So I have an expression pedal that I rarely connect to my Memory Lane. Rarely. It controls the feedback, and when pressed all the way down, can send the Memory Lane into huge self-oscillation. I use it sparingly, for just enough oscillation to transition songs every once in a while, or build, or add texture, whatever you like. But when I’m not using it, I disconnect it completely from the delay…because it’s way too easy to accidentally hit it; and if you’ve ever had a Memory Lane, the oscillation can get luscious. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes the sounds I find to be luscious, might not have the same level of lusciousness to other people. Hence, to avoid accidental lusciousness, I disconnect the expression pedal and let the Memory Lane default back to where I have the repeat knob set.

However, on Sunday morning during rehearsal, I forgot to unplug it from when I had been practicing (all that really means is turning on lots of delay, hitting a note, and then just smiling for hours) earlier that week. So we’re doing ‘Amazing Grace.’ Just our acoustic player, and two other vocalists. I’m not doing anything. Which is what I planned. But that is hard. So I went in for just one note. Just a simple swell. One note, to glide above the melody, and slowly decay behind the acoustic picking. So on go the fuzz and all the delay pedals. So, it’s obvious where this is going. Yep. Lusciousness. Tons of it. But it’s worse. See, I run everything in true bypass loops. So, the expression pedal has been all the way up, oscillating whatever white noise from the power supply it’s picked up and whatever bleed it’s gotten from the bypass loops (let’s be real here, even with quality bypass loops, signal always finds a way…definitely stole that from Jeff Goldblum…great actor who isn’t afraid to leave the pathway a bit..Pittsburgh was a killer film…please see it, just without the ‘please’), since I turned my rig on about an hour earlier. Yes. One hour of built up self-oscillation. That I haven’t heard or noticed, because the bypass loop is keeping it out of the signal chain.

So I hit the bypass loop, so that the Memory Lane can assist in the swell. And the sound that came out, was the most ear-piercing, high-pitched…you know those sounds that you can feel in your brain, and they make the room look like Topher Grace and Tommy Chong in bell-bottoms? (That 70’s Show, people, do I really have to spell it out?) Ya. It was…uh…incredible. I have never heard that sound before. Nor do I care to again.

Jurassic Park
(Jeff Goldblum in all his ‘choice of acting roles’ splendor. Remember when these were good effects? Ya. Me too. I was 9 when this movie came out. I remember seeing it at a friend’s birthday party. I covered my eyes at parts like this. I told myself it was because my parents had said not to watch PG13 movies; so then if I closed my eyes at all the ’13’ parts, I’d be okay. But really I closed my eyes because I was just absolutely freaked out. Hey man, that T-Rex used to look really real. However, this movie does contain the iconic line, delivered fantastically by Mr. Goldblum: ‘But John, when Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.’ Classic.)

But a terrible, more-treble-than-a-hacked-Yngwie-Malmsteen-face-melter-through-a-stock-strat-bridge-pickup-into-a-non-British-made-AC15-with-three-year-old-unmarked-made-in-China-tubes sound, is not what this post is about. This post is about that fact that right before I went into the ‘what ended up being the epitomy of anti-minimalism’ swell during practice, I thought to myself, ‘You know, I should just be quiet right now, so that the vocalists can get their harmonies down; and then I’ll add it in during service.’ Yes. Which of course means that I probably would not have noticed the position of the expression pedal or its plugged-in status, until the rest of the congregation also noticed. For some reason, I decided to try it in practice first. That……is what we call grace. Undeserved, supernatural favor. There is absolutely no other way to describe it. God smiled on me yesterday. I mean, this blog has somehow become my ‘honesty’ outlet for every mistake I make. Not sure why. So that I can get my confession out of the way here, without any real personal responsibility, thereby alleviating my guilt so that I can then continue to act like a jerk to the people I actually see face to face? Very possible. I hope not, but… 😉 But if this luscious (okay, that’s just a straight lie now) self-oscillation were to have actually happened during service, I’m not sure I could have admitted it even here. Grace…is a good thing.


22 thoughts on “Grace

  1. on the first read, I missed that this happened during practice. I was picturing how ruined the worship atmosphere would have been in your congregation.
    Glad you caught it before it got there.
    And where would any of us be without grace?

  2. LOL, Karl, you rock man! I have been beating myself up for a botched solo, ADD creaps up at the wrong times for me, meaning that hey I got this sweet solo down, and then time for live, and I think go for the A… look a rabbit… skip a couple of notes, try some off time, uhm… where am I at. Yea, kicking myself for that…

    And then I also like to try new chord progressions that I learned in my head, while walking up to the stage… You know where that one is going. Good thing is that nobody but the guys on stage could tell.

    But I am getting your message:
    Stick to what you did in rehearsal if at all possible, and try all your stuff out in rehearsal before trying it live.

