Spring Q&A: What’s the Best Thing and Other Questions

Every so often I look over the search terms from engines like Google and Yahoo that lead people to this blog and turn them into a sort of Q&A. This one is pretty guitar and musical gear heavy but hopefully it’s helpful to someone. (warning, if some of my comments seem like I’m being snarky, it’s because I am πŸ™‚ )

PEDAL BOARD ORDER FOR WORSHIP MUSIC

I’m going to say this here and now to start things off, generally speaking music in the church is no different than music outside of the church. Putting my chorus pedal before or after my tremolo pedal or my reverb at the end of my signal chain isn’t affected by whether I’m playing in the church or in the club.

I did write about signal chain HERE if you’re interested.

BEST COMPRESSOR PEDAL FOR WORSHIP

Unless you are after a very specific sound, I usually recommend a compressor with a clean blend, sometimes called a parallel compressor. Xotic SP Comp, JHS Pulp n Peel, and the Origin Cali 76 Compact Deluxe are all examples of this at three very different price points. I’ve owned all of them and love different things about each of them.

BEST AMP FOR WORSHIP GUITAR

Name an amp: {insert amp name here}. That amplifier is probably a good one as long as it didn’t start with Line 6 or it’s one of those solid state amps you get in the $99 starter pack at Walmart. The issue isn’t the amp as much as it’s knowing what the amp is.

The Vox Ac-15 is a great amp, it’s also very bright so you have to battle that and be carful about which pedals and guitars you pair with it. The Fender Hot Rod Deville is an amazing sounding amp… it’s also incredibly heavy and can be unbearably loud. An amp’s sound, features and size (weight) are all factors in the decision process.

I usually just tell people to get a Blues Jr, partly because it’s the best amp Fender’s made since the 70’s and partly because it’s a lazy answer. Vox Ac15C1 (not CC1!), Egnater Tweaker 15, Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, Vox AC4, Peavey Classic 30 or 50 are all great amps, each doing their own thing and I’ve owned or used all them extensively.

BEST WORSHIP ELECTRIC GUITAR

As with the amplifier, you need to know the characteristics of your guitar as you pair it with your other gear (single coil vs humbuckers, etc). I’ve really liked the Fender 72 thinline reissues as a sort of ‘split the difference’ guitar, but there’s no right or wrong, just what works for you and only you can figure that out by trial and error.

BEST PEDALS FOR WORSHIP

Usually in a guitar forum, whether the Gear Page, TDPRI or one of the Geartalks on Facebook, if you ask “what’s the best [this kind of pedal]” the answer will be whatever pedal is on the commenters board.

Sound, features, size, cost all factor into this and it’s highly individualistic. Comment below if you want advise on a specific pedal.

VINTAGE ROLAND SPACE ECHO EBAY

Man, those things are sweet! I’m not sure how that led them here but if I saw one on stage at a church I’d think “wow, that’s legit!” and I’d be sure to talk to the guitarist after the service. The Boss RE-20 is a straight digital copy, not only of the sound but the look, feel and features of the original Space Echo. I’m a big fan of that pedal. I’ve never owned one but I ask myself weekly “why not.” It’s underused in the PNW community and that should change.

BELLE EPOCH NEGATIVE REVIEW

I’m the one guy I know of who wrote a negative review of the Belle Epoch. I stand by that review. I also stand by my feelings for the Catalinbread Topanga which I think is the best spring reverb pedal on the market, so it’s not personal.

As you may or may not know, Catalinbread Founder Nicholas Harris died not long ago, there’s a GoFundMe set up by JHS and EQD… check it out HERE

ARE MARSHALL AMPS GOOD FOR WORSHIP MUSIC?

See my above thoughts on Amps. You don’t see a lot of Marshall stuff right now, which partly the fault of Marshall and partly because half stacks have fallen out of style. I love the sound of a Marshall, especially a clean Marshall. If you are playing a Marshall on stage: respect.

BEST DELAY PEDAL FOR WORSHP?

Write down a list of all the features you need and sounds you want. Put that list in the comments and we’ll talk about it.

But the short answer is a 90’s Big Box Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man. No tap tempo, all awesome.

BEST OVERDRIVE/DISTORTION FOR WORSHIP

There are so many good pedals out there…

… that being said: Pettyjohn Electronics PettyDrive

SMALL COMBO AMP

As sound stystems have gotten better, the need for larger amps has decreased. I’ve been playing through 40 and 50 watt amps lately but find I rarely get above 2 or 3. My next amp purchase will probably be 20 watts or less.

NIGEL HENDROFF SOUND

Snarky answer: use delay pedal

Non-snarky answer: it’s so much more complex than that… still requires a delay pedal.

PHIL WICKHAM GUITAR PLAYER

He does play guitar.

MUST HAVE GUITAR PEDALS FOR WORSHIP

A Tuner. Everything else is optional.

BEST ACOUSTIC/ELECTRIC AMP FOR CHURCH

I’m honestly not sure why you’d use an amp for your acoustic guitar instead of going direct in. But just because I don’t see the value in something doesn’t mean that it’s not helpful to someone else (or that I’m just wrong). One of the worship leaders at my church has been using a Laney Acoustic Guitar AmpΒ and he’s been super happy about it, and to my ears it’s sounds really nice.

