Essential Pedals For A Worship Guitarist (G is for Gear!)
ESSENTIAL PEDALS FOR A WORSHIP GUITARIST (G is for Gear!)
In worship songs, you usually hear the bell-like chimes of clean guitar tone with a hint of transparent overdrive, washed with delays and anointed with a touch of reverb.
A worship guitarist wears many hats. If your team doesn’t have a keys/synth player, then you need to be able to provide waves of ambience that set the appropriate mood for prayer, or a quiet part of the song where the leader may want to dwell in.
If your team has two keys players, one playing piano and the other supporting the ambient pads, then our role becomes similar to food garnish - the cherry on top. Instead of playing full on chords, a touch of triads or simple leads to fill in the spaces is all we really need to play. We have to choose the notes selectively, play lesser and know when to stop playing to create contrast.
For the faster and upbeat praise songs, here is where need our overdrives and other special effects.
Our aim today is to talk about pedals that can fulfil as many songs as possible - the essentials.
The pedal tuner is the most important pedal to have because it does two important things: it allows you to tune fast and it acts as a mute for your signal chain. Some pedal tuners like the TC Electronic Polytune Series lets you strum all six strings at once to have a quick check on where your tuning is. This is really helpful for checking your tuning between songs. Next, depending where you place your tuner in the signal chain, it can be a complete mute for your pedalboard that eliminates noise to the amp. This ensures that you won’t be contributing any unwanted noise during the quiet moments.
Overdrive/distortion is the sound of electric guitars, that sweet and smooth crunch that is the base of all riffs and the backbone of rhythmic playing. You will want an overdrive that has a ‘transparent’ voicing. This means that it preserves your original tone – how your guitar naturally sounds – as much as possible and then blends the overdrive colour on top. Gain is also best used in small amounts. Get yourself at least two overdrive pedals to set as your first and second gain stages. The first is for adding a nice layer of warmth that you can use almost anytime, while the second stage is for solos and heavy comping. You would want 'mid hump' voicing overdrive as the second layer.
No, we’re not talking about the popular milkshake chain. Although I think every worship guitarist would appreciate a cup to boost their morale (pun-intended). A boost pedal elevates your signal and makes it hotter or louder, so that you can cut through the mix. This is used when you want to have that little bit of extra juice in your signal and at the same time not be too heavily distorted.
Delay is the bread and butter of worship guitar as it adds layers to your sound, literally. Many iconic riffs have a touch of delay or are written with delay so that it sounds thick and full. Delays are also essential in producing ambient sounds so you can prolong your guitar signal long beyond its natural sustain. There are many types of delay available with different voicings. If we had to pick two, we would suggest going for a Digital Delay and a Swell delay. The digital delay reproduces your sound 1-for-1 and the swell delay is used for swells.
Wait, why do I need a volume pedal when I already have a volume knob on my guitar? Well, the volume pedal takes off the finger gymnastics you have to do if you were trying to do ambient swells. Therefore, you can do more consistent swells with a volume pedal. Some volume pedals also come equipped with a boost function internally or even a tuner pedal built-in, like the Ernie Ball MVP Series.
Last but not least, you need a reverb pedal. Reverb is the effect created by sounds bouncing off the walls repeatedly so get that ‘cave’ or ‘echo’ effect. Notice how your singing sounds better when you’re in the toilet or in a large room? The reverb effect adds depth to your sound and is essential in creating ambience. We also suggest having access to two kinds of reverb – plate and shimmer. Most solid state amplifiers have a reverb available which you can set to a subtle hall setting. The shimmer settings add an octave higher to what you are playing and sends it into the caverns or outer space creating a ‘heavenly’ sound.
There are many pedals to choose from and it can be a daunting task trying to decide which ones to get. After all you would need years of playing and testing in order to find out what you really like. To truncate that process, our teachers here at Guitar Emerge have years of experience playing all kinds of pedals and can guide you to which ones suit your current situation as best as possible. Our students do not have to fret over common pedalboard-building issues as they have the guidance from our teachers.
Are you thinking of building your own board to start playing in church? We have effects for our students to try out during the lessons, only at Guitar Emerge. Sign up for a free trial guitar lesson today.