Worship, the Holy Spirit, & Emotionalism

It’s Sunday morning. The worship is flowing. Which of course follows that the delay must be flowing. The led lights fade to a soft blue a la Editors concert of five years ago; splashed across stretched white triangle sheet sails that cascade across the stage a la every church in America because ‘relevant’ refers to what Mars Hill is doing, not to what your local congregation cares about. Hands are raised, people are singing, and you put the last tasteful note atop your searing anti-solo, and slide down to a climactic G tonic…no wait…oh, I guess we’re doing the chorus again…so…C chord! Half a beat late. The keyboardist smiles tauntingly at you because he didn’t hit the wrong chord. It’s his one consolation for being asked to hold a single G note pad through the entire 8 minute song…it works in every chord.

You all walk into the green room as the pastor closes worship with a prayer, hugging each other as you individually congratulate one another on being titans of the worship universe. Someone makes the obligatory worship team green room joke about Van Halen and the brown m&m’s, everyone laughs, and then someone else seriously says, ‘But seriously…where are the m&m’s? Who’s on hospitality this weekend?’ The guitarists immediately huddle and begin discussing which pedals they had on for what parts, the drummer and bassist start surfing youtube on their phones, and the female vocalists start talking about things that to this day remain mysteries to those of us of the male persuasion. If the keyboardist is handsome, he talks with the female vocalists. If he is not, he orbits from group to group, hoping to be noticed. ‘Pads? Pads? I was the one playing the pads?’ Finally the worship leader smiles as he brushes his tousled hair out of his beard, and says, ‘Sorry about that last chorus, guys. When the Spirit leads, the Spirit leads.’

No. I’m sorry, but I feel like it needs to be said, so I’m just going to come right out and say it. No. Sure, there is no reason why the Holy Spirit cannot lead you to do another chorus. But do we need the Holy Spirit’s leading to look out at a group of people, realize they are into it, feel the emotional energy in the room and in the music, and decide to do another chorus? No. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with using our everyday observation skills to make judgement calls, even when it comes to more spiritual matters. The problem is that we as Christians (myself included) tend to have a habit of attributing all of our spur of the moment emotional judgement calls, to the Holy Spirit. And in so doing, I feel like we have created this little box in which the Holy Spirit works. And that little box is about a five second window before the time of the action we feel He is leading us to do. Change a song, go long on the message, give a worship sermon-ette, change the capo on a song, go acoustic without telling the band…all changes that we attribute to the Holy Spirit, and that take place five seconds before it’s time to execute said action. Which begs the question: Is the Holy Spirit incapable of knowing what is going to be needed before it actually happens, or are we incapable of doing anything other than using our senses to perceive an emotional mood in a group of people, change accordingly, and then attribute it to ‘sensing the Spirit’ simply because it was a change based on emotion?

Again, it is not as if the Spirit ‘can’t’ or ‘doesn’t’ lead us to do things on the spur of the moment. But when He never ever seems to lead us to those changes prior to the moment, logic really does push us to question whether or not all those spur of the moment decisions really were from the prompting of the Holy Spirit. If another chorus was needed, or if you needed to stop a song because the guy in the red shirt needed prayer, or if you needed to explain the true meaning of worship before a given song, why did the Holy Spirit not lead you to those conclusions before you heard that the music was going well and another chorus felt right, or before you saw the guy in the red shirt that was crying, or before you saw that no one in the congregation was worshiping so you decided to give a little dissertation on worship? If the Holy Spirit is not bound by space and time, and doesn’t need to make decisions based upon observable data in the given moment, then I feel that at least a portion of those leadings would come in advance. I remember one of my old pastors once saying, ‘I can never understand why the Holy Spirit can’t lead you to prepare.’ :)

So what I am left with, is that many of the split-second decisions we make during a worship service, are from our own logic. And again, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that! Making changes based on perceived emotions can be a great thing! God gave us minds that can sort data…even emotional data. Using those observational skills to make judgement calls that can help bring people into the worship of Him is an incredible skill to use and to hone. But here’s where I feel we as a church whole are starting again to have trouble. We should be very careful what we attribute to the Holy Spirit, before we start viewing every emotion and trembling within our little sinful selves as ‘the movement of the Spirit.’

This is quite dangerous in two distinct ways. In the first and more obvious way, we run up against the danger of mistaking sinful and amoral emotions for leadings from God, simply because it is something we ‘feel.’ Many times, this starts innocently enough. We make a judgement call to do another chorus based on how we are feeling the energy of the room, and then that added chorus just goes off. So we attribute it to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Then we see a homeless guy who happens to look like someone in our family. This triggers an emotional response, we give the guy money, feel good, and attribute it to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Bear in mind that none of these acts are bad in any way whatsoever. But if we do not understand them and ourselves correctly, before we know it, if we feel something, we immediately think it must be the leading of the Holy Spirit. We in essence simply give every emotion that feels good, a new name. ‘Holy Spirit.’ Besides the falsehood it is to attribute our own natural emotional tremblings to concrete leadings from the God of the universe, if left unchecked it can lead to other dangerous things:

