Guitar

My pedalboard breakthrough ... or lack there of

  This is an interesting post for me to write because of how I am defining breakthrough. So let me make it clear for you all what I mean by breakthrough. For the last year my pedalboard has not changed. I know .... mind blown 🤯. In reality that doesn't sound like much, but for me it is a big deal. I have spent A LOT of time on my pedalboard. I have gone through probably around 50-70 different pedals, almost 10 different pedalboards, and over a dozen guitars all in that never ending chase for tone. But this last year has been different. I have spent more time diving into my playing and less into my pedals. I have tried to improve how I fit into a band, recording, etc, with what I play more than my tone. I am very fortunate that when it comes to worship music, I can replicate a majority of the sounds in worship albums today. You need me to sound like Bethel, piece of cake. Need me to sound like The Belonging Co, well let me pull out my strat and add some chorus for songs like "Beautiful Story". I have learned a lot when it comes to tone, and it is helpful, but learning to play with your bandmates is even more important. I don't care how incredible your tone is, if you don't learn to blend with your bandmates then the overall sound of the group will suffer. I had a couple friends of mine who were very complimentary, explaining to me that I do a very good job playing with a band. I won't go into a ton of detail, but I appreciated that compliment because it is something I have worked on. It is easy for musicians to get caught up in playing the cool part instead of the appropriate part. Sometimes the best thing to do is play a simple chord, swell, or even stop playing. I try to go into these sets with the mentality of supporting the group and picking my spots when to stand out. I still have a lot to learn there but I believe I have improved a lot over these last couple years. So I wanted to give a couple quick tips of what I have done to help myself improve, and I hope they help you too. 

1. Lower yourself in your monitor mix

This may sound simple but it is a struggle for a lot of people. I was very big on hearing myself, and don't get me wrong, I still have myself pretty high in my mix. However I noticed when I pulled myself down in my monitor mix, that I heard a more realistic idea of what the audience is hearing, and how my guitar fit with the rest of the group. If you don't hear your bandmates, how will you know if you are clashing or enhancing the sound of the group??

2. Actively listen to your bandmates

There is a weird concept where you actually care about what your bandmates are playing. Too many bands/worship teams just do their own thing, play their part, and believe it will all magically come together. Does not work! Spend time listening to your bandmates, and I mean ACTIVELY listening! It is one thing to hear, and a completely different thing to actively listen. Don't assume they are playing the part you would play if you were the bass player, keys player, etc. Take the time to communicate with your bandmates during rehearsals. I find myself more than ever communicating with my bandmates between songs or even during songs and adjusting accordingly if needed. 

3. Get rid of your ego!!

I can't stress this enough. It is very easy to get a big ego being on stage week after week. But if you go in there with the right attitude, then you will vastly improve the overall sound in your group. If you are a member of a worship team, remember the reason you are there. You are not there just to play an instrument or sing, you are there to worship God and create an atmosphere where others can worship God. If you are in a band, remember that you are there to support your band members. When you go in there with the attitude of "how can I support those around me?" the more likely you are to enhance the sound of your group. 

I don’t care how incredible your tone is, if you don’t learn to blend with your bandmates then the overall sound of the group will suffer

 

 

3 Ways to Improve Guitar In Your Church Without Touching a Guitar

Make a new best friend …. with the sound guy

 One thing I have observed at churches is there is a lot of division between the stage and the booth. Let’s face it. Sometimes musicians and sound guys can be tough to work with. However the reality is that we all are trying to serve in the church, and create the best possible worship experience. A simple way to improve worship in the church is to improve these relationships. Over the last couple of years I have noticed that some of my closest friends have been sound guys. These relationships have given me a much greater understanding of the ups & downs of audio in that church. It has also opened up a consistent line of communication for improving guitar tone in the mix. I try to ask the sound guys every week how my guitar sounds and if there is anything I can do on my end to help. When they see something can be improved it allows me to adjust to the overall sound rather than just my own personal preference. A very important part of this is to actually MAKE THOSE CHANGES! Don’t just listen to their opinion and then completely ignore it.  Sometimes its as simple as messing with the EQ on my amps/pedals or even playing certain parts an octave higher or lower. Either way these simple questions have shown the sound guys that I care about how my tone affects the overall mix, and that goes a long way 

