When I first started playing music back in the 1970’s you were really cool if you had a volume pedal, wawa pedal, and a distortion pedal. How things have changed. Now there is a guitar pedal for everything. Back then, you just plugged your pedals in a line from the guitar to the amp. Today, you need a pedalboard. So, I took the time to go over today’s worship technology and have came up with a guide for you to help you build your worship pedalboard.
However before I start, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that no amount of fancy guitar pedals will fix a bad guitar or a bad amp. Pedals will only enhance what they are given and if you are using inferior equipment to start, the pedals will not make the sound acceptable. Good guitar tones come from a good guitar and a good amplifier.
The sound of the guitar has shaped modern worship music since the hippies of the Jesus people movement first came barefoot into Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel. Guitarists like Lincoln Brewster, Chris Quilala and Chris Tomlin have taken this guitar gear and produced sounds that are prominent in the worship music genre.
The pedals a worship guitarist uses is vital in producing the sound of today’s worship music. Even though a worship pedalboard now looks like something out of a B-class sci-fi movie, they are important in providing the guitarist the ability to create the sounds he wants to create.
So let’s take a journey through the world of worship pedalboards and together maybe we can discover which pedalboard setup will be best for the worship at your church.
First I will start with a list of the best guitar pedals for worship that I will mention in this article. All of the links go to Amazon. I am using Amazon because of convenience, however if there are enough of you that want another option like Guitar Center, then let me know and I will include links there as well.
The Ultimate List Of The Best Guitar Pedals For Worship
Worship Pedalboard Demo
All of the guitar pedals he recommends are listed below.
- Disaster Area Designs DPC-8EZ
- Disaster Area Designs DPC-4EZ
- Mad Professor Forest Green Compressor
- Jetter Gear Gold Standard Overdrive Pedal
- Mad Professor Hand Wired Sky Blue Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal
- Ibanez AD9 Analog Delay Effects Guitar Pedal
- Electro Harmonix Micro POG Polyphonic Octave Generator Guitar Effects Pedal
- Empress Tremolo 2
- Old Town Guitars Blaster
- Strymon Timeline
- Strymon BigSky (with Ernie Ball Volume Pedal
as expression pedal)
Building A Basic Worship Pedalboard
When building a worship pedalboard, you are going to need to think about 3 basic areas; the pedalboard itself, the essential pedals, and the non-essential pedals.
Now of course, as with all things related to musicians, what one person calls essential is another person’s luxury. So please cut me some slack on how I determined what is essential and what is not.
Choosing A Pedalboard
The first thing you are going to have to do is actually choose a pedalboard. You need something to power and mount all your pedals on right?
Most of the guitarists I know think that Pedaltrain is the industry leader. So you might want to start with a pedalboard for worship like this one.
This pedalboard is great for small to medium sized setups. The only drawback is that the cloth bag that you carry it in does not have pockets for your extras. You will also need to buy a power supply to mount at the bottom of the pedalboard. I recommend the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Isolated Power Supply.
Another option is the Donner Pedalboard. It is not quite as expensive and comes with a large side pocket.
Of course you can just decide to make your own guitar pedalboard. There are plenty of do it yourself YouTube videos that will show you how to make your very own board to suit your own needs. It all depends on if you are a good DIY’er and your budget.
The Essential Guitar Pedals
In my opinion the most important effects pedal a worship guitarist needs is a delay pedal. The rhythmic and textural sounds of delay have influenced the sound of modern worship music more than any other musical effect. Dotted 8th note delays and volume swells have been taken right out of the U2 playbook of guitar sounds and have become so prevalent that it’s hard to find a modern worship song without them.
For those rhythmic delays, having a delay pedal offering presets and/or tap tempo is very important to have.
Here are some of the more popular delay pedals.
Additional Guitar Pedals For Your Unique Guitar Tone
Another very popular guitar effects pedal is the reverb pedal.
Imagine that you’re singing in a very large cathedral and you finish the song with the traditional “Amen.” This echoes you hear reverberating back at you is reverb. Reverb fills out the sound and gives it a kind of “churchy” sound. There are a few variations on this effect that worship guitarists often use.
Here are some of the more popular reverb pedals for you to consider.
There are many uses for a volume pedal. Are you heading into a lead solo? Then you use your volume pedal. Are you doing swells, sending signal to a different effect as Kyle did, or maybe you just need a mute? The volume pedal is the way to go.
There are two types of volume pedals; active and passive. Passive volume pedals are basically a potentiometer mechanically turned by a pedal, and work much the same way as the volume knob on a regular magnetic pickup guitar. A quick way to identify a passive volume pedal is it doesn’t normally need power.
An active volume pedal contains and amplifier circuit that is normally used as a buffer, and sometimes for other features such as boost, tuner isolation, and so on. Active volume pedals require power from an internal battery or an external power supply.
Here are some of the more popular volume pedals used in church worship pedalboards.
Back in the day when my head would support long hair, I played in a Christian rock band named Morningstar. I remember one gig we did where it was a talent show for a traditional church. Because we had guitars with distortion pedals, one of the Elders of the church said we were 60 decibels too loud regardless of the fact that we could sing without amplification of our voices and still be heard. He equated distortion with loudness.
Today you will be hard pressed to find a worship guitarist that doesn’t have at least one gain pedal causing the guitar to sound just a little dirty and distorted. Some go as far as to have gain stacks for different degrees of bite in their mix.
Here are a few of the more popular gain pedals on the market to give your guitar that rock n roll sound.
Guitar Pedals To Make Your Worship Uniquely Yours
These pedals are not essential. They are add ons. However they are what will make your guitar tone and sound uniquely yours. Many of these are pedals from the past. They are things like choruses, flangers, phase shifters, and others. What all those pedals have in common is that they modulate the signal. So today’s pedals come with multiple choices.
Now I know that you might have some preconceived ideas about what these will sound like. Nobody wants to sound like Pink Floyd or a grunge rock band from the 70’s or 80’s. However don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because that is how they were introduced does not mean that you can’t use them to give yourself a different sound than other worship guitarists, or for that matter, different from the genre that introduced these pedals.
Here are some of the more common alternative guitar pedals used in worship today.
Putting Your Worship Pedalboard Together
Unless you are a massively anointed lead guitarist, you will probably be playing a lot of rhythm guitar while leading worship. Remember as you are putting together your pedal board, that less is more many times. Because effects pedals are relatively inexpensive they can become a money pit. I know guys who spend $150 on one and then sell it 6 months later at a loss to buy a new pedal that they’ll just sell in another 6 moths at a total loss of $100 for the year. Unless your pedal goes out of production and becomes sought after you’ll never make money selling them, so be careful buying them.
Be a good steward of the resources God has given you. Most of us are on a budget and setting up a worship pedalboard takes time. Remember that these are just tools and if you can’t make something work with just a guitar and an amp, then you’ll be a lesser guitarist when you have all the pedals you think you need.
Remember in the end, it is not about being the latest and greatest. It is about leading people to the throne of God in worship.