Knowing When to Quit…. or Taking a Break and Listening

Greetings fellow bloggers/players. I know, i know… its been several weeks since I last posted. Forgive me, I cannot explain how busy my schedule is right now. As many of you know I have the busiest semester yet- PLUS the national board exams for my career. Med school is tough, but will be rewarding once I get out. I’ll give a quick brief: Monday through Thursday: clinic starts 8am, classes start at 1pm then end at 7:30pm. Friday is off, but I study what I couldn’t all week. Sat I study for boards. Sun I study for whatever test is Mon or Tues and hope I can remember if it is out to Thursday.

That said, I’ve learned alot these last few weeks. (about guitar, music and worship leading in total)

I want to get a certain message out to church guitarists in particularly. KNOW WHEN TO QUIT. I don’t mean that in a bad way as in “You suck, so quit.”
You see, as a bunch of musicians/weekend warriors/wannabe rockgods, we often get a thrill in playing our roles in worship. I know I look forward every Sunday to getting the Les Paul out, putting the gear in the trunk and huffing it to church before the sun rises. I get upset when I get there and the song set sucks. Yes, I said…. why does it suck at times?
Then at church, we feel like we can’t take a break because “Jesus didn’t quit you!”
Seriously, its a service to God and man that we perform, but more often than not- by playing, it is a service to ourselves with God and man being served just being a byproduct.

That’s why I get upset when we play “crappy” songs, and when someone else is not pulling their weight in the band.
Then I realize that I have boards, midterms and seriously can’t make the weekly practice for 6 weeks straight. I know that I can ‘just show’ on Sunday and be able to ‘pull it off’, but who am I kidding? Do I want that stress of hoping I can gel with the band like always when I haven’t put the time in to do so? And I really get a bit peeved about this- I want to play, but my musical integrity won’t let me.
That’s when I realized its not about the worship inasmuch as servicing myself.

Stress, selfishness, confusion, and all the emotions that follow lead to one thing:  I need a break. I honestly cannot lead worship right now from the time-commitment factor which leads to the stress, to the confusion etc… A vicious cycle!
Knowing when to quit is big deal for church musicians. I have seen people (men and women, even that scary bass player) almost break down in tears as they say “i can’t do this anymore”. People really feel like they are letting God down. It is not a sin to not want to serve others as it is not a sin to want to be ministered to! It is completely scriptural to take a time of rest.
Perhaps “quit” is too harsh of a word. Everyone needs to take a rest.

I challenge those of you with the worship bands of the faithful- how about rotating one weird month of the year (May? nothing happens in May!) and do smaller acoustic-ish sets and give one faithful member a Sunday to sleep in, be with the family and (heaven forbid!) skip church should he/she feel necessary. Why must we run our talent dry? Our VOLUNTEER talent?

Thoughts #2:

While resting, I have listened to the services. I have listened to the music. I have heard my silent parts- the ones in my head that I wouldn’t have heard had I had been trying to “fill in”. Ideas have renewed themselves. My excitement is coming back. I have made a few important realizations.

I have realized that a few of my touches do not really fit the current band’s lineup of musicians. This band I need to play a bit more classic/raw rock with vs the ambient U2 wannabe stuff I normally do.

I have realized the guy playing the Cort electric into the house’s 20 year old Crate amp actually sounds good. Not great, but If hadn’t been listening (dissecting it as a fellow guitar player), I wouldn’t have noticed.

I have realized that the crowd came to worship, and do not even know what a Crate amp is, much less what it should sound like.

I have realized that the crowd describes our/my antics in funny laymen terms. ie… that the Crate player sounds “stronger” than my playing, but its not the same because my playing is softer with this “jangle”. (Elder telling me about the sounds he enjoys— he was talking about my delay usage. But he never knew/heard that it was delay. Just knew it was softer with a  jangle than a plain guitar.)

I have realized what songs I am weak in and “play lead” to cover over any errors I might have. I have realized what songs the band is weak in and why I subconsciously resort to rhythm to help cover their/our weaknesses.

I have seen that most of church realizes that the band sounds different without me. I have realized though, they don’t know I am the one who is gone.

I have realized that the band does need me. They miss the dynamics I provide. They enjoy the companionship and the lessons that we teach each other.

I have realized that I don’t need to play in front of a church/audience to feel like I serve God. I solo’ed in my bedroom one night and felt the music, the touch, that THING that we feel in the middle of a passionate set. I realize I play to serve God.

I hope these useless ramblings help inspire you to keep playing and to keep the proper focus.

coming (whenever I get a chance and a change of pace):
Gear reviews! A video that doesn’t suck!
New gear that I want to talk about in the following months:
Blackstone Mosfet Overdrive, Tim, Toneczar Dove, Barber Small Fry, OCD, Hartman Fuzz, maybe some delay (unless I convince Karl to do the post for me 🙂 )


5 Responses

  1. A lot of wisdom there. Hats off to you, sir.

  2. i take it you are referring to the “maybe a delay post (unless I convice Karl to do it for me)”

    cuz, you are the Delay Master.

  3. agree with Karl! i think we all share the same sentiments as we all grow mature in our service/ministry. everybody needs a break here and there especially if you and/or your family are being affected in a negative way spiritually/emotionally/physically.

    btw, looking forward to your vids again!

  4. Brother, that’s a deep post.
    I think it’s REALLY important we all who are involved in this ministry keep in mind it’s end goal…drawing people to God.
    I mean, if your guitar playing is helping the worship, it doesn’t matter if the people understand all that you’re doing, or that you researched 28 delay pedals to get that sound.
    enjoy your break, and hope your studies go well.

  5. This is some heady stuff – thanks for sharing.
    I don’t play every week but I can identify with a lot of what you’ve said here. Good luck with your boards!

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