Silence

So last night I’m playing. And I’m getting stoked for the next song, because during practice, all the parts were covered…and the chord progression was just a bit bluesy…which meant that I got to bump up to the neck pickup, throw on just a light touch of untimed delay, put my pick in my mouth (this part isn’t essential when playing with just finger attack, but it’s a nice bluesy touch), and throw in some very sparse yet poignant, what I considered to be, absolutely earth-shattering Larry Carlton minimalistic blues riffs. (As a side note, the earth absolutely did not shatter when I played them, which was surprising and a little bit disturbing to my view of my own skills; and in fact, no one even did so much as turn around to mention my genius to me. But that’s okay. I’m so above their opinions. One of the keys to maintaining your status as the untouchable lead guitarist, is to never, ever let your own ego be brought down by the jealousy of lesser musicians. ;) ) Anyway, I was stoked to be able to play a little of this in the service. I’ve been really into blues lately for some reason. Possibly because I’m on like, day 8 of my twice annual lemonade fast. So the world looks very bleak to me right now. Very bleak. The blues helps.

Service starts, and we get through the first couple songs. And then the one I’m waiting for. Enter acoustic. Enter vocals. Enter little snare roll. Now some bass anchorage. Background vocals on the harmony. Guitar on the high end dotted quarters. Piano filling out the middle. Okay. My turn. And then it happened. The thing I hate above all other things. When it sounds perfect without me. I listened to every part. And everyone was creating this wonderful space, and this incredible sound…bordering dangerously right on that precipice between ‘perfect’ and ‘I’ve heard this before.’ And somewhere, some voice told me that my tired old blues riffs (that’s definitely not how I thought about them last night) that I was about to play were going to push it over that precipice. And so I hit my mute switch. And turned my guitar’s volume down. That way, if the overwhelming need to be part of the perfection ended up overtaking me, at least there would be a chance that my stupidity would come to the rescue, and I would forget that one of my muting techniques was engaged, and hence still preserve the beauty. And so I was silent. For like, 5 hours.

Or at least it seemed like 5 hours. It was probably more like 30 seconds. And then the song of course picks up, and guess what? I still got to play my blues riffs. Even probably more than I should have. For some reason, the idea of being silent or minimalistic for the good of the music as a whole, sounds so good on paper, on the internet, or when talking amongst musicians. But on stage, or when you’re the one who actually has to be silent, it’s like absolute torture. Like someone sticking a Floyd Rose-equipped ESP in your hands, and forcing you to play Lincoln Brewster solos through Line 6 amp modelers…and you’re not even allowed to use the delay settings! (Sorry…I’ve just been really nice lately and wishing everyone the best no matter what equipment they play, as long as they’re making wonderful music………and sometimes…it’s just gotta come out! hehehe Now this is the part where you go whip out your ESP’s, plug your POD directly into your computer, and record some clips that’ll make my cry in shame. hehehe Or mention that Mr. Brewster has thousands of people at each one of his worship concerts, and I’ve got…uh…hundreds if I’m lucky? Sometimes tens? But that’s okay. It’s not about numbers for me. In fact, I don’t even notice them. ;) Don’t you just want to throw something when people say that? hehe) Wait, what was I talking about? My opinionation distracted me…

Okay, so silence can be amazing. And many times just what it needed. And to resist the urge to throw on some reverse looping, a little reverb, grab your Two Rock (riiiigggghhht), and play this:

Wow. Really hard to resist that. But depending on the musical situation, even the most beautiful things can sometimes be too much. Although if I could sound like John Mayer, I’m not sure I’d ever stop playing. However, John does kind of prove my whole point with his talking. Just be quiet, John. Stop trying to be the new indie poster boy for the recycled James Dean persona, and just play your guitar. That’s what we want. Yikes, I’m kind of mean today. I think I need to eat something. But seriously, John. I’d hate you and your enormous ego if you weren’t such a blasted incredible musician……which…makes me hate you, also. But in a much more loving way. Like, I hate how much your skill makes me hate myself. So much hate right now.

