I had the blessing to play guitar for a retreat at Hume Lake Christian Camp in Hume,CA. it was my first time at Hume, and is absolutely beautiful. It was a great opportunity to get away from city life for a bit, and spend some time in the mountains. However it took an adjustment to have no cell service. I didn’t realize how much I depend on it 😂. Thank goodness for wifi allowing me to watch the Red Sox in the World Series.
For my guitar rig, I got to run stereo into a Kemper & Tyler Amps HM30. Then I went stereo out of the Kemper and place 2 mics on the amp (Sennheiser MD-421 & Shure SM57). I used Brian Carl’s Blackface Deluxe SB++ profile which pairs beautifully with my HM30! Check out the video below for a full run through of my guitar rig.
This is an interesting post for me to write because of how I am defining breakthrough. So let me make it clear for you all what I mean by breakthrough. For the last year my pedalboard has not changed. I know .... mind blown 🤯. In reality that doesn't sound like much, but for me it is a big deal. I have spent A LOT of time on my pedalboard. I have gone through probably around 50-70 different pedals, almost 10 different pedalboards, and over a dozen guitars all in that never ending chase for tone. But this last year has been different. I have spent more time diving into my playing and less into my pedals. I have tried to improve how I fit into a band, recording, etc, with what I play more than my tone. I am very fortunate that when it comes to worship music, I can replicate a majority of the sounds in worship albums today. You need me to sound like Bethel, piece of cake. Need me to sound like The Belonging Co, well let me pull out my strat and add some chorus for songs like "Beautiful Story". I have learned a lot when it comes to tone, and it is helpful, but learning to play with your bandmates is even more important. I don't care how incredible your tone is, if you don't learn to blend with your bandmates then the overall sound of the group will suffer. I had a couple friends of mine who were very complimentary, explaining to me that I do a very good job playing with a band. I won't go into a ton of detail, but I appreciated that compliment because it is something I have worked on. It is easy for musicians to get caught up in playing the cool part instead of the appropriate part. Sometimes the best thing to do is play a simple chord, swell, or even stop playing. I try to go into these sets with the mentality of supporting the group and picking my spots when to stand out. I still have a lot to learn there but I believe I have improved a lot over these last couple years. So I wanted to give a couple quick tips of what I have done to help myself improve, and I hope they help you too.
1. Lower yourself in your monitor mix
This may sound simple but it is a struggle for a lot of people. I was very big on hearing myself, and don't get me wrong, I still have myself pretty high in my mix. However I noticed when I pulled myself down in my monitor mix, that I heard a more realistic idea of what the audience is hearing, and how my guitar fit with the rest of the group. If you don't hear your bandmates, how will you know if you are clashing or enhancing the sound of the group??
2. Actively listen to your bandmates
There is a weird concept where you actually care about what your bandmates are playing. Too many bands/worship teams just do their own thing, play their part, and believe it will all magically come together. Does not work! Spend time listening to your bandmates, and I mean ACTIVELY listening! It is one thing to hear, and a completely different thing to actively listen. Don't assume they are playing the part you would play if you were the bass player, keys player, etc. Take the time to communicate with your bandmates during rehearsals. I find myself more than ever communicating with my bandmates between songs or even during songs and adjusting accordingly if needed.
3. Get rid of your ego!!
I can't stress this enough. It is very easy to get a big ego being on stage week after week. But if you go in there with the right attitude, then you will vastly improve the overall sound in your group. If you are a member of a worship team, remember the reason you are there. You are not there just to play an instrument or sing, you are there to worship God and create an atmosphere where others can worship God. If you are in a band, remember that you are there to support your band members. When you go in there with the attitude of "how can I support those around me?" the more likely you are to enhance the sound of your group.
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?