Learning the Celtic Strum

I have several students that are in various stages of learning how to play the so-called Celtic Strum.  If you’ve been around modern worship music at all in the last 20 years, you’ve heard this strumming pattern in hundreds of songs.  I’ve heard it called all kinds of things – the worship groove or energy groove – or even “that strummy thing.”

I was first introduced to the celtic strum via Paul Baloche’s original recording of Open The Eyes Of My Heart (Worship Leader’s Song Discovery Issue No. 5).  After that, it seemed like it was in every worship song – there have been countless others: Trading My Sorrows, Sweetly Broken to name a couple more songs that use this strum.

The Celtic Strum is a must-have for the strumming tool box for every guitarist.  Here’s how I break it down for the student:

The pattern is 2 measures long.  Starting with a down-strum, you’re strumming hand will move in a steady down-up motion for the entire pattern.  Every down-strum is an 8th note and every up-strum is an 8th note.  Here’s a PDF of the pattern in rhythmic notation:

Celtic Strum

The arrows show the direction of your strumming hand movement.  The numbers under the notes show you how to count out the rhythm.  Notice there are 4 groups of 3 and 2 groups of 2.  Counting this way will help you focus on the accents which will always fall on 1.  The key to the groove is getting those accents louder than everything else.

Get your strumming hand moving in that steady down-up motion while simultaneously counting out loud (making “one” louder than everything else): “One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two, one-two.”  Start out slow and as you gain confidence, speed things up.  You’ll notice that your strumming hand will be moving in the opposite direction for the first 4 accents or ones and then down for the next two accents.  When you get to the end, loop it around again and again.  One of my students used my phone to make a simple video demo of the accents this morning:

I’ll add more to this post in the future.  Click like to let me know if you found this helpful.  I welcome your comments below!  Happy strumming!

Guitar Lesson – Bb Major Chord Scale

I’m currently training 3 teenage guitar players at my church.  I started them out by teaching them the 1 – 4 – 5 – and 6m chords in the key of G.  When it comes to playing a song in a non-friendly guitar key, like Bb, I usually make use of Planning Center Online’s chord chart transposition features.  With a couple of mouse clicks I can quickly produce a capo 3 chart with familiar G family chord shapes.  This keeps my players from getting that “deer in the headlights” look when I hand them a Bb chart.  (Ahhh… what would we do with out our friend, the capo?!)  One of them asked me recently, “Can you teach me some new chords?  I’m tired of playing in G!”  All right, kiddo, you asked for it!

Here’s a new guitar lesson called Bb Chord Scale – Guitar Lesson that teaches a concept called the “chord scale.”  If you take some time to get the chord shapes from this lesson under your fingers, soon you’ll be able to leave your capo inside your case the next time your worship leader hands you a chart in Bb.  They could end up being the one with that “deer-in-the-headlights” look!  I hope you find this helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions about it!

Here’s a video demo of me playing the chord scale from this lesson:


How do you help your church worship?

Hey all you worship leaders out there! How would you complete this sentence…

I help my congregation worship by ____________________________________.

I’m approaching 2,000 views on worshipBOOST – from all over the world. Please share your ideas about how you help your congregation worship in the comments below.


Down To The Next Level, Pt. 2

Before reading this post, be sure to read Down To The Next Level, Pt. 1

In this post, I want to explore further the role of the worship leader and why our churches hunger to reach a new level of worship.

I closed Pt. 1 with Jesus telling us in John 4:23 that the Father is looking for “Spirit and Truth” worshipers. The original Greek transliteration for the word worship here is proskyneō and means to kiss the hand in reverence, or to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. If we want to reach a new level of worship, we must bow down.