I would like a turkey sandwich.
Karl.

0 thoughts on “Silence

  1. Incredible! Humility like this is what helps create a worshipful atmosphere. I appreciate this post, because this is something I certainly am learning a lot about.
    -Matt

  2. Good stuff Karl…. except the crack on the POD. ;) just kidding. I hear you though, lately since I have been the only lead guitar in my group, I need to analyze more to the whole picture, and I like you get fixed on the riffs and licks that I practiced in rehearsal. I will make that my focus for the next couple of weeks to see if I can find a part of a song to bow out of. It will be a good exercise.

    And I am like you, one of our old guitarist said to me once do you realize we are playing for 800 people out there? I said, No actually didn’t realize there was anybody out there. I never notice, I am usually caught up in my own world looking down or with my eyes closed, just worshiping. But it is cool to realize you are helping so many people connect with God. And that is priceless!

    And heres a digital sandwich out of love bro. :)

  3. Weird. The last two weeks I’ve asked our worship leader at least three seperate times if I could NOT play something because I thought it sounded too busy. Maybe I’ve got some type of flu. It definitely can’t be a lack of sustenance. ;)

  4. John Mayer, awesome guitar player, major tool. I wonder if they have to go hand and hand? Any awesome guitarists that aren’t full of themselves (Edge excluded :) )?

    Where the Light Is is an awesome DVD, however I could do without his commentary, especially during Bold As Love.

  5. Nate–hehe Was it too honest? lol I think I flirt with that border sometimes. :) But you’re guaranteed a spot in the front row. It always has lots of room! haha

    RyanJ–right on! Did you pick one up, or were you at…hmm…what LA shop might have a Two Rock…The Amp Shop? True Tone? :)

    Matt–glad you’re on that journey as well. I’m on it, too, brother! Trying to play less and not get all bent out of shape if the music sounds good without the benefit of my ‘genius’! hehe Cheers!

    Shane–totally! If I like myself in practice, lol, that’s totally all I’m thinking about…is my riffs. hehe Nice to know I’m not alone!

    And the digital sandwich is appreciated more then you know! haha

    Mark–oh, that’s huge! To be able to hear something on the cd, and go, ‘Ya…maybe a little too busy in an actual worship context.’ Good form, brother!

    Mark–lol I’m so with you!!!

    Jonathan M–absolutely! The music is just outstanding. But every time he opens his mouth, even when he’s trying to sound all down to earth, he’s just plain pompous. And trying to be a philosopher or something…and it’s just not working. But his guitar playing however, that is definitely working.

  6. believe it or not it was GC Hollywood. i think it was a custom reverb head and a 2×12 for around 5 g’s i think. sort of blew my mind a bit though, the best fender sound i’ve EVER heard.
    actually gc hollywood has a bunch of cool amps now. a bunch of matchless, 65, and badcat.

  7. Oh ya! I saw that there! I’m actually going down there tomorrow to pick up that Matchless! hehe Provided the ‘too low to tell me over the phone’ price isn’t like, just cutting out tax or something. Which it very well may be. lol

    Bet that Two Rock sounded fantastic. :)

  8. Richardian Principle: When you are in a band, you play Band, not Individual. Playing Band means there is a time to play and a time to refrain from playing.

    Dan’s Law: Busy-ness increases in the 2nd service.

    Corinthian Mandate: Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

    Rigorous application of the Richardian Principle mitigates Dan’s Law. :>)

    The Corinthian Mandate renders the Richardian Principle unnecessary.

    • Right on Dan!! “Playing Band means there is a time to play and a time to refrain from playing.”

