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Acoustic guitar conflicting with electric guitar

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  • Acoustic guitar conflicting with electric guitar

    Hey people,

    I help lead worship at my church in Vancouver, BC. Our worship team is usually comprised of one electric guitar, one piano, two vocals and one bass. I play the bass. :P

    Anyways, our worship team seems to lack the percussive sound of an acoustic guitar (our electric guitar is pretty mellow, we don't add distortion or any effects on it). So, I sometimes swap my bass for an acoustic guitar.

    The problem is, when I play acoustic, my strumming doesn't seem to mesh well with the electric guitar's strumming. Have any of you experienced the same problem?

    For those of you who have an acoustic and electric playing simultaneously, how do you blend the two together? What do each of them play?


    P.S. Yeah, I'll get around to introducing myself in the "introduction" forum sometime.

  • #2
    Very good technique question. What I do in my band is make sure the 2 guitars are playing different things stylistically here are some ways.

    1. acoustic guitar with capo electric not
    2. electric playing up on the neck with bar chords acoustic open
    3. acoustic open chords and electric minimalistic playing (arpeggios)
    4. Acoustic guitar main rhythm and electric has a simple type riff over it.
    5. Acoustic guitar strumming and electric strum once on each chord

    there are more and more ways...but these are the most simple ways to start with...they key is they need to support and compliment eachother.

    The worst thing you can do is have every musician play the same thing at the same time...that =mud.

    good luck and let us know how your next practice goes


    • #3
      The easiest fix I guess would be to play different parts. Have your sound man tinker with the EQs of both instruments as well. Its amazing what you can change in the overall mix with a few EQ adjustments.

      You could also change up the tone a bit on the electric. I understand if you have to keep it 'under control' but let it get some effects on it or a bit of distortion instead of playing it clean.

      Just some thoughts,
      Travis Paulding,
      Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


      • #4
        Yeah...what Travis said.


        • #5
          Hey Izzy,

          My question back to you is how often do you and the guy playing electric jam together? In my experience strum clashing has been resolved by spending time away from rehearsals to just jam. This has helped our team figure out each other's playing styles and abilities. But as a leader (who plays accoustic) I have at times during rehearsal when clashing has occured needed to asked the clasher to play simplier strum patterns. i.e. just down strokes on tempo.

          It can get better, we as a team are now using 2 electrics, 2 accoustics, bass, keys and drums each week.

          Last edited by sicstrings; 07-11-2007, 04:43 PM.


          • #6
            Yeah, I think the key is being unified in your approach to whatever it is you do.

            I'm the drummer in our primary gathering, sometimes acoustic guitar/keys, but mostly drummer. I actually direct the rehearsals from the drums, though. The key is listening to each other, which it seems that, at the least, you are aware of what the electric guitar is doing, but is he aware of what you are doing? (wow what a run on sentence!)

            Growing up I played in just about every ensemble type you can imagine. School bands, Jazz band, brass quintets, trios, duos, marching band, rock band, rap group, choirs, worship bands, etc. The common denominator in EVERY ensemble you'll find yourself in should be this: AWARENESS of what each member is contributing.

            That's something we strive for with our team. Some simple things to pursue:

            1) Bass guitar/Drummer are in the pocket...this means that the bass player and mainly kick drum are locked in to what the other is doing. There's nothing more aggravating than the 2 foundational instruments doing 2 conflicting things rhythmically.
            2) Acoustic guitar is strumming with accents that compliment what the kick/bass guitar are laying down. I think a novice mistake that many guitar players make is using the same strum pattern for every song.
            3) As others have said before, if you have more than one guitar (doesn't matter if it's electric or acoustic) it's always a PLUS to get them playing different chord voicings. One of the best ways to OPEN up your sound and give it an incredibly full and warm sound is to have 2 guitar players playing different chord "flavors" (voicings). For example, one may play a standard E low on the neck, while the other plays an open E half way up the neck.
            4) Make sure your vocals are tight. Even the slightest rhythmic variations from the vocals tend to muddy up the groove. Spend time working out harmonies/rhythms for your vocals.
            5) Piano player should lock into what the kick/bass/guitars are laying down as a rhythmic pattern. UNLESS the piano/keys players is leading! Then everyone should listen and obey what the almighty keys man is saying (just kidding)...

