This week I was reminded that I have a Twitter account and as I perused the last few months' tweets, the question came up-- what does it means to play skillfully? My initial thought is still my answer: “Always growing, but performing only what you can execute well." Let’s break that down.
You should never intentionally limit yourself. Just because you can’t play something now doesn’t mean you never can. The key is to dedicate yourself to goals you are passionate about. A couple years ago I created a lesson for Lincoln Brewster’s Miraculum. It’s a six-minute electric guitar Christmas epic that features a few passages of speed-picking, which is a skill I’ve never cared to develop. I dedicated my time to learning those parts, but after a while I had to give up on it because the time required didn’t match my passion to learn it. That doesn’t make me an ignorant guitarist. It just means that’s not a skill I need in my chosen genre to work with.
Playing Skillfully means always growing while only performing what you can play well.
In contrast to that, I once joined a music ministry in college that got me in over my head. The group was heavily gospel and R+B influenced and I was not well-versed in that genre. At times I was completely lost, but I worked my tail off to get it down because it was necessary to play in that group. Passion drove me to learn more and it paid off. Grow in the areas about which you are passionate.
Performing with confidence.
You don’t need to hide in a closet until you can play your Phrygian mode at 300 beats per minute, but you can’t perform a lead line that requires it on stage until you have truly mastered it. Stay in your lane when you are on stage. If you only know 4 chords really well, try and make that work for you. If you can’t yet reach that riff cleanly, find a substitute until you can. Nailing something simple is better than fumbling through something difficult.
Let your passions guide your growth.
Perform what you can execute well. Let your passions guide your growth. Recognize that being a worship musician is both a responsibility and a gift. Treat it as such. We’re here to help you do it. How do you play skillfully?