Digital Storm & Ambient Chord Voicings

First off, thank you so much to everyone who has encouraged me with this giving away of the ambient pads endeavor. And those of you who have both encouraged and donated. It is appreciated more than you probably know. It’s really, really nice to know that these might be able to be used to aid in the worship of God through music at different churches around the country. Or venues. Or bars. Maybe even more true acting out of worship goes on when His teachings are lived out at bars rather than just churches. Just a thought. But to everyone reading, thank you! And pads in C and Eb are now up as well. Just six more keys, and then I’ll move into some layered and more melodically driven pads.

Now for the humility part. And I’m always positive that it is like, the 276th time I’ve talked about humility here. I love humility because I don’t have it. I always end up posting tons of stuff that I’ve done wrong and been an idiot about during worship (this last weekend I accidentally hit a patch on one of the Timelines called ‘Digital Storm’…which I created accidentally one day, and have absolutely no idea what to do with because it overtakes your entire rig…and it sounded…well, just like you’re thinking it sounded), in hopes that that brand of ‘easy humility’ (let’s face it, it’s a bunch of guitarists here and most of us can relate) will appease my responsibility for ‘true humility’, such as actually listening to what someone else is saying and seeing if I can help, rather than chomping at the bit to spit out my answer for them so that we can then move on to more important matters; i.e.what I want to talk about. I.e. Tubes and delay.

So here’s some humility. I’ve been getting asked a lot to show the chord voicings that I use for some of the ambient stuff, including the pads. Where’s the humility in that? Well…it sounds a lot harder than it is. When I show what my hands are doing to create those sounds, it’s like…’Oh. Good job playing that one chord you know.’ 😉 I did think for a second about just playing a pad through my amp, and then turning the volume down on my guitar, and just doing crazy nonsense all over the fretboard so that it looked like it took much more Eddie Van Halen-ness than it does, but… So I turned my camera on while recording one of the pads that hasn’t been used yet, because it’s a little more melodically dense than the ones I’m posting just for background sounds. But you can see my hands, the voicings I use, the pedals I turn on, and the fact that for some reason I apparently bite my lower lip when playing ambient stuff. It’s awkward. My version of the John Mayer face I suppose. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking. Not having his face, but being him. Him as a guitarist. Not a person. And not that his face is bad, but he is a dude. And so am I. And he’s not Brad Pitt. Hmm. Getting in trouble again.

John Mayer
(This is John Mayer biting his lower lip. I had no idea that I do the exact same thing. I would prefer this to mean that John and I share the same musical splendor. Unfortunately, I think the truth is much sadder, and might have something to do with me subconsciously pretending I am famous people. And if you’re giving me the benefit of the doubt right now and thinking I’m just being hard on myself, uh…wait until you see the video. Ya. It’s depressing. And I must admit, extremely amusing. hehe 😉 )

So here’s the video of the voicings and pedals. As for voicings, it’s incredibly simple:

  • Stay with 1’s and 5’s.
  • 3rd’s for color.
  • 2nd’s and 7th’s use sparingly as passing notes.
  • 6th’s can be passing notes too, but use even more sparingly.
  • 4th’s are for tension and need to be used poignantly and must resolve.

Then mix those in a way that draws out the feelings and sounds in your head.

And for the effects used:

  • Phaser (slow setting)–>
  • Volume Pedal–>
  • Digital Delay (long time and repeats, high ‘warmth’ and decent modulation)–>
  • Analog Delay (high and slow modulation)–>
  • Digital Delay (multitap setting, low mix and very high repeats)–>
  • Analog Delay (short time and lots of repeats)

Delay is good. And the video that shows me doing nothing:


So I’ll try to post these reverse camera angles of what I’m actually playing (which is basically one chord, just re-voiced constantly, lol) during the videos and recordings from time to time, as so many have asked. And I’ll try to have the rest of the pads up as soon as I can. Unfortunately, I do have my actual job…so I can’t record all day. And I live in an apartment…which means the neighbors aren’t quite as giddy as I am when the bass response shakes the walls. (Mmmm…bass response.) So I have to record in stints. But I promise, once Coldplay calls and tells me I’ve got the tone they’ve been dreaming of, and that they’ll give me a full-time gig only if I promise not to upstage them each night (hehehe sarcasm, people), I’ll record free pads all day. :) But until that time, I really don’t have any money mainly because whenever I actually have it, someone invents a new delay pedal. And unfortunately, I tend to use delay pedals as if they were a savings account. However, I did get an email from Twitter the other day, offering me a job I could do at home in my spare time, consisting of just sending tweets. I’m not trying to brag or anything, but apparently they are offering me upwards of $3500 a day to do this. So, I got that going for me. 😉

Anyway, thanks again to everyone reading, for the encouragement, and I really hope these posts, videos, and pads are of some use in just maybe creating a bit more of an atmosphere where people can let go and connect emotionally with the God who loves them…a lot. Oh ya. And if you messed up this weekend during the worship music, just think ‘digital storm’, and feel better.


