The Electric: The Best Overdrive Pedal For Worship

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:

Ibanez TS9

Fulltone OCD

Fulltone Full Drive 2

Xotic Booster (AC, RC, BB, EP, etc)

Ibanez TS808

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?

Currently I use a Fulltone Plimsoul, Xotic AC Booster, and Analogman King of Tone. In addition to this I can set my amp to the “Hot” channel and use it’s natural tube overdrive.

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.

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36 thoughts on “The Electric: The Best Overdrive Pedal For Worship

  1. Curt

    Thanks for the article. I actually just decided this week that I’m gonna probably go looking for a new overdrive for my pedalboard.
    Right now I’m using a cheap/inexpensive Digitech Bad Monkey and the built in OD’s on the Line 6 M13 – but it just seems like I need something else that will up the sound a bit.
    I’m leaning towards a Fulltone Fulldrive 2 with the JHS mod. It makes it a full 2 pedal option pedal – making the boost operate separately of the OD side. The whole new pedal with the mod’s done to it is $210.
    I was also looking at a Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde or a JHS Shootgun pedal – little more money for the JHS though so probably leading towards one of other two.

    1. Curt

      CORRECTION(S): JHS pedal is called the Double Barrel not the Shotgun. And the Fulltone with mod is $215 not $210.

      1. cctiffinohioCurt

        Haven’t made a purchase yet. Ended up thinking about my amp and trying to decide if I like it or not. Been having a tough time lately dialing in and finding sounds/tones that I like – and have actually thought about getting rid of everything and starting from scratch – but then I remembered that I don’t have enough money for that.
        Just having a difficult time getting a good sound on a low-end budget. Think I just need someone to come in and set up all of my stuff for me and for me to stop messing with everything. (Like that would actually happen though – knobs are meant to be turned, aren’t they!!!)

    2. Curt, thanks for reading.

      All those pedal choices would be solid. While I generally don’t think there’s a bad overdrive pedal. it’s nice to upgrade. I know a lot of guys who use the Jekyll & Hyde and the FD2. You’d be solid with either one.

  2. Pingback: Thoughts On Overdrive Pedals | Worship Links

  3. Abraham

    Hi there, would you consider the Maxon OD808 to be too much? I dont want to sound too metal, I want something that would give a Bugera v22 a nice warm overdrive.

    1. Hey Abraham,

      thanks for commenting. The Maxon OD808 is basically the same as an Ibanez TS808. There is a long list of other popular overdrives that are rip offs of this classic 808 design (click HERE to learn more). The 808 in whatever format is a solid and versatile overdrive pedal. It’s association with metal comes from guys like Kirk Hammett who used it to push their amps that were already set for metal sounds into “overdrive” for solos or dynamic changes. But the 808 has been used by players in the rock, blues, pop, country, and indie genres for years.

      So you’ve got a very solid pedal that can cover a lot of ground. The question then is how you use it. Either you’ve already got your tube amp cranked to the breaking point (hard to do in a church setting) and use the 808 for solos, or you do what I do 90% of the time and run my amp clean and I use the 808 to saturate my clean amp. Either way is valid. I’ve personally owned a Maxon SD9, Ibanez Ts9, Xotic AC Booster and Fulltone plimsoul which are both in the 808 rip off club. All of them have been great for worship settings.

      Hope that helps

  4. Pingback: The Electric: Overdrive Overkill | Real World Worship Leading

  5. Tony Mealer

    Another option for a boost if someone is limited on funds and is using a one switch overdrive is the volume knob on the guitar. Just set it at 7-8 for rhythm playing and adjust the pedal gain accordingly. Then kick the volume up to 10 for that extra oomph.

      1. Scott

        Recently I’ve been using the guitars volume knob, it’s amazing what that knob does to effect the sound!! I use a peavey triple xxx amp

    1. Hey Trent,

      As Hillsong has become more diverse, questions like these become harder to answer. But, I could see where I would put a chorus pedal in the mix for any number of their songs, albeit subtly.

      The general consensus seems to be that the base “Hillsong Tone” is low gain overdrive, delay, reverb. But that’s a starting point, not the be all/end all.

  6. levinjapan

    Interesting that you mentioned the OCD because it´s one of my favorite pedals. In addition to the lovepedal plexi (I have the first version and the 2009 version), Ibanez TS9-DX Keeley, Cusack screamer V2, Astro Mess Fuzz,SLOstortion and wampler Leviathan. I´m also on the waiting list for the KOT.

