How to Lead Worship on Electric Guitar

Things to keep in mind when switching from acoustic to electric.

If you’ve led worship on acoustic guitar and are thinking of making the transition to an electric as the lead instrument, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

Drum and Bass

While an acoustic can “take over” a song and drive it from start to finish, electric should still be more of an accent instrument. That means your rhythm section needs to be tight and confident so you can lean on them. The stronger they are the more freedom it will give you. If you aren’t confident in them, you’ll have to stick with lower range chords, palm muting and clear rhythm patterns like 8th note down strums to compensate.

Create Space

Rather than strumming openly, create space and rhythm by playing more staccato. The places you do land a chord will have more impact and reinforce the rhythm. If you need to go big, throw on a little overdrive and one strum your way through a chorus emphasizing the changes and filling in with light picking in between.

Frequency Range

If your bass does a good job of filling space, hang out in the higher range of the guitar. Triads are a great way to do this. Lay off the overdrive, use some delay and arpeggiate your way through the parts. Choose some repetitive rhythmic patterns over the chord changes.


There’s a learning curve to an electric guitar and understanding how to use one in a lead context can really help you understand how to use it as the main rhythm instrument. I’ve suggested a few lessons below that utilize some of the techniques I’ve described. Go through them from start to finish and then think about how you could adapt that type of part to another song.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

How to Lead Worship on Electric Guitar

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Thank you!!

Mind blown. Thanks for the tips Jason!

Glad it was helpful

It's funny how adjusting your perspective slightly can open up so many more possibilities.

Thanks a bunch!

Thankyou Jason, exactly what I needed to hear to get the confidence to step out and make that jump.


Go for it and tell us how it went

I'm not the worship leader but...

I am the only electric guitar. On songs that build and have big distorted chords (like Great I Am), should I concentrate on playing the chords or jump to the lead lines?

Depends on the band

You really have to use your ear to make the choice. Our lead guitar arrangements are built for a single lead player so what I play in the lessons will work but if you are lacking some other instruments you may need to fill more space by laying down the big chords. The question to ask yourself is "What does the song need?"

I'm having this problem as

I'm having this problem as well. The lead lines are so critical to how the song sounds but as we tend to play with drums, bass, acoustic and me on the electric it can sound a bit thin if I stop playing big chords and start playing single note lines. On weeks when we do have 2 electrics, the other guitarist is much better than me so I end up playing rhythmn anyway!


Been thinking along this line for a while, but haven't dared try. Looking forward to working this in. I think it might give the dry.mer and horns more space. With the acoustic i feel lime I'm sometimes competing with the other instruments. Thanks.

In terms of competing with the other instruments

Make sure your sound guy has you eq'd so that most of your low range is gone. What sounds good when you're playing by yourself can get real muddy real fast. Acoustic in a full band setting should be a jangly high end that pokes out of a mix. Of course, don't let that hold you back from electric :)