5 Pearls of Wisdom from Stu G

Not all opinions are created equal. The thoughts of those who have extensive experience and success in a particular field should be given more weight.

When it comes to playing guitar for worship, few opinions should carry more weight than Stu Garrard’s (Delirious, One Sonic Society, and half the songs on Worship Artistry).

Stu joined us on the Worship Artistry podcast a few weeks ago and expressed some thoughts that really resonated with what we teach here at Worship Artistry. I thought I’d grab a few quotes and expand on them a bit.

5. “Everything I’ve ever done comes from the major scale”

One million times yes! You can dig around in music forever and learn all kinds of weird scales, but you have to master the major scale. Not learn, master.

Stu mentioned he still practices the major scale in every position for a half hour a day. It’s not because he doesn’t know it, it’s because the more he plays it the more command he has over it. He also happens to have used it to create some of the most iconic guitar parts in worship music. If it’s good enough for Stu, it’s good enough for me.

4. “You kind of learn this theory stuff by accident most of the time”

If you are trying to understand music before you play it, you are doing it backwards. Music will make sense to your fingers and ears long before it works its way into your brain.

Ican explain modes until I’m blue in the face, but you aren’t going to really grasp them until you play them over and over in the context of a song. I’ve seen it happen with hundreds of students. Learn the parts with your fingers and trust that one day it will click in your brain.

3. “I don’t really want to double-track a chorus part and then play a line over the top. Let’s play as a band and have some space in the sound.”

I can’t emphasize this enough. Playing live and recording an album are fundamentally different.

In a live setting, the room and crowd are like additional instruments. They augment the sound and add energy. You don’t have that in a studio so you have to artificially create it with additional tracks, doubling parts and programming.

Performance tracks continue to make in-roads into live music, but the idea that you can’t re-create what’s on a record without them is a ridiculous (and very expensive) notion. Those tracks are filling spaces that don’t need to be filled when played live. Arranging music for playing live is a skill every good musician has. 

2. “Everything I’ve ever played I’ve learned from other people. Seeing how other people take multiple tracks on [a] record and play them live in one part is really important.”

Stu name-dropped The Police, U2, Radiohead, and The White Stripes as bands whose live performances taught him how to re-create studio songs in a live setting with only a few instruments.

You may have noticed that every full band lesson on Worship Artistry is arranged for a 5-piece band. That’s not an accident. Listen to those parts together and see how they create the overall sound. That’s not just one of the lead guitar parts. It’s every important lead guitar part. Learn to play songs this way and you’ll learn to hear them that way too.

1. “We have to work with what we’ve got and not try to attain something we’re not.”

Become great at what you do. I’m not the greatest guitarist in the world (far from it). I’m a fish out of water in a jazz band. I can’t shred like those 13-year-old kids on YouTube but, if you want someone to play tasteful leads and creative acoustic parts that serve the song, I’m your guy. It doesn’t mean I don’t aspire to greatness and push myself, I’m just sure of what I want to be great at.

It was an honor to talk with Stu and the whole conversation is worth a listen.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

5 Pearls of Wisdom from Stu G

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Major Scales

Thanks for posting this Jason! One thing that really stuck out to me was the comment about major scales. Have you thought about doing a lesson on them? If not what are some good resources so I can dive in?

I feel like at this point one of my biggest stumbling blocks is being able to improvise and attempt to create my own lead lines. We do an instrumental during offering at church and it would be nice to come up with something myself.

I learned the penatonic minor scales (not from your site) years ago but have struggled how exactly to use them. I've also tried to wrap my mind around scales, modes, triads over the years but just got overwhelmed.

Where should I begin? :) Learn the major scales, then do your penatonic and mode lessons?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.


Great question

Modes are simply the major scale in all it's positions (Those 7 positions Stu is talking about)


Get those positions under your fingers...like REALLY well.

I learned the pentatonic scale first and so I've always thought of the major scale as an extension of that.


I'll start going through the Modes lesson and the penatonic lesson to refresh my memory. You really hit the nail on the head when you said "If you are trying to understand music before you play it, you are doing it backwards." I use to attempt to learn tons of theory but couldn't play an entire song and as a result I just got frustrated :)

Now that I've spent a year learning numerous songs(thanks to worshipartistry)and playing at church things are finally starting to make sense how it all connects.

Thank you Jason for everything you do!!

I'm also not what I would

I'm also not what I would consider a great guitarist, but I practice often and strive to bring my best with joy. Several years ago, Paul Baloche said in a tutorial video "Focus on the simple parts, playing them well with confidence and authority." I may have already shared that in another post, but it's a philosphy I have adopted for myself.

So true Tony

It seems to be our natural default to want to move on from parts before we've really mastered them. Some of my favorite players don't impress with flash but instead make the easy parts look easy in their perfection.