      1. levinjapan

        Hey Adam,
        Thanks for the reply. Since I wrote this e-mail I removed the Cusack screamer and lovepedal 2009 from one of my pedalboards and replaced them with the KOT. It is indeed better to have a dual pedal with independent boost. So, my pedalboard used with a Gibson Les Paul Studio has a KOT high gain (both sides), Lovepedal high power tweed (the lovepedal plexi wasn´t too versatile) and the Astro mess fuzz for overdrives played thru an AC15. The other pedalboard, which is used with a Fender American Fat Strat has a Keeley TS9-DX, OCD (modified by JHS), Wampler Leviathan and SLOstortion. The only thing I must do now is LEARN TO PLAY and wait for chances to play at church. 😀

  7. Benoit De Jaeghere

    hi, i’m shopping for a new overdrive pedal. But i already own a Xotic Rc Booster, it’s also my favorite pedal lol. But i’ve been looking at various new (low gain) overdrive pedals, for example the fulltone fulldrive 2 mosfet, a rockett blue note, or a barber direct drive. But my question is: is it overkill using my rc booster (cuz it’s so verstatile you can also use it when going into overdrive) AND the boost function on some of these overdrive pedals? Am i not wasting my money sort of speak by looking at overdrive pedals that have a boost function?

    1. Hey Benoit,

      Thanks for commenting!

      I would say it’s not a waste to buy an OD with a boost. Many pedals, like the Fulldrive 2, won’t let you use the boost function independently (shops like Pedal Projects or JHS will do a mod to fix that). So if you wanted clean boost only, you’d still need something like the RC boost to accomplish that. Also, if you wanted, you could turn the gain up on the RC and use it as a light OD with the other OD at a higher or different gain stage.

      The longer I play, gain structure has become more and more important. I have three OD’s on my board now (JHS Moonshine and Superbolt, and Matthews Klone) plus a compressor (Cali76), Fuzz (Wave Cannon) and the Colour Box.

      I’ve found this all to be far more important to my sound, even though it diverts resources ($$$) away from the fun things like more reverbs, delays, etc. 🙂

      Hope that helps and please comment anytime!

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  9. great topic…I run my board on the cheap (inexpensive) by using mostly Danelectro pedals. I run 2 V1 Transparent Overdrives (Timmy clones), a Coolcat “Drive” (OCD clone).
    We are not allowed amps but rather to the board so I model the best I can through my Digitech RP1000. My fancies pedal is a Line 6 Echo Park.
    I think my tone is quite good. Using a Fender Blacktop Strat as my main guitar.
    Other pedals on board are CC Tremolo, CC Chorus, Danelectro Chicken salad univibe, Fish n chips EQ, Fab Distortion (basically a DS1) Poly tune 2 and Ernie Ball Jr Volume pedal.
    gets the job done.

  10. Joel

    So after reading this article over and over again many times and spending countless hours researching pedals on youtube for that iconic Hillsong/Jesus Culture sound, I finally landed on the Fulldrive 3. I did this for 4 reasons.
    1. 3 different overdrive types in one pedal. Symmetrical clipping (smoother TS OD), Asymmetrical clipping (modern and more aggressive OD), and Comp Cut which speaks for itself
    2. TOTALLY INDEPENDENT BOOST in which I can change pedal order with the overdrive for full control
    3. 1 power supply for 2 pedals and small enclosure. (one less patch cable)
    4. Price point. Everything people love about the FD2 but improved making it 2 separate pedals for $150.

    I could have bought a ts808 and clean boost and spent $250. But then I would have less options than the FD3 and spent $100 more.
    I havent fully dialed in everything yet but sometimes just taking a step back and minimalizing your board can make all the difference. I used to have many ODs and effects and wasnt happy until I had it perfect. I now only have my FD3, a tap tempo delay, tuner, and reverb making it so im spending less time worrying about what pedal I should get next, and getting back to worshiping!
    The hard balance to find is though while wanting to bring something of quality to God with our music, is also being a good steward of what He has given us.

  11. Hopefully this post is still relevant because I had a question. I play an American Tele thru a 4×10 hotrod deville and I use a TS9 and an FD2 with a BBE max and a Strymon Timeline delay. So my stuff is great and playing basically anything sounds amazing except for….distorted major chords. Which leads to me to my question.

