I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.
This week we’ll talk about setting up your electric rig for the first time or upgrading it to something better. This is part 1 of a 4 part series. Part 2 can be found HERE. Part 3 can be found HERE. Part 4 can be found HERE.
Who Is This For?
I guess I’m writing for two different people. The first is the worship leader who has been leading for a while, and only used an acoustic guitar. The way music is going this worship leader wants to start using an electric guitar as their rhythm guitar either every so often or a majority of the time.
The second person is the one who has an electric guitar set up, but it’s not very good and they want to get serious about it and they are going to use it mostly or specifically for church music.
I have been both people. I bought my first electric guitar at age 15 but at the time, and in the church culture I was a part of, the electric guitar was for playing in bands, not in the church. So I bought an acoustic guitar. In my early 20’s my thinking and the thinking in the church had started to change so I broke out the electric again. It was a cheap guitar with an Ok to So/So digital multi effect set up. I mostly used it to play back up in a worship band. I tried using it once or twice for my main guitar when I was leading but the church wasn’t ready for it and in a lot of ways I wasn’t either. Then when I was 27 I decided to get a serious guitar set up and I’ve been using it both as my main rhythm guitar and as a lead guitar for other worship leaders ever since.
Note: while I’m writing this with worship guitar players in mind, there are general principles that could apply to any other musical gear (keyboards, bass, drums, etc) and equipment in general like church PA and AV gear, computers, and so on.
I’m a Worship Leader Who Uses An Acoustic Guitar Should I Buy An Electric Guitar?
That depends. But here’s a check list of sorts that might help you find the answer.
-Would it fit in with the culture of my church?
-Is there a desire in your church’s leadership to “shake things up” or to “modernize”?
-Is it a season in my life that I can afford this financially?
-Is it a season in my life where I can put the time in to learn how to use this new equipment?
-Is this something that I want to do? or it is just something I see a lot of other people doing? (If the answer is no and then yes… pause and rethink)
I Already Have A Guitar Rig But I Want To Upgrade
Upgrading is good. A carpenter needs a good saw. A baker needs a good oven. A musician needs good instruments. If you’re a paid worship leader, this is both how you serve God and provide for your family, and even if you’re like me and just a volunteer, theses are the tools of service that you use regularly. My wife loves to bake. She bakes for our church and for people to bless them all the time. She doesn’t expect a professional kitchen but she does have very high quality tools to do the job. I’m not trying to be a pro musician, but I want the right gear so I can serve my church musically the best way possible.
If you already have a guitar set up but you know it’s time to upgrade let me walk you through what I see as being the most important things to get in order. Remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint, so this is not intended to be an ‘all at once’ list.
What Should I Get?
I’ve seen blog posts and articles similar to this one, and they run down what you should get based on a certain band or musician’s sound. Those guys tend to be very good players who get a very good sound, so what’s wrong with copying their gear right? Two things,
1. It’s their gear. What I mean by that it that it’s set for their sound and style. Most worship guitarist have to function like a cover band, being able to cover a variety of sound and genres. What the pros use is probably great stuff, but it’s for their sound and not yours.
2. If you’re reading a blog about what some guitar player uses, that means that said guitar player is a pro, meaning they can afford to buy the best gear. Most of us (myself included) are volunteers who fund our equipment out of our own pocket. I’m not a pro-level musician. I’m just guy trying to do the best with what I’ve got. I don’t need top of the line, when mid-range is more than enough. So knowing what amp my favorite band uses may not help me out in this case.
So what should you get? I recommend a guitar rig that is versatile and easy to transport. If you’re rig is only set up for country then you’ll have a rough time with CCM. If your rig is only set up for CCM then what if you’re doing a country set? Plus, if you’re taking your rig to church for services and practices, you’ll want something that’s easily transportable.
How Much Should I Be Prepared to Spend?
That’s kind of a difficult question to answer. That will mostly depend on what you can afford. I bought my first acoustic guitar at age 16. It was a cheap Fender that didn’t sound that great but did the job. At 18 I had a decent job and I bought a very nice Takamine acoustic (they are an underrated brand). It served me well for the next 6 years. Then I decided I wanted a more “professional guitar” so I bought a Taylor 314. Then a few years later I found a really good deal on a Martin HD-28, and used the Taylor as a trade in. I have no plans to get rid of my Martin. The point I’m making is that acquiring musical gear is a marathon and not a sprint, so don’t feel like you have to get everything all at once.
The other thing to consider is that the electric guitar cost (or feel like it costs) more than an acoustic because with and acoustic guitar you only by the guitar, with the electric you also have to buy the amp, and whatever else you want to go with it.
I would say that $700-$800 would be a very reasonable price point for a mid-range starting point. You can go cheaper and in following post I’ll give some options for that, but remember two things: You get what you pay for & it’s better to have good gear and less of it than to have bad gear and more of it.
What’s Your Method?
In the next few posts I’ll go over amps, effects, and guitars. My methodology will be simple. What’s the most versatile and what will get you the best value. I’ll give you a few options and some starting points for you to make your own informed decision.
My method, and the order of the next few posts in this series will also be based on my belief that in setting up a guitar rig the Amplifier is the most important thing, followed by effects pedals and lastly the guitar. There are people who would disagree with me, but it’s my blog : )
My reasoning for the Amp/Effects/Guitar thinking is this: A great amp will do wonders for a “So/So” guitar but a great guitar will be limited and hampered by a “So/So” amp. The same is true of effects pedals in relation to the guitar but not to the amp. So the amp is king of the hill in my opinion, and the next few posts in the series will be set up with this in mind: Amp>Effects>Guitar.
The last thing I’ll say in my method for setting up a guitar rig for worship is that I hate Line 6. I hate them. A lot of really good guitar and sound guys that I know and respect use Line 6 gear, like Line 6 gear, and some even love Line 6 gear. I don’t and again it’s my blog. I’m just disclosing this now. I don’t like their sound and in many cases their build quality. I will include Line 6 gear in my posts on effects and guitars, but I’ll tell you right now that I hate them, and I’ll cover why I hate them. They will not get a recommend at any point along the way.
Next week we’ll get into it with Amplifiers.