I recently used Russell Henderson’s post Worship Leader or Cheer Leader? as a devotional for my worship team, church staff, and vision team (elders). It sparked a lot of great discussion. I asked each group if they think we are reaching the level of intimacy with God that David wrote about in Psalm 139, one respondent asked, “Are we prepared to meet God on Sunday morning or are we just showing up?” That kind of brings the question back to each of us, doesn’t it? Didn’t Stuart Smalley (of SNL fame) help us notice that when we point a finger of blame at someone, 3 fingers are pointing back at us?! 😉

Let’s first establish the source of this hunger to reach a greater intimacy with God. In the book, The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer, the author helps us understand that the hunger for God originates with God. No self-effort will allow us to take credit. (John 6:44)

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”

Everything starts with God and we respond. Therefore, each of us, alone, are responsible for…our response. If we believe we’re going to meet with the Creator of the Universe each Sunday morning, then shouldn’t we start, each day of the week, with a faith-filled anticipation that says, “Holy cow, I’m so excited to meet with YOU on Sunday, Lord!” (Hebrews 11:6) A “Spirit and Truth” worshiper longs to be in His presence day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. (Psalm 84:1-2) It’s that kind of faith that is pleasing to God. It pleases Him so much, the Bible says, He’ll reward it.

So what’s the reward? If you seek him, he will be found by you says 1 Chronicles 28:9. When my boys were younger, they loved playing a game they called, “Chase Dad.” As you might guess, Chase Dad is just that…chasing dad all over the house until you catch him! For me, this meant perfecting the ability to leap two or more stairs at a time, sprinting through hallways, darting around furniture and over beds; doing whatever it took to avoid being caught. And yes…I was eventually caught…and would reward them with a wrestling match, lots of jumping on dad, pillow fights, and other rough-housing that Mom might not approve of. (BTW, Chase Dad is a game best played when Mom is at work.) If I included some hide-n-seek in the game of Chase Dad, that was always the best! I loved to listen to my children call out to me as they searched the house. In my silence, I was excited to have them find me. The boys never gave up…and the reward would come. And so it is with God. “…you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) It would be just like God to use a child to teach me how to pursue Him.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

If the outworking of our faith (our response to his prevenient drawing) is lacking on Sunday morning, Tozer states we won’t have an experience of the Divine.

“Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”

So, what shall we do?  Will we keep Him waiting?  Will we look to the worship leader or the worship band to get us excited about being in God’s presence? Or will we arrive on Sunday morning, anticipating, expecting to join the great assembly of Spirit and Truth worshipers; filled with a longing that only He can satisfy and determined to find Him?  And will we bow our lives before Him, all of us, in profound reverence and pursue Him with all that we are? A reward unspeakably sweet awaits those who put their trust in Him!

For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.

Excerpts From: A. W. Tozer. “The Pursuit of God.” MobileReference, 2010-05-07. Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-pursuit-of-god/id367791780?mt=11

Click here to find the book on Amazon.com.

Worship Leader / Songwriter Tommy Walker’s worship CD “The Pursuit of God” pays homage to the profound effect that Tozer’s writings had on his life.  It is an extraordinary recording!  Listening to this CD has helped me to journey to that place of intimacy with God that my heart longs for.  I know it will bless you, too.

In this video, Tommy Walker sings an acoustic version of his song “Nearer” (from The Pursuit of God CD).  After he plays the song, he demonstrates how to play it on guitar.  I’m including the video on this blog post because: 1 – This song was inspired by Tozer’s book, 2 – The song totally nails the topic were discussing, 3 – Tommy gives such encouraging and practical instruction for the worship guitarist, and finally… 4 – This song helps me worship God!  I pray it helps you to worship Him, too!

I invite you to share your comments below!  Thank you for visiting my blog!

Down To The Next Level, Pt. 1

Hand reaching to the skyWorship Leaders, have you ever been asked this question? “How do we get our church to the next level in worship?” A google search reveals link after link of advice on how to take your career, business, life, golf game, finances, fitness, education…you name it, all to the next level. But what about worship, personal or corporate; are there different levels? What does that even mean anyway? Is this a cultural concept or a biblical concept? Does your church look to you each week to “elevate” the worship experience? Have you served a church that let you go because you couldn’t take them to the next level?

Church leadership is passionate about motivating the congregation. Countless hours are spent in prayer and sweat trying to inspire and energize people for ministry. It can be tempting to look at the music we worship with as a way to prod them into action. Have you heard statements like: We need to start every service with a high-energy, fast song. We need a break through. You’re not rocking enough. We need you to get us revved up on Sunday morning! If the music is rocking the house, the congregation responds – but is it God they’re responding to or just the music?

