Becoming a Better Musician, Part I: Your Instrument

Guitar-1333353440ujZMy worship-leading career began with an injury. I grew up playing baseball, as did my three brothers. It was my freshman year of high school when my back began having pain that only got worse. Come to find out, I had a nerve that was pinched in my lower back. That ended my freshman season early, and would bother me for the next year and a half.

As a young high school student who was used to being active, sitting around the house all day, even after studying, began to drive me crazy. I needed something to do! My Dad had a guitar he bought twenty some years before with the intention of learning to play, but with only some fruition. The guitar seemed to beckon me while leaning in the corner of my parent’s room. One day, I just picked the guitar up, sat down next to the computer with some of the books my Dad had bought, and just started plucking away.

Needless to say, I did not become Jimi Hendrix or Wes Montgomery over night. In fact, I was pretty unsatisfied with my ability to play until a family friend gave me some private guitar lessons. Within a few months I superseded my instructor’s talents, but would stall a couple years later, and would remain that way until I went to Central Christian College of Kansas to study ministry and music.

Just like my story, it is not uncommon for musicians to be unsatisfied with where your musicianship is at, plateau, or are simply become unsure of where they should go next. If this is you right now, here are 5 ways you can challenge yourself and become a better musician on your instrument(s).

Set Goals

This may not have been the first recommendation you expected to see, but if you do not set a schedule and timeline for improving your playing, you are not going to accomplish any other practical recommendation. Select a short-term goal that you can learn in the week, and a long-term goal you can tackle over the month. This will allow you to take on 5 goals a month. That’s 60 new goals and possibly 60 new skills in a year. Now that’s improvement.

Private Music Lessons

Hands down the best way to improve your instrument playing is by taking private lessons. Find a good instructor, and the opportunities become endless. There are plenty of ways to find a good instructor, either by way of mouth or even trusted online sites. Studying under someone who is where you want to be can be a great motivator and source of accountability. They can identify weaknesses and strengths and take you places you never knew you could go or even knew existed!

Learn a New Genre

I had no idea the impact of learning a new musical genre would have on my worship leading musicianship. Since becoming a competent jazz guitar player, I can see the influences of such a complex and skillful genre on my music. The effect is not only seen on my chord vocabulary, but also in chord progressions and especially rhythms. The window of learning a new genre will open up your musical skills immensely.

Learn an Album

Find a music book with featuring your favorite album and then learn and memorize the whole album. This will give you a chance to learn some of your favorite music, study one particular style of playing, and memorize a good amount of music! What is even better is if the book has commentary on the artist or band’s style. Then incorporate some of the key skills from the album to your worship music.

Tab A Song By Ear

This can be a very difficult and a very rewarding task. Start simple. Take one of your favorite new worship band singles and figure out the chord progressions. Then figure out the bass line and finally the lead line, both the lead instrument line and the melody line. This would be another task that it can prove beneficial to learn an album. You can find patterns in the playing and learn these new skills.

These practical suggestions are to encourage you in the pursuit of musical excellence for the glory of God. Increasing your instrument musicianship for worship leading is one way to do this.

What about you? What are other means you use to increase your musicianship for worship leading?

JP#4Jason Palmer is the Editor of Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.

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