The Power of Praise

Posted: May 7, 2011 in Music, Praise Music
Tags: , ,

One of my passions is playing guitar. I play in the praise band Jericho Down and though I love and enjoy different styles of music, especially guitar oriented music, my desire is to use my ability to worship and lead others in worship of God. This leads me to an ongoing search for great musical tone through the equipment that I play as well as how to become a better guitar player and to incorporate different styles into the music that I play with my band. The other day I had a Facebook conversation with my old friend and former band mate (from Souled Out) Philip Melton along these lines so I decided that I would blog about the equipment that I use and how I use it. This is not my typical kind of blog post and will no doubt only appeal to a particular audience so if you’re not into this sort of thing I apologize and promise that I will post something devotional soon. My hope is that some who are into this kind of thing would weigh in and share their thoughts as well as the type of equipment they use and how they use it in a worship setting. Having said all of that, here is a break-down of what I play and how I try to incorporate gear and style into the music I play.

I have been playing praise and worship music for about ten years now and I have noticed a trend in the direction of this genre that I like and that has certainly shaped my style of playing. The guys in my band are from similar musical backgrounds and enjoy the same taste in music now so we work together to try to develop our own sound. We play a lot of contemporary praise and worship music but we give it our own twist and when we write we try to incorporate our roots into what we do but also keep it modern. I don’t know that we always pull it off, but we try. The equipment we use is a big part of this. You can see a list of our equipment, as well as pics here.

I have been learning to play guitar since I was a teenager. Of course, back then I was into heavy metal and what is now known as classic rock. I have owned lots of equipment over the years and as my interests in music have changed, so has my interest in musical equipment. To be honest, I used to play whatever I could get my hands on, now I am a little more particular. I have discovered that I’m a Fender guy. That’s not to say that I’m against Gibson’s or other brands, I’m not. There are many great products out there. I just like Fender guitars and amps. Right now I have two Mexican Strats that use. Both have been modified to suit my taste and I give both an equal amount of playing time because I dig the tones I get from each of them even though they are very different.

My sunburst Strat has a rosewood fret board and a Seymour Duncan lipstick pup in the neck position. The other two pups are factory. I have also installed a mini-toggle switch that turns the bridge pup on all the time. The lipstick tube pup is really warm sounding and when played with the middle pup it sounds really chimey and bell like. When played with the bridge pup I can get close to a Tele type tone. Of course I can get that classic Strat sound out of the 2nd position. I use this guitar a lot for clean tones when picking through triads or for bluesy or country type stuff. It will jam too and sounds good overdriven or distorted.

My white Strat is one I put together myself. It has a maple fret board (which was originally on my sunburst Strat) and two GFS humbucker pups (Crunchy Pat in the bridge, Fat Pat in the neck) that are both coil tapped. This guitar is the best of both worlds. It plays like a Strat and I can get Strat tones by  tapping the coils (bridge is tapped by pulling up on the tone knob, neck is tappedby pulling up on the volume knob) but I can also get some Les Paul type tones from the double coiled humbuckers. This guitar cleans up nice but it really shines on hard rocking stuff with lots of overdrive or distortion.

I played through a 1964 Fender Bandmaster head and cab for years. It was a great amp with classic blackface fender tone but it was a monster to haul around. I have recently switched to a VHT Special 6 head and cab This is a point to point hand wired tube amp with great tone. The controls are very simple, just tone and volume (just the way I like it). The tone knob will go from a Vox like tone to a Fender like tone. I tend to keep it on the Fender tone side (I just can’t help it, it’s what I like). This little amp is easy to carry around and is surprisingly loud for only 6 watts. Of course I mic it for large rooms. I tend to play a little bright so I can cut through the mix without raising my volume too much. I plan on doing some mods on this amp soon to trim the low end tone a little. I’m just waiting for the parts right now.

I have played through a POD XT Live for several years and a POD 1.0 before that. I’m using the POD XT Live exclusively on our CD except for a few guitar parts on He Died For Me and Step Into The Water where I’m using Ty’s VHT Combo (you can listen to these songs on our My Space page). I still use the XT Live for Sunday mornings at church but I have gone back to stomp pedals when playing with the band. Here is a list of my pedals in order: Ernie Ball Volume, Planet Waves Chromatic Tuner, Dunlop CBG-95 Cry Baby Wah, BBE Green Screamer Overdrive, ProCo You Dirty Rat Distortion, Marshall Echohead Delay, Digitech Digidelay (run through a Radial Bigshot True By-pass Looper), Line 6 Tonecore Tap Tremelo, MXR Phase 90, VestaFire Stereo Chorus, and a Marshall Reflector Reverb. I also have a KMD on/off switch for the boost function on my amp.

Here’s how I use them.

The volume pedal is great for cutting volume between songs or my guitar parts in a song and when switching guitars. I also do volume swells in some songs so I have the taper switch set to the volume curve I like for this effect.

I’ve had the Cry Baby Wah pedal for years. So long I don’t even remember when and where I got it. It’s a classic and I use it in a variety of ways. I’m playing this pedal on our song He Died for Me in a fixed position for my rhythm track and for the solo at the end of the song. It just gives it a real classic rock type sound. I also use it in a very different way on Revelation Song as I’m picking through triads.

