Worship guitarists. We’re an interesting breed. I’ve been playing in worship bands for 15 years. Starting at a small church in Harlingen, Texas, where my dad was the worship leader and moving on to playing at one of the largest churches in San Antonio, Texas, I’ve played in a variety of church settings. Whether in a small sanctuary, a 3500-seat auditorium, or outdoors under a giant tent, I have found that there are some constants for worship guitarists that have helped me to thrive in all kinds of environments. Here are five wisdom nuggets I’ve collected over the years that have helped shape me into something of a decent musician, and they may help you, too!

Worship Guitarist Tips

Learn the Nashville number system.

“We need to change the key of this song, it’s too high for me to sing.” How many times did a young Chandler hear these words and begin sweating uncontrollably with such a disconcerting request? Changing to a higher key is usually easy; slap a capo on the neck, and you’re good to go. (This reminds me of a side-tip: Don’t be afraid to capo, even when playing electric. Sometimes it’s the best solution!) Changing to a lower key? Not so easy. Enter Nashville number system.

The Nashville number system gives each chord in a scale a number between 1 and 7. For example, instead of playing C-F-Am-G-C, you play 1-4-6-5-1. Let’s break it down a bit. In a C major scale, the first note is a C, the second is D, the third is E, etc. etc. 1, 4, and 5 are your major chords; 2, 3, and 6 are your minors. If someone asks you to play a diminished 7 chord in a worship song, splash some holy water on them and tell them to repent for using yucky chords. So, in the key of C: 1 corresponds to a C major chord, 2 corresponds to a D minor chord, 3 corresponds to an E minor chord, 4 corresponds to an F major chord…. and so on.

No matter what key you are playing in, the 1 chord is always the first note in your scale. The numbers stay the same in every key, so you just need to know which chords correspond with the numbers in each key. Sure, it’s a little bit of memorization, but you can do it. I believe in you! It will make your musical life better to the umpteenth degree. Trust me on this.

Carry a 50-foot ¼” cable.

“You can just put your amp in that closet over there.” After walking the half mile to the closet where the sound guy has directed you, you start to wonder, “How the heaven am I going to get a cable from this closet to Narnia all the way out to my pedalboard onstage?” Carrying a 50-foot ¼” cable has saved me from experiencing this dilemma a multitude of times. 50 feet will usually get you where you need to go on a church stage, so I recommend making this small investment to be the hero of the week when need be.

Dotted-eighth delay almost never lets you down.

Perhaps your worship leader has gone off on some tangent about a revelation he had while drinking yesterday’s third venti light-iced-toffee-nut-three-pump-vanilla-light-foam-soy macchiato, and the band is now stuck in a loop of the bridge chords waiting for him to come back down to earth and finish the song.

Dotted-eight delay almost never lets you down.

The Edge popularized dotted-eighth delay

Or maybe you are playing a song that literally has no guitar parts because there are approximately seventeen different keys loops in the track, and you’re lost on what you can do to add anything of value to the song.

Dotted-eighth delay almost never lets you down.

Is it one of those weeks where the other guitarist calls in sick and you are now tasked with making your lone guitar sound like (at least) two. How can you accomplish such a feat?

Dotted-eighth delay almost never lets you down.

Seriously, dotted-eighth delay is a worship guitarist’s best friend. Shout out to the Edge for the popularization of this miraculous effect. Make sure your delay pedal has some sort of preset where this is easily accessible. I’m pretty sure Jesus loves dotted-eighth delay, so don’t worry about it. Turn it on and let those bonus notes ring like sweet freedom.

Always carry extra picks.


Remember that it isn’t about you, your tone, or your skills.

If you play a wrong chord, or your tone isn’t exactly like you like it, or if every song turns into some sort of chaotic train wreck (been there, my friends), it’s important to remember that as a worship guitarist, it is never about you, but about the magnificent One worthy of all praise. Don’t get so caught up in playing every note with complete perfection that you miss out on the moments of worship happening around you. To lead others into the presence of God, you need to be there yourself, so practice a lifestyle of worship more than you practice your scales.

While these tips won’t make you the next Hendrix or Clapton or even the next Droff (anyone?), they can help you make you a better contributor to any worship band. Worship musicians, let me hear you! What wisdom have you gleaned during your time in worship bands?

UMHB Spiritual Life provides relationships, communities, ministries, and events that communicate and cultivate Christ likeness through service and leadership on and beyond the UMHB campus. Visit our website to learn more about how you can get plugged into worship ministries on-campus and in the community!