      Guitarist can tend to be a selfish breed when it comes to filling in the blanks…some of the best music I have ever played is when I didn’t play at all…

      I will stick with the “Corinthian Mandate” thank you very much…=)

  9. Major musical maturity is required to NOT play – Not that I’m that mature. ;) .

    Our praise and worship leader was shocked when (In the before mentioned incidents) I asked to not play a certain part. A lot of times in P&W music I almost feel that in the production of the song, they feel that it’s necessary to throw the guitar player a bone to keep him happy. Rarely do I feel that the solo’s that are thrown in fit the song.

    Just an FYI, I’m NOT an anti solo type of guy. My secular music background was for the most part blues and hard rock. Not much anti soloing going on there. But…playin’ in bars aint playin’ P&W. The whole idea is to further or sustain the praise and worship of the Creator. Not as easy as producing back ground music for drunks.

  10. Great topic, one that I am passionate about myself. I am encouraged to read the above comments that other people are leaving.

    One more thing that is easily forgotten. When you refrain from playing a part, it creates this certain feeling. Then when you finally do come in, there is much more weight to your playing and it has potential to tap into more emotion to the listener.

  11. I don’t think it’s just John Mayer. If you ask any musician to talk about their music, it’s hard not to sound pretentious. I was watching a Muse Live at Abbey Road youtube video for Map last night and Matt comes off that way. I don’t think I’ll ever buy a John Mayer cd or go to one of his shows but I downloaded a bootleg recording of a class that he taught at Berklee. He’s a thoughtful guy and had a lot of useful stuff to share with the young music students.

    My rules for playing in church:
    Underplay
    2 electric guitars on stage is one electric too much.

    • Absolutely Dan on the 2 electric guitar thing. I think this whole 2 electric philosophy comes from worship leaders seeing Hillsong and other well known worship group videos. What they don’t know is that over half of those instruments on stage are not being fed into the mains at one time (This info from a guy at our church that has helped run sound at several large live Christian events).

      In my experience, it takes twice as much work and communication to make the 2 guitar attack work. And I’ve rarely run into an experience where it was worth the time and effort.

    • I agree, we have 2 electrics, and sometimes 2 acoustics in my church. Usually one of the acoustics is turned down low, except for some parts, and the other acoustic is the worship leader who switches between keys and acoustic.

      As for the electrics, if both of us are up there, then he is usually laying down the broken chords and fluff, and so I usually try to stick to the melody and color for the song. It is much more of a challenge with that much up there, mainly because its impossible to get everyone in sync rythm wise, so I have to listen that much more closely and try and fit in where neccessary. Good practice though. :)

  12. great post man. random question. Can you review the Crowther Hotcake? I hear it was made for vox amps so it might sound good with your voxy sound.

  13. Not sure I agree about the 2 electric guitar thing – we almost always have 2 electrics plus an acoustic and it usually works well (partly depending on how restrained guitar number 2 is…)

    The key is to ensure that the 2 guitars are filling very different spaces. Eg one clean, one distorted; one rhythm, one lead; one lower power chord type stuff and one playing higher, cleaner rhythms (eg triads with delay on the GBE strings)

    The other key is knowing when one or both guitars need to stop. I’m increasingly just taking my hands off the guitar and lifting them up and letting the other dude play.. and also giving him a bit more chance to play lead stuff. Not playing is a “talent” that seems to come with experience, age, and maturity – I’m not there yet but heading in the right direction… :)

  14. +1 on baggas’ comment.

    We also run 2 electrics most of the time and it works out great.

    The key is communication. We always split leads on songs (ie I’ll take the first one, you take the second, etc). Also paying attention and listening helps a great deal. If he’s playing up high, I’m down low. If he’s full chords, I’m upper string triads. etc etc etc

    We don’t have keys, so the guitars have a lot of ground to cover.

  15. I have nothing to say about this topic.

    That was my part of the silence… heh.

    The Lightning is about a week away for me Karl. I can’t wait. They emailed me a couple of production pictures – very cool.
    Did you get your DC30?

