Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.
This week we’ll talk about getting “That Sound”
Have you ever wondered how your favorite guitarist or band gets “that sound”? Maybe you’ve looked up all their gear on the internet. Then maybe you’ve done the math and realized that their gear would cost you what you make in a 5 year period or more. Can you get “that sound” as a normal guy trying to put a rig together on a budget?
What Do You Want?
If you just bought a Boss Metal Zone distortion but want to do country you may be on the wrong track. Define the sound or sounds you want. What do you like? What does your church band play? Do you play other stuff outside of church? My rig has purposely been set up for country (Buddy Miller, Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams), U2/Coldplay (which means i can do any Christian worship band that rips off those bands cough. cough. Hillsong. cough.), and rock (Death Cab For Cutie, Arcade Fire, Daniel Lanois) and REM (I rip off Peter Buck a lot)
Do Your Homework
There is no way around it. You have to do the research to know what you want, what musical and technical terms mean, and what gear is right for you.
Let’s say you’re an acoustic guitar player who wants to branch out. You’ve had an old Stratocaster lying around and you’ve decided to play more. Start with something as simple as reading the Wikipedia page on Effects Pedals. Learn the difference.
After you’ve learned what kinds of pedals there are and what they do, you’ll have to figure out what you need. Read up. If you like a certain style of music and you find that a lot of the bands you like use the same pedals (Boss DD-3 Delay or Line 6 DL4 Delay for examples) then that would be a starting place.
Let’s say you love August Burns Red and Metallica before the Black album and love to jam at home to those riffs, but the church band you play with wants really bad to sound like David Crowder band. A “metal zone” or similar pedal will pretty much only get you one sound. A Tube Screamer into a tube amp that’s cranked on the “hot” channel with it’s Mids scooped will give you Metallica’s Ride the Lightening, and then if you set the amp to clean it can give you 20 other bands from U2 to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Metallica, U2, SRV all use some version of the Ibanez tube screamer. 1 pedal 3 sounds is a much better value than a single genre pedal.
Most of us are on a budget. Putting a rig together will take time. If you can buy 1 pedal to do the job of two or three then you’ll be better off 9 times out of 10.
Boutique is Not Always Better
Speaking of the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Everyone has one. Brad Paisley, the Edge, SRV. Another pedal that I constantly read about on pro guitar players boards is the Boss DD-3 (or DD-5,6, or 7) or the Boss RV-5 reverb. What I’m saying is that if you read gear forums or blogs or talk to the guy in the Guitar Center trying to upsell you, they’ll for the best sound you really need this [insert more expensive pedal here]. The reality is that a stock TS9 and a lower end TC Electronics Reverb are my go to pedals.
It’s Not Always Pedals.
I was talking to a guy who was asking me how to get the sound and tone from some Hillsong guitar player. I jokingly told him to just rip off the Edge 🙂 But then I looked at the Youtube clip he had sent. The reality was that for all the different pedals he had at his disposal 80% of what was going on was because he was playing through a nice Amp. U2 uses VOX AC-30’s. Coldplay uses Fender Deville’s. Brad Paisley uses Dr. Z. Buddy Miller uses Swart. Metallica used Marshalls and later Messa Boogie’s. The point is that if you have an electric guitar and you have money you’ve saved up you would often be better off getting a good amp than a bunch of effects pedals.
What’s the Point?
It’s worship all about Jesus and not about gear? Yes. but if you look at your pastor’s office you’ll probably find a lot of books (commentaries, maps, histories, dictionaries). Maybe he has a computer with bible software or an ipad with all his notes. These are all tools to preach the gospel and teach the bible. Musical gear are tools make music to praise Jesus, serve His church, and share the gospel or respond to Bible teaching in song. Just as a pastor needs to learn to put a message together, musical servants in the church need to learn how to put a song together. All for the Glory of Jesus.