The Electric: Setting up a Guitar Rig for Worship. Part 2- Amplifiers

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, specifically amplifiers. This is part 2 of a 4 part series. Part 1 can be found HERE. Part 3 can be found HERE. Part 4 can be found HERE

The Most Important Thing

As I said in the last post, I believe the amplifier is the most important part of the guitar rig. I didn’t always think so, I used to think that the most important thing was to get the right guitar. This thinking stemmed from years of acoustic guitar playing where the guitar is everything in getting a good sound. For years I barely gave the amplifier a second thought beyond how loud it could get. Then one day I was in a guitar shop trying out a reverb pedal when it struck me that this pedal will never sound as good in my rig because my amp wasn’t as good. It wasn’t a bad amp, but it just wasn’t able to compete. So I sold some gear and bought a very good mid-priced amp, and switched my long term gear savings plan from a high end guitar to a high end amplifier which I hope to get in a few years. Since that time I have not regretted that decision. A great amp can make so/so guitars and effects sound much better, while a great guitar will be hamstrung by a low quality amp.

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The Electric: Setting up a Guitar Rig for Worship. Part 1-Starting Out or Stepping Up

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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.

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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…

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The Electric: Redial

 I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about dialing in and re-dialing your sound and settings for Sunday Morning.

Whether you’re playing Sunday Morning or at any other church service, I believe that everyone needs to dial in or re-dial their rigs and equipment for the worship service ahead.

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The Electric: Cutting Through The Mix

I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Reverb, Reverb Pedals, and how that works in a church band.

Let’s be honest. Sometimes the sound guys don’t understand us. Sometimes the sound guys are not our friends. Sadly, sometimes the worship leader isn’t our friend either. This week I’ll want to talk about where we sit in the mix on a Sunday morning and what we can do about it. What do you do when you’re turned down so much you might as well not be on stage?

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The Electric: Reverb

I try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Reverb, Reverb Pedals, and how that works in a church band.

The simple definition of Reverb (or Reverberation) is that it is created when a sound is produced in an enclosed space causing a large number of echoes to build up and then slowly decay as the sound is absorbed by the walls and air in a room. The Reverb effect has been in use for Decades, from 50’s rockabilly, to 60’s surf. From 70’s classic rock to 80’s New Wave. Reverb was key to Pearl Jam influence on the “grunge” sound and Radiohead’s OK Computer (as well as every other Radiohead album). John Mayer, The Shins, Kings of Leon. Everyone uses Reverb. Everyone talks about Delay in The Edge’s U2 guitar sound, as well as Coldplay ripping off that sound, but the truth is that without reverb neither band gets the classic sounds they are known for.

I’m not going to talk about settings or different pedals or anything like that. There are a lot of good reverb pedals out there and you should go and check them out. What I want to talk about is why I use reverb and how I use reverb.

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The Electric: Good Gear

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about having ‘good gear’ and what that does and does not do for you.

My friends who are electricians buy the best insulated boots for work. My friends who are carpenters buy the best saw and hammer they can. My friend who is a programmer told me he uses Apple computers for the same reasons a plumber would buy the best wrench. Men and women in various trades and crafts buy the best tools they can afford to get the job done. Musicians are no different. But what does having the best gear you can afford get you?

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The Electric: Getting “That Sound”

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about getting “That Sound”

 

Have you ever wondered how your favorite guitarist or band gets “that sound”? Maybe you’ve looked up all their gear on the internet. Then maybe you’ve done the math and realized that their gear would cost you what you make in a 5 year period or more. Can you get “that sound” as a normal guy trying to put a rig together on a budget?

What Do You Want?

