Playing electric guitar in church

Option #1 my squire #telecaster (pardon the mess) #twitterNormally, I play acoustic guitar when I lead congregational singing with our team, but I’ve chosen to pull out my Telecaster for the first time, for a couple of reasons:

  1. My mate who usually plays electric in our band is away
  2. We, have a new drummer & had been going accoustic /  sans-drums the past few months
  3. The songs which fit the text will sound good with electric
  4. I’ve been wanting to play it for a while, and the three reasons above were a good excuse

It’s been a really interesting experience (learning curve) to come back to electric guitar over the last 12 months or so. I had an electric guitar when I was in uni, but enjoyed a different kind of style back then: one which really just needed cranked distortion, primary barre chords and no other effects. I’m getting much better at using electric in the arrangements of my demo’s, but the kind of sounds and textures you can create by layering tracks is very different from what you can do playing live. At our practice on Saturday, as I was attempting to play rhythm guitar, I struggled at times to get a sound which blended well with the rest of the band, but that wasn’t lost or the other extreme of being harsh, particularly when it came to using overdriven and distorted effects. What sounded good on its own, in my apartment, didn’t necessarily translate well to the mix of the whole band.

One problem was, perhaps, that I was using a DI amp simulator which I often use for recording at night (It was easier to carry on the tram!) but I think I will take my amp for the service on Saturday (Bugera V5 tube amp).

I’m not alone in this. I went online to ask a few friends with more electric-worship experience, including my mate James, who was a far better punk-rocker than I ever was:

The Cog12 CD launch back in 2003.. remember how beads were a thing back then?

A shot I took at The Cog12 CD launch back in 2003.. remember how beads were a thing back then?

Anyhow.. as it happens James was about to write a post himself on electric guitar for worship! You should read it, as it’s really helpful (with, I confess, a very slight reservation on my part about some of the Jesus Culture theology behind #2 – but that’s something best talked out over a coffee or some other beverage 😉 ).

I’d just like to highlight one thing (#5) which applied to my predicament:

Overdrive sounds amazing for praise and worship music. But, it’s easy to let it get muddy and saturated. I mean, I’m a punk rocker, so every cell in my body wants to crank the whole rig to 11. But, the more time goes by, the more I’m turning down the “drive” knob on my pedals.

I was actually surprised at how little overdrive guys like Jeffrey Kunde (Jesus Culture) or Nigel Hendroff (Hillsong) actually use. There’s some good videos on Youtube where they run through their pedal-chain and I was shocked by the way they had things set. They drive their amps harder, so they’re just on the edge of breakup and then use very (very) light overdrive to kick the amp over the edge.

The hardest thing for me was to give away the saturation that comes from cranked distortion. But, it’s definitely been worth pushing through and learning to play cleaner. A compressor pedal really helps with this. Lots of sustain, without the noise.

I’ve used the ‘less is more’ mantra with my team before – good to be reminded that it goes for my overdrive pedal too! The good thing about my V5 amp (in fact, the reason I got it) is that it has an attenuator, which means you can really drive the first tube while reducing the output to 0.1W, i.e. not go deaf in the process. I tried James’ suggestion (#8) of using the amp to get the overdrive, using the Screamer pedal to help push it over the edge on occasions, and it’s a much better sound. For light picking it’s pretty clean, warm with a bit of grit, but then gets nice and crunchy, but still transparent with a bit of strumming. When I do want more saturation, I hit the distortion pedal (also turned down from what I would normally want it on) which I find to be creamier and more transparent than the the the overdrive.

James also makes a good point (#7) about not always playing open chords down in first position. For an acoustic-guitar chord hack like me, that’s what I do.. In my demo recordings I’m trying to find nice little two and three note arpeggios up near the 12th fret for electric parts, which really add texture, but I need to get better at that, and so this summer I need to take the time to learn some scales and different chord shapes and positions.

Again, do read James’ 10 tips for worship guitarists if you’re a guitarist or lead a team with a guitarist. And no post about guitar effects would be complete (I’m looking at you James! :p) with a pedal-board shot:

My pedalboard

My pedalboard: clockwise from top-left: Harley Benton PowerPlant Jr power supply, Behringer Reverb Machine (for shimmer), Korg Pitch Black tuner, Behringer DC9 compressor, Lead Foot volume, Der Screamer – a Tube Screamer clone I built from kit, der Plus – a  clone of MXR Distortion Plus also built from a kit, Joyo Tremolo and a Harley Benton (Joyo) Delay.


2 responses to “Playing electric guitar in church”

  1. Chetan Martin says:

    Cheeky bro……:)

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