  • It feels very good as musicians to do a song for 18 minutes. But is that the leading of the Spirit when moms don’t get to hear the pastor’s invitation because the song is going on so long that they have to leave to go get their kids?
  • It feels very good to be in our air-conditioned churches, rather than out in the city caring for the people about whom we say we care. But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit is prompting us to stay in our churches, as has happened for years and years, and as is happening with me right now as I feel good writing this blog with the air-conditioning blowing and am feeling convicted.
  • It feels much better to watch a Hallmark movie than it does to watch a movie that brings up some dark emotions in ourselves that we have locked away and never dealt with. But that does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not calling us to deal with the pain, and teach us something through it.
  • It feels very good to follow the energy of a service, and announce that you just sense the Spirit calling people to make a decision for Christ today. And sometimes that is based purely on emotion, and not on the leading of the Holy Spirit. The pastor goes on about it for five minutes, about how the Spirit is calling people right now…he can feel it! No hands go up, no one comes forward, and the unbelievers in the crowd justifiably think, ‘Yep. Just another weird emotional cult.’ What may be even worse is that the pastor then, rather than rethinking his own emotions and thought process and where they should intersect with the Holy Spirit, doesn’t question his own emotions because in his mind they have become so intrinsically tied with what he feels is the ‘leading of the Spirit’, that to him to question his own emotions would be to question God. So he makes the only other logical step, which is that it was the people’s fault for not following the leading of the Holy Spirit. And his messages and his life become more and more forceful, more and more angry, and more and more bitter as people continue to not respond to what He believes to be the Holy Spirit, which challenges His worldview, which He won’t rethink because He feels it is questioning God, which makes Him more frustrated, and the cycle continues. I’ve unfortunately seen it many, many times. And the same unbeliever comes to a service two years later, hears the passive-aggressive undertones of bitterness in the sermon, and once again thinks, ‘Yep. Just another weird emotional cult.’

In the second way, we encounter the danger I was hinting at of putting the Spirit in a box, and missing all the leadings and promptings that do not come through emotions. Leadings that may tell you the night before to prepare the band to do a second chorus. Leadings that might come through reading the words of Jesus. Leadings that might tell you what setlist the congregation needs to hear, two weeks in advance! (Imagine that. 😉 ) Leadings that might even tell you the night before the service, to focus less on emotion. Or, conversely, to focus more on emotion, or even to focus on Him leading you through emotion in the given moment during the service. The point is not that emotion is bad, or that the spur of the moment leadings are never from the Holy Spirit. The point is that emotion is not the Holy Spirit. And one of the first steps to following something completely, is to figure out what it is not.

Be careful. Be so careful. There is an amazing God of the universe, and His Spirit is real. We are decidedly less amazing. Let’s be careful attributing things that originate with us, to having originated from that all-powerful God. Emotions are a wonderful thing, and used by the Holy Spirit a lot, I believe. They are not the Holy Spirit.


Latest Tone Dream

Another tone dream for you guys. A real one. As in, I was sleeping, and this is what my brain came up with. Maybe this is due to having got in really late last night from my supplemental part time night shift job (they don’t tell you that part in rockstar school…or in ministry school, for that matter, hehe), or maybe it’s due to forgetting to eat on guitar-heavy days. But either way…

So I was Brad Pitt. And I was in this large house with a railway depot at the top, trying to convince all the people who lived in the house as well as those just getting off the train, to join me in the resistance against the impending alien zombie attack on the house. The catch was that some of the people in the house were from a militarized African country, and they wanted to help the alien zombies so that they could then take control of the house from them after we as the resistance were all dead. So I follow this military African prince dude upstairs to see if he is really with us, or trying to kill us. And then I get distracted by mountains of guitar rack gear in one of the rooms upstairs, and go to investigate, stepping over two alien zombie corpses that I killed earlier. (I had to step carefully though because in my dream their claws were like bee-stingers…they could still get you even if they were dead.) I then remember that we have no weapons (meaning that I must’ve killed those alien zombies with my bare hands because I am awesome), and realize how well the heavy guitar gear would work as weapons. So I proceed to get on my knees and start to unscrew all the rackmount gear so that when the alien zombies come, we can wack them over the head with rackmount compressors. Not delays…we may need those in the celebration at the end of the movie.

And yes, that really happened. Except for the delay part…in my dream I was using all the guitar gear to wack the aliens. I think the last movie I watched was ‘The Invention of Lying’ (well, and ‘Heat’…but I watch that so much that I don’t really count it anymore, hehe), so I’m not really sure where all this came from. Wait…nope. Yep. ‘Attack the Block’ was on the other day. That must’ve been it. What an oddly entertaining movie. So it probably came from that, and then some subconscious need to justify my having such huge and heavy guitar gear. ‘Because you can wack alien zombies with it!’ is I guess the best my brain could come up with. So I figure I’d list off the other things in my head, so that I can be prepared for what I’ll dream about tonight.

