How To Think Like a Lead Guitarist

Part 4: Emphasis

You've found your frequency, dialed your tone and you're sparkling like a champ.  Now it's time to learn to learn how to put the emPHAsis on the right sylLAble.

Double your pleasure 

Sometimes playing lead is less about adding parts and more about emphasizing ones that are already there.  One of my favorite tricks is to double a lead line that another instrument is already playing.  Say your piano is playing a hook and all the other frequency ranges are full, try playing the exact same hook. You can do it in the same range as the piano or you can play it an octave higher or lower. If you really want to get crazy, you can double a with an octave shape. 

Peace and Harmony

If you've got an ear for harmony, you could harmonize with the hook.  Even if your ear doesn't naturally go there, you can easily add a 3rd but taking the melody note and going up two additional notes in the scale.  You do have to be careful with this one.  A well placed harmony can be a really nice touch, but if you overdo it you can end up sounding like a Best of Iron Maiden album.  Just to be clear, that's not a good thing in a worship service.  One way to avoid this is to only harmonize certain notes.  For example, if the piano is playing an 8 note riff, maybe you only play on notes 2, 6 and 8.  You might be surprised at how a few well-placed harmonies can bring a tired riff to life.


In a good album recording, all the parts necessary are there.  It doesn't mean you shouldn't get creative, but before you venture outside the lines, see if there is a place within them that will accomplish the right tone.

Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

How To Think Like a Lead Guitarist

Login to post comments



Wait ... Iron Maden is not good for worship???

It depends

on who you're worshipping ;)


Discernment is the key for those moments when the Holy Spirit of God wants to come during the service (for example (it can be anytime, though)) and set on fire the souls that want more of Him, that are not conformed. And the lead guitarist is responsible for that moment of intensity, the climax of the setting. Praying at all times, maintaining that intimate relationship with God is the key for the key--discernment.


is key and musicians not only practice spiritual discernment but musical as well. Part of bringing our best is having every tool at our disposal so that when the moment calls for it, we're ready. The more skilled we are, the less we have to focus on technicality and instead can freely express our worship through music.


Ive been wanting to bridge the gap between rock and Christian rock. Lets be real. "Christan" rock DOES NOT rock. And secular rock does not have right spirit-the Holy Spirit. NO ONE!! has bridged the gap yet!! Don't kid yourself. U2 and Springsteen?? Sorry, too worldly despite their Christian/Catholic sensibilities. The Christian rock I've heard? One word--LAME!! So I've been praying for over 15 years now for the Lord to lead me. To be the "Billy Graham of Rock n Roll".


Where can I read parts 1-3? :)

You can use the search bar at the top of the article

This will get you started. Glad you are enjoying the series.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: