Tech Corner – TFWB Guitar Pedal Board

Pedal Board ImageBe warned! This is our first post of 2014 and is a bit guitar geek orientated! – heavily influenced by my love of vintage and modern guitar pedals. It’s written to invite discussion on how people reach their ‘sound’ for worship.

I was fortunate at Christmas to receive the last few pedals I had been after to complete my pedal board as gifts from my family. As you can see, it’s not a ‘board’ as such, not everything in the photo was hooked up. It is now, but wasn’t at the time of the photograph!

I’ve been searching for a while trying to get my tone the way I hear it in my head, so that the voice that I put across through my worship when I play, is as accurate as possible to what my heart is saying. A true expression of me, if you will. Before Christmas, I was 85 – 88% there, now I’m about 94 – 96%. I’m not sure what will make up the remaining 4 – 6% yet. I’m still figuring it out.

Anyway, this is my sound, my voice, my ideas. Please leave a comment with your thoughts, your ideas. Discussion is a formidable component in finding voice, not only for yourself, but to enable others to do the same.

I’ll start with where 60% of my tone comes from – my guitar and amplifier. Here goes:

Squire Telecaster My main guitar is a custom Squire Telecaster with Fender Noiseless Pickups in the neck and bridge. It cuts beautifully without being harsh, and the sustain on it is pretty nice too. I got it years ago when we couldn’t really afford a Fender model, my fiancé bought it for me as a gift and I have to say it plays as nice as any of the Fender models that I’ve tried in music shops over the years. Whether that’s just my bias or whether I’ve just adapted to that guitar is another debate entirely, but it’s definitely for me – to paraphrase Harry Potter (sorry) “the guitar chooses the guitarist, not the other way around.”

My other guitars include a Tanglewood TH501 Semi-Acoustic, a custom made Stratocaster, an Epiphone Les Paul Special II and a Vintage SG.

My amplifier is a Line 6 Flextone III, which I run three main amp base settings on.

  1. The first is my “default”, a nice bright AC-30 model which I keep with barely any grit on the gain (I use my pedals for dirtying up the tone).
  2. The second is a bit heavier – a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Amp Head mixed with a Soldano Cabinet Model. This is more high gain stuff that I’d use with my Les Paul humbuckers on heavier songs. Not necessarily a church sound, but it does have it’s uses on some songs that need a bit of body.
  3. The last is a clean Fender Twin model which I pair with my Tanglewood in a fairly jazz / blues context. Not bags of sustain on it’s own, but it has a certain “B.B. King” style twang to it. I’d also run my telecaster through it, if I’m ever feeling a little bit country, or indeed a little bit rock and roll…

For everything else I run my pedals to modify, change up and build the sounds I want to hear. I have to say, some of the pedals are there for my sound and some are there to recreate the sounds of others, so that I can bring their voice to my playing. This isn’t because I want to be just like them, but because their sound tells it’s own story, and I want the people that I’m leading to feel and hear that same story. I guess my own phrasing and sound rubs off a little bit, that’s inevitable, but if we’re aiming to recreate the sound of Hillsong, for example, I want to use similar sounding tones.

Here’s my pedals in board order and why they’re there.

  1. FBV Shortboard II – This uses an ethernet connection to switch between my amp settings, and has an overall master volume pedal. Not technically a ‘pedal’ but it controls my amp at my feet.
  2. Boss TU-3 Tuner Pedal – A very trustworthy tuner pedal.
  3. Boss CS-3 Compression / Sustainer – I have this right at the start of the chain to even everything out. I switch through a lot of settings and this helps to keep them all even. I may sometimes bulk up the attack if I’m playing funk rhythms, or I’ll pull up the sustain if I’m doing some pad sounds or anything that’s heavily lead guitar driven.
  4. Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah – a lovely vintage wah. I use this in a lot of funk stuff to, or I’ll throw it in on occasion on some rhythm parts in between verses.
  5. Electroharmonix Big Muff Fuzz – A throwback to my heavier days but still on my board for when I need to fill space in the rhythm department. I’ll put this in on choruses of songs to fill it out, mostly on stuff like ‘Let Everything That Has Breath’.
  6. Danelectro Distortion – This is my ‘Crunch’. With my amp set to clean this adds a bit of bite to my sound. Definitely not too heavy. The man in the shop sold it to me on the promise that I would ‘sound like Green Day’ using this pedal. 9 years later, I use it to add grit rather than rock the world.
  7. Mooer Black Secret Distortion – My newest and now main ‘distortion’ sound. I’ll use this to get my sustain on lead parts that need to cut through. Stuff like the intro to Tim Hughes’ ‘Happy Day‘ etc.
  8. Fulltone FB2 Fat Boost – My boost pedal for all my leadwork. It raises the sustain and gain of my distorted and clean tones without dragging up the noisefloor with it. Whenever there’s a lead break, this is always on.
  9. Boss DD-5 Delay Pedal – this is delay one of 2. I use this mainly just for a nice analogue sound, or to mix with my Delay-Lab (Number #10) for songs like ‘Mighty to Save‘ by Hillsong which has two delay timings running at the same time.
  10. Vox Delay Lab – My main delay sound and delay 2 of 2. It’s fairly new, and I’m still learning how to run 2 delay times together. I’m defaulting to 1/4 or 1/8 notes on an analogue setting in songs like ‘Our God‘ by Chris Tomlin. For pads and atmosphere, I’ll bump up the feedback dial and fade using my guitar pots. It’s one of the nicest delays I’ve played with, and definitely everything I was looking for. I also use this to loop certain songs, most notably the riffs in ‘Solid Rock‘ by Delirious?
  11. Electroharmonix Holy Grail Plus – I think this is my favourite pedal, and I’ve only had it for a week. It adds space and another dimension to my pads, the springback is the stuff legends are made of and it just gives that sparkle to my clean tone. As with all reverbs, you have to be careful you don’t start hogging entire frequency ranges, but I have this pedal over most of my sounds now and it’s amazing.
  12. Boss TR2 Tremolo – I use this for adding a bit of movement to my pad sounds and not much else in all honesty. I like to let the pad start and add the tremolo later on, as a nice ‘vibrato’ effect that keeps interest.

Well, that’s it. That’s my sound, my voice and my heart. This is what you can expect to hear on the TFWBand EP later this year (it’s 2014 now don’t forget!)

I hope this has been of some interest or help to someone somewhere in the world! Please comment, let us know your thoughts or ideas to help us all grow in strength.

God Bless

#TFWB

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