  • You won’t believe how many dents, scratches, and scars I’ve already put into my newly remodeled Prairiewood. It’s gonna look like Jimmy Page’s Goldtop in no time. Pretty much probably the only thing I can ever liken myself to Jimmy Page with.
  • Radiohead on SNL was pretty rad. Even with SNL’s ‘dryest ever’ board soundmix.
  • I can’t even tell you how nice it is to roll my pedalboard.
  • And I got no comments on how big it is!
  • That last one was a lie.
  • The best I ever feel, and this has shown itself to be true in my life over and over, is when I do something for someone else that I really, really, really didn’t want to do. I should do it more often, and yet I still don’t.
  • Learning is underrated.
  • So is remaining teachable, no matter what.
  • The church seems obsessed with leadership right now, whereas I tend to find the Bible seemingly obsessed with servanthood…even when it is addressing leadership. Could that possibly be because ‘Wave Maker: be a Catalyst for Change’ sounds a lot better on a conference poster than ‘Doormat: be the Thing People Wipe Their Dirt on as They Grow in Christ’.
  • Doing those tone workshops is pretty much the scariest thing in the world. You’ve got a group of people staring at you, and you have to say, ‘Now, here’s how to sound good.’ And then you play a chord, chanting fervently to yourself, ‘Please let this sound good, please let this sound good.’
  • Tem-po!
  • Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire. Not what I would name a pedal, not sure exactly how it works…but it is wonderful. Hello what I always wished the SIB Varidrive was, and what the Matchless Hotbox is but without needing its own pedalboard.
  • Someone actually found the video that is somewhere on the internet of me playing worship, doing the apocalyptic guitar build into the big minor chord bridge, and completely forgetting what a C# looked like. I’m just gonna ask you all…please do not find this.
  • Was once again surprised how good the Danelectro Tuna Melt sounds.
  • God brings you a lot of different places, on a lot of different journeys, and it’s quite often really hard and sometimes even sucky to understand why. And every so often, you get a chance to meet up with some of those people again, and go, ‘Ahhhh. That’s what God was doing.’ It’s real nice.


SoCal School of Worship (Guitar and Worship Workshop for SoCal Folks)

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Guitar for Worship Workshop. I think ’09? We didn’t in ’10 because life crashed and burned for me, and we didn’t in ’11 because…I forgot. Well, this weekend I’m gonna be teaching at a worship conference down here in Temecula, so I figured I’d let you know about it. I’ll be teaching two guitar classes, as well as being part of a Q&A panel, and leading worship at the end. The cost is $25 for Friday night and all day Saturday, and none of that goes to me. 😉 It goes to breakfast, materials, and to cover the costs of the church putting it on.

Here’s the coolest thing about this conference. The churches involved with putting it on are all small to mid-sized. And I know that personally, I tend to like conferences that cater to where the majority of American churches are at, rather than the megachurches. Nothing wrong with mega’s, just that I don’t have much use for a ‘Dealing with Record Labels’ workshop. Unfortunately. 😉 So if you’re in the area, interested, and want to see if I really know how to use all those pedals, I’ll be teaching on Identifying the Guitar’s Place in the Song (How to Get a Song from the Produced Mp3 you hear to 5-Person Live Band on Sunday morning), and Guitar Techniques That Mix Theory, Effects, & Soul. Sorry the late notice, but I get asked quite often if I can come out and do personal or church sessions, and this one is going to be that and more.

Register here:


And I’ll throw this out there too…on the schedule, there’s a 2 hour dinner break on Saturday night after soundcheck and before worship. So if you come out, we’ll all get dinner together and talk God, tone, worship, and how awesome Tremors is. :) I really hope to see some of you and maybe even your teams this weekend, and stoked to have dinner with some of you and talk for hours upon hours on signal chains and the glory of tubes.


P.S. Here’s the breakdown of what I’ll be teaching on. (Forgot to include it originally.)

Session 1:

Identifying the Guitar’s Place in the Song
-Melodic & Harmonic Techniques-

How to Listen to a Worship Song
-Identify what the song can do without, and what it will fall apart without
-Identifying the Key Melodic Elements
-Identifying the Key Harmonic Elements
-Identifying the Key Hooks, Signatures, & Ear-Catchers
-Identifying what you may be asked to play
-Know you’re worship leader
Changing the Structure of a Song
Mixing two or three guitar parts into one
Working for the structure of the song, even if it’s not like the mp3
Using Effects to Mimic Larger Bands
Using Open Strings & Capo’s to Mimic more than one guitarist

Session 2:

Guitar Techniques
-Mixing Theory, Effects, & Soul-

–Triads & Smaller
–Melodies, Phrases, Sequences, & Hooks
–Cowboy Chords & Capo’s are not the devil
–Open Note Pedal Tones
–Matching the Drummer on Rhythm
–Single String Raking During Leads
–Builds…Super Important!
–Leading the Band with the your guitar/Injecting energy
–Single Notes with Compression
–Chord Swells
–Single Note Swells
–Keyboard on Guitar
–Trem picking
–Dotted 8th’s
–Dotted quarters
–Low Mix Dotted so as Not to Sound too U2
–Dual Delays (great for when the drummer isn’t tracking)
–Untimed solo delays
–Using phase and flange properly
–Using overdrive/Setting your amp
–Solo’s? Yes or no?
–Slow finger-tapping
–Quarter note delays
–Compressed distortion
–Rolled off volume knob/amp drive
–Low mix reverse delay
–Melody and rhythm trump all
–Feel the song
–Big in’s and out’s/Play intentionally

Behold…the Awful Price of Not Liking Line 6 (or New Pedal Armoire from Brady Cases)

I hate big pedalboards. No, really. You walk into a gig with a big pedalboard, more than one amp, or more than two guitars, and two things go through the minds of every musician within viewing distance. The first is ‘Jerk.’ The second is, ‘Prove it.’ And in an instant, you are now being willed to fail. I don’t know why. There’s just something about seeing a guy walk in with a giant pedalboard that gives every other musician this fantasy of watching them have horrible tone and/or plug in the board and having it not work. So now you have to overcome the preconceived notions and actually excel, rather than starting from the baseline of having no one care about your six-pedal board. It’s much easier that last way.