  16. RyanJ–the Matchless HC30 that was at GC Hollywood. The blue one. They actually gave me a better deal than Gear Page. A ton of their used stuff is a decent price right now, which is uncharacteristic for them the last few years. I think they’re hurting.

    But the Matchless is quite wonderful. :) And I saw the Two Rock you were playing. I’m going back out there in a couple weeks. This one was kind of a rushed trip because they were only giving me the price for a couple days. But next time I’d love to come by and see your rig!

    DanV–haha Awesome comment! I’m loving ‘Richardian Principle’. lol Keith has some wisdom…borne from long years of experience, too…which is the best kind of wisdom! And you’re right about business increasing as the services go on. Maybe because we’re getting bored? hehe We don’t like to admit it, but…

    And great point that the third one trumps them all! :)

    Sal–what do you mean guitarists can be selfish?! Oh, wait. You’re right. ;) hehe I’m one of them, unfortunately!

    Mark–great stuff. I totally appreciate that a solo-type guy can also ‘get’ worship music. Good form. And your point about worshiping th Creator as opposed to background music for drunks? Well-put, brother!

    Chris–’I wish more people wouldn’t play.’ Classic!! haha

    Ryan–oh ya! Awesome call! Adding layers can be so powerful. It’s like a movie that gives you the whole plot in the first five minutes. Now there’s nowhere to go…no tension. But when it adds it in layers, it’s so powerful when you get a new dimension! Great stuff, bro!

    Dan–ya, you could be right. I guess I could forgive John Mayer a little more if he even talked about music on that dvd. That’s what I wanted to hear about. But all he talks about is his image. So maybe I was just more disappointed than anything.

    Dan, Mark, Shane, Baggas, TimH–I agree, the two guitarists thing is very tricky, and you all make incredible points. Here’s my take. I used to have a ton of trouble with this when my guitar modes were ‘chords’ and ‘leads’. So if a guitarist came in skilled enough to do both, I was lost. I know almost all of us here are way beyond that point, but just as an example. When you add in technique and effects, you can really create textures and not so much play off of each other, as complement each other. And usually that means playing a rocking, but minimalistic line in a different register. Or creating a background texture using effects. Or realizing the song needs a big drive part while the other guitarist is just sticking to the lines on the cd.

    And then sometimes it’s covered and you may need to be quiet for a whole song. I’ve been learning a lot about this, as I play a lot of places by invitation, and usually they have a full band already. So I’m expected to add texture where needed, to take over where needed, and also to shut up where needed. One of the churches one time had two electric guitarists…and fairly busy and loud ones at that. But I noticed there was no keyboardist. So I asked the worship leader if he wouldn’t mind if I just did pads and ambiance in the background. And it ended up being pretty cool; but mostly, a good exercise for me in listening, playing something different, and trying to be humble.

    Overall, I think it can help improve you as a musician; both by listening, and by learning new ways to add to the music. I think it also comes down to the worship leader picking a good team, too. If you’ve got six guitarists on your team, schedule the U2 guy with the ’80′s metal guy, the blues guy with the Death Cab guy, etc. It’s really bad and really obvious when like, three guitarists all go to the exact same fill. lol

    Dan–thanks, bro! And ya, I’ll try to get my hands on a Hotcake in the near future. I have a couple other drives people have asked for reviews on, so maybe another shootout is in order!

    Tom–yes! That was awesome.

    One week from the Lightning? Ah! So stoked for you, brother! My world for the last few months has just been, Matchless, Matchless, Matchless, Matchless. I’ve played a good deal of amps, and there’s just something about Matchless. I remember hearing it years ago when some of the guitarists I looked up to both locally and nationally were using them; but I chose not to because I wanted to be different. And Matchless is such an established boutique company, and been around for so long, that they’re like, not as cool as the guy making the next latest greatest new amp. But thus far, they’ve for me been the absolute perfect piece for that tone I’ve been hearing in my head for the last 10 years.