If you just bought a Boss Metal Zone distortion but want to do country you may be on the wrong track. Define the sound or sounds you want. What do you like? What does your church band play? Do you play other stuff outside of church? My rig has purposely been set up for country (Buddy Miller, Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams), U2/Coldplay (which means i can do any Christian worship band that rips off those bands cough. cough. Hillsong. cough.), and  rock (Death Cab For Cutie, Arcade Fire, Daniel Lanois) and REM (I rip off Peter Buck a lot)

Do Your Homework

There is no way around it. You have to do the research to know what you want, what musical and technical terms mean, and what gear is right for you.

Let’s say you’re an acoustic guitar player who wants to branch out. You’ve had an old Stratocaster lying around and you’ve decided to play more. Start with something as simple as reading the Wikipedia page on Effects Pedals. Learn the difference.

After you’ve learned what kinds of pedals there are and what they do, you’ll have to figure out what you need. Read up. If you like a certain style of music and you find that a lot of the bands you like use the same pedals (Boss DD-3 Delay or Line 6 DL4 Delay for examples) then that would be a starting place.

Versatility

Let’s say you love August Burns Red and Metallica before the Black album and love to jam at home to those riffs, but the church band you play with wants really bad to sound like David Crowder band. A “metal zone” or similar pedal will pretty much only get you one sound. A Tube Screamer into a tube amp that’s cranked on the “hot” channel with it’s Mids scooped will give you Metallica’s Ride the Lightening, and then if you set the amp to clean it can give you 20 other bands from U2 to Stevie Ray Vaughn. Metallica, U2, SRV all use some version of the Ibanez tube screamer. 1 pedal 3 sounds is a much better value than a single genre pedal.

Most of us are on a budget. Putting a rig together will take time. If you can buy 1 pedal to do the job of two or three then you’ll be better off 9 times out of 10.

Boutique is Not Always Better

Speaking of the Ibanez Tube Screamer. Everyone has one. Brad Paisley, the Edge, SRV. Another pedal that I constantly read about on pro guitar players boards is the Boss DD-3 (or DD-5,6, or 7) or the Boss RV-5 reverb. What I’m saying is that if you read gear forums or blogs or talk to the guy in the Guitar Center trying to upsell you, they’ll for the best sound you really need this [insert more expensive pedal here]. The reality is that a stock TS9 and a lower end TC Electronics Reverb are my go to pedals.

It’s Not Always Pedals.

I was talking to a guy who was asking me how to get the sound and tone from some Hillsong guitar player. I jokingly told him to just rip off the Edge 🙂 But then I looked at the Youtube clip he had sent. The reality was that for all the different pedals he had at his disposal 80% of what was going on was because he was playing through a nice Amp. U2 uses VOX AC-30’s. Coldplay uses Fender Deville’s. Brad Paisley uses Dr. Z. Buddy Miller uses Swart. Metallica used Marshalls and later Messa Boogie’s. The point is that if you have an electric guitar and you have money you’ve saved up you would often be better off getting a good amp than a bunch of effects pedals.

What’s the Point?

It’s worship all about Jesus and not about gear? Yes. but if you look at your pastor’s office you’ll probably find a lot of books (commentaries, maps, histories, dictionaries). Maybe he has a computer with bible software or an ipad with all his notes. These are all tools to preach the gospel and teach the bible. Musical gear are tools make music to praise Jesus, serve His church, and share the gospel or respond to Bible teaching in song. Just as a pastor needs to learn to put a message together, musical servants in the church need to learn how to put a song together. All for the Glory of Jesus.

The Electric: Simplicity

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about being Simplicity in playing.

I love effects pedals. I have a few of them. I’d like more of them. In my free time I read blogs, forums and articles about them. But am I any good without them?

A lot of poor playing and sloppy technique can be covered by effects. It’s part of musical culture now? Can’t sing? Don’t worry, we can fix that, we have effects.

What would happen if you showed up one Sunday sans pedalboard with only your guitar and amp? Could you still do the job required?

Do you know the different sounds you can get from using the pick up selector on your guitar or adjusting your volume? What about your amp?

