(2286 comments, 594 posts)
Interests: God, my wife Jamianne, music, U2, tone, pretending.
Home page: http://guitarforworship.com
Posts by Karl
Merry Christmas, everyone! It’s December 1st again, and that means that once again I’m releasing a Christmas album, and that half of everything made on my music until January 1st goes to help families in need over the holidays. Of course, the album is still free to anyone who wants it.
This year, the album is re-recorded, remixed, and remastered. There is also a brand new version of my favorite carol, the Wexford Carol.
Of course, the album is still free to anyone who wants it. The half to charity only applies to you kind souls who insist on paying. And for which I am very grateful. And this year, I am more grateful than usual. We are making an addition to the family that for once, is not a guitar. We just found out a couple months ago that my wife is pregnant with our first! We are super excited! It does come at an ‘interesting’ time financially, so anything paid for this album is extremely appreciated.
We are almost through the first trimester, so we are finally able to tell people about the baby. So that’s the reason I’ve been so absent from this blog; taking care of her, and trying to take as many jobs as I can to support the new family. I will try to blog just as much as possible though! I appreciate all of you, and the community you’ve created here. I’ll do my best not to let it down. I think God is doing something right now with like-minded people coming together with the only thoughts being loving God, loving people, and the words of Jesus.
I think this phrase encapsulates everything I want my life to be about. How did the hugeness of the thought of God…become so humanized that we think the only place He can be found is in between four walls with a corporate logo overhead? Jesus said that the kingdom of God is within you. Acts records Stephen as saying that God does not dwell in houses built by human hands. If God is everywhere, and His kingdom within us, then perhaps Jesus was right…it really is as simple as loving God and loving your neighborhood.
I know at least in my life, it’s completely disingenuous to listen to one more podcast without actually living the very simple words of Jesus. As the old quote goes, “The church has been educated far beyond its willingness to obey.” We don’t need more leaders, or more eloquently delivered ‘unpacking’ of the ‘Scriptures.’ We need…I need…to start simply living and loving.
Here you go, world. Here’s our God. He comes in the form of love, and sometimes that love comes in the form of an all-consuming fire. But you should never have to buy Him. You should never have to feel like you can only truly come to know Him by buying so and so’s latest book, or by paying your monthly subscription fee to so and so’s website, or by giving ‘a one time gift’ to a corporation. God asks a lot of you; but us Christians? We’re not selling God anymore…we’re giving His love away, His words both soft and demanding away, our lives away the way He did for us. We’re giving our God away.
Oh God, help this to be true in my life and not just something I write on a blog.
This is not the old preacher trick, ‘You’ll never find the perfect church because as soon as you have, you’ll be there.’ Because while as a statement that may be true, the phrase is more often than not used as a deflector for church criticism or an unconscious motivation for the idea that since nothing in this life is perfect, we should simply relax and stop trying. No, this is truly an honest look at myself in order to continue trying to bring change about in the way we as a western culture have chosen to worship God. There are many, many needs for reform in the western church; but not the least of which is in each of our hearts. And since I have no way of looking into anyone else’s heart but my own, this post is focused on the one thing I can change right now……me.
Vulnerability has unfortunately become just as disingenuous in our churches as authenticity and relevance. Our authenticity is disingenuous because of course, the very moment you start trying to be authentic, you are no longer authentic. With relevance, I can tell you straight up that now that I no longer work as a pastor at a church, what is relevant to me as a parishioner is light years away from what was relevant to me as a paid pastor, and what I strove to make relevant to the parishioners. I can only imagine the gap of relevance between an actual celebrity pastor and say, a 55-hour-a-week pharmacist. In the same way, vulnerability has had its teeth pulled out because we somehow managed to take weakness out of the equation. Vulnerability is not necessarily a phrase you hear a lot about in the Bible. It only means a lot because it encompasses a myriad of ideals extremely close to the heart of the Bible: weakness, humility, meekness, and the idea that someone mugs you and as they’re running off you’re like ‘Wait! You forgot my shirt!’ Jesus speaks very highly of smallness. In fact, we are also told by the apostle Paul that weakness is so important because then Jesus can show His strength, rather than ours. Since we are all weak, vulnerability would just simply be letting our pretenses down and showing that weakness. But as humans, we (I) have a really difficult time doing that. So we managed to take the weakness out of the vulnerability. Let me give you some examples. I can honestly say I’ve said each and every one of these, either from the stage, in a small group context, or just in general conversation:
- “With all my heart, I just wanted to melt people’s faces off with my screaming guitar solo! The chords were perfect and it would’ve been glorious. But then I remembered for what seems like the hundredth time in my life: never play five notes where one will do. When will I learn?”