As you look out upon the congregation on Sunday morning, have you felt the weight of what I’m talking about? Is it really our responsibility as leaders of worship to “rev up” the congregation? Are we, as worship leaders, responsible for the congregation reaching a new level of worship? Or conversely, is it our fault if they don’t?

I’ve served several churches and been at ground-zero in some tense worship style battles. When I look back on it, I concede that my own biblical underpinning regarding what the Bible has to say about worship was lacking and prevented me from being a better leader in those discussions. I rarely sought God’s counsel through His Word. I was bringing my own feelings to the debate instead of sharing what scripture shows us. (The outcome of some of those battles might have been different.) Responding to God is at the heart of worship and music has been at the center of expressing that heart for thousands of years. All this has me interested in discovering what’s behind the desire to reach the “next level” of worship. My thoughts follow. Leave a reply and share in the discussion!

It’s impossible for the average or small church to reproduce the aural and visual experience of the modern-day Christian worship concert. That amazing, incredible worship concert on Saturday night places a pretty tall order on the worship team for Sunday morning. Are we trying to quench our thirst for intimacy with God by attempting to recreate the worship concert? At the National Worship Leader Conference in Leawood, Kansas last year, I heard clinician Stan Endicott say, “Why do we try to force a 105 decibel rock concert on our congregations at 9:00 on Sunday morning? In what other area in life does that kind of thing happen?!” Songwriter Paul Baloche calls Sunday morning the “Un-concert” for a reason.

Corporate worship is a journey that we travel together. But do we know where we’re going and how to get there? As a travel guide for this journey, how I can improve my leadership so that our congregation could feel unified in our Sunday morning destination? Russell Henderson makes the point in his post Worship Leader or Cheer Leader that many churches limit the length of their journey of worship to nothing more than a pep-rally for Jesus. They never make it to that place of intimacy with God that King David wrote about. Search me, O God, and know my heart…See if there is any offensive way in me. Psalm 139:23-24 Henderson points out that we have an obligation to allow times for the Holy Spirit to move and work in us individually and corporately. Like flossing, everyone agrees it’s a good thing to do but not everyone makes time for it.

Jesus tells the woman at the well (and us) that the Father is looking for true worshipers that will worship him in Spirit and Truth. John 4:23 Rus Henderson’s post, Worship Leader or Cheer Leader has an easy-to-understand insight about this passage. I was inspired to dig deeper so I went to the Blue Letter Bible to find out more about the original meaning of the Greek word for worship from this text. (BTW, here’s a great video on how to use the Blue Letter Bible online website.) The Greek transliteration for worship in this verse is proskyneō and means to kiss the hand in reverence, or to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence. Do you want to get to the next level in worship? Bow down. The Father is looking for worshipers willing to bow their lives before Him as a response to his immeasurable love. This is the ultimate destination to which He calls us. Trying to rev people up on our own is water that will only cause you to thirst again. Living Water that satisfies all thirst awaits those who choose a life bowed down before the Most High God.

For more on this topic, check out Glen Packiam’s post on churchleaders.com.

Please join the conversation below. Next, I plan to share some thoughts on the question of responsibility I raised above. Is it a music style issue or a lifestyle issue? Stay tuned…

Playing Your Prayers On Guitar

B & W Acoustic Guitar FretboardI remember years ago, subbing on guitar at the church of a mentor friend of mine.  We were rehearsing a song and he turned to me and said, “Take a solo, Pat!”  I froze.  I had no idea what to do.  That was a defining moment for me.  I left that service determined to improve my skills as a guitarist.  This lesson is birthed out of that experience.  Armed with your favorite DAW, iPad (I like to use Garage Band on the iPad), looper pedal, or just a hand-held digital recorder – use this lesson to give you confidence to be able to play a solo, or add worshipful improvisation over those extended prayer vamps.  If you’re not that tech savvy, get someone from your worship team to play a loop for you.  Download the lesson here.  Remember… God gives you talent – practice turns talent into skill – and skill is an offering to God.  Ps. 33:3  -Pat