Maybe the next time you practice, go without the pedals and see what you can do. You may find that it stretches you as a player and that you enjoy the creativity that the simplicity enforces.

The Electric: When You Feel Unwanted

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about being Turned Down in the Mix.

I was scrolling through a forum for electric guitar players, I stumbled across a thread for guy who play in church bands. Many of them had similar stories. They had been asked to play but where almost always non-existent in the house mix, or where never able to hear themselves in the monitors because the keyboard player or background singer complained, etc. They were men who wanted to serve and felt unable to do so.

I confess I understood where a lot of them where coming from and it inspired this post.

There were three general situations represented in that forum. I want to look at the causes and give some thoughts on responses.

1. The victims of sound men…

Their band leaders want them heard but the sound guys (for many possible reasons) don’t. I was a sound guy for many years so I know what a thankless job that is. If it all goes perfect then nobody notices, but if one little thing goes wrong it’s all their fault. Over the years I’ve been amazed how many people feel the freedom to go back and complain to the sound guys who are often only doing what they’ve been told to do.

That being said there are sound guys who see themselves as a “check” for the worship band, or who don’t get the vision for what’s going on. That can be rough, I’ve been there. This is where good, honest and open communication comes in. Talk to your band leader. Be honest, have dialogue, and maybe don’t do it during sound check before service ( 🙂 ). It’s possible that this is an issue that your worship leader is unaware of or is trying to work out already. More communication is generally a good thing.

2. We Like Guitars, kinda… 

The guys who’s church wants an electric guitar player, but it’s not the emphasis… Most of the music I listen to is guitar driven, but that doesn’t mean the music your church band does is. A lot of churches are piano driven, many others have acoustic folk in their roots. The is where the “it’s not about you” or “are you here to serve?” comes into play. A lot of worship band players have been told this, especially electric guitar players. This is the situation where it really applies. Maybe you’re not up in the mix because you’re wanted to fill in the sound, but the music isn’t the music you’re used to. If you’re used to driving guitars, you may think it’s a personal thing when really it’s a sound thing.

Like I said earlier. Communication is a good thing. Communication up front to understand our role as guitar players in our church music community, and communication afterwards to head off any misunderstandings.

3. We Just Aren’t That Into You…

Then there’s the 3rd group, those who aren’t wanted… I feel for you guys. I’m not sure how you got in the church band, you may not be sure yourself, but you’re there and you feel like you might as well not be. That sucks, that really sucks.

Should you leave your church over it? Maybe and No.

No because a church should be a family. I still come to christmas dinner even though my mom insists on playing that terrible Josh Groban christmas album. (Haven’t you ever heard of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, or even Amy Grant Mom? 🙂 ) No because maybe God doesn’t want you to serve (for now) in music at church and maybe you’re supposed to teach kids in the sunday school or help mix the soundboard. Church should be a family and if you leave so quickly over this you weren’t part of the family to begin with. I you just take your amp and go else where, you may be missing out of the great things God has planned for you that you can’t see because all you can see is “your callings” as a musician.

Maybe this is a way for you to see that God is calling you somewhere else. You might that you find that the form and expression of your church doesn’t mesh with yours, and maybe that’s part of the problem in the band experience for you. For example: You come from a Pentecostal background and you’re serving/playing a baptist church, or you only play Classic Rock/John Fogerty style leads and the church you’re at is looking for something more along the lines of John Tesh. I find that a church’s style and expressions of worship and art are often linked (directly or indirectly) with it’s views towards evangelism, discipleship, community, and theology. It’s possible that something like this is God launching you out somewhere new. If that’s the case, then see the above about a church being family and leave in the light of that great truth.

These are just some thoughts. We have the great privilege of serving Jesus and His church through music and creativity, and finding our place in His service is part of our Christian journey. If you find yourself in this situation, as many of us have, know that you are not alone and this is a great chance for you to grow deeper in prayer, God’s grace, and the community God has called you to be a part of in the local church.