I don’t know why humanity is like this, but it is. I know this because, I am also a human, and I enjoy this ever so much. There is just something sickly fascinating about watching a guy play through a Trainwreck, and convincing myself that his tone is horrible. Whereas I can see someone playing with comparable or even worse tone through a Fender Twin, and find myself complimenting their tone. You know, like that little twinge of satisfaction you get when you see the Porsche on the side of the freeway with its bonnet up? (No seriously, I really thought that would make me sound cooler. Nope.) Actually, it’s usually a Mustang. 😉 Yep, that’s the feeling.

So I just had to put that out there. Make sure it’s clear. I do not like big pedalboards. That being said…

(The calm before the awesome.)

So…kind of big. I mean, not huge, right? Or, please think that? Okay, so ya…it’s big. And yes, even bigger than my old one. However, it is made out of professionally done polypropelene by Brady Cases. Making it, amazingly, lighter than my older slightly smaller made from 1-inch-thick-ply-that-I-sawed-myself board to the left there. Even with the road case top of it, it’s lighter. Like, I can heave it over my head lighter. With the old board on the left, I’m not sure if any of you were ever privileged enough to see my arms quivering as I tried to rest the center of it on my belt buckle and shuffle step toddler ran with it from my truck to the stage or vice versa, but it was definitely a sight to be seen, or so I am told. So although the new one is bigger, it is much lighter. And has wheels. And will be protected from any…I don’t know…random hailstorms on the way up to conferences in the mountains this fall.

(The Brady Cases ‘Pedal Armoire’, as dubbed by Phillip Hintze at Broken Headstock. And Brady pretty much has the sweetest logo ever.)

So, since I hate big pedalboards, this is actually a huge step in the right direction for me. It’s just a little more inconspicuous to walk in rolling this behind you. People just assume it’s a case with your pedalboard and your amp. And maybe some guitars. 😉 Rather than hearing the huffing and straining sounds as you race your arms’ strength or lack thereof. Mmmm…wheels. And, interestingly enough, even though it’s a little bit bigger, it actually looks much more low profile on stage because it looks like a piece of gear, rather than, ‘Whoa!! That thing is insane!!’ Which was super cool when I was 19 and reveled in any comments that distracted from my hackful playing. Eight years, older back muscles, and hopefully some much more finesse-like guitar-playing later, it’s a welcome change to be able to roll the pedalboard in, and not have every worship leader or band leader or random passerby ever say, ‘Make that thing do something cool!’ when what the song really needs is my master bypass switches on, and a bone-dry line using just amp drive. (No seriously, those really are necessary sometimes. hehe Sometimes.)

So, after I picked this up at Fedex (yes, yes, it had to ship freight), I specifically waited for my day off. I can think of no better way to spend a day off than getting to rewire a pedalboard. On some levels, that’s probably pretty sad. But on other levels…no, no, it’s pretty much sad on every level. Either way…the fun…

(I called this pic ‘Cable Kray’, because it has come to my attention that you are now supposed to say ‘kray’ for ‘crazy.’ I like to keep up with the kids.)

And somehow, after more fun than I should probably admit, we got here:

(The blue carpet just adds to the vibe.)

(Back of the board with Fryette Valvulator and Furman Power Factor Pro with the open plug for my amp.)

You can see that I made some ‘modifications’ to the board. Straight from Brady Cases, both levels had backing on them. Which looked super cool. However, I just couldn’t see a way to get all the wiring in through the front, let alone plugging my amp in every time I set up, and getting the Valvulator in there, as it doesn’t fit through the slanted front. And since I live in an apartment, I do not own a hacksaw. Those of you who have ever seen me with a hacksaw, know that this is a very good thing. So instead, I hammered my way through the polypropelene with a screwdriver and my Christmas tree sheers. There was some blood, but I was fortunately able to keep it off of the pedalboard. I also hammered down the metal lip on the top tier so that the Valvulator could get in. Then I taped it up so it looked less like a Middle Earth sword in the process of being forged. Personally, I think it looks cool and modded this way. At the very least, it makes it mine.

The beautiful thing is that you can see that next to the Timeline, next to the Tuna Melt, and above the Blue Sky, there is room for more pedals. 😀 And, if worse ever came to worse, which I am definitely hoping it does, I could store the Midi Mate in the back of the pedalboard, as there is definitely room, and pull it out and plug it in for gigs when I need more than a few patches on the Timeline. Making room, of course, for like 8 more pedals.

