You chose ‘(F) Chuckle Openly.’

(And if you have no idea what is going on, this is the second part of a series started here, where you get to choose your own ending. Basically, I’m asking everyone to risk some Michael Jackson (is it too soon?) and take some trips back to their childhood to remember those ‘Choose Your Own Ending’ books. You know, the ones that were really popular 20 years ago right alongside the ‘When you hear the chimes, turn the page’ ones. So for our purposes here, when you hear the anti-solo, turn the page.)

So, as the worship leader turns bright red and continues to fumble through his words trying to recover into the next song after his accidental blasphemy, you just stand in the background, chuckling openly, and throwing in a few delay-laden volume swells over the finger-picking the worship leader is doing as he continues to pray. The worship leader has many times asked you not to play during the prayers as he ad-libs some finger-picking, but you know it’s for the greater good. His finger-picking is just terrible. It really needs to be rescued by your definitely-not-yet-cliche volume swells…and of course every few notes by your volume swell/note bend ‘whale call.’

Finally the worship leader finishes his prayer, and turns back to you, as you are supposed to start the next song. You sigh. How many times do you have to tell him that this song cannot be started with your Les Paul? The tonal nuances are such that it requires the Telecaster. This would be common knowledge to anyone who would actually listen to the original recording of the song, but hey…it’s the worship leader. He plays his Taylor on every single song, even though he has a perfectly good backup Martin sitting right there. Something about switching guitars during the set causing awkward silence? Come on. That’s just dramatic effect!

Nonetheless, he’s the worship leader, so you give him grace. You give the ‘I gotcha’ look as you take off your Les Paul and turn towards your Telecaster. Meanwhile, he’s giving you the death stare of ‘I thought this was why we decided beforehand for me to pray between these two songs, so that you could switch guitars.’ (I know prayer more than likely wasn’t originally intended to be a worship service transitional tool by which to switch guitars, capo’s, and sheet music undetected, but you know it’s true.) His stare however, is lost on you as you bend down to change the settings on your Lovepedal COT50 to be more Telecaster-friendly. You don’t use fuzz on this song, but just in case. Besides, you know that you couldn’t possibly have switched guitars during the prayer, because you were compelled by your own musical genius to play the afore-mentioned volume swells the worship leader asked you not to do. Quick as the buffered relay of a Line 6 amp modeler (which means not very fast……wow, I’m sorry, that was just mean-spirited), the worship leader turns around and tells the congregation to take a minute to just let the world fade away and quiet their hearts before their Creator (also a great tool for transitions), and you finish setting your pedals, grab your Telecaster, kick on your must-sound-like-Hillsong dual delays (a DD20 and an Analogman ARDX20…with tap tempo mod, of course) and oh-so-smoothly launch into the intro of the next song.

And you’re feeling it. The tone is oozing out of your Hayseed 30 with upgraded EF86 preamp option, and you watch as the sound waves just move the congregation into throngs of passionate worship. You can’t actually see the throngs of passionate worship because the expressions on their faces haven’t changed, nor have they stood up, lifted their hands, started clapping, or shed tears. But you know they’re being driven to worship. I mean, how could they not with a Hayseed 30 with upgraded EF86 preamp option? It’s just that the sheep are too scared and lazy to fully give themselves over to worship. That’s the only explanation.

The first passage is done…played flawlessly by your time-tested hands. (You don’t believe that tone is in the hands, but still…it’s nice to admit that it might be, after completing a passage as well as you just completed that one.) The drums start to tap in on the ride cymbal as you launch into the next passage. The bass subtly enters with a low, sustaining tone of harmonically anchoring loveliness. The keyboard fades in with a sweetly ringing, background synth pad…oh wait, he’s been playing that the whole time…hold on! There’s a keyboardist on stage? Who is that guy? (Sorry keyboardists…it’s the most unfortunate thing in the world, but sadly true.) Your concentration is just momentarily lifted as you marvel at the distant and wondrous sound coming from the stranger you’ve never noticed playing that odd-looking instrument with what seems to be something like ‘Korg’ or ‘Korj’ scrawled across it. But you don’t falter. No. Your Barber Liverpool hitting the front end of your amp sounds much to good for you to even dream about faltering. The music picks up (worship build time), the bass plays his second of the three notes he’s been given, and you start to take off into the introductory anti-solo……