Subtext: I can play ripping guitar solos.
- “Hey, I’m a sinner just like you! I’m gonna be vulnerable right now: I struggle with anger. The other day on the freeway, someone cut me off and I was so angry I started to speed up and try to run them off the road. I was ready to throw down if I’d caught up with them! But by the grace of God, I was able to calm down, and just let God deal with them.”
Subtext: “I’m powerful. I get angry. I curb my manliness for the sake of the kingdom.”
- “Sometimes I really fail as a pastor. I was in my office the other day for a counseling meeting, and it was about noon, and the whole time while the couple was talking, all I could think about was….Chipotle!!”
Subtext: I am funny and relatable.
- “I’m gonna be honest with you…porn is a real hangup for me.”
Subtext: I’m a man and I like sex.
- “Dude…I so hear you. Sometimes, I just get peopled out. I’ve got family, friends, coworkers…and then by the time I get to church, I’m just done. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m sure people think I’m a jerk when they try to talk to me, but sometimes…you just fail.”
Subtext: Ya, I’m pretty popular.
Now while all these may be true, may be real instances, and may even be beneficial to hear and talk about from time to time, each of them lacks true vulnerability…which would be making me appear as the weak, tiny speck of dust that God chose to save through absolutely no merit of my own, that I am. Vulnerability is not vulnerability if it is devoid of weakness and filled with subtext that makes you look good, powerful, or socially acceptable. True vulnerability is going to make you look bad. Gross. Weak. Even, perhaps, socially taboo amongst your Christian friends and in the Christian media. And that is what I think the church needs more of. So as I launch into the next year of saying some things to try to edify the church by questioning the need for change, I want to start with true vulnerability on my part. Because that’s the only thing I can really change on my own, the thing I’m most responsible for, and if we all did it, probably the thing that would help the most. And I’ll start with this. This blog has gotten big. And when I started it, I thought it would become big because of my amazing guitar skills. But by and large, the majority of commenters say things like, “Thanks for your honesty on the blog. It’s been refreshing to watch your journey through failures, to become less and less of a jerk worship leader.” And when I look back on my old posts, I know those folks are dead-on. I thought I would be used for my strengths. And instead, God wanted to use me for my weaknesses. My weaknesses that were coming out in posts when I didn’t even mean them to. That actually stings even right now as I type this. So here’s some honest things on which working would be a great first step for church reform:
- I’m scared to do this.
- I question now, why of all the avenues of serving God I could have chosen, I chose the one that put me at the front of the stage.
- I want to tell myself that I tried very hard to ask questions as possible change catalysts from the inside, while I was on staff or serving at various churches. But I’ve learned over the last few months that I have a very serious fear of conflict. I’m sure that what I thought were affronts to the status quo on my part, were veiled at best.
- I’ve led worship from the electric guitar sometimes because I’d get bored on the acoustic.
- I have carried guitar solos out too long because I liked my own playing.
- I have cut guitar solos too short when it was clear people were worshiping and praying and responding, because I was afraid of what the pastor would say.
- There’s a part of me that wonders if being this vulnerable and showing weakness will actually make me look more awesome. And I like it.
- I have tuned my guitars before services when I knew they were in tune, I just didn’t have anyone to interact with and didn’t want to look awkward.