There are the inputs and outputs. So current signal chain is:

Guitar (Prairiewood Hardtop or Godin Flat Five…more on that soon)–>

Hartman Germanium Fuzz–>
Fryette Valvulator (JJ tube)–>
Loop Master 6 loop–>
(Loop 1–>empty
(Loop 2–>Ibanez TS7 modded drive on hot mode
(Loop 3–>Fulltone Fatboost v1 drive at 12 volts
(Loop 4–>Fulltone Fatboost v1 drive at 12 volts
(Loop 5–>Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 boost
(Loop 6–>Creation Audio Labs Holy Fire od/distortion
Loop Master 9 loop–>
(Loop 1–>Arion SPH-1 phaser
(Loop 2–>Danelectro Tuna Melt trem
(Loop 3–>empty
(Loop 4–>George Dennis GD20 volume pedal
(Loop 5–>Strymon Brigadier with favorite switch–>Strymon Timeline controlled by Rocktron
Midi Mate

(Loop 6–>Arion SAD-1 delay
(Loop 7–>Damage Control Timeline controlled by Tech 21 Midi Mouse
(Loop 8–>Boss RC20xl
(Loop 9–>Boss NF-1 noise gate
Strymon Blue Sky reverb–>

Matchless HC30 modded with Spitfire preamp on the first channel–>65 Amps cab–>Celestion Blue & Celestion G12H30

All powered via Furman Power Factor Pro, out of which are run 2 Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus’s, and of course the outlets on the Valvulator. (Which is, again, one of the best purchases ever to make for your rig.)

So I’m pretty stoked. But at this point, I can almost guarantee that some of you…okay, all of you…are thinking, ‘So, how much of that do you really need?’ And the answer is, very little…if I were just playing guitar, and left my board sitting at church every week. Or if I had a Brit rock board and an ambient project board. But here’s the reason for some of the elements that make such a big board necessary:

1) Not wanting two boards. I could easily turn this into two smaller boards, one for rockish stuff, and for my own ambient music. But for me, it’s simpler and more effective to have every tool I have right at my feet at all times. That’s not the same for everybody, but you’d be surprised how many times I’m playing somewhere, and someone asks if I can add into the song some of ‘that ambient stuff you do on youtube’. Happened just this last week in the studio, tracking guitar parts for a friend of mine who has a very distinct straight-ahead rock style. I almost brought just my amp, but then it turns out he wanted some full wash stuff, too. Or, I’ll have my whole rig set up and be recording ambient stuff, and then realize I need just one od pedal for some totally uneffected sound within the ambient stuff. So it’s just more convenient for me to keep everything in one.

2) I did try last year to go to Pedaltrain Cases, and have two that would then connect together. Great idea, but in practicality, that took longer than I would have liked to set up. Especially when using bypass loopers. And I don’t like the team waiting on me. I prefer plug ‘n play.

3) When you move the board around a ton. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play at a good many places. And no matter how many roadcases you buy, or how careful you are, you’re gonna have to slam on your brakes at some point, or someone’s going to drop your board trying to be nice and carry it for you, and things are going to have issues. So using full, good power, and having bypass loopers, is huge. I haven’t had a full pedalboard meltdown (last year was close, but the bypass loopers made it possible for me to get through it halfway decently) in many years because of using good power, and using bypass loopers. Bypass loopers take up a ton of space on your board, and even more space with all the cable length required. But, when something starts to short out in your board, you can literally isolate it using the bypass loopers within seconds, and still finish the riff you’re currently playing.

4) Singing. If you sing and play lead guitar at the same time, you will know what I mean. It is super, super easier to carry around a huge board than to bend down during and in between songs to tweak knobs, or even to tap tempo’s while trying to sing the line. So are the midi pedals and duplicate sounds necessary? Well, it certainly is helpful to have everything at your feet when you’re singing.

5) Smooth transitions and the unwillingness to compromise the music. Even when not singing, when the drummer starts the next song, it is unacceptable to me to have to tell him to wait while I reset things. I want to be able to do it on the fly, in the middle of a riff, whatever. Again, the reason for midi, and also for a board with tiers, so that I don’t have to ballet move a pedal on. Hard to riff while doing that.

6) Being a freak. Okay, I can’t get away from this one. I’m a freak about clean signal, but I’m also a freak about effects. So I need all these effects, but I also need the purest signal possible. Hence, bypass loopers, buffers, and the ability to go from full wash to straight and slappy with two button presses. I also buy pedals based on tone and whether they have AD/DA conversion or not, rather than based on size. So my options sometimes get limited to large pedals.

7) It is very fun.

And here’s the thing about Brady Cases. I was incredibly stoked to see how much care went into this board. It’s for real. Unlike the case from the last builder, who will remain nameless, where my ‘rack drawer’ specification apparently meant old chipped wood painted black and fashioned into something resembling a square, mounted on uneven tracks. And if you know the name of that builder, please do not post it in the comments. My point is not to badmouth them, but rather to highlight the build quality of Brady. (Here’s the link to their site if you want to check them out: Brady Cases.) The wheels roll like a dream, too. As well as looking super cool. For small to mid-sized churches, I still put the carpeted privacy board up so as not to be distracting. But for the big ones, or for other gigs, I let the build stand unabashed in all its naked industrial glory. As well as the glory of the glowing tube within the Valvulator. 😉

Now, would a much smaller and lighter Line 6 pedal do everything this board can do? Sure! If you don’t care about sounding good. 😉 (Sorry…what’s a blog post without a little bit of controversy? hehe Don’t worry…an M5 will probably arrive soon.)

Definitely worth selling my Blues Junior for. Even though it was green and beautiful. And yes, I still hate big pedalboards. If anyone even remotely believes me. 😉



How to Get No Comments on Your Blog Post

Guitar for Worship pedalboard contest!!

Just one comment here in this post is all it takes to be entered into the drawing to win this:

That’s right! Just one comment, and you can have this amazing pedalboard absolutely free!