    And yes! I went to Hollywood and got it yesterday! And it’s an HC30. I’m still using the 65 cab, as I really like the sound construction it has. So I guess my Spitfire has to go. Sad day. Beautiful sounding amp, I just need to be able to bump up to 30 watts every once in a while.

    Yikes, that was a long reply to your relatively short comment. Can you tell I’m high on Matchless right now? lol

  17. Karl…I agree with what you had to say concerning the multi guitar attack. Two electric guitar players can survive on the same team and flourish if both are on the same page and are willing to communicate and….listen. Regrettably I have been unlucky ( I guess we as Christians don’t believe in luck, do we. Maybe I was placed there to learn. Hmmmm.) enough to generally get placed with the guys or gals that either didn’t want to listen, communicate and or try to work with the other guitarist (Uh….that would be me.). So….I didn’t have much fun worshiping in that context.

    I have played in several secular bands with other guitarists and rarely had any issues. But…I think that’s because when people come to listen to you, they want to hear what’s on the recordings. So there’s a lot of communication during the act of learning the song. Hey, I’ll play this and you play that and you take the first lead and I’ll take the lead at the end. Know what I mean?

    But…due to the nature of P&W music, playing something just because you can doesn’t mean that it should be played. And…the style of a P&W song can be adjusted to fit the nature of the service or the congregation that its being played for. Generally a U2 song isn’t going to be played in a heavy metal context. Nor is a Metallica song going to be played in a U2 style. Therefore, communication is crucial. Not only with another guitar player but also with the rest of the musicians on the team.

    If one guitar player doesn’t want to play well with others (I’ve played with a few of those guys during my initial introduction to the worship ministry.), an attempt at minimalism and worship flow aint gonna work.

    I have been blessed over the last year to be involved in an outstanding worship ministry. After serving in some pretty negative situations worship wise, I thank God daily for the opportunity to serve him. And….have a blast doing it.

  18. cool. good to hear man. your gonna love it. i actually just had it in the studio a month ago and it sounded SO good. the next day i wanted a different sound so i tried a couple vintage fender amps and a marshall, but came back to the dc30. they way it just sits in the mix and sounded great immediately was unreal, so i just switched to the first channel for a different sound.
    anyways shoot me in email when your headed to LA again and have some extra time.

  19. Mark–ya, I’ve played with those guys, too. And probably been those guys as well! lol I think it can always be done, no matter what. But it won’t necessarily sound good. At some point the worship leader or music director or whoever needs to step in. And then, if the leader actually likes what the other guitarist is playing, then we gotta ask ourselves, ‘Okay. Is it time to move on? Or is this something I can help with my style? Maybe I can influence people eventually? Or is it just a learning experience for me?’ I guess something only God can tell us at that point. :)

    RyanJ–thanks, man! Thus far, ‘loving it’ is definitely the phrase. Wow. Sounds a lot like my Spitfire, but with some more preamp saturation, and of course the EF86. :) And I’ll e-mail you when I go up in a couple weeks! Good times and cheers! How long have you had your HC30? Guess you knew what you were doing.

  20. i got it last spring. very similar story. i had played badcats and ac30s the past couple years and always felt something was lacking, but couldn’t put my finger on it. i felt my sound was almost there but not quite.
    i plugged into an SC30 combo at pasadena guitars, played a g chord and was like “oh”… “i get it now.” there is the sound i’ve always wanted. i knew i wanted 2 twelves so i found a DC30.
    are you gonna do the ppimv mod to it?

