Well, I figure it’s time to give some friends’ blogs some props….you know, spread the blog karma around. Plus, the friend I’m going to introduce today has had a lot to do with my current views on worship guitar tone and style.
This is Alex McLean. He’s the one in the hat. One of my favorite pictures ever. (Hint: look closely. It took me awhile. And no, nothing is going to jump out and scare you.) He’s over at www.betterthanblank.org . Cool name, huh? He’s the executive pastor at my church, so that means he’s technically my boss. But ‘boss’ is such an ugly word. I instead choose to call all my bosses ‘friends.’ Not sure how they feel about that, but it does raise my own self esteem quite a bit.
Anyway, Alex is a very talented musician, and perhaps an even more talented, shall we say ‘producer.’ He plays acoustic guitar, drums, and vocals very well. But he can hear keyboard, electric guitar, bass, or even string parts in his head and once he sings them for you and you play them on your respective instrument, it’s like, ‘Whoa.’ So he’s cool.
He was also the one who got me into playing simplistically instead of technically, musicianship over speed, sound over style, etc. Basically, the modern indie and worship style over ‘look how cool my chops are.’ Or, as I like to say, U2 over jazz-metal (which, and I’m very ashamed to say this, used to actually be what I called my guitar style.)
So, before Alex was the executive pastor, he was the media pastor. And I remember one evening of our Saturday night service…….the service had just ended, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for just having had the talent to squeeze in 8.5 solos into our worship leader’s 5 song set (and the word ‘solo’ is translated very loosely here….more like a soaked in delay, reverb, and mids, hit as many notes in this measure as a hack like me possibly can, guitar part). And I remember Alex coming up to me as I’m tearing down my rig:
Alex: Hey, Karl!
Karl: Hey, Alex!
Alex: Hey, you sounded great tonight!
Alex: All the songs you played sounded great……except for the ones
with the solos.
Karl: Uh……I solo’d in every song.
Alex: Well, maybe it was just too much delay and reverb in certain parts.
Karl: But, I never turn off my delay and reverb.
Karl: Well, see what I’m trying to do is play the correct counterpoint to the D Maj scale, but evoke the feeling that the Christian life isn’t all happy all the time by actually playing a D minor passage in the classical type of the scale, harmonic minor, in a mode I invented myself. And the faster I play it, the more it works. That’s how counterpoint is. I really think it lends a good flavor to ‘Heart of Worship.’ The best band ever, Tourniquet, does stuff like this all the time.
Alex: Have you ever listened to any U2?
Alex: Ya. I’ll get you some cd’s.
And so was birthed my U2 man-crushes (my wife is understanding, though). And more importantly, was birthed the mindset of trying to play just whatever the music and the worship calls for….which 95% of the time, is simple, tasteful, and needs those three simple and tasteful notes to sound amazing.
Props to Alex, at Better Than Blank.
(A picture of me and Alex. Well, Alex and one of my guitars and half my pedalboard. But, for all practical purposes that’s me.)