The Things I Can’t Understand

There are many things in life that baffle me. I shall endeavor to share some of those with you. Because it’s my blog, and I can. ;)

  • The guitarist who maintains that he doesn’t need effects, and proves it by showing me his studio recording of his guitar. His studio recording of his guitar that has been double-tracked, stereo-panned, doubled again, post-eq’d for different phrases, master reverb’d, and is that delay I hear?
  • The guitarist who only plays analog delays…like Strymon.
  • The worship musician who defends dishonest business practices from ‘Christian’ pedal builders, by professing that one can ‘feel the anointing’ in his or her pedals. So…can you feel the anointing in the original builder’s pedal, or does anointing only come from stealing a pedal and slapping a Bible verse on it?
  • Wait, wait. I’ve got another one. The worship musician who defends dishonest business practices from ‘Christian’ pedal builders, by professing that one can ‘feel the anointing’ in his or her pedals. So if I blindfolded you, and turned on and off different pedals from ‘anointed’ and ‘un-anointed’ builders, you could choose the anointed ones? Or would you just end up choosing the ones with the most shimmer.
  • The soundguy who tells me my amp is too loud, when my amp is sitting behind the unbaffled, acoustic cymbals being pounded like they just slapped Neil Peart’s mama.
  • The soundguy who tells me my amp is too loud, so turn down and he’ll give me more in my monitor. Wait…my monitor and my amp are right next to each other facing the same way. So now you’re just telling me that I suck, aren’t you…and that any less volume from my amp can only possibly help the overall mix. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that you need to find a better cover story. ;)
  • The guitarist who berates the soundguy for eq’ing his guitar on the board, but yet refuses to turn down whatever knob that’s driving ice picks into our ears. ;) ;)
  • Pedals with internal trimpots. Makes them more versatile! Yes, it makes them more versatile for the one time I’ll actually have it off my pedalboard, with the bottom plate unscrewed, and am testing my guitar through an upside-down, open pedal, with a mini flathead screwdriver in my hand.
  • Amps that don’t have light-up logos.
  • Churches who stress that transitions must be smooth, practiced, and perfect, to show that we’re not about production. ????????????????
  • Glee.
  • I taught a guy at a gig the other day how to use a tuner. He has 2000% more facebook fans than I do. To be fair, he is also much better looking than I am.
  • The Skreddy Lunar Module Deluxe. It simply cannot sound that good. And yet it does.
  • Arion pedals. They go against everything you know about tone, and totally throw a wrench into the boutique mindset. And sound wonderful.
  • Grace. And I’m not trying to be cliche here. It’s amazing, and yet unfathomable.
  • How come Boss pedals never, ever break…except when in the Guitar Center Boss kiosk?
  • Guitar Center in general. If you want to sell me an amp, can I please have a cable?
  • Samash. If you want to sell me anything…does anyone even work here besides the security guard at the front who just yelled at me to climb down off the display case and put the guitar strings down. I honestly don’t know how else I’m supposed to buy strings here.
  • The guitarist who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Klon is just a tubescreamer clone, and all Klones sound exactly the same, with slightly less haunting mids. He’s never played any of them.
  • Why guitar pedals sound better before anyone else has heard of the company yet.
  • Why we in America (myself included) tend to care more about ‘what the Bible is saying to us’, rather than what the Bible is saying. We can tend to subconsciously water things down when trying to get personal meanings out of certain passages, rather than trying to discover what Jesus was actually trying to convey when He said those things.
  • The worship guitarist who hates dotted 8th’s, but loves Nigel Hendroff.
  • The guitarist who hates delays that digitize the dry signal, but bases most of his sound off of volume swells, in which the dry signal is not supposed to be heard. (Wait, that’s me! ;) )
  • That atU2.com forums. I have never seen a group of people who hate a band so much, hang out so much on a website sporting that band’s name. If you love U2, but are tired of being made fun of for loving U2 (most likely by people who closet-ly love U2), hang out on that message board. It’ll cure ya.
  • How much money we spend on gear trying to sound like recordings that were made using gear we wouldn’t be caught dead playing.
  • Us, for taking ourselves so incredibly seriously most of the time.
  • And of course, this photo, taken by me at our local Ralph’s:
(Just what every kid wants. Without the creepy guy staring at you underwater.)