And then it happens. You’ve hit a D. Now the congregation looks up. And with pained looks on their faces. Let it be known that D is a wonderful note. But the song is in the key of Ab. And it’s not Tommy Walker or Norma Jean. Your confidence begins to fade. What’s the next note? How am I going to recover from this? Why won’t that blasted D note stop ringing out? Curse my perfectly compressed sustain! You see the congregation starting to shake their heads. The sheep are restless. What can be done. Quickly you decide that worship needs a hero. And that hero is you. Only a guitarist as talented and toneful as you can save the church from the unholy dissonance that you unleashed on them! With the effortless tone, grace, and class of a 1960′s 12-string Rickenbacker, you…

A) Make a weird face and go over and check the tubes on your amp. (One of them has obviously gone harmonic.)

B) Continue playing the D…along with a bunch of other random notes, throw one hand up in the air, and pretend the sour notes are just the Spirit-filled result of being completely overcome by worship.

C) Take your unused capo out and chuck it at the worship leader to remind him never to play in capo 1 again.

D) Allow the D note to bring you to an E note, and then into the key of A, and keep playing as if it was a modulation the rest of the band missed.

E) Shake your head in disgust and glare at the other guitarist. And if he’s still in the middle of switching to his Telecaster too, and it would be quite obvious even to the drummer that he couldn’t have played the wrong note, then glare at the bassist. You could glare at the keyboardist, but everybody knows the keyboards aren’t in the mains. (Again, my apologies keyboardists…you know I love you, and if you come over to my church, I’ll make sure you drown everybody else out! But at other churches…well…I’m sure you’ve been there…)

F) Play off the D like it’s a diminished 5th jazz scale. Won’t help the worship mood any, but you’ll definitely get props with the rest of the musicians.

G) Turn to the other guitarist and laugh out loud, pointing to your guitar and making train wreck sounds and motions with your mouth and hands. (I used to play worship with a guy who would do this every time he would make a mistake. I tried to explain to him that these actions caused everyone to notice his one mistake, but they would never notice my ten mistakes, simply because I didn’t point them out with mimic’d train wreck sounds. But he was much too carefree and humble to care. I actually learned a lot from this guy.)

H) Fiddle with your massive pedalboard. (Seriously, everyone always believes this one.)

I) Just own it and rely on your superior knowledge of music theory to be able to explain away any mistakes afterwards in the green room.

J) Frantically turn off your 5 delay pedals trying to get the blasted tritone to stop ringing out any longer! Ah! Stupid delay pedals with spillover capabilities!

K) Just make D a part of the scale now, and come back and hit it at least 9 more times during the course of the song, until you’ve successfully pounded it into people’s heads so many times that they can’t help but just recognize it as part of the song. (I’ve tried this one. It never seems to work like you think it will.)

L) Smile, shake your head, and thank God profusely that even though He chooses to use us, and even though we should probably do our best to stay away from playing a D while in the key of Ab, He’ll probably still find a way to get glory in spite of us. I know it’s hard to imagine…I mean, we’re the ‘worship leaders’…’the battle cryers of the church’ ( ;) )…pretty important people with amazing tone. (Okay, at least self-important people with expensive gear.) But I think just maybe He’s got it covered.

So, choose your own ending. And of course, you can’t choose ‘L’!

And I know it sounds trite, but we do realize that the God who could do a much better job bringing glory to Himself by Himself, chooses to use us by letting us jam out music to Him every week, right? I know, I know that completely sounds like the cheeseball church thing to quote out of the latest ‘Worship is a Verb’ book; but it’s true, and I for one, forget it all too often.

Sorry for the Disney ending. Delay, tubes, Dumble, germanium, Arcade Fire, Mullard, decayed note artifacts, tone. Is that better? hehe :)

Splendid.
Karl.