Even worse, I have discovered that when you get unprepared musicians playing "live" for church too soon, their bad habits usually become permanent. Something that could have been learned with 6 months of lessons now becomes a bad habit that takes 1-2 years to fix. And the unlearning and relearning process is painful (been there, done that).
Confession time - I too have contributed to such a culture. I have simplified stuff and cut things down to their bare essentials when teaching music for church. I guess that has unleashed the floodgates, sending people the idea that things can be simplified even further. And after some time music foundations (which take a long time to build) get short shrift in the quest to churn out "servers" for church, who feel better about their playing than they ought to.
The only way to get some semblance of music skill from such servers is by feeding them cheap, simplistic music formula. But if they believe too strongly the cheap music formula they are given, they become unable to pick up mistakes in their own playing.
Let me share my experience:
When I was a teenager, I started learning drums. I played in the school marching band, and so had a decent idea and grasp of snare drum rudiments. But when I shifted to the drum kit I had no one to teach me how to play rim shots or cross-stick. I made up my own approximations. When my own approximations did not sound like the professionals I assumed it was because the professionals had sound engineering to make them sound better, so if they gave me the same sound engineering and mixing I of course would sound just as good.
In the end, it got so bad that I thought my “boom pat” on the kick and snare was on par with the professionals’ “boom THWACK!” I heard my playing as the same as theirs. Looking back I cannot believe I had THAT much hubris!
This doesn’t just apply to musicians. It can also apply to singers. I worked with a singer who was not very fluent with English, but did her best to sing English songs because her church needed her to lead worship in English (God bless her heart). Whenever I pointed out to her any pronunciation mistakes she made, she would say that’s what she heard from the video/MP3. I tried my best to ignore those mistakes, but I had enough when I heard her sing the song “Worthy is the Lamb” by Hillsong. There is one line that is “crown him now with many crowns” and she sang it as “clown him now with many clowns”. No, I doubt Hillsong sang it like that!
But that is the problem when mistakes become habits. After some time we can’t even hear them anymore and we think our music/singing is doing just fine. We mentally tune out any extra high G notes on the guitar that clash with the B minor chord, or we play a pad sound on the synthesizer, hold it down with the sustain pedal, and leave it there even if we played the wrong notes in the first place or it no longer fits the chords of the song. When I was taking music lessons at Yamaha we used to laugh at a one-chord-fits-all kind of playing. I never thought our little insider joke from all those years ago would ever be seen as acceptable playing in a church…
To sum up what I am saying:
Proverbs 28:19 (NIV) - Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
Don’t fantasize of waking up overnight and suddenly having musical skill and ability you did not work for. Don’t dream that amateur bumbling and noodling around will lead to skill that people who have put in proper work will envy. There are some shortcuts to certain aspects of music skill, but don’t ever let yourself think that practice and training will always be fun and easy. It is always fun and easy only for boring children’s music. The Levites in the Old Testament initially started serving from 30 years old onwards (1 Chr 23:3) and that was later changed to 20 years of age onwards (1 Chr 23:24). Even then I don’t think they played kiddie music in church!
OK, I am going to chill now and get on with my regular life. Be blessed!