35 thoughts on “Digital Storm & Ambient Chord Voicings

  1. nice video! every once in a while you look like you are thinking if you have done the household choir that you were supposed to do :)

    seriously, minimal effort for such a complex, melodic and just simply beautiful sounding piece of music … genius!

  2. Good stuff, and yes, I definitely feel you on the humility part, its one of those things I constantly have to struggle with, and I am thankful I have many friends around me to help keep me in check.

    As for the facial expressions, ugh my wife constantly laughs at me when I play and really get into it. I am just thankful I don’t have one of those tongue issues when I get zoned in… you know what I am talking about. Also it seems to get worse if you put the wah on. I keep telling her that if I move my mouth to the rocking on the wah, it adds to the tone!

    Hrm… Bad facial expressions and mouth gestures = great tone… something to ponder, but I don’t think it really works. At least not for me.

  3. Aww, I wanted to hear digital storm. It will humbly remind me of my tone journey. I never had the metal stage, I went through the way too much processing stage. At one point I had a stereo rig consisting of 2 POD XT lives midi slaved together, and jointly programmed so that I would have two independent stereo paths going to each amp. Then I bought little mixers to fade some of the left into the right and vice versa, so that I would get some neat crosstalk. And neat is about the most polite word that could be used to describe something so awful.

  4. Rhoy–thanks a ton for the kind words, brother. :)

    And lol at the household chore comment. It’s scary how right you are! hehe

    Shane–lol I hope bad facial gestures equal tone! If so, I’m set. hehehe I don’t have a wah, though…maybe I need one…

    And seriously nice to know others struggle with the humility thing. It’s constant for me. Cheers, brother!

    Joel–lol Yes!! Bro, I was the same way. I put so much time, effort, and money, into this terrible rig. Running stereo, like you said, into a Fender PA and a Crate…with all these little tricks that took forever to set up that I thought made it sound just like my friend’s Top Hat. haha So stoked to hear about your dual midi slaved POD’s! Rock and roll.

    And I actually thought about putting a clip of my ‘digital storm’ fiasco from the worship on here, but when I went back into our recording of the service this weekend, I found that it didn’t make for much of a clip, because I only had it on for a few seconds. Funny, because at the time, it felt like it was on for like, 20 minutes before I finally had the presence of mind to kick it off. haha

  5. Very cool Karl. I’ve been thinking about picking up one of those Boomerang samplers and then splitting my signal: One – to the amp and One- to the Boomerang and then the board. I just can’t justify hauling the two amps right now. People already think I’m nuts with the amount of gear that I already haul around. Anyway, I can totally see how this can be utilized at key points in the worship set. You is the man!

  6. Thanks, Mark. I hear ya on the two amps. I haul two amps around…one for guitars, and one for pads, and I have to explain myself every single time. Luckily the pads amp is fairly small…but I always want to run stereo again, but I know I could never live it down until…well, until Coldplay calls. lol It’s tough being a gear junkie, huh. But just think how cool a Boomerang looper through a second amp would sound! And then you could have a third amp to run your delay in stereo, too!

    Am I being a bad influence yet? 😉

  7. OK, so here is my interesting gear thought: One day I dreamed up a rig where you could separate the preamp circuit from the power amp circuit. Build a few preamps (EF86 Vox, TB Vox, Matchless, HiWatt, Orange, whatever you like) but build them small so they fit on the board, and then you can switch between them. You could even run effects after them (just like a loop). Then your board output would go to amp heads with just power amps. For me, it would be EL84, and KT66. So, you would have an amazingly flexible rig, completely switchable, and it would only need 4 circuits of power, and only weigh about 350 lbs. Sometimes my mind is scary.

  8. Yes…you are. 😉 People think I drive a van….because I have 4 kids. Wrong! It’s so I can haul my stuff back and forth from church.

  9. Your pads sound beautiful. Even though I’m not going to use the pads in church, I’m getting something from your videos. Like swapping the digital delay for a multi-head model in my M13 pad setting to get it to sound less harsh. And leaving the door open for optimal tone. I’m trying to figure out the acoustics in my new place when it comes to videos and I’m going to try that one!

  10. Joel–that is simultaneously the most amazing and least practical idea I have ever heard! lol And I want one. :) This was the best thing I’ve heard all day!

    Mark–lol Seriously!! That was awesome, bro. That’s why I still have a pickup when gas is 3 bucks a gallon…for my gear. :)

    Dan–haha Well, some of the pads were recorded with the door closed, because my wife was studying in the next room. I wonder if I can tell the difference? 😉 hehe

    How is the tape modeling on the M13? Everything I’ve heard from it thus far is more impressive than I’d like to admit. hehe

  11. K – good post as usual…of course I got more on YOU on the video than I was comfortable with…having a mental image of you is always better than the real thing…just kidding.

    Just picked up a M9..sold my DL4 and now have the M9 (using the same amount of space on my board) and the MXR Analog Delay…so I’m going to start experimenting this weekend.