  • Own a piece of Guitar for Worship history!
  • Only 50 pounds! (without pedals)
  • 36×20″ with three tiers gives you room for about 45 normal-sized pedals, 100 Malekko mini series pedals, or 2.5 Damage Control pedals!
  • 1-inch plywood construction! Can literally double as a step-ladder for anyone under 300 pounds!
  • Fully carpeted using not just one, but three different styles and cuts of carpet!
  • If you gig a lot, it can double as your weight machine. Cancel your gym membership!
  • Hand-modded by Karl Verkade himself. Flecks of blood included!
  • Absolutely free! (Plus shipping via Fedex freight and $150 handling fee. Taxes and license not included.)

Drawing in one week! Hurry! Limited time offer!

They Put Me in Something Called ‘Hero Squad’…

So, while I’m editing the new pedalboard pics (which is awesome, by the way), I figured I’d put up a video of the newest edition to my own personal hero squad:

Please note that I do not endorse all the lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas…but that’s kind of the point of the video; it’s quite wonderful to hear the, shall we say, reading group level of some of the lyrics that are heard daily in our culture? I’m gonna go with ‘turtles.’ You remember those elementary school reading groups. Hey, we may not be able to read good, but we can tell the difference between the ‘rabbits’ and the ‘turtles.’

Anyway, thank you Jeff Tweedy. Pedalboard post on its way.


P.S. In fairness to Will.i.am (yep) and the bunch, the chorus to that song does have a fantastic melody that I wish I had written. :)

Tone Tip #82…The Magic Switches & Sound in the Physical World

This tone tip is for acoustics, keyboards, and loops:

You know those little ground/lift switches on the side of the direct box?

Use them.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve gotten rid of mystifying hum by flipping those switches. To lift, to ground, to neutral, it doesn’t matter. Touch them. They work. Your technical guys on stage will argue you until they’re blue in the face that what just worked should not work, or may be dangerous beyond all reason and even possibly cause a time/space continuum paradise. But if you listen, you will hear the sound of no hum, and the sound of nobody dying. Flip the magic switch.

Nine times out of ten the answer is an issue in the physical world…shorting cable, monitor proximity, ground loop, wrong power supply, mic placement, etc. Check these before doing the fun stuff of activating digital compressors and noise gates or completely taking apart and redoing your pedalboard. Yep, so much more fun. So much less effective. In fact, just yesterday my guitar’s pots were buzzing. I started to get all excited about taking it to my tech and then going tone shopping for the of course necessary five new guitars to buy to replace this one while it’s in the shop. Finally I broke down, rolled my eyes, unscrewed the knobs, and tightened the loose nuts on the pots. Hum gone. Blast.



P.S. For those of you who caught my latest Twitpic, it’s been two hours with the new pedalboard, and I’ve already taken it apart, modified it, and drawn blood three times. It’s been fantastic.

Pedals That Aren’t Cool Anymore

Sorry, folks…

Guitar Center just came out with their new ‘Boutique Pedal Promo’, listing off the boutique products they are now going to be carrying and selling. Which means, here is the new list of pedals we are no longer allowed to think are cool:

Guitar Center Boutique Pedals

…because Guitar Center sells them. Just thought I’d give you the heads up, so you don’t go championing any of these pedals on gear message boards, only to be immediately shunned due to the fact that since they are now readily available at Guitar Center without waitlists or personal conversations with the builders, the magic tonal pixie dust is, of course, obviously gone. Bottom line is that tone fairies are frightened of Crazy Train. You bring a Cusack Screamer in to a Guitar Center, and all the tone fairies immediately sense the impending chorus of tabbed Metallica riffs from an army of 17 solid state Krank amps, and they go flying back out the door searching desperately for the nearest Wampler pedal to inhabit. Since you will find none of those in or around a Guitar Center (us boutique guys are very protective of our tone fairies and keep them hidden away underneath the little cloths that boutique pedals come in instead of plastic to help us justify the $750 we just spent on them), there will undoubtedly be dying fairies outside of every Guitar Center in America, and I’ll be the guy standing in the middle of the carnage, urging everyone who is about to walk in the doors, to clap their hands and yell out ‘I believe in tone! I believe in tone!’

😉 hehe In all seriousness though, I’m actually stoked that these pedals are now going to be more readily available in a pinch and in person, and I’m stoked for the dealers who are going to get way more visibility for their great products. And props to Guitar Center for recognizing the shift in the market…albeit, about 15 years late…but still. Although I will say that some of these brands have been at my local Guitar Center for years now, and have not moved from that one spot on the shelf for the entirety of said years.

Also, apparently Ibanez is boutique now.

They’d better do something about those red led’s. 😉


Ambient Looping & Boss RC20XL Review

I get a fair amount of questions on looping, so I figured I’d give a bit of a tutorial post on it. Okay, that’s not entirely true. Boss (you know, those pedals that sound good but aren’t cool because we don’t know the first name of the builder) put on a looping contest this summer. I entered, and on my third entry, I forgot to push record on my computer. Because I am so awesome. I could’ve re-recorded, but it was the last day to enter, and I was already late for something, so I was left with an ambient looping video with camera mic sound only. So I figured I may as well turn it into a tutorial and a review. The other two videos will be my actual entries, and will probably be available on Bandcamp in the near future as part of a new project. And those ones I’m going to break down into their base elements, and what I am doing to create them.