- When I felt God telling me to leave established church occupational ministry to explore what else He wanted me to do, I fought it. Probably harder than I’ve let on to anybody but my wife. The reasons I fought it were money, and because in the church, I was somebody. Outside of working in the church, that title and that position…gone. I used to have people in my office, counseling them, moving them around on schedules. Now I ask them if they’ll hire me.
- I am not a very strong person. I like to think of myself as one, but sometimes my hands shake when I’m disagreeing with people.
- I can’t remember the last time I had righteous anger. I’m usually angry because somewhere deep inside, my hubris, pride, or ego is being threatened.
- Sometimes I’m afraid that most of my personality is pretty much composited from movies I like.
- I am extremely manipulative, and sometimes I’m completely unaware that I’m even doing it.
- I often only care about people inasmuch as they support my view of myself. In essence, you’re either a walking thumbs up or thumbs down to me.
- I’ve lied to people in the form of a compliment that wasn’t true because I wanted them to view me as a super nice guy.
- I have made God a means to my own ends. For money, security, and stature. Not every day…but too much.
That stuff hurts to be honest about. But I feel it’s important because if I were to work on those things in myself, the church I was at would immediately be a better place. As much as I praised the idea of vulnerability in this post, it’s still only the first step. If you never let the humility take root past your mouth, and into your heart to let it effect change in your daily actions, then it was worthless. And most of my above failures can be solved with a good dose of humility. True humility…just plain thinking of myself less.
“The point is, He wants you to know Him: wants to give you Himself. And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact, be humble–delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life. He is trying to make you humble in order to make this moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly, fancy-dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are.”
- C.S. Lewis
The last time I felt it was time to say what needed to be said, it was about cloning pedals. And I lost about half of my readership. haha Well…time to lose another half.
If you’ve been following this blog for the last year or so, it’s no secret that I feel it’s time for some change in our worship, in our music, in our churches, and in our lives. I want to emphasize the ‘I’ part. I feel. This is not necessarily gospel truth; but if no one ever stands up and shouts that the boat is heading towards the falls, the boat goes over the falls. Now possibly, I’ll be the one jumping overboard and ending up all wet when the boat drops harmlessly over a slight rise in the river, and then I have to swim back to the boat sheepishly, but at this point in my life, that’s a risk I’m willing to take.
So this is just fair warning to all you readers out there…you’re probably going to be angry with me over some posts within the next year or so. And that’s okay. One person doesn’t have all the answers; hence, I don’t have all the answers. But discussions, even heightened ones, as a community…can get us far closer than any one individual. That’s why the early churches were set up as communities, with the leadership responsibilities and accountability spread over many individuals. That’s one of the many things I think we’re missing today. So fair warning…I’m not nailing 95 theses, but I am doing what in our comfortable society today is almost the same as nailing 95 theses: disagreeing with people.
I feel like we perhaps may need change, when I see:
- The misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:13 into meaning that anything that causes a fellow Christian to feel the slightest bit ‘unhappy’, is seen as ‘stumbling them.’ No, stumbling you is handing you a beer when I know you’re in AA and might beat your wife and kids if you go out to a bar with me. Asking if you’ve taken a second look at the theological content in the lyrics of that song you’re singing, is not stumbling you.
- Worship conferences tagged and tweeted with every ‘hero of the faith’ imaginable except God.
- Churches more concerned with ‘casting vision’ than carrying out God’s already-Biblically-laid-out vision.
- Musicians and worship leaders reamed for not being vulnerable enough in their music, and then reamed again when they are because we actually preferred when we could pretend they were perfect.
- The ‘feeling of anointing’, which we’re not really sure what it means anyway, having more validity in our minds than actual facts about pedal builders, pastors, worship leaders, and the like.
- The corporate structure of churches being more like Starbucks than like Acts. In fact, at our conferences, we reference Starbucks more than Acts.
- Instagram after Instagram post of broadcast-ready stages bigger than the seating area, filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear so that we can play yet another poor rendition of Thriller so that all the folks hanging out in the suburban meth lab across the street just waiting to hear a poor rendition of Thriller, will finally walk in the door.
- Worship leaders spending more time on their #sundaysetlist graphics than they did picking the actual setlist.