The BBE Green Screamer is a Tubescreamer 808 clone. It’s a great overdrive, breaks up nicely on the high end so it suits my playing. It also cleans up well with the volume knob. I use this a lot for songs that I want to have a southern rock type feel like You are So Good to Me by Third Day or that I want to sound somewhat clean but need a little extra sustain like Starry Night by Chris August. I use this live on our version of Coming Home.

The ProCo You Dirty Rat is a great distortion pedal. It gets nasty but doesn’t get too muddy so I like it. The filter knob allows me to get the treble bite that I like. I use this pedal a lot for kicking in the jams on songs like Glorious Day by Casting Crowns or Amazed by Kutless. When I stack the Green Screamer in front of this pedal I get some great sustain.

I love my Marshall pedals. They are really well built, true by-pass, and sound great. I have the Echohead set on analog delay and just have it where it ever so slightly repeats the note, just kind of stretching it out a bit and giving some body to what I’m playing. I use this a lot unless I’m really going for a punchy classic rock sound. I like this pedal a lot but would consider an MXR Carbon Copy if I ran across one for the right price.

My Digidelay is a great pedal because it’s affordable and has a tap tempo function. I have to run it through the Radial Bigshot True By-pass Looper for the tap function to be usable in a live setting but that’s okay because this pedal is noisy so the looper kills two birds with one stone. I like this pedal but would replace it with perhaps a TC Electronics Nova delay or maybe an Electro-Harmonix Memory Boy if I had the money. I have this set to 1-4 sec delay (tapped to the tempo of the song) with about 3 or 4 repeats. I use this on How He Loves by David Crowder and Our God by Chris Tomlin. I also stack both delay pedals for a U2 type sound on songs like Blessed Be Your Name by Matt Redman or Our God Saves by Paul Baloche.

My Line 6 Tremolo pedal is great because it has a very usable tap tempo function. I use this for an airy type sound while picking through triads on songs like At The Foot Of The Cross by Kathryn Scott or How Great Is Our God by Chris Tomlin.

The MXR Phase 90 is a classic phase pedal. I keep it at about 9 o’clock so it’s just kind of a smooth and gradual shift while I’m playing. I use this while picking through open chords on songs like Holy And Anointed One. I also use it with the ProCo You Dirty Rat on our version of If We Are The Body by Casting Crowns and with distortion and delay on The Undiscovered by Rock and Roll Worship Circus.

The VestaFire Stereo Chorus is one of those rare pawn shop finds. This pedal is hideous to look at but the chorus sounds it produces are oh so sweet. I use this on our cover of Third Day’s Born Again and with the ProCo You Dirty Rat on Amazed.

Last but not least is my Marshall Reflector Reverb pedal. I keep this on hall reverb. How much I use it depends on the song and the room I’m playing in.

I run everything on a Virtual Sound One Spot except the Digidelay and the Line 6 Tap Tremelo. Each of these has its own power supply to keep the noise down. It took some trial and error to isolate the noisy pedals but it worked. Surprisingly I have been able to keep the noise level way down.

That’s pretty much it. I made the pedal board myself out of poplar, velcro, and black paint. This is my second one because my first turned out to be too small, go figure. I have used other pedals (some borrowed from Ty, the other guitar player in the band) like a Digitech Bad Monkey, Digitech Hot Head, Boss Blues Driver, Dunlop Hi-Gain Volume, Morley Pro Series II Wah, Fender Tuner, and a Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi with Tone Wicker but didn’t keep them for various reasons. This is my current line-up but it’s subject to change as I’m always combing pawn shops and music stores for good deals. It can get expensive so you just have to shop around. I think the ProCo You Dirty Rat is the only pedal I paid full price for. Some of the others I bought new but got them on sale and most I just found at pawn shops. The best deal I ever got was on a Boss DD-3 and a Boss RC-2 Loop Station, walked out with both for $50 straight up. I gave the DD-3 to my son (who also has my first pedal board) and I use the RC-2 for practicing. Just thought I’d throw that in.

I love worshiping through music and trying to combine classic rock sounds with modern praise and worship music. I’d love to hear from others so feel free to comment or share some of your thoughts, equipment, stories, song samples, and/ or links. One last shameless plug, you can purchase our CD, Life Abundantly, on iTunes just in case you’re interested.

  1. Mike says:

    Did you go with the open or closed back cabinet on the VHT? I have been looking into one of those, or some other small, low watt head to use in church. It would be nice to have 2 cabs and keep 1 at church and 1 at home and just lug the head back and forth on wed. & sundays. I’ve been using a Vox Tonelab LE and it is pretty good, just searching for better tone. (aren’t we always) I have a 79 fender silverface champ and am also considering using it with an extension cab. Just curious on how the VHT is working out for you.

