I will never forget the first time I ever played with Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. I started a song in the wrong key because I missed an MD cue from Cody to change keys right before we started. Needless to say, I was not too proud of myself and felt like I came off as an amateur. I was a bit embarrassed as I tend to be hard on myself, but quickly had to make the choice to move on and grow from it.
Before playing music professionally, I think I lived in some sort of false reality that professionals were so good that they never messed up. False. The best of the best fail – sometimes epically.
In order to survive being on a platform you have to be OK with people seeing your flaws. You have to have grace for yourself and others. You have to have your identity in God, and not in what you do.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Odds are that if you came out to worship with us you would experience us mess up on some level multiple times in a set – it’s just that most of the time you wouldn’t know. In order to get to a place where you play music with excellence you have to learn how to fail in the most non-distracting way possible. Here are some pointers:
1) Own Your Mistake With Confidence
A good musician, and drummers especially, knows how to own their mess ups with style and confidence. I love playing with Austin Davis because when he messes up you do not really notice that he messed up. He usually does not let it phase him and just keeps playing strong acting like he meant to do it.
It is always better to be confident than to play awkwardly or completely drop out (I’ve seen people do this and it did not end well). No one wants to play with a timid musician. If you are flowing and the song feels like it is building, add to the emotion and energy and help lead things. If the worship leader or MD want you to chill out they will (should) let you know.
2) Remember Your Safety Net: Play the 1
This one is really simple… but say you totally blank on the chord progression, and we all have, it is way better to just keep playing the 1 chord of the key than any other chord. A lot of times dropping out is not a great option as it can be distracting. The root of the key will be the most pleasing and seemingly intentional thing you can do.
3) Practice, Practice, and then Practice Some More
4) Manage Your Wet Effects
Unfortunately, for guitarists and keyboardists, our effects can exacerbate our mess ups and draw more attention than we would like. There is nothing worse than hitting a bad note and hearing it echo to the heavens for 12 seconds.
If you have trails turned on for your delays or reverbs they will still typically fade out a little faster than if the effect was on, so turning them off can help. If you do not have trails on, switching presets and maybe quickly playing a 1 can help. It’s really all dependent on your rig and how strong your mess up is.
5) Turn Your Failures Into Opportunities
When I really think about it, the hard moments have always been the ones that have pushed me to be better. Challenging life circumstances bring deeper spiritual maturity, while difficult musical moments reveal areas where we can be more intentional and practice more. It also is not a bad thing to be humbled every once in awhile because it keeps our values in check (not that musicians on stage would ever have an ego or anything…).
6) Laugh It Off
Seriously though. We take ourselves too seriously sometimes. Don’t be hard on yourself because like I said, we all mess up – even the best of the best. I get to listen to the individual guitar stems from many of the big worship recordings and hear some pretty funny stuff. I have mess-ups that somehow made recordings. If people are hard on you, don’t give them the power to define your value. They are just speaking out of their own insecurities.
With that said, I want to leave you with a nugget of gold as a reminder of these truths:
If you’re looking for a resource that can help you prepare & avoid embarrassment on stage, check out Worship Online and how it’s already helped over 11,000 musicians prepare and play better parts! Sign up for a FREE 2 weeks!
You may also be interested in these posts:
- Mastering Your Fretboard & Transposing Lead Guitar
- 5 Tips for Practicing Difficult Parts
- 5 Mistakes to Avoid During Technical Difficulties
- Music Theory 101
- 6 Little Known Ways the Best Musicians Practice