- The church defended as if it is above any and all criticism because it is the ‘bride of Christ’, when probably the most unloving thing you can do to a bride is to remain silent and immovable while you see what may be danger that could do her harm.
- The fact that ‘church’ in our minds is fast becoming ‘that big building with the cool logo that happens to have people in it’, rather than, ‘those people who love, who happen to meet in that building over there.’
- Or for those of us who have worked in church so long that it now only means 1041(c) Non-profit.
- Some of us church leaders who have been in the church a long time (myself included just a few years ago), having no idea how far we’ve slipped from ‘loving God’ into ‘doing church’. But yet we’re still bringing new Christians in to serving roles, for whom, all they’ve ever seen of Christianity is deadlines and board meetings and pedalboards and catchy blog titles. We may literally never be giving them the chance to see God’s love as we once saw it. Pure and simple without having to make it so, living and active without our help just our obedience, and without hashtags.
So apologies in advance for the next year. This isn’t to start controversy, or trend. In fact, I think my trending has already started to steadily decline. This isn’t a bitter epilogue…I voluntarily stepped down from a paid leadership position at a growing church not because I was bitter, but because I felt God had been talking to me about some things about which it would have been hypocritical to speak had I still been taking a paycheck. How do you ask about taking away a stage when you make your living from being on one. This is not to start a movement. This is simply to be obedient.
I don’t have all the answers. But I do have questions. And to go super nerdy on you…”Questions, Frodo. Questions that need answering.” So I guess I’m doing this to be obedient…and to be Gandalf.
I’m going to be very open and honest here about music and worship…I’m scared a lot of the time. Everyone talks about how there needs to be more openness and vulnerability about the deep, dark, questioning, and heartbreaking things of life, love, and God in our music. And most specifically how our Christian music and worship music seems to have little of that. And I’m the first one to jump on the bandwagon and say how it’s all about money, and producers running the industry. Which may be true. But in my own life? What’s true far before we even get to producing the music, is that it is way easier to be superficial than it is to be vulnerable. Yes, we need true vulnerability…but no ones wants to be the vulnerable one.
I laugh sometimes because at all of our conferences, we always talk about David from the Psalms being the ultimate worship leader. But I can see David having a very tough time getting hired in any of our churches today. ‘Ya, we checked out your iTunes link, and you certainly have a lot of talent. But…it’s a little dark, don’t you think?’ In fact, the vulnerable ones, who ask the hard questions, and expose some of the doubts and dark musings, are usually found on secular labels. Lyrics such as ‘When banks became cathedrals’, ‘I have a Father…Said I have many mansions and there are many rooms to see…but I left by the back door and I through away the key’, ‘Jesus, I’m waiting here Boss…I know You’re looking out for us, but maybe You’re hands aren’t free’…are all found on secular labels. Dark, yes. Doubtful, yes. Kind of like David in the Psalms? Yes.
It’s taken me a long time to get to that place, and I am still not there. There’s a lot in my life about which I’m just not ready to share with the world. I recognize the selfishness in that. But I am getting closer. So I want to share this with you. This has been a long time coming, and is more honest in music than I have ever been. There is darkness, and hope. Death is dealt with, doubts about eternity are dealt with, loneliness, unrequited love, and fear are all in there. This is something I have wanted to do for a while, and have been too scared to do it. Thus far, the response has been extremely encouraging. I think dealing with the human emotions and fears and dark places that we all struggle with, makes the hope that much more real; because when we are hopeful, we’re not just putting on the face we think people want to see.
And for those of you who just didn’t care about any of that, there’s analog synths and Strymon pedals in there.
Love you all.
Which is very hipster of me. Or anti-hipster, which is even more hipster, which is less hipster, which is more hipster, and then I remember how much pop culture hurts my head. But I don’t write this to be hipster or snobby; I write this to maybe lend a little bit of sense and earthiness to our gear addictions. Because, as I look back over my years of posting, there’s a distinct possibility that I’ve done more harm than good regarding this topic in the past. And by ‘distinct possibility’, I mean ‘Yes I have.’
