To many people, especially older folks, the electric guitar solo is the very epitome of everything that is wrong with modern worship music. It is the symbol, the icon of that evil rock ‘n roll that has crept into the church.
Why do many of todays modern songs that are on the radio, both “Christian” and “Secular” have guitar solos? What is the point?
1) For Variety – To Give Us A Break
If a song has the same instrument (human voice) the whole way through, then there is no contrast and it becomes monotonous. An instrumental section gives us time to breathe and think about what we have been singing. In the Psalms, watch for the word “Selah”. We don’t know exactly what it means, but it most likely indicated some kind of instrumental section and a rest from the singing. So as you can see, it is an ancient practice of the church, not some new thing. It is used by both Christian and non-Christian artists.
2) To express what the human voice cannot
There are emotions, thoughts, expressions that I simply can’t say with my voice. I need a guitar. And others that need to be “said” with a piano… or a violin … or the drums … They each have their own unique voices that communicate in beautiful ways beyond what mere human speech or voice can. Others need to be said with my body. Sometimes I need to close my eyes. Sometimes I need to lift my hands in surrender. Sometimes I need to jump up and down to properly express the joy in my heart. Sometimes I need to weep. Just like we often let an eloquent pastor pray on our behalf, close your eyes and let the instrumental solo pour out to God what you only wish you could express to God.
Why the electric guitar?
The bias against electric guitar is fascinating. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone complain about a solo instrumental piano section. Ever. Or keyboard, drums, … rarely a bass solo, but usually only because the person complaining doesn’t know the difference between an electric bass guitar and a standard electric guitar.
Why do electric guitars so often get the “solos” then. Why do the violins, sopranos, tenors, trumpets get more solos than the violas, the bass and alto singers, the trombones, … Some of it is because they most closely resemble the human voice with their capacity to bend, and so many ways the strings can be played because you are touching the strings with your hands for so many nuanced expressions. The sound is often in that same range as the tenor or soprano voice that can really cut through and stick out above everything else. Think of how easily the sound of a single trumpet soloist can rise above the rest of the orchestra. It’s this range and this extreme expressive capacity that makes it the “go to” instrument for instrumental solo sections.
Why the showboating?
People often complain about WHAT the electric guitar player plays and HOW they use their body when they play it. The guitar solo is often starkly complex compared to the simple melodies that we were just singing. That’s part of what makes it so exciting and a good contrast. Electric guitar players also often use their entire bodies as they are playing, including interesting facial expressions. If you have a selfish, prideful attitude and are trying to show off, God is not pleased. On the other hand, we should love the Lord with all of ourselves, including our emotions and our expressiveness. There is no sense in us being ashamed of what we are doing. If we are doing it to glorify God and for His glory, I say let’s do it with passion! Someone always has to complain about something, so let the complainers complain and we worshippers will try to ignore them and focus on worshipping God, who certainly is worthy of praise with every instrument! (See Psalm 150)
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