            It's important to TALK about grooves in rehearsal. It might be beneficial to listen to recordings of the songs together and point out the specific grooves you hear and want to duplicate. More times than not, we can achieve that "in the pocket" groove by just communicating ahead of time what we want each instrument to contribute to the overall groove.

            Plus, at times you may have to tell an instrument to lay out for a section. There's nothing more effective dynamically then a section where an instrument lays out and then comes back in at the appropriate time.

            Back on point here: I would even suggest using the electric guitar as more of "PAD" instrument when you are using an acoustic guitar to provide the rhythm content. Previous posters have implied this concept. Basically, the electric guitar becomes the "string section" and plays a lot of sustained downbeat strums or arpeggios (picking instead of strumming).

            I would close by saying that it also depends on what SONG you're doing. If you're doing a lot of high energy stuff, you'll want the electric guitar to be grooving with the rhythm stuff as well, this is where the different chord voicings really plays off.

            My 2 cents.
            Last edited by russhutto; 07-11-2007, 03:05 PM.
            Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.


            • #7
              WOW! Thanks for all the helpful advice!

              Oh, by the way. Our electric guitar player is a girl!


              I have to confess, the electric guitar player and I have never jammed. Actually, to make things worse, for the last 2 1/2 years, the only time the worship team rehearsed together was Sunday morning 8:45am-10am--and service starts at 11am! I know.. that might sound like a horror story to most of you.

              Fortunately, we just decided yesterday that we needed more practice time so we put aside Thursday nights to practice.

              I agree that jam time (all for fun) is a great way to learn how others play. Hopefully that some of the worship team members would be up for that sometime.

              Also, my primary instrument is the bass. I've only played acoustic guitar for about 3 services. But the reason behind that is that the guitars are clashing, and we didn't have enough practice time to sort that out.

              It sounds like your church has a pretty solid team, Steve!


              I agree with awareness is a key component when playing with other musicians. Thanks for those 5 basic principles in setting a groove.

              Yes, I like your idea of how the electric guitar can compliment the rhythmic acoustic guitar by outlining the chords (arpeggios, different chord voicings, strumming once and letting the chord sustain, etc.). Yeah, I think that's what the other members were getting at too.

              I think it will take a while to teach the electric guitar player how to play further up the neck and different arpeggios patterns. She's pretty much used to strumming the "regular church chords" on the lower part of the neck. Y'know... all those G D Em C songs??

              I think I'll be more into "establishing a groove" in practice whether it be by showing sample recordings or by playing first and letting the others join in.


              I never thought of EQing the guitars differently while playing different chord voicings (if that's what you meant) or even just EQing the guitars differently in general.

              We don't have a REAL sound guy or even any real effect processors (aside from the guitar player's distortion pedal, but we'll have to practice with it for a while to see if that's the kinda sound we'd like to have).

              I think the only EQing we have for the guitars are the onboard EQs on the mixer, which are 3-band with a selectable mid frequency. Do you have a general rule of thumb for EQing an acoustic guitar and electric guitar?

              cut the bass and boost around the 400hz on the acoustic
              boost the highs on the electric?
              (Yes, I don't know ANYTHING about how to EQ properly, I just know how it works)

              I'm hoping to buy a reverb unit for my church. I like reverbs on electric guitars.


              Anyways, thanks for all the great advice guys... I guess I'll be paying attention on how the two instruments blend when I'm listening to music. I guess for now, I'll be sticking to the bass until the guitar player and I can work out how to play together. We're REALLY lacking that acoustic drive (that you can get from an acoustic guitar or drumset). To be honest, right now we're sounding like a mellow-emo praise team.


              • #8
                One last thought; just you asking the question tells me you desire to bring your best before God. In my opinion as long as you desire to bring excellence before the throne and put forth your best effort, God will be honored and his name glorified. And I just bet the folks in your local church body appreciate what y'all are doing each week.

                Be blessed,


                • #9
                  Izzy -
                  Another thing to keep in mind ... one that is very hard for most to swallow, and it takes a musician who is willing to be humble and mature .. but it's this ...