DISTORTION FOR WORSHIP

I feel like Distortion (which has been in the doghouse for about the last 10-15 years) is about to make a big comeback. Truthfully, if you stack enough overdrives together you’re already there. My rig currently includes a vintage Big Muff, a V1 Wave Cannon, a JHS Superbolt and Pettyjohn Pettydrive which all get hi gain/distortion territory covered. I play almost exclusively in the church and my church isn’t exactly cutting edge so a church guitarist would do well to consider Distortion pedals for their rig.

In case you were wondering… the Caroline Guitar Co Wave Cannon is my favorite.

BEST REVERB SETTINGS FOR WORSHIP

Keep them lower unless it’s a part in the song that calls for a washed out sound because you’ll sound cool when you’re practicing on your own, but it’ll sound muddy when you play with a full band.

MODELING AMPS FOR WORSHIP BANDS

I’m not a fan. Even if you get a Kemper or some other high end unit, how much will you really get out of it?

If you’re trying to cover a lot of ground as a player, try amp in a box pedals like the Wampler Thrity Something or the JHS Twin Twelve.

If you’re a church that wants to give different players a lot of options then you’ll get a better sound with an Egnater Tweaker 15 or Rebel 30.

TOP 5 WORSHIP CHORUS PEDALS

I’ve never posted a list like this but modulation is in and it’s in in a big way. Here are five chorus pedals that I love (note: all by one are digital)

Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl (the one I use), Boss CE-1, JHS Emperor (cheaper than the vintage Boss CE-1), Walrus Julia (I really like the sound of this pedal), and the Strymon Deco (the only digital chorus I love)

WORDLY MUSIC IN CHURCH

I wrote about this HERE. But I’ll say again that it’s not a style, sound or genre that makes music “worldly” and a lot of “worldly” sounding music has roots in the church.

JHS PANTHER CUB VS EHX MEMORY MAN

These two get compared a lot which I think is unfair to both. I love the EHX Deluxe Memory Man… a lot! I also really like the JHS Panther Cub, which is a different animal. Both are great.

Honestly, if you really need tap tempo, the new DMM 1100 TT’s are really good. The old chips aren’t better, no matter what people say. I also think the Walrus Bellwether is really good.

HOW TO DRESS IN CHURCH

I wrote about this HERE but one time when I was just starting out; an older worship leader told me to always make sure my fly was zipped up and there wasn’t a stain on my shirt. I’ve tried to follow this man’s advice and I think you should too.

STACKING OVERDRIVE PEDALS

If you are stacking two low gain drives together to get a higher gain sound, why not just have one low gain overdrive and one hi gain overdrive? I do sometimes stack gain pedals for Boost and EQ reasons. For example, I like to put my Wampler Tumnus after my Big Muff because the BM is severely mid-scooped in it’s EQ and the Tumnus helps it cut through the mix.

Remember: whatever pedal is last in the stack will decide the EQ shape of the two pedals together. Stack wisely.

HOW MANY PEDALS DO YOU NEED FOR PRAISE AND WORSHIP MUSIC?

How many do you have?

CAPO USED BY PROS

Ryan Adam’s uses Capos. I use Capos. I wrote about it HERE. I currently use D’addario Tri-Action Capo and I’ve been really happy with it.

 

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5 thoughts on “Spring Q&A: What’s the Best Thing and Other Questions

  1. Andrew

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while and appreciate the time you put into it.

    I play a Fender Telecaster Thinline 72′ RI and thought I’d post a quick thought. It’s a great guitar, very versatile (as you’ve pointed out) but I found it to be a bit muddy on the low end. The WRHB make it difficult to change out due to their size (you need a custom pick-guard to allow installation of standard-size humbucke PUPs).

    I did a little research and found that the reissue WRHB’s are not really true to the original design (they’re basically a standard humbucker with a rod magnet, but bigger which makes them darker). There is an easy mod you can do – open up the humbucker cover (this will require a little soldering), push out the bar magnets, remove the pole-piece screws (just unscrew them all) and put Alnico 2 rod-magnets in their place. For about $20 total in parts, it makes a world of difference in tone and really opens up the guitar. I’m happy to provide more details for anyone interested.

    You can find after-market WRHBs that are true to the originals, but they’ll cost you more than the guitar in the first place.

    One last thought – I know you’re not a modeling fan, but the Atomic Amplifire is a great option for folks who are thinking of going that route. The feature set is a bit limited compared to Fractal or Kemper (limited effect routing and selections) but the quality of modeling is considered to be at the same level and it still offers IR loading and costs much less. Our main guitarists (I’m actually the bassist) play tubes exclusively and were pretty impressed with the unit when I brought it in for a show and tell.

    1. Hey Andrew, thanks for commenting!

      that’s the great thing about gear, we can all have different opinions and try different things that work for us in our context.

      πŸ™‚

  2. Very useful list Adam… looks like you’ve already done the hard work for the rest of us πŸ™‚

    How about some recommendations for musical instruments too?

  3. Neil

    Hey Adam!

    I just stumbled upon your “Setting Up a Guitar Rig for Worship” articles from a few years ago. The best help I’ve found so far. I’ve been playing long enough to know I should be much better than I am, and just recently decided to get more serious about my sound.

    Our church is small, and we have two acoustic players (one sings), me on electric (some times I sing when I don’t have to focus on what I’m playing), a lightly experienced piano player, and a person person playing percussion (no drums, just tambourine and shaker).

    Any advice how we can “fill the void” with what we have? What would you suggest I can I do to add on electric?

    Thanks for the great articles! I will be reading many more from your blog!

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