The Electric: Reverb

I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Reverb, Reverb Pedals, and how that works in a church band.

The simple definition of Reverb (or Reverberation) is that it is created when a sound is produced in an enclosed space causing a large number of echoes to build up and then slowly decay as the sound is absorbed by the walls and air in a room. The Reverb effect has been in use for Decades, from 50’s rockabilly, to 60’s surf. From 70’s classic rock to 80’s New Wave. Reverb was key to Pearl Jam influence on the “grunge” sound and Radiohead’s OK Computer (as well as every other Radiohead album). John Mayer, The Shins, Kings of Leon. Everyone uses Reverb. Everyone talks about Delay in The Edge’s U2 guitar sound, as well as Coldplay ripping off that sound, but the truth is that without reverb neither band gets the classic sounds they are known for.

I’m not going to talk about settings or different pedals or anything like that. There are a lot of good reverb pedals out there and you should go and check them out. What I want to talk about is why I use reverb and how I use reverb.

What Reverb I Use

As much as I don’t want to talk about gear, I’ll talk a little about mine just so the gear heads will get where I’m coming from. I first started using and understanding reverb about 4 years ago when I bought a VoxAC15 that had onboard reverb and tremolo. After selling that amp, I put a EHX Cathedral on my board which was replaced by the TC Electronic Hall of Fame.

Generally Speaking I leave it on the Hall setting, tweaking the decay for whether I’m playing rhythm or leads. I sometimes will use the tile if I’m looking for a more country sound or the church setting for more ambiance and atmosphere. I’m a big fan of this pedal and for the price its the one I recommend.

Why I Use Reverb

I’m not an Eric Clapton wanna be. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eric Clapton. His duet record with BB King is a must have, and his work with Cream is amazing. I’m just not the worlds best lead guitar player and I know it. That’s not to say that guitar soloists don’t use reverb, far from it, check out John Mayer’s work on Continuum. But why I use Reverb is that I’m trying to “fill in” the sound. I’m an atmosphere player who tries to create a feel with my guitar playing and generally leave the lead work to the keys, which some exceptions.

How I Use Reverb

I posted a Youtube Demo of the Pedal I Use Below to give you an idea of the basic sounds I can get. But for how I use it, for the most part its just there to fill in and color the sound if I’m just playing straight pop/rock. The reverb pedal is kind of like the OLine in football. The overdrive and delay get all the glory while the reverb does all the heavy lifting. If the band is playing a more country sounding song (I Saw the Light, I’ll Fly Away, Tis So Sweet, etc) then I’ll set it for a tight sound like those old Johnny Cash records, maybe a Tile or plate setting. If I feel like going for a lot of atmosphere then I’ll turn up the decay to let it ring out for a while, and I’ll probably for for the “church” or “cathedral” setting for a big, booming sound.

Have Some Fun

If you had nothing more than a Reverb pedal with your guitar and amp you could go from old country to New Wave to Pearl Jam to John Mayer to Band of Horses or The Shins. If you don’t have a reverb pedal, think about getting one and go out to your local guitar shop and try a few. If you have one but it’s permanently set to one setting, take and hour and see what other sounds you could get out of it.


This vid kind of gives a feel for how you can use reverb settings to “fill in” the sound as a guitar player instead of doing just lead parts or picking.

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