Vocal Range, Hymns and Other Questions

WordPress lets me see the Google searches (who uses Bing?) that bring people to this blog. I thought I’d use those search queries to do a miscellaneous topic post of sorts. So let’s start off with…

The Edge, U2 and Blog Traffic

Far and away (it’s not even close) the most searches and the biggest driver of traffic to this blog was my post on U2, The Edge and Worship. Some combination of U2 or the Edge lead literally hundreds of visitors to this blog. What does that tell me? U2 is popular. The Edge is popular, and a lot of worship bands and artists rip him off.

The only thing I would say those who want to emulate the Edge’s sound in their worship guitar playing is to look at the whole catalog of his work. “Where the Streets Have No Name” is a great song, but there is more to the Edge and dotted 8th note delay then just that song. Best U2 records for the average worship guitar player to check out? “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” and “The Unforgettable Fire”. “Atomic Bomb” for his work as a lead guitar player and “Fire” for his work with Daniel Lanois building a sound scape and doing more than just rhythm and leads.

Why Do Worship Bands Sound Like The Edge?

Because everyone is ripping someone else off. Worship leaders who listen to Hillsong and the Newsboys are listening to bands who rip off the Edge and U2.


A lot of searches dealt with hymns. Many of the searches were based on the idea hymns and ‘modern worship music’ are in contrast to each other. I would encourage worship leaders who think that to change their thinking. Many hymns lend themselves to modern music much more than “modern worship music” does, and many hymns and new worship songs work well together in medleys.

The people who often have the hardest time with hymns aren’t the young and certainly not the old, it’s the folks in their 40’s and 50’s.

Where Do You Put a Clean Boost Pedal?

Do you want your boosted signal distorted or do you want to boost your distortion? I put my clean boost after my overdrive and distortion, but try it both ways, there’s no right or wrong, it’s just personal preference. The other place to put your clean boost would be at the end of signal chain after, if your signal chain is long and you have a lot of true bypass pedals so you don’t signal loss.

How Often Should I Change My Strings?

Often. I use D’Addario lights on my acoustic and and electrics. I could change acoustic strings weekly. I should change them every 2 weeks. I do change them every 3 weeks on average. I hate changing strings. But the reality is that 3 weeks is far more than a lot of people. I have found that strings sound best two days after being put on and last for a week and peak sound quality. After 2 weeks they start to dim, and by the 3rd it’s time to change them. Some of this will also depend on your guitar. I found that my old Taylor needed to be changed a few days to a week quicker than my current Martin does.

Some people use Elixir or similar strings for longer life but I’ve found the sound quality to string life ratio not worth it on your main guitar plus I haven’t found them in bulk which really is the most cost effective way to buy guitar strings.

For the electric I go longer in between changes. There are several artists, Neil Young being the most notable who will only use old strings on their electrics. Again I use D’Addario lights that I buy in bulk. I don’t have a time frame to change I just kind of have a feeling based on tone, playability, look of the string itself and feel. But I don’t let them go longer than 5 or 6 months. I feel like 3 or 4 months is prime tone for my Telecaster, and my Jaguar is too new in my ownership for me to know  yet. Again, try different things and you’ll figure out what’s best for you. Just don’t be the person who gets asked by the pastor or music director “when was the last time you changed your strings?”

Does Phil Wickham Have a Higher Vocal Range?

I had a couple of searches for this: Yes, yes he does. In fact so do a lot of singers who’s records you might download. In my case it was defiantly true of the worship pastor who I got the bulk of my chord charts from.

I take a song from a guy like Phil Wickham (I do a couple) and then I figure out which key will work both with my voice and playing guitar (I hate Bb). And that’s a generally good rule to follow. We are training young lady at church as a worship leader and I’ve had to reminder her a few times that my voice is in a different range than hers so she should adjust the keys for the songs she leads accordingly. Also I’ve changed keys for songs I lead because they are easier if I have ladies singing with me.

What Kind of Effects Pedals Should I Use For Worship?

After U2 this maybe the most common search question. My answer:

1. Whatever you want

2. Whatever your church culture will allow

3. Whatever serves the song or sound/vibe that your worship band is going for


1. Get what you want, not what some blog/forum says is or isn’t good. If everyone and their mom from Brad Paisley, to Kings of Leon, to The Edge all use an Ibanez TS9, don’t listen when some guy tells you it’s not as good as a guitar that cost 4x as much.

2. Do your research

3. Get things that are versatile.

My Worship Sound Guy Can’t Mix

That’s a real problem for a lot of churches. The sound guy is a really thankless job. Nobody notices when they do a good job, and they get all the blame when they make a mistake. I try to ignore the one time mistakes and focus on the reoccurring issues. I think the sound guys should be under the music director (that’s me) and part of the worship community. At my church they aren’t, so when there’s a problem I deal with either the pastor or the guy who oversees the AV team. If a sound guy can’t mix I ask “is it just a lack of training?” If that’s it then we can fix it. If he or she is just not the right fit then we should address that as well. Don’t leave the wrong person in the wrong place if you don’t have to.

Lead Guitar Player Is Using Too Much Distortion

That is all relative to an individual church and it’s individual church culture. My church would be considered conservative to my brother’s church and we are musically cutting edge to our sending church. If you’re the worship leader and you or someone in leadership is unhappy with how someone is playing then have a chat with them. Don’t do it during worship practice. Be nice, be firm.

Stratocaster, Telecaster, or Les Paul For Worship?

All good guitars. I’ve owned each at one point or another.

Use Big Muff For Rhythm?

I love that pedal. I wouldn’t use one for rhythm. But leads and if you’re strumming chords and letting them “ring out” to fill in the sound then yes, go for it. Just my opinion.

How Do I Cut Through The Mix?

This person wants to be heard over the rest of the band. Generally speaking I don’t want to cut through, I want to sit in the mix with all the other instruments. The only time I can thing of when I would want cut through the mix in a worship set would be for a solo or lead bit for either the keyboards or guitar.  This can be done two ways:

1. Volume. When you set up, put your volume at 80% so that when you need to cut through you turn your volume up. A clean boost is also very handy for this and a volume pedal will work although not as well.

2. Tone. The obvious example is going from a clean tone to a dirty tone. But you could also ad a second drive pedal if you already had one going, or you could ad some sort of modulating effect. If you’re a keyboard player, you could use some kind of effects, but you could also switch, say from a piano or string setting to an analog tone or organ that might sonically cut through better.

The other issue of course maybe that you’re playing in the same sonic landscape (low end, mid range, high end) that one or more other instruments are playing in. that’s a whole different ball game.

Amp Isolation

If you need to do it or don’t know what that is check out my post on it here: AMP ISOLATION

Song Choice

I ask our worship leaders to pick song that: 1. Are easy to sing 2. Biblically strong 3. Musically relevant 4. Sung to God or about His attributes 5. Avoid “prom songs” 6. Not lame

Remember that CCM worship music that is played on the radio is geared towards a specific demographic so pick songs that serve the whole body, old and young, men and women, etc.

Any other questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment


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