Most of the guitarists playing for the biggest Worship Teams in the World (Bethel, Hillsong, Elevation Worship, Vertical Church Band) grew up listening to bands like U2. The guitarist for U2 “The Edge” is absolutely hands down the number one influence within this Genre

He really pioneered the popular use of Digital Delays and Big Reverb, the two most essential components to Worship Guitar Tone. Listening to U2’s discography will go a long way in preparing you for whats to come.

The Edge and Bono performing in Belfast on Nov 19 2015 scaled
The Edge U2 Guitarist (Early Adopter of Digital Delay)

Another great example for this heavy delay and reverb type of sound, surprisingly so, is Tom Delonge of Angels & Airwaves (former frontman for Blink 182). This frontman/guitarist did not influenced the Worship Genre, but I bring him up because he most definitely influenced tens of thousands of guitar players from my generation. Delonge is an excellent example of how Guitar Effects can completely alter your Guitar Tone.

Guitar Tone
Tom Delonge started experimenting with digital delays and reverbs after Blink 182 went on Hiatus. His Guitar Tone changed dramatically with the introduction of effects pedals.

Delonge went from Blink 182 Pop Punk Guitar Tone (barebones strat with one volume knob and a mesa boogie), to being one of the biggest users of digital guitar effects and signal processing. When Blink 182 went on Hiatus, he found himself experimenting with all manner of guitar effects, and it ultimately led to his signature sound in Angels & Airwaves. You can find out more about his person Pursuit of Tone here:

Feel like you’ve got a better idea of what type of tone we are going after here? Lets move onto how we go about building YOUR Guitar Tone. That starts with your choice of guitars.

The Guitars:

White Veritas Portlander (Telecaster) Worship Guitar
White Veritas Portlander (Telecaster) Worship Guitar
Ultimate Guide to Worship Guitar Tone Part Veritas-MiniMaster
Ultimate Guide to Worship Guitar Tone Part Veritas-MiniMaster

It starts with choosing or modifying the right guitar. If you aren’t 100% certain of the guitar you want, then go to a physical guitar shop. Play several guitars, unpluged. In my experience, if it sounds good unplugged, that tone will carry through when its amplified. You’ll need something capable of crisp clear clean tones to heavily overdriven lead tones. Most guys go for a humbucking Fender, Gretsch, or Duesenburg.

I’ve been following @VeritasGuitars for a long while. They are a boutique builder specializing in customized fender style guitars. The body shape of their Portlander like a telecaster, but a little bit thicker. Thats why I put in in the category of “Non-Fender Telecasters” or “Telecaster Alternatives”. 

Their Portlander has become a staple in the boutique guitar world, and rightly so. Lead Guitar Players from Bethel Music have pretty much made Veritas their exclusive choice.

Specific artists include Michael Pope, David Hislop, and Bobby Strand (Bethel Music). Not just Bethel either, there is Patrick Thompson(Rend Collective), and Chason Ford (Jesus Culture).

That has resulted in a plethora of young guitarists in the Worship Guitar realm to want these things. Who said Artist Endorsements don’t work? Not that these guys are officially sponsored by Veritas as far as I know. In all honesty I think its the quality of the guitar and word of mouth that is responsible for Veritas’ recent surge in popularity.

Worship Guitar Tone
Worship Guitar Tone

 I mean, just listen to the guitar tone in Bethel’s or Jesus Culture’s music…it’s pretty much EPIC, and not in the stupid millenial sense of the word, but truly epic, before that word was abused.

I think it has to be my favorite Telecaster Alternatives. They have positioned themselves as a higher end competitor to Fender, and the craftsmanship is blatenltly obvious from 50 feet away. Their Mini Master (Custom Fender style Jazzmaster/Jaguar) might be the best in the business. Its something special. Check them out.

They just recently came out with a pro line version which is right around $900. Whatever you choose, its gotta be something that can cut through the heavy mix of big worship team. I’ve done several guides devoted specifically to guitar choice.

The Amplification:

This can be tricky. Most churches nowadays are opting for a completely or mostly silent stage. Meaning no tube amps cranked to 11 blowin the hair back on the congregation. I know, it sucks. I’m right there with you.

You basically have three options.

1. The Silent Box

This is a great option if you want to keep your super loud tube amp. You basically build yourself an enclosed, sound proof box to house your amp. You then mic that into the sound system.

2. Very Low Wattage Tube Amp

Lots of guys opt for this. Just buying a low wattage tube amp like a Fender Blues Jr. which can drive the tubes at lower volumes.

3. Digital Amp Modelers:

This is my preferred method just based on convenience, control, and versatility. There are dozens if not hundreds of digital amp modelers out there. For more info check out my article on BEST PEDALBOARDS FOR WORSHIP GUITAR.

  • Kemper Profiler
  • Line 6 Helix LT
  • Fractal Audio Axe-FX III
  • Headrush
  • Atomic Amplifire 12
  • Boss GT 1000
  • Positive Grid BIAS Head Processor AMP
  • Line 6 POD HD500x

There are many ways to use these modelers. Here are a few configurations I’ve personally used.

Stereo XLR Outs Direct to the House PA System. (Also using In Ear Monitors)

• Direct Out to Church Sound System In Combination with a Real Guitar Amp.

• Direct Out to an LRLR Powered Stage Monitor (Not Great for Tone)

Conclusion of Part 2:

Whatever you ultimately decide to start with, may not be what you eventually end up with. Your setup is hoing to evolve as your ear for tone does. Do’t allow indecision to slow down your growth. Just make an informed decision.

I hope this gave you a better understanding of the Guitars and Amps commonly used in Worship Guitar Tone. Now that we have thos straightened out, we can move onto the next phase. Guitar Effects. This is where things get really truly interesting. So please don’t miss it.

Keep Rockin’,

The Axe Dr.

  • What tube amps are best for Worship?

    Believe it or not, Amp Builders, even the bigger ones like Vox and Fender have come out with lines specifically for smaller, quiter venues like Worship Stages. For most Worship Guitarists, a low wattage tube amp around 15 to 30 Watts will be ideal.

  • What is Delay?

    In short, Delay is just a trailing echo or repeat of your guitar signal. It repeats whatever you play, and lets you pick the rhythm, for example: 1/4 notes, dotted 8th notes, or 16th notes etc. You set the tempo of the song via a tap tempo footswitch. You become a percussive force in your band.

  • What is "Worship Guitar"?

    “Worship Guitar” is a niche or style of guitar playing. Many churches have a Praise & Worship Team that leads the congregation in songs, almost like a live concert. There are usually two to three guitarists in any one team. (Along with Bass, Drums, Keyboard/Synth, Vocals, etc.)

  • What is the best electric guitar for worship music?

    The short answer is, the one you like to play. However there is a short list of guitars that sound amazing and are particularly well suited to the Worship Genre.

    5. Gretsch Double Jet (w/ Bigsby)
    4. G&L Doheny or Fender Offset (Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Mustang)
    3. G&L ASAT or Fender Telecaster
    2. Veritas Mini Master
    1. Veritas Portlander (Used by all guitarists of Bethel Music)

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