    Thanks for keeping it real, and uhm I have ruined a couple of worship moments in my day too, so Grace, thats why its Amazing!

  3. Isn’t it great that God tends to protect us from ourselves. I had a thought to try something that probably would have be awful last Sunday and dropped my pick (Which in the process of picking up I unplugged my in-ear lead.). I looked like an idiot (Nothing new there.) but awfullness was avoided.

  4. Been there… Done that (much to my chagrin — lol!)… Still have moments where “stuff happens”, although preferably in run-throughs.

    Of course, this topic begs the question, “So… if we make mistakes like this in the middle of corporate worship, has God decided, ‘Hey, I think we’re due for a good ole loud, there’s-no-way-to-hide-it mistake to shake up these worshippers… I think I’ll let Mike mess this up in real-time — lol!’?

    Could it be grace that caused Karl to have the good fortune to make this mistake during rehearsal? Is it the withholding of grace that caused me to lock down a chord progression loop at the end of a service during our ‘Next Steps’ segment so I could tune down to a ‘Drop D’ for the closing song, only to forget when I decided to take over from the looper pedal that I was now in a Drop D tuning? [a big Homer Simpson “Dooohhh!” for that one — lol!].

    Perhaps the preceding attributions to the divine are true… and perhaps they’re not. Sometimes, especially given our frailties, “stuff just happens” and it’s not due to God deciding to grant or withhold grace…

    Where I’m going with this thought is that we need to be careful to recognize that many things we often attribute to Divine intervention may simply be coincidence… [it’s sure going to be a ‘hoot’ when we finally sit down before the Lord and He says, “Hey, remember that time _______ happened and you gave Me credit? That wasn’t me… it was just coincidence — LOL! :)”

    I’m not suggesting that God doesn’t intervene in the course of our lives. However, rather than getting caught up in the conundrum of, “So why did God let this happen?” for something that truly originated out of the domain of “stuff happens,” I personally prefer to operate on the basis of one of the Apostle Paul’s observations that:

    “All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.”

    Paul is not saying that things always work the way we want or expect. But I believe he is saying that even from the ‘bad things’ that happen in the course of our lives, God can bring ‘good results’. When I was 23 years old, my father died tragically from suicide about suffering for several years from health issues and depression that ensued as a consequence of those health issues. I’m not talking about someone simply feeling ‘blue’; I’m talking about thyroid issues which force the body into acute chemical depression for which there’s no reasoning through the state of depression.

    When I received news of his death, I was both devastated as well as being angry with God. I was angry because I couldn’t understand why God would let this happen to my Father, who loved the Lord. I couldn’t understand why God would let this happen to me, because at that time, I was in vocational ministry, making all the personal sacrifices, etc. that seem to go hand-in-hand with full-time ministry. Isn’t God supposed to “work all things together for good” for folks like me and my family?

    Over the course of the past 28 years (yeah, I’m an old dude who can still ‘flat-out’ rock), I’ve come to realize that amidst that tragedy, God did some amazing, wonderful things that brought good things to many people, including me. Incredible “good” came from tragedy…

    So… that’s why when I make a mistake ‘during corporate worship’ or one of the other band members make a mistake, I just smile, work to recover from the error, and continue offering praise to God, because I know from experience that even in my ‘weakness’, He’s revealed as being strong…

  5. Excellent points Mike O.
    I, like pretty much all of us here, have had very similar moments; during worship and in practice. For me it is often a lesson in humility. One of my struggles as one of the lead guitarists for my church is that I have the nicest amp, the nicest board, etc. I struggle with walking in on Sunday and saying, “Hey, check out my cool stuff”, and “Hey listen to this new dumble style overdrive with a wave-motion gun attached to it” (at which point everyone says what’s a dumble?)

    I just got a Zenkudo by the way. I’m still working on my verdict on it… It doesn’t have the wave-motion gun attachment though…

    Points if you know what a wave-motion gun is.

    Anyway – my point is that I often try to present myself as the know-all of tone, the guru of pedalboards, the be-all of what a guitarist should be.

    It’s then that I play a half-step off from everyone, or I’ll turn off the HotBox for the quiet part to then find out that I actually didn’t because there’s no indicator light! Or sometimes, worst of all; the worship leader will look back at me and ask me to stop playing whatever it is I’m playing because it’s clashing with the vision of what he had in mind for a particular song. What about my vision? I’m an artist man!

    I guess sometimes I need to make those mistakes to show myself that He is in control. He is the Know-All of Tone. He is the Guru of PedalBoards. He is the Be-All of Everything. He’s the Artist. I’m just the guy He’s using for the moment. No wait, I’m just a blob of color on His palette. Sometimes I’m the main color, sometimes I’m just a highlight, sometimes I get mixed in with the other colors, and whoa… sometimes I’m just not in the painting at all.