    There’s a lot of worship songs that have a guitar strumming away hard on major chords during choruses of songs but through my current setup, that sounds horrible and noisy and messy. I always resort to just playing octave power chords or playing up high on the G and B strings. What do you recommend for a good pedal or setting or whatever to get that nice smooth sound for choruses.
    Thanks

    1. Kevin,

      a couple of thoughts. With the TS9 and FD2, you basically have two flavors of the same circuit.

      I’ve found that with the Tube Screamer style circuit, it’s best as a very low gain, almost clean boost when doing rhythm, and at higher gain settings it’s better for solos. So you could try setting one pedal for rhythm and one for leads.

      Hope that helps.

  12. Shibin Abraham

    Hey Adam,

    Same as the others, I have spent countless hours researching on how to get the best tone especially on overdrives as most the songs we sing would have a lower gain OD or higher.
    As of now, I have a Arc Effects Klone V2 (Stage 2) and EQ Devices Palisades (Stage 1) as my OD pedal setup. However, not very satisfied with the tone to be honest, yes, maybe i am a tone-addict and need to settle down. But would you suggest things differently ? Seeking Advice.

    Thanks,
    Shibin

    1. Hey Shibin,

      yeah. I think our tone needs/wants can and probably do change overtime. But some sounds are “always good” even if you don’t use them and some just “aren’t your thing.”

      Two pedals like I like a lot (but don’t use) are the Boss SD-1 (especially the Keeley Mod or the Wazacraft versions) and the stock Ibanez TS9. Those pedals will always be good sounds for me, even though I’m not using them currently.

      Klones on the other hand… I’ve owned a few, including an actual Klon (KTR), and it’s just not my thing.

      It could be that neither the TS or Klon circuits are for you. It could be a more transparent circuit like the Blues Breaker (king of tone, morning glory, etc) or the EM-Drive (I use the midnight30music M30 drive which is a modded version of that circuit), or something that splits the difference like the Caroline Guitar Co Haymaker is more up your alley.

      It could be that you’re looking for a more “amp like tone” (JHS Superbolt or Twin Twelve, Wampler Thirty Something, Mad Professor SHOD, etc)

      It could be that what you want is a higher gain pedal like the Wave Cannon, Fuzz Face, Wampler Black Velvet, that’s been cleaned up is more your bag…

      There’s a lot of options. It could also be that you need an EQ pedal to help things out…

      What’s your amp guitar set up?

  13. Shibin Abraham

    Hey Adam,

    Amp : Ceriatone Lightning Clone 15W (Bass at 11, Treble at 9)
    Guitar : Fender Mexican Telecaster with Porter Pickups

    I tried placing Arc Effects before the Palisades, and it didn’t stack well. Now using it as more of a tone enhancer/(boost with a slight amount of grit) after the Palisades. Let me know your thoughts. Is it a possibility that they don’t stack well at all ?

    Thanks,

  14. Hans Raid

    Hi Adam,

    It’s nice to find your page.
    I always being told about first stage and 2nd stage overdrive but I don’t know the example of the so-called pedal.

    I am new to playing electric guitar for church and just starting to build my pedal board.
    I use gibson les paul guitar with two humbuckers,

    Currently, I have a walrus mayflower OD and I quite like it but it seems like it is more like a mid gain type. Also has a fulltone OCD clone which is too dirty if gain is set above 9 o’clock and rarely use it.

    Do you have any recommendation for first stage overdrive pedal that can be an always ON pedal too?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Hans,

      Thanks for commenting!

      This is a “moving target”with more generalities than hard and fast rules. But basically, the concept there is that you have a 1st stage OD set at a low gain, almost clean boost setting to push your amp. The Klon and it’s Klones, Blues Breaker clones like the King of Tone or Morning Glory. But you could easily use a Tube Screamer or the Mayflower set low. With the 2nd stage being a “mid gain”. Tube Screamers, The JHS Superbolt, BJF Honey/Bee Variants, Klones, etc.

      Others instead use two low gain/booster style OD’s for different flavor (ala a Morning glory and EM Drive) and then use one cascading into the other to produce a mid gain sound (if that makes sense).

      Honestly, the best OD for worship is your amp. If you have a good amp, you’re miles ahead of everyone else. a lot of guys are just trying to use OD pedals and gain stages to compensate for a lower quality amp or an amp thats not being used properly (i.e. being set too low etc).

      I was playing guitar today and almost never turned my OD on because the amp sounded so good.

      1. Hans Raid

        Thanks Adam,

        Appreciate it and regarding the amp not being used properly is true.
        I realize that the volume of the amp set at my church is pretty low, like around 2-ish (from scale of 1-10)

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