In this series I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music. This week we’ll talk about overdrive and gain pedals worship bands.
What is the best overdrive pedal for a worship guitar player?
The question is asked constantly on Google searches, blogs, forums, and even people who find their way to this blog.
On forums for worship guitarists, someone will post a thread with this very question and inevitably the answers will be whatever pedal the person answering uses:
Fulltone Full Drive 2
Xotic Booster (AC, RC, BB, EP, etc)
Boss Blues Drive
Paul Cochrane Tim or Timmy OD
or someone will mention something super boutique (expensive) like a Mad Professor Sweet Honey Handwired, or Analogman KoT. Then someone will sound “spiritual” and say all you need is a Boss OD-1 to praise the Lord.
THEY ARE ALL GOOD
Every single one of those pedals I’ve listed above are just fine. If you own anyone of them or a combination of them you are all set to play in just about any worship band.
Overdrive pedals are a lot of fun because they are generally cheap and you can find a lot of variety (clean boosts, boosters, Overdrives, distortion, sustainers, fuzz, etc). You can see and earlier post where I talk about the different types and their uses HERE
So please, no matter what you do, don’t read a forum or see a YouTube video and feel like what you have isn’t good enough.
WHAT DO I USE?
In the past I’ve owned and loved the Ibanez TS9, the Maxon SD-9, the Fulltone GT-500 distortion/booster, and the Xotic RC booster. All great pedals
WHY AND HOW DO I USE THEM?
I honestly don’t need as many drive pedals as I have but I keep them around for specific purposes.
The How and the Why of my gain pedals is this: On their own they all serve their purpose. The Plimsoul is set up to sound more like a Marshall Plexi amp overdrive. The King of Tone is set up for normal rhythm overdrive, and clean boost with just a hint of dirt. The AC booster is for that classic “tube screamer” style overdrive. On their own they are all great, but then you can start to stack them for even crazier options. Let’s say you use the KoT OD for the songs basic rhythm and you add it’s clean boost for Instrumental bits. Then you come to a bridge or solo where you need just a little more, you can throw the AC Booster on for that 10-20 seconds to get you over the top before your sound man turns you down. There are a lot of combinations and situations where you can take essentially 5 different tones and mix and match depending on the songs needs.
What about my amps overdrive? I engage the “Hot” channel when I want a tone that’s already slightly dirty. Tube Screamer style overdrives are really designed to work with a hot amp and put it over the top for solos and things. This is a great option if you have foot switchable drive on your amp (like with a Fender Deville). So you can easily go between Dirty and Clean channels depending on which song. It get’s a little trickier if you have an Egnater Tweaker (what I play) or a VoxAC15 where you have to be all or nothing. I only use the “Hot” channel sometimes and generally only when I’m leading the band, otherwise I try to keep the amp pretty clean and let my gain pedals do the work when I need them.
WHAT DO I RECOMMEND?
Let me say this again, just about any Gain pedal you think of is just fine for a worship band. So if you can’t afford much, just pick up an Ibanez TS9 or Boss Blues Driver off Craigslist or Ebay and don’t feel bad about it.
If you can have some choice in the matter though, I recommend a dual channel overdrive. The simple reason is that I gives you 3 options for the price of 2 or less pedals.
Consider this: If you buy an Xotic Effects AC Booster and an RC booster, you’ll have two very good pedals (The RC booster is one of my favorite pedals ever). But the cost of the two of them (new) is over $300. If you pick up a KoT new (after the year + waiting list) you’ll pay close to $100 less, have more board space, and only need 1 power source.
I’m not recommending the King of Tone per say. There are other great dual pedals out there without the waiting list such as the Xotic AC Plus or the Fulltone GT-500 or the Wampler HotWired, JHS Double Barrel, or the Catlinbread Galileo. All great pedals.
I’m just tackling the question of what is the “Best for Worship” and my answer is that they are all good, but versatility is better. So you can buy several pedals or save some money and buy a dual channel model.
Note: I love the sound of the Fulltone Full Drive 2. But, I do not consider it a dual drive since the boost channel can’t be played on it’s own. At best it’s a 1.5 channel pedal. Just my opinion.
WHAT DON’T I RECOMMEND?
Metal. I recommend clean boosts, boosters, or low gain overdrives for church bands. Unless your church does heavy metal worship, high gain pedals are bad for 2 main reasons.
1. It’ll be way too much gain.
2. It probably won’t fit in the sound of your band.
WHAT’S THE POINT?
The Point is to be the best steward of the money God has given you to buy the best tool possible for serving God’s church in worship. There are plenty of bad effects pedals out there, but I’m hard pressed to think of Overdrives I hate. There are pedals I don’t care for like the Xotic EP Booster or Fulltone OCD, but it’s just for me, and I’ve heard guys play who get great sounds out of them.
Buy the pedal that will fit the best with your band, your church culture, and give you the most options (versatility). Don’t feel bad because your pedal isn’t high end or someone somewhere said it’s not that good. When it comes to overdrive pedals there really are no wrong answers, just a lot of opinions.
Questions? Drop me a comment and let’s talk.