playing guitar on-the-fly... which strum pattern?

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by corndogggy, Dec 10, 2007.

  1. corndogggy

    corndogggy
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    Short version: Mostly my question is, without hearing a song played in a nice recorded format or even hearing a band play a song beforehand, what kind of strum patterns is an acoustic guitar player expected to perform at church???



    Long version: So I started playing acoustic guitar for my church yesterday but I wasn't really expecting to. I had talked to the song leaders about playing with them on last sunday, so they said bring my guitar. They had not been using normal guitars at church, only a bass, so then one day they bring in both an acoustic and electric along with the bass so I was trying to be a part of it due to not really being able to help in any other way. Well, I brought it, and I just expected to practice with them and get used to their style. However, apparently, they don't really practice. One of the guys is a good piano player so he just grabs 4 random new songs, they run through maybe half of it before church just so the singers kind of know what it sounds like. They don't even play the full song or with a full band, one of the song leader just plays the basic chords on his guitar then the choir sings along. So then they just hand me the printouts with the chords on the sheets and tell me to head on up.

    This is a little different than I'm used to, mainly because I don't truly know how the song is supposed to sound, so I have no idea what the strum pattern should be, and I'm not real sure what the other guys are going to do. The song leader that leads the practicing gets up there and plays his electric totally different than his acoustic during the run-throughs. Then there is this bass player that plays by ear and is just all over the fretboard. Sometimes this other guy is playing his harmonica or his mandolin. There is a good drummer too.

    So I get up there yesterday, only hearing half of 2 of 4 songs, and having no idea what they're really supposed to sound like. One of them was a simple oom-pah sounding G-C-D pattern, so I start in on a bluegrass style pick-strum. Another one was F-C-Dm-B, which is the same pattern as Torn by Natalie Imbruglia and a Jack Johnson song, so I had to fight off the urge to play it with those patterns. One was a pretty good jam so I just made up something that I thought sounded pretty good by matching what everybody else was doing. The other one was awkward sounding so I just straight up played quarter notes. That whole song sounded bad in my opinion. Compounding this issue is that obviously I’m having to listen first, then either change my pattern, or not play anything for a short time while listening. I’d like to be ready to go from the first beat, but I’m not sure how to do that without practicing first.

    Another issue was that the chord sheets they have isn't the full version, so it would say things like "D2 (not 3)", which is obviously a reference to an alternate fingering in some tabs, but without these tabs, or a head's up to view them, I'm not sure what you can do on the fly other than just play some kind of D chord. I did this, but I could tell that it wasn't quite right. At least I wasn't amped up so I don't think anybody else could hear me, but obviously I'd like to figure these things out before I am on December 30th.

    So, as you can see, I'm not real familiar with the play-on-the-fly cold turkey type of jamming so I'd like some pointers in order to boost my confidence. I cam jam on the same level as these guys just fine... as long as I can practice. I wouldn't have asked to play along if I wasn't on that level. I mean, look up "love song for no one" by John Mayer on youtube.com, I can hang with that pretty good, and most of those chords aren't even standard. There is no way that I'm going to run into a church song that is on that level for an acoustic. So I'm not concerned about my actual playing skills, just the ability to pull something out of my hat, on the fly, at the last minute, and blend in with everybody else. Any tips would be appreciated.
     
    #1 corndogggy, Dec 10, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 10, 2007
  2. D28guy

    D28guy
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    Corndoggy,

    Dont feel like you are obligated to play all the time...from the beginning of the song till the end...when you arent familiar with the music yet. Theres enough music going on without you, so if you arent playing at all at any particular time it wont hurt anything.

    Sometimes its much better to play less, then to play more. When the song starts just listen for a while. Before too long you should be able to get a feel for whats going on musically, and how and when you can add your part to it.

    So, when you say...

    I'd say dont concern yourself with that. Forget about that. It sounds like this group is pretty loose about things so its not a big deal for you to just wait it out until you know what you can put in that you know will work.

    It sounds like you've already sort of started doing this, since you said...

    There you go. :thumbs:

    As you play more with them you'll go more used to it, and they'll get more of a feel for what you can do. As some point in time they'll probably start saying things to you like "Hey, brother...that cool stuff you were doing last week during the end part of the last song would sound GREAT during this part here!"

    Any time I come upon a jam session I just start by doing as little as possible, and mainly LISTEN to what everyone else is doing, just waiting for the pieces to fall into place musically.

    God bless,

    Mike
     
  3. Mike McK

    Mike McK
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    I agree with what d28 said.

    It sounds like you were on the spot a little bit.

    Even as long as I've been playing, I don't know it all. If I hear something I don't know, I can usually fake my way through it but it's more important to know that you don't know, rather than to pretend like you do.

    When in doubt, ask.

    Spend some time with them and talk to them about it. I can kind of guess and tell you what I guess, but they're the ones who are doing it.
     
  4. Bro. Curtis

    Bro. Curtis
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    One of the best improv skills is knowing when NOT to play.
     
  5. corndogggy

    corndogggy
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    Watching this video, and similar ones, helped:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Eiy3_KRKNaQ&feature=related

    We played that on Sunday but I had not heard what it was supposed to sound like before I went up. Every single video I see of a multi-guitar band at church has the acoustic guys just playing that same simple strum pattern… 16th notes I guess… lightly strumming up/down/up/down with every single beat and just emphasizing a few strums. That’s easy enough, but I can’t think of a single rock/country song that I play that does this constantly, they’re all more complex. Guess that’s why I never put 2 and 2 together and just did this even though it’s pretty obvious. Apparently that’s pretty common in church though, I see it on pretty much every video where there’s a group of guitars. Just watching that video helped a lot. We’ve never had a full time acoustic player so I don’t really have a mentor on the subject. I just don't want to stand out, would like to just blend in like those guys.

    But yeah, next time I hear an awkward sounding slow song, I'll just sit it out and let the piano man do his thing. I'll save my playing for the more energetic jams like this, then keep it simple. Thanks.
     

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