 

Splendid.
Karl.

56 thoughts on “The Things I Can’t Understand

  1. Eric–lol Not sure what that means, but I’ll take it! ;)

    Chris–thanks…nice to know we’re not alone, right?

    Naal–Dumble.

    Rhoy–lol Ya, not sure I understand any of that either! :)

  2. The Q-tron. I must be the only worship guitarist who thinks Jerry Garcia was the best guitarist that ever lived.

    I know that I’m probably wrong; but I swear you can hear everything he is feeling when he played.

    I really wish he had been on our team, one of the musicians i would have liked to meet up with in heaven.

    • Not the only one. Spent many hours back in the day listening to Dark Star. Did you check out the last song on the ’69 Live Dead album?
      Lay Down My Dear Brothers, lay down and take your rest. Wouldn’t you lay down your heads upon your Savior’s breast. I love you, but Jesus loves you the best…. Who knew I was being witnessed to by the Grateful Dead. I guess it worked.
      Bret

      • Hey bret;
        i have about 2 gigs worth of dead, itunes says its 1.8 days; and i have 7 more gigs of sound board recordings my son’s cardiologist gave me (go figure, deadheads everywhere) that i still haven’t gone through, and I’ve never heard that one. thanks man.

  3. Two things…..1. How do you not know how to work a tuner….2. A worship guitarist who doesn’t like dotted 8ths??

  4. #1 The Guitar Center thing about Boss Pedals is so true
    #2 I really was thinking you might forget to mention U2 on this post but somehow you squeezed it in near the end

    Great Post

  5. Things to be added:
    Singers who readily brag about how many people they have sung in front of, but have no clue how to hold a microphone.
    “Singers” who can’t sing beyond 40 db.
    You know, just lump these together and summarize with one word: Singers.

    p.s. I say “singers” instead of vocalists to differentiate between the real artists, and those pretenders who imagine themselves better than the last American Idol winner, causing them to believe that they have a great voice.

  6. Bob–I’ll have to listen to more of him, and Grateful Dead. I’ve always meant to, and have just never gotten around to it. If he’s got that feel, I’m stoked!

    Zach–amazing on both counts, I know. haha

    Shawn–lol Seriously. ;)

    Jfarabee–haha That’s a good one! There are little tells that allow you to pick up pretty quick if someone is as famous as they say they are. Singers who can’t hold mics, like you said. Or drummers who can’t control volume, bassists who don’t know how to play straight…hehe

  7. At times, I had the urge to stand up, point vigorously at something and yell in an accusatory tone, “YEAH!!!”

    Classic, Karl. Classic.

  8. “How much money we spend on gear trying to sound like recordings that were made using gear we wouldn’t be caught dead playing.”

    If guitarist really knew what pedals were being used… In the “Big Time” studios.

  9. Not many a guitarist can afford the signal chain that happens after the signal reaches the amp (mics, pres, converters, outboard, etc.) in a major studio. True, you can’t polish a turd, but you can certainly roll it in glitter.

    That’s a brilliant way to phrase the American paradigm: “to care more about ‘what the Bible is saying to us’, rather than what the Bible is saying”

    Once, I had a friend tell me that he cared more about what the words of the Bible meant to him as he read it than what the words were intended to mean by the people writing them. He said that the original meaning was only important to people like pastors and teachers, but unnecessary for everyone else.

    Sure the same Spirit is alive today, but c’mon, rarely does he force-feed us information and meaning, but rather prods us in the right direction in the middle of our own vigorous investigation. The Bible is not a menu, and the Spirit is not on the other side of the intercom taking our order. We’ve got to go inside and prepare the food ourselves, and he’ll be there when we need his guidance.

  10. On transitions in church: I get what you’re saying about the production-driven mindset, but I also think that transitions are one of the most important things we need to consider when leading worship or planning a service. While practiced and polished transitions might not leave any room for spontaneity, there’s something about awkward silence that just kills people’s spirit of worship. I think we can find a balance between the two that allows the Holy Spirit to make His presence felt. But that being said, He can make himself known in polished transitions or awkward silence if that’s what He wants.

    I actually did break a Boss pedal (maybe wore out is the correct term). I had a DD-6 (which had the tap tempo built-in, as opposed to on an external switch) as my main delay for 8 or 9 years. All that tapping flexed the input jack so much that it got really wonky. I suppose I could have just replaced the input jack, but then I wouldn’t have had an excuse to buy more new gear. ;-)

  11. Ryan–haha Thanks, bro!

    Sal–excellent point. It’s sobering to find out what was used to make the sounds we’re chasing.

    Steve–wow, that’s fantastic. I’m of exactly the same mind, and you said it quite eloquently. The Spirit is a guide for what God was conveying, and often times we see Him as a catch-all for however we feel about the verse or passage. I think if we truly believe the Bible is God talking to us, we as a church whole need to start caring a whole lot more about what He is actually saying universally. Great comment, man!

    JK–I’m actually in complete agreement with you on transitions. Long silences can get super awkward, and transitions are yummy. :)

    I’m moreso asking us to call a spade a spade. Meaning, I think it’s funny when churches I’ve been to spend half an hour pre-producing lighting transitions so that the lights don’t look ‘pre-produced’. Or, the service producer who says to bring the lights down 5%, because 5% more would feel like we’re trying to make this a production. Which, when you think about it, is complete production in and of itself. If we think produced transitions and lighting will help worship, then let’s produce and not call it something else! I guess I’m just getting weary of the ‘You can tell we’re not about production here by our totally produced lighting rig’ mentality.

    And then on the other side of the coin, if you’re not about production, then own it. Like you said bro, no reason God can’t move through awkward transitions, equipment breakdowns, pastors admitting they flubbed and said the wrong thing…in fact, those things tend to put people at ease and open them up. :)

    And ya…always an excuse to buy more gear. Never a bad thing! ;)

    • Haha! Point taken. I think the fact that the guy has the job title “service producer” should be a dead giveaway that they’re focused too much on production. Sort of ironic, just like bands that spend months in the studio trying to get an “indie” sound.

      • Don’t know that title means anything more than they have a guy to look after the stuff our church can’t afford to do :)

        Nothing wrong with a production if the object is the same as the subject and that subject is the One True God.

  12. I don’t know that it means you’re too focused on “production” if you have someone acting as the “service producer”. I don’t really see anything wrong with trying to make a service run smoothly. I think it’s bad when that becomes your focus. I have actually been kicking around adding that role to my team. I lead at a pack-in/pack-out church that meets in a junior high’s multi-purpose room every week. With the slew of random volunteers we have doing set-up each week, I think it would be very helpful to have someone who’s paying attention to the “production” instead of my having to set-up my guitar rig, make sure the stage/sound system is set-up and running correctly, make sure the media equipment is set up and running correctly, etc, etc, etc, etc…

    Really, what we want (IMO) is a mix of both clean production and an openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit.

  13. I LOVE it when people I agree with are snarky for me, so I don’t have to be! Thanks, Karl! The sound guy in me says:

    1–if your sound guy is insisting your amp be closer to the drummer than you, he’s misguided

    2–if your sound guy is sending ANY of you to your monitor when your amp is facing you, he’s misguided. If you have a vocal mic, he’s misguided and asking for trouble. He doesn’t need a better cover story so much as he needs better skilz

    3–is it morally OK to put my Ceriatone Dizzy 30 into a “real” Matchless box that I purchase from Matchless so that I too may have an amp with a logo that lights up? It’s more important to LOOK good than to SOUND good, right? ;-)

  14. Karl, I love what you just said about the owning the lack of production. You just helped me realize thats one of the many things I love about my leadership team. They never pretend to be anything they aren’t. And when they wind up looking like awkward, nervous, disorganized people it brings people closer, because that’s who they really are. Also it helps when I play wrong notes (usually loudly) to sell the fact that we are not professional.

  15. Just checked out the atU2 site. My. Gosh. I’m not really a fan of U2, but that is creepy. I skimmed a few thread titles and then I shivered and closed the tab in Firefox. Never again.

    How do you skateboard underwater? Is that a left coast thing?

  16. lol great post!

    I believe that for the most part a musicians perception of tone is directly proportional to the price tag, and/or obscurity of the builder.

    well as you’ve so succinctly put Karl, it’s hard to “buy” truly great tone!

  17. The rhythm guitarist who refuses to mic his AC30 in a back closet and then complains about stage volume.

    There. I feel better already. lol


  18. Steve:

    That’s a brilliant way to phrase the American paradigm: “to care more about ‘what the Bible is saying to us’, rather than what the Bible is saying”
    Once, I had a friend tell me that he cared more about what the words of the Bible meant to him as he read it than what the words were intended to mean by the people writing them. He said that the original meaning was only important to people like pastors and teachers, but unnecessary for everyone else.
    Sure the same Spirit is alive today, but c’mon, rarely does he force-feed us information and meaning, but rather prods us in the right direction in the middle of our own vigorous investigation. The Bible is not a menu, and the Spirit is not on the other side of the intercom taking our order. We’ve got to go inside and prepare the food ourselves, and he’ll be there when we need his guidance.


    Steve:

    Not many a guitarist can afford the signal chain that happens after the signal reaches the amp (mics, pres, converters, outboard, etc.) in a major studio. True, you can’t polish a turd, but you can certainly roll it in glitter.
    That’s a brilliant way to phrase the American paradigm: “to care more about ‘what the Bible is saying to us’, rather than what the Bible is saying”
    Once, I had a friend tell me that he cared more about what the words of the Bible meant to him as he read it than what the words were intended to mean by the people writing them. He said that the original meaning was only important to people like pastors and teachers, but unnecessary for everyone else.
    Sure the same Spirit is alive today, but c’mon, rarely does he force-feed us information and meaning, but rather prods us in the right direction in the middle of our own vigorous investigation. The Bible is not a menu, and the Spirit is not on the other side of the intercom taking our order. We’ve got to go inside and prepare the food ourselves, and he’ll be there when we need his guidance.

    Such a good couple paragraphs. I love it!


  19. Justin:

    Nothing wrong with a production if the object is the same as the subject and that subject is the One True God.

    I agree … and for as long as the production doesn’t become a stumbling block or a distraction to anybody, especially a fellow believer.

  20. I’m stumbling.

    So I suggest you all pitch in to buy me a Matchless and a White Falcon and put me on tour so that I can stop lusting. Thank you.

  21. People who criticize everyone for sound like or liking Hillsong and then say things like, ‘everyone should play their style and their sound. Whatever that might be and not have to worry about it whether it sounds a certain way.” Well, my sound and what I like, kinda sounds like Hillsong… and Coldplay and a lot of other indie-ish/brit-pop bands. So, what they are really saying is it’s not okay to conform to a certain sound but it is okay to conform to NOT playing a certain sound… I will never understand those people.

    Agreed on Glee… Also Smash. (glee for grownups…) We get it, everyone in music homosexual and we have to be okay with it. Also, religion is stupid and you are stupid for believing in it. Again, everyone has to be different, just a certain kind of different that is okay… and the same.

      • I’m glad I can talk about it in a light-hearted manner now. The disagreement with my wife about whether we should be watching those shows wasn’t so light-hearted…

        Am I crazy or is that really the message of those shows? I play music and I’m not gay, cheating on my wife, stripping, living a double life, a minority(or am i?), or handicapped. My character doesn’t exist…

        P.s. the cheerleading coach is funny and says all the mean things you are thinking while watching the show…

  22. JK–totally!! haha ‘The bands that spend months in the studio to get an indie sound.’ I love it!

    Justin–I agree that nothing is wrong with production in and of itself. My point is more the lying to ourselves about it. If you’re producing, produce! But producing in order to make people think it’s not produced? Not wrong…more comical. hehe

    KennyG–sure, nothing wrong with it. That’s one of my roles at my church, too. Just quite comical when we spend hours producing so that it looks un-produced. hehe

    JayDub–haha You know what? I didn’t give soundguys a fighting chance in this post, did I. Fixed. There’s a new one now. And no comment on the Ceriatone. lol!!

    Jfarabee–that’s refreshing man! You guys need anyone? hehe ;)

    Jonathan–seriously, right? Everyone on that board hates everything U2 does. Most of the sentiment there is, ‘I’m U2′s biggest fan, so they should cater to me by being Radiohead.’ It’s all so confusing. The site itself is pretty cool though!

    Ruan–in a very generalized sense, digital delays will sound slightly harder and colder, but are much more functional with their longer delay times and multiple type settings. Analog delays will tend to sound warmer and more fluid, but tend to be limited to certain types and shorter times.

    Of course, lately the line between them has been getting blurred more and more by innovative new digital delays, and even some innovative new analog delays. Hope that helps a bit!

    Steve–lol Good form!

    Seth–haha So true!!! Perfect.

    Zach–lol That is amazing.

    Justin–totally agreed.

    Rhoy–very true. Everything in moderation.

    Naal–lol Nothing more produced than a White Falcon. ;) ;)

    Josh & Justin–haha Good point! ‘Let’s all be original! Just like Gungor!’ ;)

    • More like, let’s all be original and different and not use delay together. Or let’s all stop using telecasters. Let’s all burn our Gretch guitars and matchless amps and play JCM 800s.

      Also, JMM. That one gets thrown out there too…

        • Every time someone wines about how every sounds like Hillsong they always say something like, ‘Other than JMM and Gungor every worship band/team/everything in the world sound exactly the same.’

          Don’t get me wrong. I like JMM and Gungor. I’m just sick of people wining about .8th delay, VOX amps and Telecasters and then saying everyone should play what they want. Well, I want to play with .8th delay and a Tele into a AC30 so…

    • Sort for all of the posts butnive had a lot of cafeine and it’s late so I’m very opinionated right now. I’m out of control, Jerry!(spoiler alert: that was a Seinfeld reference)

      Since when is it not okay for a band to continue to sound like themselves?!?! I hear this all the time, ‘There stuff all sounds the same.’. The last I checked they didn’t replace all of their members with new ones and rename the band so the guitar player is going to sound like himself, the singer is going to sound like himself and the drummer is going sound like, you guessed it, himself! If you want something that sounds different, listen to another band. That’s why there is more than one band in the world…

      I’m sick John Mayer playing the Blues. It all sounds the same He should play drums in a metal band. Change things up. Okay, I’m done. Sorry in advance. No, I’m not actually but…

  23. My take is that one of the biggest agendas in the entertainment business is money. No one watches or buys the subsequent advertising of shows about a regular musician. But throw in some TMZ stuff about sex, scandal, all that…and you’ve got a top-watched show. I think the fault is probably more us as a society; they’re just catering to where the money is.

  24. The soundguy who tells me my amp is too loud, when my amp is sitting behind the unbaffled, acoustic cymbals being pounded like they just slapped Neil Peart’s mama.

    The soundguy who tells me my amp is too loud, so turn down and he’ll give me more in my monitor. Wait…my monitor and my amp are right next to each other facing the same way. So now you’re just telling me that I suck, aren’t you…and that any less volume from my amp can only possibly help the overall mix. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that you need to find a better cover story. ;)

    These. All the time. Facepalm.

  25. Can I add the BOSS Metal Zone pedal to the list?
    Always make me think, “High…way…to…the..Metal Zone!’

    B.C. Rich guitars – WTF man?

    Nickelback…

  26. The best things so far:

    slapping neil peart’s mama

    can’t polish a turd, but can roll it in glitter

    I always thought sound guys said to turn down your amp because they wanted to be controlling the overall mix, and not have you up there with an independent volume control. I guess that would be in the case where your amp was loud enough to be heard by the congregation, where the sound guy couldn’t re-eq things. Pretty much, they (without any necessary negative connotation) want to control the sound that’s coming out. So it seemed to be about the initial input of the guitar/amp signal (and not really about the monitors, monitors are just a convenient way for you to hear yourself without being a rogue volume nuisance), and, in essence, the sound guy providing your amplification through the board, so to speak, rather than the amp.

    My 1 1/2 cents.

    Also, I’m starting up on a worship team again, and using in-ears for the first time ever. Should I be freaked?

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