As usual, it seems we have these two camps again. We’ve got those who think they can’t live without the Big Sky, and those who condescend to anyone who wants one. And in reality, it’s a metal box (a cool metal box, mind you) that replicates very good sound algorithms. Definitely not something without which your tone (life) will end, and definitely not something worth being condescending towards your fellow humans. It’s a pedal. So here’s my advice:
If you have $479.99 to spend, dig its sounds, and feel like those sounds are worth the price, more power to you. Have at it, and make beautiful music. Strymon is a great company, with a killer technician and team of technicians who really understand sound and I’m sure this pedal will sound fabulous.
If you do not have $479.99 to spend, and have thought of nothing else since Monday save for pondering life solo kidney, remember that the email from Strymon did not change your tone. If you liked your tone before you heard about the Big Sky, I guarantee that if you go plug into your rig right now and listen to music from the reverb pedal(s) you have instead of music from the youtube demos, you will sound exactly the same as last week. The release of the Big Sky did not magically make every other reverb sound you’ve ever played or loved on any album, bad. In fact, it did absolutely nothing in the physical world in which we live, to those sounds. So enjoy your tone and remember that Jeff Buckley used an Alesis unit, and Sigur Ros uses Electro-Harmonix (available at Guitar Center!). And in a year or so, the Big Sky will be everywhere and you can trade for it.
If you are not buying a Big Sky, I certainly hope it’s not just to prove a point or be cool. And know that the more you fun you make of those who do, the more it looks like you actually really want one. The fanatic is always hiding a secret doubt. I’ve talked with people before who make fun of those who buy $500 pedals, and then I’m like…wait. You may not buy $500 pedals, but your amp cost more than my car! We all have our pet expenditures, and those with a Big Sky will sound good using it and love it, and those with an RV5 will sound good using it…and love the fact that they’re playing an RV5.
Just trying to add a little down-to-earth sense into the conversation. It’s not as exciting I know, but debt and condescension suck. So do sleepless nights over metal boxes, and later on in life, sleepless nights over the realization that you’re having a hard time telling the difference in your recordings between the algorithms from the metal boxes and the algorithms from Pro Tools.
Oh and for what it’s worth, I did not buy a Big Sky because I just downright don’t have the money. I may end up with one in a few months or so when I can trade for it. And I may not.
(I took these for…no reason…… )
Someone asked me via YouTube the other day about getting rid of unwanted noise from your rig. As I was typing the response, I thought ‘Oh cool! A practical gear post for the blog. Haven’t had one of those since I was swimming in delay pedals.’
Thanks for all of the instructional videos. They’ve really helped me with my music.
Wanted to ask how much, if any, noise (hiss or hum) you get from your board given all of the pedals you have. I don’t hear any in your recordings, so I thought you might clean it up somehow or it might be more apparent in the room than on the recording. I’ve got some hiss in my rig that is more apparent now that I’ve been using it. Maybe I’m too anal about it though. You can see my rig on my channel if interested. I’m currently using a switchblade switcher and have been thinking about ditching it for just a straight through board like yours if I can’t get rid of the hiss.
Btw, I find your music very inspiring and is what I hope to be able to create someday.
Man, thanks for the kind words on the music. That’s super encouraging to hear.
As far as hum, it’s definitely something we all battle! haha A few things that have helped me:
1) The main reason my board is so big is that I have a Furman Power Factor Pro power conditioner underneath it. That helps a lot with hum. All my pedals and my amp are powered by it.
2) Good cables. I use Evidence Audio. Expensive, but they make a huge difference.
3) Voodoo Labs PP2+ or equivalent pedal powers that have isolated outs.
4) Being conscious of it. If there’s a pedal I love but it’s noisy, I buy a different one. If I’m totally diggin’ the neck pickup on my strat for a certain part, but the mix doesn’t cover the buzz, I switch to neck and middle. It’s just part of the battle as a guitarist. And if the recording is still too noisy, the filter in the mastering process on a recording can help, or you can put one on yourself on your mix in Logic.
