10 Guitar Effects & Tricks to Augment Your Worship Service

Mastro EBow

Mastro EBow (Photo credit: pmonaghan)

Over the years of playing guitar for worship services/bands, I’ve come across a number of effects and techniques that I’ve incorporated into worship that have proven very effective musically. If you play guitar for your church, even if it’s acoustic, you’re sure to find some goodies here!

  1. Looping – I am the biggest advocate of incorporating this into a guitarist’s repertoire. Loops machines are especially useful with how repetitive the chord progressions are in worship music, it’s super effective to build upon yourself, especially if you’re part of a smaller worship band. But, you have to be tight & stay on that beat!
  2. Phaser – While you shouldn’t turn it completely up in your mix OR make it oscillate  too fast, it’s a great way to change the dynamic between a verse and bridge. Personally, I put it at about 50% mix and have it move just above the slowest setting to kinda get that HP (high pass) filter swirly effect.
  3. Say…Wah – The Wah Pedal can be so cliche sometimes BUT, if you use it to simply  to change the filter without pushing the pedal up & down so often – it offers a great texture change, especially in combination with a delay. Zakk Wylde has been known to keep the wah completely forward to give his solos more presence.
  4. Swell – There are single effect units that accomplish this, but I’ve found using a delay & a volume pedal (or even your volume knobs) works great. This is great during response times while the pastor is still speaking or even above a slow but solid bass & drum foundation.
  5. Tremelo like a Rhodes – If you’ve ever heard a Rhodes Piano using tremelo, you know what I’m talking about. It’s very easy to make a clean guitar sound like this using a Bias tremelo effect. – Probably one of the most unique & accessible things you can do to help bring people to the intimate place in worship. – Here’s an audio reference of a Rhodes – ‘Portishead – “Roads
  6. Harmony – One of two ways you can do this. Harmony FX are manufactured as single pedals and are even part of multi-fx pedals like my POD HD300. You can change the key and should be able to seamlessly perform melodies with automated 3rds, 4ths, octaves..whatever.  Another way to do is – refer back to #1 –   Play a melody – loop – play its harmony & booyah!
  7. E-Bow – A wonderful invention. Period. The E-Bow is a device you use, almost like a pick; however, only above the strings over the pickups to create a controlled-feedback of sorts. The result is almost like a synthesized string sound. Indeed, it’s a cool tool for the guitarist seeking a wider palette. Here’s a video reference – Phil Keaggy – Amazing Grace
  8. Sonar Style Delay – It’s hard for us guitarist to simplify things sometimes… perhaps only playing one note every 2 measures? Achhh-  BUT it’s effective, especially using a delay that’s in sync with the tempo. Minimalism has its advantages – and gives you a lot of room to grow. Check out the use of the single note delay used above the band’s texture in Hillsong Live’s – Love Like Fire
  9. Octave Displacement – What? Oh, A Whammy Pedal – Very similar to a wah pedal in its physical feel, it controls pitch. Oftentimes, the pedal/effect will allow you to choose the range, such as octaves, 5ths, sub-octave. It isn’t all that practical for chords, but it sings so well and is a game changer for single-note melodies and solos!
  10. Slide it! – I most certainly don’t hear enough guitarists implement this into their playing, and you don’t have to play country or blues to appreciate it. What other way can you totally negate the fact that you have frets? That’s a huge texture change & it can be implemented with any number of effects. In fact, John Mark McMillan’s ‘How He Loves‘ often features a slide.

Do you have effects or techniques you use to switch things up in praise of the King? Even if it isn’t for guitarists explicitly, Don’t forget to share it!

5 Tips to Make Your Worship Band Awesome Without Being a Virtuoso

1. Record Yourselves!

Audio levels shown on a Zoom H4n while recordi...

Audio levels shown on a Zoom H4n while recording Deutsch: Lautstärkeanzeige des Zoom H4n bei der Tonaufnahme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That which is most painful will be most effective. The audio recorder doesn’t lie. You’ll hear

the tempo shift, missed notes, things musically that you think work..but actually don’t. It’s all there. Set an audio recorder in the front row (discreetly on a pew if you wanted) or even plugged into the mixing board. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but this will help you identify and fix numerous problems.

2. Rehearse! …

And not just before church either. Things need time to sink in; sleep on it and come back. And while everyone in the worship band has day jobs, it can be tough to schedule an evening once a week. But don’t forget, this is for the King of Kings! It’s a tithe of time, and not even 10% of your week!

3. Worship Bands Have Layers!

The praise and worship band is the symphony orchestra of the protestant church. Only at the climax of a composition should the whole orchestra be playing. And while that’s not completely true for the worship band, still the point is to know when and when not to play. Just because you have 7, 23, or 2 members, doesn’t mean you should be playing at the same time. Also; Playing something simple is often more effective than a flurry of notes (that’s you, guitar players!) Listen to what’s going on around you and play accordingly. …which brings me to my next point…

4. Where’s the Climax?

My composition professor would always ask this whenever I brought in a new composition for review “Where’s the climax…circle it!”As a band, identify where the climax of each song is and what each of you are playing at that point. From there, you can decide what and what not to play | who will and will not be playing when? Listen to some of your favorite songs.. ask yourself “Where is the climax?” You’ll be surprised with what you find. When you’re able to dynamically and instrumentally shape a song as a band, then will you sound tight and together; you will see the congregation respond.

5. Sing For Me a New Song

Whether or not you’re deciding to meet for rehearsals or not, this is an excellent opportunity for the band to come together and make something ‘their own.’ You’re already familiar with lead sheets (the words with the chords over them), so why not type up your own if you feel the calling. Present it to the worship leader if you’re a band member; to pastor if you’re the worship leader. Present it to the band and be creative! It’s a new way to signify to the congregation that good things are happening in your place of worship.