    Hmmm… that could make for some good lyrics… “I’m just a blob for God… la la la…”

    • well said…

      “What about my vision? I’m an artist man!”


      “No wait, I’m just a blob of color on His palette. Sometimes I’m the main color, sometimes I’m just a highlight, sometimes I get mixed in with the other colors, and whoa… sometimes I’m just not in the painting at all.

      the best riff I ever played was the one I didn’t have to play…

  6. I don’t believe this Tom. I just went through just about everything that you said this weekend. I’m the oldest guy on the worship team. I have the nicest stuff pretty much because…I’m the oldest guy on the worship team. :) I’ve had the most experience playing because….I’m the oldest guy on the worship team.

    Yet anytime I let those facts draw me away from the face of the one that I serve….I might as well be the 12 year old (Don’t take this personally Brian. You’re doing great!) that I just started giving lessons too.

    One song I forgot what song I was playing (Anybody ever notice that a lot of the Hillsong punk rock stuff sounds a lot like the other Hillsong punk rock stuff?). On another I forgot what I was supposed to play. Pretty bad considering it was something that I made up.

    Reality check! The equipment I have was given to me to use to serve Him. Otherwise, I’d still be using the junk that I used to use playing bars for 20 years (Thank You Jesus that I no longer do that. I get a nervous tick when I hear “Give Me Three Steps” on the radio.). Any talent that I have He has blessed me with and I can take no credit for myself. In the words of Homer Simpson….DOOOHHHH!

  7. Don–lol Me too! And your comment on grace…I couldn’t have said it any better.

    Shane–lol Nice story, bro. That’s why we musicians gotta stick together…so we don’t feel as bad after services! haha

    Mark–now that’s an awesome picture. God saying something to the effect of, Ya…so, you’re definitely gonna kill the worship with that solo. And then he knocks the pick out of your hand! lol

    Mike Oliver–great points. And my condolences on your father. What a tribute to God’s grace that you can see the good He has brought out of it.

    I totally agree with you that many times God does not have a decided hand in certain things we think He does. My post was a little bit tongue-in-cheek in that regard, to where I’m not sure if God literally had me find out about the position of the pedal in practice, so as to let the worship experience go better during service. But I think He could have, and it was a good excuse to get to talk about grace. :) You make a great point that when we get to Heaven, we’re going to probably be surprised by certain things we knew God specifically did, which He ended up not doing; and probably the other way around, too–things we never gave Him credit for, that He was actually doing.

    And I do think that God sometimes withholds grace from us in order to teach us things. (Not eternal grace, spontaneous grace.) And I’m certainly glad He does! If He didn’t let me fall on my face once in a while, I’d never grow into being more like Him through my mistakes. I’m just glad He didn’t let me fall on my face with this oscillation thing…although it would have been a learning experience I never forgot! lol

    Great comment!

    Mark–aye. :)

    Tom–yes!! Totally. Often times, I wish my rig was smaller, because I feel this added pressure on me when I bring it in. As if people are going, ‘Okay, lots of cool gear. Now you better be able to back it up, buddy.’And there have been a lot of humbling experiences where I have definitely not been able to back it up. haha

    Mark–awesome points! Although I’m gonna focus on just one. Yes, every punk Hillsong song sounds like another. I only like Hillsong when they’re power-driving…not the punky stuff. 😉

    Mike–that is the best way I’ve ever described how the ML oscillation can get. Good form. hehe And the preset? So do you have the ML2?

  8. Grace is indeed a good thing. We have it far better than we deserve.

    I’ve got a question about this kind of issue though… I know you doing use any buffers in your signal chain, but if there was a buffer in front of the Memory Lane wouldn’t it remove (or lower) the signal bleed? I realize the buffer can do other things that aren’t desired, but could it help with the issue reported?

  9. Hey Clyde,

    Totally agree on the grace thing! :) As for buffers, I suppose it might do something to that effect, but you’re right that it would also do things I would not like. And the Memory Lane is such a beast when it comes to self-oscillation, it’d probably just incorporate the buffer into the noise. haha I think I just need to stop being an idiot, and remember to put my expression pedal in the down position, or unplug it. hehe
    Do you use buffers? If so, which ones? Cheers! :)

  10. Hey Karl,

    I don’t use a buffer per-se, though if I bought one, it’d be the B-Buff from Barber, or it’d be one from Dan (this1smyne). I use my amps effects loop for some of the (non dirt) effects, so the amp is actually buffering for me.

  11. Way cool. Ya, Dan’s a good guy and makes some great stuff. He actually has one of the Divided by 13’s I demo’d here a couple months ago. Although I think he might have already re-sold it. But I love his stuff!

    And I ask about the buffer because although I’m not into them, that could all change at any moment. (Hey, I’m a guitarist. hehe) So I dig the idea of buffered effects loops in amps, especially if they’re tube driven. Very cool!

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