And for fair warning, there are a lot of my songs in this post. That may not be your cup of tea, and that’s completely understandable. So you may want to just skip down to a post where I post a video of U2…again. haha And there are a lot of you out there who are much better at this than I am. So you may also want to skip down to an overdrive shootout post or tone is the best thing on universe post or something. This post is moreso for the questions I get on looping.

Boss RC20XL

The Good

–16 minutes of loop time (really nice)
–dual inputs, going to one output
–input gain level
–undo last overdub feature
–ability to save loops
–very decent-sounding

The Bad

–the 16 minutes are actual memory time; so they decrease as you save loops into the given 11 slots
–mine was a little ‘glitchy’ when pushing the overdub switch. Could very well be because I got mine used and it’s extremely beat-up. But I realized I had to be very careful when overdubbing. If I’d had more time before the contest deadline, I probably would’ve re-recorded the first video too, because of it.

The Meh

–a ton of features…that you’ll never use. Tempo guide, tempo shift, a phase inverter jack on the back…maybe I just need to explore it more, but I’m glad the looper itself works well, because the feature set seems fairly gimmicky.
–it’s compression on loops takes time to get used to
–it’s ‘loop point’ when you finish recording your base loop also takes some time to get used to.

The Verdict

I had one of these a couple years ago, and sold it because I didn’t like it. This time, I was offered one in a trade, and wanted to give it a second chance because of the looping contest. And the first few hours with it did not impress me. But then after I got over the initial learning curve that I’ve found every looper to have, I surprisingly started to really like it. It seemed to maintain the warmth of your tone very well, provided you learn how to set the input gain levels properly (i.e. lower than you think). And it was very nice to store loops about which I wasn’t sure if they were good enough to be songs yet, and then be able to come back to them in a few minutes with fresh ears. It’s also nice to have a dedicated looper. Originally, I was going to use the DD7 for this so that I could have a looper and a delay, but as I ended up not really having a use for the delay and it’s modulate setting was not at all as good as it was described on gear forums (imagine that!), this RC20 might be just the thing.

The Video of the RC20XL (As well as one of my contest entries so that it can get more views and Boss can see how immensely cool and popular I am and pick me. Hey, I’m nothing if not honest. Well, maybe also sarcastically self-abasing. 😉 )

In this video, I’m using both the instrument input and the mic input simultaneously. And it works very well, give a very decent sound, and no buzzing. Out of the RC20, I run into the Strymon Blue Sky verb (mmmmm), then into a tube-pre, and then the computer.

And no, I’m not trying to be Thom Yorke. Or Imogen Heap. Or Phil Keaggy. …… Yes. Yes, I am.

Ambient Looping

As you saw in the last video, a very good way to ambient loop subtly is to make sure a good portion of your overdubs cross the phrase line. You can hear that in the vocals. A lot of looping videos you see are blocks of sound that repeat; I’ve even done a few like that. And what I’ve noticed is that they get monotonous. Yep, even mine. There’s one in particular that is a six minute youtube vid; and when I put it on the album, I chopped it down to like 2 and a half minutes. hehe Because it was annoying the daylights out of me. So, by the very nature of looping, you’re dubbing over a repeating phrase (or a couple if you get the RC50 or comparable loopers); but with crossing the phrase line with the overdubs, you can take the loop out of ‘loop’ territory, and into ‘song’ territory. The goal is to get the ear and the brain to almost forget the base loop, and feel as if the song is actually moving into new thematic elements, or choruses and bridges if you will; not unlike a song like ‘With or Without You’ that simply repeats the base four chord theme, but still moves through the elements of an entire song.

This next video shows that a little bit; by the end of it, you’re not really hearing the base loop anymore. It’s like taking a journey, but keeping the root subconsciously based. Also, I think every overdub in this crosses the phrase line. This song also uses the ambient technique of recording the base loop with something tempo’d, rather than just washy ambience. Then you can record the ambience in the overdubs, where the sustain doesn’t cut off abruptly, as that is an issure you run into with ambient looping: if you start with swells or something washy, you have to wait until they fully die out to finish the phrase, and that usually defeats the purpose. So by recording something tempo’d first, you can get around this, as the overdubs are infinite. This can also be done by recording a base loop of silence, and then overdubbing everything else, although silence doesn’t make for the best youtube videos. However, even with times phrases, if there’s any effects on them, they can cut off quickly in the first loop. So in this video, I have the looper after all the effects but the reverb. The reverb stays on at the end of the chain, and allows each loop the courtesy of some extra sound after it loops, helping things not to end so abruptly. And yes, I caress the guitar again.

Harmonically in that video, I tried to use full triad chords in the base loop, as I know I would be creating a lot of 7ths and 9ths in the subsequent loops; I didn’t want to get in the way of myself before I’d even started. 7ths and 9ths are your friends in ambient looping. A different technique is to use them first in the base loop, so that they mask the key center, and afford everything else the ability to be a little looser with the key center. But either way, the best way to ambient loop is to compose the song beforehand, at least loosely; this way, again, you’re taking your piece out of the ‘novelty looping’ category, and more into the ‘song that uses looping as a tool’ category.