    • Paul Bryant says:

      I have a closed back cab. I think it tightens up the sound a little. The closed back comes with VHT’s own chrome back speaker while the open comes with something else (Celestion maybe? I can’t remember). Again, the tone was a little bottom end heavy (like a blanket was thrown over it). I played it through a Fender cab and it brightened up some. I ended up changing out some resistors and capacitors to change the fixed tone stack so the tone knob reacts a little more and it “took the blanket off” so to speak. I’m happy with the closed back cab with the mods that I made on the head but I would be open to trying it with an open back. The best thing to do would be to compare them in the store if you have that option and see what you like. I didn’t buy this amp with the intention of modding it but the tone seemed to change a little the more I played through it, I don’t know why, maybe it was the speaker breaking in or something. Right now I’m playing through this amp and an old Silvertone together and I really like the tone, they mix really well. I’m not always going to carry both around so the VHT will still be my main amp but this is how I jave it set up now. The other guitar player in my band just bought a Fender Blues Jr III and it really sounds good. If I were amp shopping again I would consider getting one. I hope this helps. If you have any sound samples of your tone and/or pics of your rig I’d love to hear and see them.

  2. Mike says:

    Did you try out any of the other budget low watt tube heads prior to the VHT? I had one of the older version BJr for a little while. Went through quite a period of trading from amp to amp. (Bogner Alchemist, Bugera V22, Hughes & Kettner Edition 20th Anniversary, Vox AC4TV, Fender Blues Jr.) I am wanting to check into the Tweaker as I have spent some time on a Rebel 30 and really like the OD channel, but I think it is still too loud (too much stage volume, unless I use the direct out, but don’t want to bypass the power section) and too heavy to lug back and forth. (also too expensive) I think I like the 6v6 Fender type stuff more with good cleans and am now going through an OD/Dirt pedal phase. (trying the OCD, Plim Soul, Amp11, Crunch Box, Hardwire Tube OD, Bad Monkey, and a Timmy on order) This tone quest can be kind of crazy, so many variables. I play a Parker Nitefly Mojo (with the Seymour Duncan pickups) and also have a MIM Classic 70’s Strat. Pretty much use the Parker exclusively at church and generally stay in both humbucker position. Just trying to give the real tube amp/small pedal board route a good trial to see if it is worth giving up some of the convenience of the Tonelab. I know the tone is better, but just trying to see if there is a good portable system to dethrone the Tonelab.

    • Paul Bryant says:

      Yeah I tried a Vox Night Train, a Tweaker, a Jet City 20, another Jet City (don’t remember the model), a couple of Fender combo’s, a couple of Vox combo’s, and an Ibanez TS15. I liked the Ibanez a lot for the price but in the end the Special 6 was the right amp for the money. My original plan was to also buy a Jet City 20 and plug it into the VHT cab and A/B switch between amps for clean or dirty (the JCA 20 has killer high gain OD but not a great clean tone). In the end it just wasn’t worth the money so I bought the You Dirty Rat and use it for high gain distortion. I’m currently using a BBE Green Screamer for OD. It’s a decent TS 808 clone, breaks up a little quicker on the highs and not quite as beefy but not bad considering I got it for $45 new at Guitar Center, sounds good on Third Day type stuff. I played on the OCD, which I know everybody loves, but it just didn’t do it for me. I loved the Plimsoul however, just didn’t have the money to spend on it at the time. I would consider getting one in the future, that or a Timmy, or maybe even a Luther (from gearmanndude). I really like my Special 6 overdriven but the boost adds too much volume. If I could figure out how to make the low input a drive channel and add a gain knob I would do that and A/B it. VHT has a new Special 6 Ultra (basically a Special 6 with some factory mods) that has a gain switch or channel, not sure how it works but it would be worth checking out if you have the opportunity to experiment with one before you buy it. I liked the Tweaker but it almost did too much and none of it usable in a live setting. It has to be user friendly in a live setting for me. Ty (my worship pastor and the other guitar player in my band) plays through a Tonelab at church sometimes but also has a sweet little pedal board set up that he plays through when we play out. You can see his set up on our band website , just go to the Our Gear page. He’s been changing a few of the pedals around since he started playing through the Bjr instead of his AC15 and I haven’t updated it but you can get a good idea of what he’s using. We try to compliment each others tone without sounding the same. He never gets as dirty as I do with the Rat. Aaahh, the never ending quest for great tone, the journey is part of the fun. Keep me updated on what you get/try. I also have a friend in Texas that builds clone pedals for a reasonable price. If you’re interested I could send you his info or if you look me up on Facebook I could put you in touch with him that way.

  3. Paul Bryant says:

    I’ve made a few changes to my set up since I posted this. You can see the changes on my band’s website by following this link

    I replaced the Digidelay/Radial Bigshot set up with an EHX Deluxe Memory Boy, got a new red Strat with Fender Texas Specials, and replaced the factory pups in the sunburst Strat with Fender Tex-Mex pups.

  4. Paul Bryant says:

    BTW, I also made some mods to my VHT, it started sounding like it was under a blanket so I replaced some of the caps in the fixed tone stack with different valued capacitors. This took care of the problem and suited my taste. I don’t really know why the tone changed, could’ve been the speaker breaking in, not really sure. One great thing about these amps is they’re really easy to mod, even for a novice like myself. I did a little research online, bought some caps, and broke out the soldering gun.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s