This is an interesting post for me to write because of how I am defining breakthrough. So let me make it clear for you all what I mean by breakthrough. For the last year my pedalboard has not changed. I know .... mind blown 🤯. In reality that doesn't sound like much, but for me it is a big deal. I have spent A LOT of time on my pedalboard. I have gone through probably around 50-70 different pedals, almost 10 different pedalboards, and over a dozen guitars all in that never ending chase for tone. But this last year has been different. I have spent more time diving into my playing and less into my pedals. I have tried to improve how I fit into a band, recording, etc, with what I play more than my tone. I am very fortunate that when it comes to worship music, I can replicate a majority of the sounds in worship albums today. You need me to sound like Bethel, piece of cake. Need me to sound like The Belonging Co, well let me pull out my strat and add some chorus for songs like "Beautiful Story". I have learned a lot when it comes to tone, and it is helpful, but learning to play with your bandmates is even more important. I don't care how incredible your tone is, if you don't learn to blend with your bandmates then the overall sound of the group will suffer. I had a couple friends of mine who were very complimentary, explaining to me that I do a very good job playing with a band. I won't go into a ton of detail, but I appreciated that compliment because it is something I have worked on. It is easy for musicians to get caught up in playing the cool part instead of the appropriate part. Sometimes the best thing to do is play a simple chord, swell, or even stop playing. I try to go into these sets with the mentality of supporting the group and picking my spots when to stand out. I still have a lot to learn there but I believe I have improved a lot over these last couple years. So I wanted to give a couple quick tips of what I have done to help myself improve, and I hope they help you too.
1. Lower yourself in your monitor mix
This may sound simple but it is a struggle for a lot of people. I was very big on hearing myself, and don't get me wrong, I still have myself pretty high in my mix. However I noticed when I pulled myself down in my monitor mix, that I heard a more realistic idea of what the audience is hearing, and how my guitar fit with the rest of the group. If you don't hear your bandmates, how will you know if you are clashing or enhancing the sound of the group??
2. Actively listen to your bandmates
There is a weird concept where you actually care about what your bandmates are playing. Too many bands/worship teams just do their own thing, play their part, and believe it will all magically come together. Does not work! Spend time listening to your bandmates, and I mean ACTIVELY listening! It is one thing to hear, and a completely different thing to actively listen. Don't assume they are playing the part you would play if you were the bass player, keys player, etc. Take the time to communicate with your bandmates during rehearsals. I find myself more than ever communicating with my bandmates between songs or even during songs and adjusting accordingly if needed.
3. Get rid of your ego!!
I can't stress this enough. It is very easy to get a big ego being on stage week after week. But if you go in there with the right attitude, then you will vastly improve the overall sound in your group. If you are a member of a worship team, remember the reason you are there. You are not there just to play an instrument or sing, you are there to worship God and create an atmosphere where others can worship God. If you are in a band, remember that you are there to support your band members. When you go in there with the attitude of "how can I support those around me?" the more likely you are to enhance the sound of your group.