Christian Music and Worship Guitar Lessons

worship guitar lessons - playing guitar in church

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From Biblical times, God has been worshipped in song. Back then, it was the work for psalmists and musicians. But nowadays, anyone can do it with all the resources available to learn! In this article, we will take a look into some signature elements of Christian music, along with worship guitar lessons for a classic and a modern Christian worship song.

Worship Guitar Lessons

What characterizes Christian Worship Songs?

We can analyze Christian worship songs in three key elements: Ambitus, chord progressions, and the choice of key.

Ambitus refers to the range of notes from the lowest to the highest pitch. To measure the ambitus of a melody, we have to establish the relationship between its apex (the note with the highest pitch in the melody) and its nadir (the note with the lowest pitch in the melody). Melodies with low ambitus will have their notes grouped closely together. In contrast, melodies with high ambitus will have a lot of notes spread vertically if we saw them as sheet music.

Let’s take a look at this concept with the help of a classic worship song, Amazing Grace, in the key of D.

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Demo_1

In this song, the ambitus is of a ninth (a tone above the octave): the nadir (the lowest note in the melody) is A2, which is very attainable for any vocal record. In some arrangements, its apex (the highest note in the melody) is B3 (here it’s only A3), which can also be performed without much effort by most people.

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Demo_2

As of the chord progressions, which are the sequence of chords that comprise the harmony in the song, most Christian worship songs follow simple, pop-like chord progressions such as:

IV - V - VI - III
I - V - VI - IV

These chord progressions make every song easy to follow as a musician, and easy to transpose to accommodate better to the voice record of the singers.

As of the keys used for worship songs, most Christian songs follow diatonic harmony. Thus they are played in simple keys such as C, D, or G. These keys are also advantageous for guitar players since they make the songs playable using open chords frequently.

The reason for the simplicity in both ambitus and chord progressions is that both Christian leaders and musicians insist on “not glorifying themselves, but glorifying God through worship, in song”. In addition to this, the songs are usually written so that the average person can sing along with no issues, thus feeling compelled to participate in the worship experience.

Praise and Worship songs: Should I go Acoustic or Electric?

It’s easy to associate Christian songs specifically to a single acoustic guitar, accompanied perhaps by a tambourine. This association comes from historical and practical perspectives. A single acoustic guitar is relatively cheap, it’s highly versatile, requires minimal maintenance, it’s easy to carry around, and it has been the instrument of choice over hundreds of years for musically trained missionaries, who understand the power of music to create a sense of community and spirituality.

Conversely, with the appearance of electric guitars, groups of fundamentalist Christians have deemed such instruments as “satanic”, “unholy” and “unnatural” because of their sound in genres like hard rock and metal, as well as the imagery associated with such genres.

However, with all the advances in technology and media, this misconception is a thing of the past. Christian bands nowadays fit pretty well into the rockband standard when it comes to their instrument setup: lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard (with more adventurous bands including synths in both their studio recordings and live performances). Another notable aspect is that, even when guitars will eventually switch to acoustic for their unique sound, it’s pretty normal that at least one of the guitars remains electric.

Classic Christian Worship Song: Amazing Grace, written by John Newton

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace - Sheet Music - Tabs - Chords

The lyrics of Amazing Grace:

.D.................G/D.......D
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
.........................A/D
That saved a wretch like me!
..D........D/F#......G........D
I once was lost, but now I am found,
...............A/D...D
Was blind, but now I see.

.D...............G/D.......D
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
.....................A/D
And grace my fears relieved;
....D........D/F#.....G.......D
How precious did that grace appear,
...........A/D.....D
The hour I first believed!

........D.............G/D.......D
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
...............A/D
I have already come;
......D..........D/F#.......G.........D
’Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
...............A/D.....D
And grace will lead me home.

....D........G/D..............D
The Lord has promised good to me,
...................A/D
His word my hope secures;
...D.......D/F#.......G.......D
He will my shield and portion be,
...........A/D....D
As long as life endures.

.....D.........G/D...................D
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
......................A/D
And mortal life shall cease;
..D........D/F#.....G.......D
I shall possess, within the veil,
..........A/D.....D
A life of joy and peace.

....D...........G/D................D
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
...................A/D
The sun forbear to shine;
.....D........D/F#.....G......D
But God, who call’d me here below,
...........A/D..D
Will be forever mine.

Guitar Tricks Free TrialChristian Music and Worship Guitar Lessons 1

The chords for Amazing Grace in the key of D are the following:

You will also notice that some chords will have a /, followed by another note. This is an indication (rather a suggestion) of a bass note that can be played with the chord.

To be able to land a good strumming pattern for Amazing Grace, we have to take into account that this song is written in a 3/4 time signature. This means that there are 3 beats in every bar. Because of this, we can start by making a down strum with every beat:

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Strumming Pattern-1

We can also vary this pattern by plucking the bass note in the first beat.

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Strumming Pattern-2

To make an even more complex strumming pattern, for this particular song, we can divide each beat in triplets – this is, counting to three inside each beat. Like so:

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Strumming Pattern-3

This will give us more room to build strumming patterns, such as this one, which includes a down strum inside each 1 in the triplet and an up strum in each 3 inside the triplet. We leave the down strum ring during the 2 inside the triplet.

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Strumming Pattern-4

If we include plucking the bass note every first beat, we would have the following:

worship guitar lessons - Amazing Grace Strumming Pattern-5

Modern Christian Worship Song: One Thing, by Hillsong United

Intro:
F....G....Am....C/E

Verse:
F............G....................Am
I tasted the world seen more than enough
.....C/E
It's promises fleeting
F............G..................Am
Of water and wine I emptied the cup
....C/E
And found myself wanting
F..............G....................Am....G
But there is a well that never runs dry
F............G.....................Am
The water of life the blood of the vine

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Verse:
F................G...................Am
Just one thing I ask and this I will seek
...C/E
If only to know You
F...............G....................Am
To be where You are and go where You lead
...C/E
My God I will follow
F.............G..........................Am....G
The things of this world I've counted as loss
F............G....................Am
I lay it all down to take up this cross

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Bridge:
...............C.G..Am..F
And I'll sing, Whoa whoa
.......C...................G
I want nothing but to know You
..........Am..........F
And to be with You my God
...............C.G..Am..F
And I'll sing, Whoa whoa
..............C.............G
And with everything within me
..........Am..........F
I will worship You my God

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Instrumental:
F....G....Am....C/E

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Chorus:
......G.....C
Cause all I know is
G.......................Am
Everything I have means nothing
..F....................C
Jesus if You're not my one thing
G.......................Am
Everything I need right now
F
All I need is You right now

Bridge:
...............C.G..Am..F
And I'll sing, Whoa whoa
.......C...................G
I want nothing but to know You
..........Am..........F
And to be with You my God
...............C.G..Am..F
And I'll sing, Whoa whoa
..............C.............G
And with everything within me
..........Am..........F
I will worship You my God

The chords for this song are the following:

Since this song is written in a 4/4 time signature, figuring out strumming patterns for it is very straightforward. There are several things we can play with, such as:

Marking only the first beat with a down strum:

One_Thing Strumming Pattern-1

Marking the four beats with down strums:

One_Thing Strumming Pattern-2

Dividing the bar in eighth notes and palm muting down strums:

One_Thing Strumming Pattern-3

Dividing the bar in eighth notes and playing an alternative rhythm:

One_Thing Strumming Pattern-4

Dealing with each chord with arpeggios in each bar:

One_Thing Strumming Pattern-5

We hope you enjoyed our article about worship guitar lessons!