Life goes too fast. Seems like yesterday I was super-amped about posting our 50th song lesson and now a week ago I realized we had just surpassed 300. It feels like a mile marker and when I hit mile markers I try to take a moment to reflect. Here are 8 things I've learned from posting 300 worship guitar lessons.
8. Worship Songs Have A Lot To Teach
I’ve always found teaching music within the context of a song to be most effective, but when I started Worship Artistry I was afraid that worship songs would be too limiting on technique and force me to look elsewhere for additional material. While not the most difficult tunes out there, worship songs still employ all the technique necessary to become a great player. In fact, by keeping the parts accessible, they give you an opportunity to hone your technique to a fine point. I would always rather play with someone who can play a simple part well than someone who plays more difficult parts with less mastery. Become great at the simple things and you will have a much easier time with the difficult.
7. Understanding Breeds Creativity
Okay, bear with me on this one. I love to cook and I REALLY love the PBS show “Mind of A Chef”. They follow these innovative cooks and examine how they mine their culinary roots for inspiration. Even though they are doing something new and exciting, it all grows out of their mastery of the tradition. Creativity in music is the same way. Learning how a song was originally played gives you a foundation on which to build new ideas. Don’t chain yourself to the original, but don’t despise it either. You can always learn something from the pros.
Become great at the simple things and you will have a much easier time with the difficult.
6. Nothing Is Impossible
It's not just a Planetshakers song. As I waded into the online teaching waters, I kept waiting to find that song that was just too hard to teach, but it never came. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges. I've shot lessons that require 50 takes. I’ve had to reshoot when I found a mistake. I’ve even had to reshoot entire songs because I thought of a better way to teach them. Still, with enough determination, desire, and practice you can learn anything.
5. There Will Always Be A Naysayer
Someone will always tell you they can do it better, but few will ever show you. That goes especially for commenters on the Internet. It’s easy to get frustrated or defensive. (I once made the mistake of calmly explaining myself to a YouTube troll once. Never again.) If I’m confident in what God has called me to do, it hardly matters when I fall short of another’s expectations.
Someone will always tell you they can do it better, but few will ever show you.
4. Mistakes Are Inevitable
No matter how much you prepare, something will probably go wrong. I make mistakes all the time. Fortunately I get to edit them out, but professionals who spend their life on the road playing the same set every night do it too. I’ve attended concerts where Thom Yorke of Radiohead had to stop in the middle of Faust Arp TWICE because he forgot the words and a U2 concert where the Edge hit so many wrong piano chords he stopped and started laughing into his microphone. If these guys blow it on occasion, you need not get down on yourself when you biff it after a two hour practice on Sunday morning.
If I’m confident in what God has called me to do, it hardly matters when I fall short of another’s expectations.
3. Listening To Truth Is Good For The Soul
Okay, I'm going to be a little vulnerable here (My wife will be so proud). The thing I was most nervous about when beginning Worship Artistry was my ability to listen to worship songs all day. I was coming from a place of burnout. My longtime semi-pro worship band (if that’s a thing) had recently broken up and I was critical of worship music and the music industry in a way that wasn't altogether healthy. As I started listening through the songs I was considering, I found my cynical side melting away as the lyrics worked their way into my soul. I soon began letting go of my pride and hurt and finding life in the heart these songs expressed. Spend time meditating on truth. It's good for you.
2. There Is No Finish Line
I’ve been playing guitar for over 20 years, teaching privately for 15 and online for 4. I’m still learning. There will always be something new to add your playing. You just have to keep looking.
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1. It's Worth It
Building Worship Artistry has been anything but easy. Leading worship is a joy and a privilege, but it comes with its own challenges. What keeps me passionate about my work is knowing the impact it’s having on others. Thanks to all of you who have shared your stories with me and allowing me to be a part of your musical journey. I’ll never get tired of it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got 300 more songs to teach and full band lessons to introduce.