Ambience | A New Role For Guitar in Worship

I’m a huge fan of ambient textures and their use in post rock, progressive, & experimental genres.  I’ve found that these textures are functional in worship; however, the content of the ambience can’t be the same.

English: Close-up of the Transducer inside a S...

English: Close-up of the Transducer inside a Spring Reverb Tank. Català: Detall del Transductor a un contenidor de Reverberació de molles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When using a guitar ambience, or any effect during worship, you don’t want the focus to be on you or your crafty sound, but rather the prayer, meditation, or sermon you’re augmenting. The ambience serves as a foundation & often a transition point for worship no matter where it occurs in the service.

In this setting, to not take any glory away from the Holy Spirit – I keep my ambience settings to not much more than reverb & delay in conjunction with a volume pedal. In my settings below, you’ll notice I do use a mod delay as well as a light, slow oscillating, phaser; however, it’s barely noticeable in the video clip below.

Here is a sum of the settings I use to achieve this effect.

  • Light Crunch – About 11 o’clock on Drive & Bass, Mid & Treble at 12 o’clock
  • Spring Reverb – 100% mix, 80% decay, pre-delay about 150ms
  • Analog Chorus – Speed about 0 or 1 (an extremely low setting), 70% deep, about 50% mix
  • Analog Delay + Mod about 670ms decay, feed back about 80% (definitely keep high), mod setting (if available) very low 0 or 1, 75% depth, mix 80%
  • Reverb (not totally necessary) – 0 pre-delay, decay – 50%, mix – 42%

All the above used in conjunction of a Volume Pedal

New Sounds: Utilizing the Vocoder in Worship

Even though my degree from university technically says ‘Bachelor of Music in Music Theory & Composition,’ I actually studied Electronic Music Composition – so – I’m a total nerd when it coems to LFO’s, filters, sampling, and automation.  So naturally I’m attracted to new sounds besides the standard piano, strings, and organ most factory keyboards are furnished with.

With that being said, making your worship music texture new with the use of a vocoder can be a great change from the norm under 2 conditions

  1. Use the vocoder sparingly; it can get real old real quick if done too much
  2. Never ask for permission – always ask for forgiveness

Most traditional worship leaders won’t be for something so “new” instrumentally or texture-wise – so practice with the sound (whether its the vocoder or a completely new sound) in the sanctuary before or after the service for kicks.  Additionally, definitely rehearse a song by yourself at home to make sure you can easily & smoothly change chords with the vocoder while singing before implementing it into the service.  If you’re working with a new original tonal sound or effect – make sure you’re not going to run into any resonance or distortion issues. Above all – be respectful to your worship team & congregation.  If you see something isn’t going to work – don’t force it. Take time in crafting your sounds and samples. You want to add to worship – not take away from it.

Below is an example of the song “Facedown” by Matt Redman with a vocoder texture higher in the mix.   Happy Vocoding!