                  Everbody does NOT have to play ALL THE TIME on EVERY SONG. Start getting intentional about your arrangements. I'll often ask my E Gtr not to come in until the 2nd time around .... ask the bass to layout until the first Chorus. I'll often say "on the Chorus, I need solid rhythmic strumming on acoustic, power chords on E Gtr 1 and a chorusy-strat typ arpeggio on the second eGTR ..." ... and then when we repeat the chorus ... let A Gtr go to a single strum on each chord change, EGTR continues to chorus-fx strat arpeggios, and the power chord eGTR lays out again until chorus, etc.

                  This has to be done with the understanding that there is someone who is there to create arrangements, and then that person has to be humble and flexible to listen to the other guys/girls and get their input.

                  You can become the band master and "tell everyone what to play" but it's more fun when it becomes a team effort, and when they hear the difference, they'll actually get excited about having a specific arrangement and even if that means they play "tacet" (nothing) for a verse!
                  Fred McKinnon, Pianist/Composer/Worship Leader
                  blog: www.fredmckinnon.com

                  Please check out my piano/instrumental music at:


                  • #10
                    I do not have a 'rule' for guitar EQs, no where close really. I'd love to give you a sample of how different the 5 or so different guitars I encounter regularly and you would know what I am talking about. They are all very different.

                    Anyway, what I was really referring to is finding the muddy frequency(ies) and doing some cuts. One thing you may be able to do is get them to play a song or chorus or whatever of something that you know is muddy. Then just play with the EQs for a bit. My guess would be that a basic cut of something in the midrange on one of the guitars would clear a lot up for you.

                    That is just one method to do some fixing though. It is a sound guy's method. Arrangement and actual notes played obviously would have a more direct effect, as many have stated already.

                    Travis Paulding,
                    Production & Technology Director, St. Simons Community Church


                    • #11
                      Izzy, some great advice from the folks above in this thread ... I would just emphasize cutting out the mud - eliminate all the guitars strumming like some 50's folk trio by using some of the techniques Joel (Klampert) and blindeyesopen wrote about, eliminate booming frequencies and cut out some mids on acoustic guitars (get even the cheapest equalizer on eBay ... you can get an Alesis M-EQ230 Dual 1/3 Octave for between $50 and $75).

                      I would also consider getting an Alesis NanoVerb, which has delays and choruses on eBay for around $45 - I use it frequently, usually when there are no other guitars, and you want an ethereal effect (chorus) or just want to fatten up your acoustic (chorus).


                      • #12
                        I'm also a bassist who can play acoustic when needed... but we have several acoustic players far better than I am.

                        It sounds like your challenge is that the electric tends to play a more acoustic style. I would challenge him/her to play a little more "electric" style with some lead lines or a little more distort. Acoustic should probably be more strummy. Paul Baloche has some great style insights at www.leadworship.com.

                        The other opportunity with softer songs is to do some solo lines on the acoustic or harmonizations to the lead line. If you have listened to any latin music there are some great solo stylings that can be brought in for songs like Breathe by MWS.


                        • #13
                          In my book, it is the electric players roll to find a way around the open chords of the acoustic. If it is a total riff based song (sections of Hillsong's United Tell the World, I either switch to electric on our magical system or if I am not on the magical system, I just lay out). Of course our electric players are both Univ. of North Texas grads so the are mind-blowingly good players (like jaw to the floor good, they can even cover Frisell, Vai, Metheny, Holdsworth, Willis, et. al.). Your electric players should not be strumming in open chords too often, no?


                          • #14
                            100% rule.

                            I tend to subscribe to the 100% rule, which I learned at worship conference years back. It basically means that your total band should occupy 100% of the total sound. Basically, if you have 5 instruments, including vocals, each should occupy roughly 20%. So for example, if there's a place in a song where the vocals cut, then a lead guitar part, or drum fill, or something should come up to occupy that space. If all the instruments cut, the normally the vocals come up, with full harmonies to occupy the space, and so on. If everyone is playing full out all doing fills at the same time it sounds pretty bad. I think that this is probably part of the problem. If you have two instruments trying to do too much there will be a lot of "noise" and not a lot of music. One of the major problems in many bands is that when people add new instruments everyone just keeps playing the way they always did. There should be a time of readjusting so you can learn to "gel." There's a lot to be said for intuition, dynamics and what have you, but in general it's a good rule to keep in mind.


                            • #15
                              Tony...how is it going...have you made any changes?