5) Always make sure your amp and pedalboard are plugged into the same power strip (or one plug source).
6) And then lastly, I was working with a very famous producer a couple years back who’s claim to fame is producing Earth Wind & Fire (not to name drop…just to show that his opinion holds value), and I was nervous to work with him, so I was stressing like crazy about a hum coming from my rig. He walks over and says, ‘Just sounds like good old-fashioned guitar tone to me.’ So a lot of times we stress about things that the pro’s just consider normal. Take a listen to Alanis Morissette’s ‘That I Would Be Good’ studio version, in headphones. There is what I would consider an unacceptable amount of hum coming from the guitar throughout the whole song. But no one seemed to notice or care, including the producers, the band, or the public.
So we chase it to a point, and then after that we just play. Hope that helps!
P.S. Thank you to Dave for the question!
So this idea hit me yesterday as I was recording. I want a ton of voices, all singing together, all in different parts of the world, on this one song. So if you want to sing on my newest EP, now’s your chance. But I need the files by this weekend!
I’ve already received some files, and they are amazing. This is gonna be super cool. And you don’t have to have the best voice, either. I don’t mind having a Jay-Z autotuned one somewhere in the mix. Send ‘em in!
- I don’t think Jesus ever meant for the church to be a rung in the corporate ladder.
- Likewise, the worship team at your local church is not a stepping stone for bigger and better worship teams.
- Sunday morning worship is not a gig to put on your facebook page.
- If the worship is recorded, and it does not trend on youtube, God was still glorified. And bonus round, that was (or should have been) the purpose anyway.
- If the job of a worship leader is to get everyone worshiping God and not them, then the famous ones would be the bad ones, and the best ones we’d never know about. (Caveat: if a person has a hero complex, that is not your fault. It doesn’t mean however, that you ever stop trying to point away from yourself and towards Jesus.)
- It sounds extremely disingenuous to me to say that our singing on a stage on a Sunday morning in America is on the front lines of Christian warfare, when there are missionaries and underground churches literally on the front lines of their lives while we stress that the confidence monitor screen didn’t change in time and we messed up on words we should’ve memorized anyway. Not to mention that the Biblical instances from which we are drawing that metaphor are of the Israelites in actual battles. Like with swords and death and stuff.
- I believe that if a front line case can be made for the western church institution, it would be the nursery workers. I fully expect a separate banquet hall in heaven with a sign on the closed doors that reads: ‘Former Church Nursery Workers Only…Because While You Were Worried that your Overdrive Pedal Might Be Sounding Thin, We Were Wiping Feces off of Walls.’
- I have used worship as an excuse to spend extra money on rush shipping for pedals so they would arrive in time for weekend services. (Fuzz pedals, too. Not just the ever-important delay.) I believe I was wrong.
- Sometimes the sermon is more important than our last song.
- And sometimes…it’s debatable.
- I believe in any given worship music setting, there are at least 25% in the congregation who could do this as well or better than me had they decided to pick up the guitar in high school. It’s a humbling thought.
- I do not think we should ban electric guitars, drums, moving lights, fog machines, ProPresenter, digital soundboards, or secular songs in worship. I do think that if we had the ability to be bare, and open, and blood red honest before God about our emphasis on these things, they would start to look a lot different.
Hey everyone, so this blog doesn’t pay the bills but graphic arts, photography, and music do. So I’ve been doing that. Apologies. Apologies…all around. (George Sr.)
But…if you want more guitar and you’re local, I’m teaching two guitar workshops at a worship conference this Saturday hosted by a great church named Trinity Church in Redlands, CA. Best of all, it’s free. If you’ve been keeping up with my journey over the last year or so, you know that when ‘worship’ and ‘free’ are in the same sentence, I’m in.
Here’s the link if you’d like to register. And Bill, the worship pastor there, does ask that you please register and not just show up.
Looking forward to seeing you guys there, and then in a couple weeks having our meeting! Taking over Southern California one luncheon at a time.
(I just really can’t seem to help myself.)