The Ultimate Guide to Worship Guitar Tone:
Worship Guitar Tone...Specifically
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
The Edge U2 Guitarist (Early Adopter of Digital Delay)
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.
Another great example for this type of sound, surprisingly so, is Tom Delonge of Angels & Airwaves (former frontman for Blink 182).
This guy went from a barebones strat with one volume knob and a mesa boogie, to being one of the heaviest users of digital guitar effects and signal processing. When Blink 182 went on Hiatus, he went through the same guitar tone discoveries that you are about to.
Praise & Worship Music is very ambient, atmospheric, uplifting, and emotional. It is totally possible for you to become the backbone for your team in this regard. You can create the most amazing sound with the right combination of guitar, effects, and amp. Lets talk about the gear.
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.
In recent years big bands like Bethel, have sort of adopted their own set of standards when it comes to electric guitars. The Veritas Portlander has quickly become the go to guitar for Worship players. It is a custom built dual humbucking telecaster with a Bigsby. They just recently came out with a pro line version which is right around $900.
Veritas Portlander (Popular Praise & Worship Guitars)
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.
You can find them here. ↓↓
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.
• Line 6 POD HD500X
• Helix LT or Helix
• Firehawk FX
• Fractal Audio Ax8, AxeFX 2, or
AxeFX 3 (Pedalboards or Rack Mount)
• Kemper Profiler
There are many ways to use these modelers. Here are a few 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)
Whatever you ultimately decide to start with, may not be what you evetually 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.
The Axe Dr.
Frequently Asked Questions
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?
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)