Musicians, God is Omnipresent -You Are Not
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! (Psalm 139:7-8, ESV)
God is Omnipresent. That means that He is present everywhere, all of the time. This is a great and awesome truth about God, but it is one of His attributes that we are not meant to emulate!
I was recently asked to play electric guitar for a worship leader that I know. I was happy to do so. It was a fairly small band (acoustic guitar, bass guitar, electric guitar, keyboard, and vocals), and this particular worship leader is also a recording artist whose music is primarily acoustic and electric guitar driven. It sounded like fun, and I was glad to help.
I spent several days leading up to the event listening through the recordings of the songs from the set list, learning the electric guitar parts. My desire, as a musician, was to serve the worship leader and serve the songs by playing my parts well. By the day of the event, I was ready!
It wasn’t until sound check that I realized there was a problem.
The acoustic guitar player was playing their part. The bass guitar player was playing their part. As the electric guitar player, I was playing my part. The keyboard player… well, the keyboard player was actually playing ALL of our parts.
I could not find a helpful way to contribute to the songs. I listened to the keyboard, and sure enough, with the power of their right and left hand combined, they had the bass, low-mids, high-mids, and highs completely covered. The keyboard was omnipresent!
The bass guitar was in a great groove, but it didn’t matter. Their notes were covered up and constantly competing with the keys. The acoustic guitar player was laying down a strong rhythm, but it didn’t matter. Their chords were covered up and constantly competing with the keys. I tried to play in every register available to the electric guitar, but soon realized that it didn’t matter if I played high, low, or in-between. The keyboard was already there!
Where shall I flee from your presence?!
I attempted to just play the musical runs at the end of each phrase (the ones that I learned in the days leading up to the event by listening to the recordings), but the keyboard player was actively inventing their own runs for the end of each phrase. In one final attempt to make a positive contribution, I tried to just swell nice chords into the songs, but the keyboard player was using a musical pad that sonically swallowed up literally everything I tried.
The keyboard was present everywhere, all the time.
As for skill, there is no question that the keyboard player knew how to play their instrument. What they did not know was how to play their part and actually fit in with other musicians.
One of the principles that I like to teach regarding worship is the idea that the best musicians have the biggest ears! Of course I do not mean the physical size of the musician’s ear, but I do mean the physical use of their ear! The idea is that good musicians listen critically to what the other musicians are contributing to the song so that they know how to fit in and actually enhance what is happening musically. God is the only One who is meant to be omnipresent.
After sound check I spoke with the sound man, who informed me that he had pulled the keyboard almost completely out of the mix. “Why?” I asked.
“He was everywhere, man!”