That being said however, this next video is completely improvised and not planned out ahead. That is a viable option too, provided you’re keeping your theory close in your mind as you’re improvising. Every note, every sound, every silence…has a purpose. Well, that’s the goal at least. hehe This is the video on which I forgot to press record on the computer, and so decided to turn it into a tutorial. haha So, below this video, I list out each technique in detail. Again, you may be above all this. If so, I don’t want to appear condescending by listing out techniques you’re already aware of, so this may be a good one to skip.

For this video, I use a different technique to get the ambient swells not to cut off too early. And that is, I place the looper after the volume pedal, but before the delay and reverb effects. So, in essence, the looper is only recording non-sustainy chord swells. In fact, if you were to turn all the time-based effects off, it would sound really, really funny and uninspiring. But what that does for you is allow the loop to cut off the non-sustained recorded phrase, but the effects to then delay and verb the non-sustained loop. It works well to record a base loop of swells. However, you do then lose the ability to ever turn those effects off without changing the sound of the loop. So you up having to use a lot of hand dynamics and drive and boost effects which are set pre-looper.

Best thing about this video is my pause at about 3:40 when I look at the computer and realize that I forgot to press record, and then what I like to call ‘the angry hands’ at about 3:55 when it sinks in that this song is toast. haha But, anyway…

0:00 Swelling in with the volume knob first so that I can press the record button simultaneously. Then I move to the volume pedal just simply because volume pedals are less effort and sometimes more fluid for ambient swells. But this technique is very necessary to start a loop with a swell when not sitting in a chair or flying.
0:10 Basic one chord with lots of non-triad notes, to create a base of ambience that doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s simply for the overdubs to play off of.
0:35 Giving a couple notes not recorded. This can be cool because it adds color that won’t be repeated over and over again. Those are nice to throw in every once in a while, as it gives the ear of the listener a break.
0:45 Sliding around, making sure I hit 7ths.
0:55 Realizing that I really liked that riff that I decided not to loop, and looping it anyway. haha
1:03 The one time I afford myself the 4th of the relative major. That’s one of those notes that calls attention to itself, so you don’t want too many.
1:22 Drives on for the pseudo-ebow sound. Just vibrating a string until it starts to slightly feedback kinda. Gives for a more rootsy-sounding ebow; same overall affect, but calling less attention to itself as ‘Hey! I’m an ebow!’ which is hard not to do when using an ebow. hehe
1:55 Drives off, phase and fuzz on for…guitar caressing! It’s a very odd technique, I admit…but as the song progresses, listen for how those little guitar caressing sounds add interest in the dead parts underneath the subsequent overdubs.
2:25 Bending. Just a few per song. Those help to meld things and blur key center.
2:30 Fuzz on for some bassy cello stuff. Time to root the song and let the ear know what chords it’s been hearing all this time.
2:55 Random melodies. Having fun.
3:32 Large bend, just bordering on too much. Now we’ve given the song something big that it was leading up to. For me, that sound is like the emotional actualization. Every song has one somewhere.
3:40 Realizing I didn’t press record on the computer.
3:45 Getting a different angle with which to view the computer, as if that will help. Nope.
3:55 Yay! Angry hands!
4:25 Finding a good stopping point for the loop, as I know whatever sounds last will be faded for a while by all the delays and verbs set post-loop.

So that’s kind of a big way to say play a chord, turn your volume up, and put delays and shimmer after it. 😉 But, hopefully, at least some small part of this post was helpful.

For the gear junkies, the ambient videos had the following chain (essentially…these are all in bypass loops, but I’m too lazy to type that out, and I’m only listing the pedals that were used):

First video. All used at various times. If I didn’t use an effect, I didn’t list. So don’t freak out…I still love my EH LPB-1, and it’s still on the board. 😉

Hartman Germanium Fuzz on lots of mids setting–>
Fryette Valvulator–>
Fulltone Fatboost–>
Fulltone Fatboost–>
Arion SPH-1 phase on slow watery setting–>
George Dennis volume–>
Strymon Brigadier on long swell setting–>
Strymon Timeline on tape setting (first video)–>
Arion SAD-1 delay on melding setting–>
DC Timeline on full mix long reverse–>
Boss RC20XL–>
Strymon Blue Sky (mod setting)–>
Matchless HC30 with G12H-30 mic’d

Second Video. Again, didn’t list the bypass loopers or any pedals not used, and not all of these were on all the time.

Hartman Germanium Fuzz on lots of mids setting–>
Fryette Valvulator–>
Fulltone Fatboost–>
Fulltone Fatboost–>
Arion SPH-1 phase on slow watery setting–>
George Dennis volume–>
Boss RC20XL–>
Strymon Brigadier on long swell setting–>
Arion SAD-1 delay on melding setting–>
DC Timeline on background multitap setting–>
Strymon Blue Sky (low mix shimmer setting)–>
Matchless HC30 with G12H-30 mic’d

And then lastly, it is also possible press record, swell quickly after, continue to swell, stop the recording, and then overdub very quickly to mask the loop point. A little more tricky and doesn’t always work…you have to hit the dubs and record points on the low part of the soundwave, if that makes any sense, and I for one am not great at doing that consistently. That’s what I do in this video, and I get it right, although I don’t think this was my first take. hehe 😉 And actually, this is the first actual ambient song I ever recorded, so I thought it’d be fun to revisit it.

Again, I hope all that was of interest, and answered some of the questions on looping and ambient looping.