    Yeah, I have a pickup truck too! But then again, I live in Idaho…what am I supposed to do? When I lived in SoCal, I drove an Acura or Toyota…now, Silverado Diesel all the way!

    loves in Jesus,

  12. I remember trying and trying and trying to get a tweed deluxe and blackface deluxe out of the same power section. Unfortunately it’s impossible thanks to the phase inverter. Really cool idea though, Joel. The power amp literally powers the preamp.

    I just donated, and I’m getting marred in three weeks. I think others should donate, too. I donated $20. Can anyone out there afford to send in $5-$10?

  13. Karl – okay, I have to say I am surprised with all that loveliness on your pedal board and no wah. I don’t use mine alot, but it does really add to choruses or even with proper string control swells. Well if its any help, the vox wah has been a great wah that I have used for many years, until I got my POD, but I hear great things about satches wah from vox. Very controllable.

  14. Don–which model? That’s very intriguing! I know Frenzel and Emery make some where you can switch out power tubes without re-biasing, but I’ve not heard of this Egnater one. Good times!

    Robin–haha I totally agree! I like the way I look in my mind better, too! 😉 Let me know how you like the M9.

    Oh ya…and you gotta have a truck in Idaho. :)

    Tom–is that where the Matchless gets shown? hehe

    James–so the phases won’t work? I wish I knew more about the technical side of amps! All I know is tubes sound good! lol

    Shane–you know, there’s a wah sound that exists in my head that I just can’t seem to get to. I couldn’t jive with the Budda, any of the Teese wahs, vintage wahs, Dunlop wahs…the closest I can get to what exists in my head is a phaser with a volume pedal, or a Murf with an expression pedal. Weird, I know. Because they’re capable of some great sounds…guess I’m just a picky gear junkie loser. haha I’ll have to give the Vox one another try, though! Thanks!

  15. Karl,

    Recently found and really enjoy your blog. Really would like to pick your brain about delay at some point.

    But to the point here. The Egnator is the Rebel series. It comes in several power levels and has a wattage adjustment knob as well as a knob to blend 6v6 and el84’s. Tried one the other night at the evil empire and wasn’t blown away with the clean sound. OD was pretty sweet though. It’s interesting and I’ll probably try to find a way to spend a little more time with one at some point.

  16. Karl – I think the tape model sounds good but I haven’t a/b’d it against a tape delay. I don’t think it sounds quite as good as my Chandler SDE rack delay. I have to stop reading TGP before I’m convinced that I need to get a Skreddy Echo.

    That Egnater designed Randall RT2/50 Power Amp is cool. His Rebel and Renegade amps let you mix between a 6V6 and EL84’s or 6L6 and EL34’s. It’s too bad that Ty has modded Egnater modules that are not available for sale.

  17. Don–beautiful. :) I might have to give Egnator a second look.

    Rhoy–haha You’re there! Does look sweet, though!

    Craig–well it’s great to have you here, and glad you’re enjoying it! Thanks for the info! It’s exciting to see a company doing something a little bit off the beaten path.

    About the picture, that’s really funny! Looks like Paul Newman…which isn’t a bad thing. haha But usually wordpress just assigns those little abstract boxes randomly if you’re not signed in with them. I have no idea why you got Paul Newman! hehe

    Dan–gotcha. Ya, those are kind of my basic thoughts on the M13…no, it’s not going to sound exactly the same as if you had all the gear it models individually. But then you’d have to drive an 18-wheeler to gigs if you wanted to own every piece of gear it models. hehe :) Would I be correct in that assumption?

    And Ty’s stuff is modded and not available for sale? hehehe I hate that. Like Edge’s Line 6 stuff…it’s not even close to what you’d buy if you got the same module over the counter. :) hehe Ah, to be famous.

    And I’ve yet to read many threads about the Skreddy. it doesn’t have enough functionality for me to be able to justify the price. But then again, I’ve yet to hear one in person. 😉 That could change everything. hehe

    Ben–such cool ideas! For as little gigging guys, it definitely beats lugging 7 different amps around! hehe I just gotta wait for a boutique handwired one that does this. I mean sure, it’s functional, and might even sound good…but having an amp behind you on stage with a name that people can recognize from Guitar Center? Come on now. I’ve got my standards. 😉 I’m kidding, I’m kidding! hehe

  18. great vid again! nothing like delay filled ethereal justice. i was just wondering if you or someone could go a little more detailed into the voicings part. i know all my inversions of chords but am not really sure the technical lingo for what i know.

  19. Ambient loops are an art form for many, myself included. I perhaps can’t share your Christial spiritual space coming from a different ethnic background myself. But your ear, taste and melodic sense come through clearly no matter the cultural background.

    A friend and I met and chatted with Robert Fripp outside a venue in the late ’70’s during his “small, intelligent, musical units drive to 1980.”

    The similarity that struck me between your clip and his show was that you both wore boots with incredibly narrow toes to snap the exact switch when needed. Think of it! Years of research into gear, tone, scales, modes and harmonic texture reduced to the proper footwear.

    But seriously. Great and very useful loops. Thanks for your work on these wonderful sounds.

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