The Face-Melting Solo

Written by ryan on
Guitar Solo

At this moment, nothing is more musically thrilling to me than a solid electric guitar solo.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's the kind that thanks the rest of the song for getting out of the way while real music happens.  It graciously dances over the song's regular chords to finally make it something special.  It takes the stage and never looks back.

Yeah, that kind of solo.

Most of me wishes I could riff like that, but the rest of me is glad that I can't.  Alas, I learned electric guitar on-the-job.  My fingers hadn't had years of experience carving the fretboard, and scales were so foreign to me.  So, naturally, I learned how to use the electric to enhance what was already going on, and not stand out too much.  And perhaps that's a fitting place for the electric in worship.

Herein lies the paradigm at play.  In most music, the solo sets the music free; in worship music, it sets the worshiper free.  It's the release.

If the song is like climbing stairs to a diving board, the instrumental is the jump.  It's where the congregation is invited to suspend all control of what they say, and simply be in God's presence.  It's no longer where they follow a set lyric, but find their own voices before the Throne.

So, with that, here are some challenges I have for those who solo, myself included.  Think less solo ("only me"), and more release ("set them free").  Think less flare, and more enhance.  In our playing, let's find ways to draw everybody's attention towards God, and not our own awesomeness.  And most of all, let's execute instrumentals with as much personal worship integrity as anything else we do on stage.

This is not an easy task, but I believe that when this is unlocked, purity in worship music can be taken to another level.

Guitarists, what do you think?  How do you approach soloing in church?  Share your thoughts below!

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What do you think? Keep the conversation going below...

I think there may be another level of depth here that adds some complication.

I have a friend who went to a concert yesterday to see the New York Voices, a 30 year running vocal jazz group that is magnificent. They were asked a question about how they make 4 voices sound like one voice when they are singing. The answer mostly revolved around having the same intention about the music as a performing group. This highlights an incredibly important aspect that you have touched upon. Is the intent of the soloist to glorify their own self, or to glorify God.

I have another friend who claimed that playing in the church is what made him talented at his instrument, and he was playing very intricate gospel organ solos in the midst of that. This leads me to believe that God has something to say through the music that we play.

I know yet a third person, a muslim jazz saxophonist, who told me that his entire goal during a solo is to disappear, so that God would be playing his instrument.

Three different approaches to soloing, and one thing that stands out to me. Not restricting what God is attempting to do. It becomes an interesting balance. We don't want to get in the way of what God is doing by launching into a blistering solo to meet our own heart's content. But, we also may be dishonoring God if we are not fully utilizing our talent that he gives and curates in the moment. Some of those solos may leave people inspired and awed in the presence of God, who is using the hands of the artist.

awesome stuff. There's also the element introduced as we serve to lead worship,  not just participate in worshipping God. For me, I believe I glorify and honor God as I make music, solos included :) However, I have to also then consider if what I'm playing is calling the congregation to worship.