  21. Totally, brother! That’s what I was like when I just tried the Spitfire out to make sure it worked. Good times!!

    And I’m still undecided as to whether I’m gonna get the mod done. The HC30′s master does react a lot like the Spitfire’s in that there are 2 or 3 noticeable spots within the beginning of its range where the presence definitely jumps. And I do love the idea of running the power tubes at full boar, and then just using the ppimv to control volume. But at the same time, this amp sounds so good, I’m still wondering if I want to mess with it. So we’ll see. hehe But obviously the master has done well enough for you, since you’ve had it, right? Hmm. Although it would be nice just to be able to say it’s modded. lol ;)

  22. yea, im pretty satisfied with the master. running it ideal for me is getting the volume on the 2nd channel to 9:00, and the master at noon or higher in either full or half power mode depending on the room. still can be too much though sometimes so i’m cool with the master a little less than 10 but much less than that like you said you start to lose what you want from the amp.
    i considered an attenuater once but it changed the amps character and punch to much for me. any favorite settings yet?

  23. Ya, totally. In certain places, I have to have it lower than that, including this weekend. However, listening back to the recording…even with the amp not quite at its ‘happy place’ as far as that master volume goes, it still sounded really, really good. So…maybe I’ll get the mod eventually, but I’m in no rush, I suppose. :)

    And thus far, I’ve got the two channels jumped, using the EF86 mostly, and then adding in the first channel for guts and warmth. Really liking it! How about you? How long did it take you to feel like you fully understood the interactive tone circuit on the first channel? I’m definitely not there yet! haha

  24. im gonna try jumping the channels. i’ve never done that. i absolutely love the ef86 channel, and almost always use that. although the times when i have used the 12ax7 i’ve always ended up with the bass around 10ish and the treble around 2ish when i’m going for a really voxy sound.
    so how to you like it with TIM? i had a timmy i used with a badcat and it was almost seemed so transparent it sounded sterile to me, but i’ve always really dug the sounds that you have gotten out of it and i’ve never heard one with the matchless

  25. 10ish and 2ish? Alright, I’ll have to try that. Not used to the active circuit. The RSA31 had it, too, but the Matchless’ one is way more useable, in my opinion.

    And thus far, I’m really liking the Tim with it. I’ve actually yet to find an amp where the Tim didn’t push it into its own overdrive very nicely, providing the amp is on the verge of breakup on its own. However, I’ve not heard it with a Bad Cat. Very interesting. Was that on the EF86 channel on the Bad Cat?

  26. well i will admit that i was having badcat issues at the time (i was totally hating it) i was trying the pedal through it so chances are i was not gonna dig whatever i played through it at the time anyways. and it was on the ef86 side. when you come out this way again bring your tim with you :)
    yea the 10 and 2ish thing works well when the amps running a little harder in a band situation. really great vox sound that cuts through. you might have to dial the cut back though :)
    i actually just spent a lot of time with it this morning. this weekend im playing in a really small room and wanna be able to use it. its amazing how many different good sounds you can get just by using volume and master in different configurations, and how well it takes OD pedals at low volumes.
    ohhh…how i love matchless…i mean Jesus.

  27. so what the differences in the c30 and spitfire in terms of volume. if the c30 is on half power would the settings be similar on both amps?

  28. so i thought you might be interested in this latest piece of matchless info. i never used the effects loop on my dc30. do you ever? anyways i went down to matchless today to pick up some new tubes and i asked phil about what would change if he took out the loop. if this amp couldn’t sound better anyway, taking it out of channel two added more punch and body. not a ton but enough to love it even more. he left it in channel 1 though incase i wanted to still use it.
    any new favorite settings?

  29. Right on! Man, that sounds great…I don’t use my effects loops either. How much did Phil charge to do that? I’m intrigued. :)

    As for settings, I’m just using the second channel right now. The jumping channels was great at low volumes, but with the band, it prevented the amp from cutting through the mix as much as I would have liked. So, just EF86 right now! Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as cool as having a cable jumping the channels, but oh well. hehe

    Oh, and I just changed the whole lot of tubes in it, and that was very nice. :) The old ones looked like they were originals.

  30. you know he didn’t charge me anything. it may have been though because i came in for tubes and just brought it up. it only took him like literally 3 min. plus phil is probably one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. if you ever want to go down there let me know and i’ll roll with you.

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