Friday, 9 September 2011

What Guitar Pedals do I need in a Worship Band / setting?

OK so this is a question that is covered on t'internet quite a lot, but here's my 2 cents, pence etc for the mix.

But first up, your instrument is your main tool, so learn to play the guitar properly / as well as you can and keep learning! Really understand your guitar. Some resources include: Hal Leonard Guitar Method 1,2 &3 Complete Version, Fretboard Workout and similar books.

Ok so the best way to put this is to put what I have and then comment on it. So here's the (Sept 2011) order of the order of pedals on my pedalboard:

Note that there are 2 updates since this post.... Update 1 and Update 2

1. Wah Pedal. This can be a noisy beast, so I have a separate A/B pedal to switch off the wah out of the loop when not in use. This is clearly not essential in a worship band situation, but has some uses if you're playing a funky mix (we do 'Shackles' by Mary Mary etc). It is also used in some lead guitar parts, by setting a slight wah over the top of overdrive. But this is not essential at all !

2. Overdrives (and boosts if you choose. If you get a boost, decide if you want a volume boost or a boost to add gain / character. Your pedal placement will depend on this. Eg for more drive put just before or after your other overdrives).

Overdrive pedals (or distortion if you intend to play heavier stuff). I won't go into huge details about pedals (look around this site or the many others on the web or youtube etc). But basically it's good to have 2 overdrive pedals. You can set one to a fairly low amount of overdrive and the other to a higher overdrive - if you want! Some pedals have a 'boost' switch on them to naturally boost the overdrive (Fulldrive, Ice 9 etc).

I have the Visual Sound Open Road --> Fulltone Fulldrive 2. Some overdrives work better depending on which one is first / second etc so experiment. Other times, so pedals are more picky what they work with well - eg Fulltone OCD and Fulltone Fulldrive work great together. I use the Visual Sound first as it has a buffer (helps push the signal through if you have lots of pedals). I am looking to get either a boost or another overdrive. Reason is the fulltone is more of a tubescreamer pedal (admittedly with more options!!) The VS Open Road is a transparent pedal that keeps more of the 'bass' sound but I'd like to be able to drive this harder when using in a song. You can play harder (strum harder) or turn up the volume knob on the guitar to get more gain instead of a boost however.

3. Next is an Behringer EQ700 pedal (the only Behringer pedal I use, as they suck tone from your amp trust me!) This EQ pedal has many uses. Set your amp up first to get a good sound, but if you need to tweak, use the EQ pedal. Or maybe you need to 'compete' with a keyboard player, so you can use the EQ to boost your mid-range (the middle bit of the EQ pedal). Or you can use the EQ like a 'boost' pedal to cut through the mix on a solo, or when you need a bit extra gain. Not too high as EQ pedals do produce a bit of hiss at times.

4. A tuner. I have a strangely now discontinued Korg DT-10. Please get a tuner and replace your strings well, fairly regularly! Even some youtube demos are quite painful where one string is slightly out of tune. A tuner is often overlooked in people's rush to get some sweet sounding pedals. But a tuner is essential. When playing I push down the volume pedal (or you can set up your tuner so it acts to switch off your board if you have a tuner capable of that) and tune fairly often!

4. I then go into the volume pedal. Just to note, the pedals down the line in my pedalboard like delay / reverb have their 'tails on' (!) It just means that when the volume pedal is turned down (volume down) the delays / reverb keep on sustaining until they decay (you can no longer hear them). This is very useful for volume swells on guitar.

4. Next up are my delays - a Hardwire DL8 delay and then a Boss DD7 delay. My Boss has a separate tap tempo so I can manually tap the tempo in - useful when the band changes timing as bands always will unless playing to a click track! Very useful to have a separate tap tempo. My Hardwire pedal is a pain in that you have to manually hold it down for 3 seconds to engage the delay. But when it does, the delay is absolutely amazing and better than the Boss. But the Boss does dotted eight delay and triplets, so you can even use delay in 6/8 time signature songs etc.

5. Finally I have another amazing Hardwire pedal, the RV7 which is a reverb pedal (with its tail set to 'on' so it gradually fades and doesn't stop dead if you turn your volume off or hold the guitar strings etc). This has a nice swirling reverb for those ambient sounds.

And that's it folks. I think that's all you really need, although I am quite tempted to get a cheap 'boost' pedal to beef up my guitar at times!

Oh and I've got an E-Bow which is very useful for sustain if, like me, you don't have a specific compressor pedal. A compressor can give you more sustain or simply give you a tighter, punchier sound if that's what you want. I may even look to get a Strymon OB-1 or Visual Soun Route 66 which combine overdrive and compression. Get pedals that either have their own power supply, or preferably ones that can run off 9v (volts) with negative polarity.

Oh, and you'll need a power source and daisy chain - or a power block. Something like the Visual Sound 1 Spot can be daisy chained and is a cheap option. Otherwise go for a Dunlop Brick Power Supply or Voodoo Labs Pedal Power / Pedal Power 2. Check the spec to see what you need and is compatible etc. Some pedals need more power and power blocks can isolate power so it reduces hum.

Any comments / questions, feel free to post below. But what I'd consider absolutely essential are 2 overdrives, a tuner and a delay. After that it's up to you!

UPDATE - As of May 2014, my setup has changed a bit, so feel free to check out the links on the right for updates. Basically I have two overdrives (well 3, but one can be used as a boost); a tuner, a volume pedal, two delays (one with independent tap tempo pedal) and two reverbs (one of which can produce chorus-y, flange-y type effects).


  1. How can I get a contemporary christian sound out of my Fender Mustang 2 amp, DigiTech RP200 and a Korg Tone Works pedal?

    1. All kinds of overdrives, amp simulations, delays, reverbs in all multi-fx pedals. Find the best sounds - overdrives, delays, reverbs - most importantly practice your guitar skills!


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