ up the ground

It’s all part of my rock ‘n’ roll fantasy
It’s all part of my rock ‘n’ roll dream
—Bad Company

By the way, for those of you who like hearing about folks’ dreams. During my afternoon Sunday nap this past week, I dreamed that I was starting the praise and worship set with Evergreen’s praise team. The house was packed with folks ready to worship. There was extreme excitement and anticipation in the air. The only problem was kept having to stop playing in order to correct sound problems or work out song arrangements during the set. The large congregation was gracious and understanding but I still tried to crack some jokes in order to lighten the situation. However it was still frustrating, but also still fun. Anyway, I’m not saying it means anything, I just thought it was funny.

Josh H.

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