The other night, instead of this…

…I used this…

And I learned a ton from The Riglet. And not what I thought I was going to learn. This is part 1 of said learned things. (What?)

It was the night before my wife and I flew out way early for a family wedding out of state, and I needed to get in and out of the worship service very, very quickly. So, I grab my pad rig pedalboard, disassemble it, and grab only the basics from my main board: od w/ boost, delay, tuner, and volume pedal. Now some of you purists out there right now are thinking, ‘Uh…’basics’ means plugging straight in.’ And I agree with you…if that was what the set called for. But what the music needs should always trump the coolness of ‘plugging straight in.’ And I must admit, it does feel pretty cool. But here are your other options for not bringing pedals when the set calls for it:

1) Be that guy who thinks they can play the dotted eighth delay on Not to Us with their hand. It is so my favorite to listen to folks try to do that (hehe). But I decided not to be that favorite for other people. (And end up being ‘that guy’ in their blogs.)

2) Be that guy who thinks his amp volume is low enough to tune by ear while the pastor is praying. And note to all of you out there who are that guy: your amp volume is not low enough to tune by ear while the pastor is praying. ;)

3) Be that guy who’s playing arpeggiated off-tempo ‘textures’ on the intro to Hosanna because ‘you don’t need effects for ambient playing.’ Which is true…unless the rest of the band is trying to play that sonically spacious intro as close to the track as possible, and you’re that guy ‘who knows better’ than Hillsong’s producer. Which you very well may be. Sometimes I feel like I am. But then I have to realize that since I actually do not make gold records when I put my pants on one leg at a time, it is very difficult to describe to the rest of the band how in fact my thinking I know better than musicians everyone else digs, is actually not arrogance.

4) Be that guy who’s rocking Spinal Tap power chords while everyone else is minimalistically letting space ring out in the verses of Mighty to Save. This one should really be self-explanatory.

5) Be that guy who forces the whole band to change their style to a straight-ahead hard rock or a laid back blues because they want to gel as a band and don’t want your guitar sound and playing to stick out like a sore thumb. Granted, changing the whole feel and style of a set to an effectless or non-ambient one can be a great thing…provided the rest of the band is on board. Forcing them to do it because you didn’t want to plug in a delay pedal is a little…well…let’s just say it’s a good way not to get a call to play for the next worship set.

6) Now, the volume pedal and the overdrive pedal were because even though you can control both those effects with just your guitar’s volume knob, I tend to fall behind on that when really fast note swells are needed or when I need to change from a clean chord to an overdriven lead with no dead space in between. And I didn’t want to be that guy who hindered the worship music because he didn’t want to bring extra pedals so that he could look cooler on his blog. ;)

And I really, really wanted to plug straight in. It would have cut down on the stuff I had to bring, I would’ve looked cool, and I would’ve gotten that incomparable feeling of raw rock ‘n roll power when you stick that jack right from the amp into your guitar with that loud electronic crackling sound. (And I’m not even joking. That’s a cool thing, and few things are cooler in life.) But in thinking through how best my guitar could compliment the music in the set, I realized, once again, how necessary it is to have a pedalboard in my rig.

I’m not saying that everything has to be played exactly like the track. We all have our own creativity, and I have heard plenty of folks play things that I like way better than the original track. What I am saying is that if you don’t ever concede any ground (such as, ‘Ya okay, even though I think this song sounds better with a blues riff rather than an ambient texture, or with a delayed anti-solo rather than a flanged ’70′s rock line, maybe I’ll come closer to the original because I’ve already changed 3 out of 4 songs in the set’), at some point you have to ask yourself where the line is between innovation and arrogance. And I’ll say right now that I don’t know where that line is…so I try my best to always error on the side of humility (and fail miserably most of the time…hehe). Which is one of those ultra (and I mean ultra) rare things in life that maybe, just maybe, is more important than music.


P.S. For those of you interested in those pedals I mentioned tough times were forcing me to sell, the thread is here: