3 Ways to Improve Guitar In Your Church Without Touching a Guitar

Make a new best friend …. with the sound guy

 One thing I have observed at churches is there is a lot of division between the stage and the booth. Let’s face it. Sometimes musicians and sound guys can be tough to work with. However the reality is that we all are trying to serve in the church, and create the best possible worship experience. A simple way to improve worship in the church is to improve these relationships. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that some of my closest friends have been sound guys. These relationships have given me a much greater understanding of the ups & downs of audio in that church. It has also opened up a consistent line of communication for improving guitar tone in the mix. I try to ask the sound guys every week how my guitar sounds and if there is anything I can do on my end to help. When they see something can be improved it allows me to adjust to the overall sound rather than just my own personal preference. A very important part of this is to actually MAKE THOSE CHANGES! Don’t just listen to their opinion and then completely ignore it.  Sometimes its as simple as messing with the EQ on my amps/pedals or even playing certain parts an octave higher or lower. Either way these simple questions have shown the sound guys that I care about how my tone affects the overall mix, and that goes a long way 

 

Listen …. a lot 

  One of the best classes I took in college was Critical Listening. This class was designed primarily to listen and identify frequencies. Listening to white noise over and over again was very redundant but it is one of the most beneficial classes I ever took. The goal of the class was by the end to be able to identify frequencies and how they affect different sounds. This class allowed me to understand where my guitar needs to lie in the mix and how to quickly improve my tone. I have seen on too many occasions people who know what sounds good but don’t know how to get there. Today I have a much better understanding of what I am listening to and if I need to adjust on the fly I can make educated decisions rather than going by trial and error. This also helps me in communicating with the sound guy. Instead of just telling the sound guy mixing monitors my guitar sounds muddy and hoping he can read my mind and guess what I want, I can ask him to pull down 400hz 2 db in my monitor. Quick educated decisions are always better than trial and error.

 

Be a team player

I wish I didn’t have to write this one since it is so blatantly obvious but be a team player. Understand that we want to bring the best possible worship experience and sometimes that means laying down your pride, tone, style, or parts that you worked hard on. I had many times that I was playing at church and the other guitarist was completely stepping on my parts. I played with a blues player once who is very used to playing at all times and riffing throughout the song. If I played the lead parts I normally do it would mean 2 lead parts happening at times and no rhythm. So instead, I switched up playing all the parts I practiced, and I switched over to rhythm when the song needed it. Too many times we think the best sound is the most complicated sound. Worship music is very very simple, and that means the best thing for the song could be not playing at all or just strumming a simple chord every bar. Be humble and play what is best for the song not what is best for you and your style. I can tell you that I am not a “shredder”. I am not gonna go up there and blow your mind by my licks like Mateus Asato but I can tell you that I will play something that enhances the song. Maybe it’s doing swells, playing a basic arpeggio, or cranking my distortion pedal to 11. Be a team player. It goes a long way not only musically but also relationally when others see your desire to work as a group rather than just playing what you think sounds coolest. 

What I've Been Up To This Summer

This summer has truly been a blessing, and here are a couple reasons why!

Calvary Young Adults

For those of you that don't know I began attending Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village in March. It is a large church that honestly I never really considered because I thought it would be tough to get involved. Well .... I guess I was wrong since I got plugged in pretty quickly. Throughout my time there, the most exciting part for me has been the young adults ministry. When I began attending in March the young adults averaged around 100-125 people, and going back to September they were averaging around 20 people. The last couple weeks we had over 220 people! It's been crazy to see how God is using that ministry and to see people from so many different churches attending. Over these last couple of months I have consistently been playing guitar for young adults and I am loving it. The musicians in the worship band are killer! It has been an eye opening experience, being in LA, to see and play with so many talented musicians. It has definitely challenged me in my guitar playing and in my understanding of music/worship. Looking forward to seeing what's next for CYA!

High School Ministry Camp

My church hosted our yearly high school ministry camp this past week. I was asked to play guitar for the worship team at camp and due to my work schedule it didn't look like I would be able to participate. However lucky for me I was able to drive 2 hours directly from work to Murrieta Springs each day and get there in time for rehearsal/chapel, and man it was worth it. That week was one of my favorite worship experiences I have ever had. It was incredible to see the high school kids so excited and passionate in worship, and to see the impact God made in their lives during the week. At the end of the week the kids shared the victories they personally had in Christ, and it was amazing to see the kids give up their struggles to God. For me one of the best parts of the week was the fellowship I had with my bandmates. Not only were my bandmates killer musicians but they are also strong believers and awesome friends. We had some incredible worship sets including midnight worship, where we spent 1.5 hours going all out in worship. Everyone on and off the stage were having a blast, and I found myself breathing mighty heavily after several songs. Kids continued talking about midnight worship later in the week and just how much they enjoyed that night. So all in all it was a pretty incredible week at camp, and I was truly blessed to be a part of that team witnessing God do incredible things in lives including my own. Gear wise for any wondering I ran my Kemper AC15HW MK2 profile mono in/stereo out for camp. Sounded killer!

Vacation Bible School "VBS"

Vacation Bible School. Always one of the most exhausting and rewarding weeks of any church. I got the privilege of playing guitar and for the first time experiencing VBS in a very large church. Our theme was space entitled Enterprize, and we had over 600 kids attend each day! The kids were always bringing the energy and it was great for us as a band to be a lot more outgoing than we would normally be on a Sunday morning service. During the week we made it work that I could go wireless for the 2nd half of the week! So during "Endless Praise" I got to go out to the front of the stage with the kids and "shred". I know when I was a kid I loved when the musicians came down from the stage, so I tried to get down to the kids' level, gave some high fives and even took a selfie during one of the sets lol. I was also very excited because I got to run stereo for the first time at the church using my Vox AC15 Handwired and my Kemper Profiler using a Fender 62' Deluxe Reverb profile. It sounded great! Now I am running stereo consistently at the church and might even be trying out a Wet/Dry/Wet rig soon. But anyways, VBS was a fun week of worship and gave me time to develop some great relationships throughout the week! If you haven't been a part of a VBS, you need to do it. 

NAMM Winter 2017 Winners

Winners

Benson Amps

  I have heard only great things when it comes to Benson Amps. However coming from the worship tone world, I didn't know if the Benson sound would be my cup of tea. However I can now say I am a believer! This amp sounded wicked (yes I said wicked) awesome! These amps are pure tone. You could hear the difference of the point to point wiring that allowed the full frequency range to push through the amp. Just to put this in perspective, a guy from Veritas shared with me that Ryan Adams stopped by, played a couple Benson amps, and then bought 2 of them. I think he knows a little bit when it comes to guitar tone.

Slate Digital

  I heard about Slate Digital almost 2 years ago when I was introduced to their virtual tape machine plugin. I've wanted their plugins ever since and now I am a member of their "everything bundle" which is amazing! So I checked out their booth and got to see them record a band live using their new VRS-8 interface using only their virtual large and small diaphragm microphones. I was very impressed with the sound especially since there is so much noise in that convention center. They also had Chris Lord Alge share some of his practical mixing tips which I can't wait to try on my own, and finally they had Stevie Wonder give an impromptu recording performance on stage! Hearing him sing so close was a moment I will never forget!

Creation Music Company

  I am probably a bit biased here but I love my flat board from them so I can be. However I want to tell you about their amps. I got to try out a couple of their Milano amps (15 & 50 watt). These amps are fantastic. They had a great smooth tone to them, not to bright, not to dark, just rounded out nicely. The 50 watt has a ton and I mean a ton of headroom, and both of these amps take pedals like a champ. This is the kind of amp that worship musicians were born to use.

Veritas Custom Guitars

  I'm happy to say I've now tried every model they have to offer, and here is what I found. The 503 is an incredible guitar! I love the way it plays and for a big guitar fits better than any other larger guitar I've ever played. The sustain was to die for, but unfortunately the price is as well. I'd love to get one but I don't think I could fork over $5k for it. However the real reason I put them down as a winner is their pickups. Yes their pickups! I had no idea Veritas was making their own pickups but I got to try them on the 503, Texas Miracle, and Mini Master. All of them sounded fantastic which I expected because I thought they were all Lollar pickups. I was incredibly surprised at the quality of these pickups and I feel confident in saying you can get any one of these guitars and be incredibly happy with it. The question then becomes which model, pickups, wood, body color, finish, etc?

Neumann

  Every producer knows Neumann for their incredible microphones such as the U87. It was so helpful to be able to go around to each microphone and test them all with a pair of headphones. I got a good idea how each one sounds and the sonic characteristics that each of them holds on a basic level. However what I was very surprised by was their studio monitors. They had a small room setup with 3 of their studio monitors. I was very impressed with the quality of the speakers. Of course the biggest model was the most impressive but I was happy to see the smaller 4" speakers hold up very well for their size. For $500 they could be a great option for someone looking for small studio monitors or a secondary solution.

Chase Bliss Audio

  Chase Bliss Audio has just blown up recently in pedal planet. They have created some incredible pedals such as the Tonal Recall and Gravitas. Most recently they created the Brothers overdrive pedal that I wanted to try. Now going through an amp simulator I knew it wouldn't be the perfect representation of the pedal, but I would get a decent idea of its capabilities. Overall I can easily say this is the most diverse overdrive pedal I've ever seen. It has 2 different circuits you can activate individually, stack on top of one another, and decide which circuit is first or second in the signal chain. We went through so many tones we didn't even touch all the dip switches on the back of the pedal. This pedal can go from some nice overdrive to massive distortion tones with ease. It also has midi capabilities which could make it very appealing to someone with a midi controller like I have in my Mastermind PBC. However even though it was impressive it was not my favorite overdrive pedal at NAMM.  

Suhr

  Suhr continues to amaze me with their guitars. I can confidently say that I believe these are the best guitars you can get for $2-2.5k. My Suhr Classic Pro strat is one of my favorite guitars I have ever owned for a reason. Now they just released some new models my favorite of which is their JM Pro, their take on a jazz master. Unfortunately they weren't available to demo but I was closely inspecting the JM Pro and everything I loved about my strat and tele I could see in this new model. I am curious at the tones you can get from what looked like humbucker pickups, and if they are anything like the humbuckers I tried at Chicago Music Exchange I'm pretty confident this guitar will do very well. 

Strymon

  Now onto my favorite overdrive pedal. Strymon recently released the Riverside pedal that sent the guitar world into a frenzy, or at least the worship guitar world. So I wondered if it was that good. Well I'm here to tell you, yea it's that good. This is an incredible overdrive pedal that ranged from just some bite into some solid raw overdrive. Now my only drawback is that this was hearing the pedal direct through an interface and not through a tube amp. So I would love to hear it interact with a good amp, but have you ever heard an overdrive pedal direct? They always sound horrific. So I don't know how they did it but the pedalboard of Strymon pedals with the Riverside sounded incredible and from they said it was 100% direct. So hats off to Strymon. I was also very impressed with the Flint pedal as well. The reverb was sounded beautiful and the tremolo was solid. Definitely one of the better tremolos I've heard which I would put right next to the Cusack Tremolo and right below the Chase Bliss Gravitas. 

 

 

 

 

Confessions of a Worship Guitarist

  So I think we all can agree that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, so here I go. My name is Travis Boothman and I am a gear-a-holic. Over the last 8-10 years of playing guitar, I can say that this blurb is one of the greatest lessons I have learned, and I want to share it with you all.

  I have spent so much time when it comes to gear. You want to get me talking, just show me your pedalboard and we can chat for hours. I'll research different guitars, amps, and of course .... pedals. I have gone through a PT-2, Pedaltrain Pro, PT-3, Blackbird, Temple Audio, and now I am running a flat board by Creation Music Company. That comes to 6 pedalboards in a a 8 year span! The only pedals I still own from 2 years ago are my Morning Glory, Big Sky, Timeline, and Polytune. Everything else .... gone. I became obsessed with getting the ultimate "worship" tone. I wanted everyone to think Jeffrey Kunde (Jesus Culture) came to fill in, or that Nigel Hendroff (Hillsong United) took a week out of his tour to play on our worship team. After spending so much time on my gear, it's no surprise that when i played a part, I simply couldn't play it like he did. I spent so much time working on my "sound" that I forgot to work on the biggest part of guitar tone, the tone produced directly from my hands to my guitar.

  When I really began sharing my vision for making guitar my career, I was given the challenge to sell most of my pedals, and just keep the bare minimum (1 overdrive, delay, reverb). So I did what almost all of us worship guitarists would do. I said ABSOLUTELY NOT! However I began experimenting with that idea. I began practicing direct into the amp, unplugged, or with my acoustic. I minimized my time with the pedals, and instead of tinkering away at my tone I was tapping away on the fretboard. To no surprise, I found myself improving as a player, and even better I found I didn't have to rely on those pedals as much to hide my flaws. Too many times we find ourselves stuck unable to play a specific part or lick. Then to make sure we don't miss our part, we just change to a preset that fixes it all. However there will be that day that comes for almost every guitarist. There will come a day that all your pedals fail or even worse..... you don't have them! I had this experience recently when I was asked to play last minute for a young adults night. I wouldn't get to rehearsal in time, but I could get there in time to play the set. Now my pedals were at the time over a thousand miles away being put together by Brian Omilion of Omilion Audio, so I had nothing but my guitar, amp, tuner and the and built in boost switch. However I knew I could handle it, because I had been practicing with the minimum. Of course I wanted to add some big ambient swells and delays, but I could make it work without them. That night I got a lot of compliments for my playing, and most of them I can assume had no idea that I was missing 1/3 of my gear. That was a win in my book. So now I challenge you to put yourself in that situation. If you were asked to play with just a guitar, amp, tuner, and boost, could you do it and do it well? I can be honest with myself and say that I have improved in that area, but that I also have a long way to go. 

  I think as worship guitarists we easily forget that pedals are designed to enhance our tone rather than cover up our mistakes. When we have that mentality of covering our playing, we cheat ourselves of improving as guitar players. We stick ourselves inside this box that we can't play those parts, so instead we just click on a delay that can do it for us. Don't feel like I'm judging anyone that does this because I was the worst of them all, and I would much rather it sound good with delay than sound horrible without it. Overall this experience has just shown me that my priorities were in the wrong place. Of course you should have a solid guitar tone, but you should never let it stop you from improving your abilty as a guitar player. You can have the best gear in the world, but if you can't play the parts, what good is it?