 

Listen …. a lot 

  One of the best classes I took in college was Critical Listening. This class was designed primarily to listen and identify frequencies. Listening to white noise over and over again was very redundant but it is one of the most beneficial classes I ever took. The goal of the class was by the end to be able to identify frequencies and how they affect different sounds. This class allowed me to understand where my guitar needs to lie in the mix and how to quickly improve my tone. I have seen on too many occasions people who know what sounds good but don’t know how to get there. Today I have a much better understanding of what I am listening to and if I need to adjust on the fly I can make educated decisions rather than going by trial and error. This also helps me in communicating with the sound guy. Instead of just telling the sound guy mixing monitors my guitar sounds muddy and hoping he can read my mind and guess what I want, I can ask him to pull down 400hz 2 db in my monitor. Quick educated decisions are always better than trial and error.

 

Be a team player

I wish I didn’t have to write this one since it is so blatantly obvious but be a team player. Understand that we want to bring the best possible worship experience and sometimes that means laying down your pride, tone, style, or parts that you worked hard on. I had many times that I was playing at church and the other guitarist was completely stepping on my parts. I played with a blues player once who is very used to playing at all times and riffing throughout the song. If I played the lead parts I normally do it would mean 2 lead parts happening at times and no rhythm. So instead, I switched up playing all the parts I practiced, and I switched over to rhythm when the song needed it. Too many times we think the best sound is the most complicated sound. Worship music is very very simple, and that means the best thing for the song could be not playing at all or just strumming a simple chord every bar. Be humble and play what is best for the song not what is best for you and your style. I can tell you that I am not a “shredder”. I am not gonna go up there and blow your mind by my licks like Mateus Asato but I can tell you that I will play something that enhances the song. Maybe it’s doing swells, playing a basic arpeggio, or cranking my distortion pedal to 11. Be a team player. It goes a long way not only musically but also relationally when others see your desire to work as a group rather than just playing what you think sounds coolest. 

Confessions of a Worship Guitarist

  So I think we all can agree that the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one, so here I go. My name is Travis Boothman and I am a gear-a-holic. Over the last 8-10 years of playing guitar, I can say that this blurb is one of the greatest lessons I have learned, and I want to share it with you all.

  I have spent so much time when it comes to gear. You want to get me talking, just show me your pedalboard and we can chat for hours. I'll research different guitars, amps, and of course .... pedals. I have gone through a PT-2, Pedaltrain Pro, PT-3, Blackbird, Temple Audio, and now I am running a flat board by Creation Music Company. That comes to 6 pedalboards in a a 8 year span! The only pedals I still own from 2 years ago are my Morning Glory, Big Sky, Timeline, and Polytune. Everything else .... gone. I became obsessed with getting the ultimate "worship" tone. I wanted everyone to think Jeffrey Kunde (Jesus Culture) came to fill in, or that Nigel Hendroff (Hillsong United) took a week out of his tour to play on our worship team. After spending so much time on my gear, it's no surprise that when i played a part, I simply couldn't play it like he did. I spent so much time working on my "sound" that I forgot to work on the biggest part of guitar tone, the tone produced directly from my hands to my guitar.

  When I really began sharing my vision for making guitar my career, I was given the challenge to sell most of my pedals, and just keep the bare minimum (1 overdrive, delay, reverb). So I did what almost all of us worship guitarists would do. I said ABSOLUTELY NOT! However I began experimenting with that idea. I began practicing direct into the amp, unplugged, or with my acoustic. I minimized my time with the pedals, and instead of tinkering away at my tone I was tapping away on the fretboard. To no surprise, I found myself improving as a player, and even better I found I didn't have to rely on those pedals as much to hide my flaws. Too many times we find ourselves stuck unable to play a specific part or lick. Then to make sure we don't miss our part, we just change to a preset that fixes it all. However there will be that day that comes for almost every guitarist. There will come a day that all your pedals fail or even worse..... you don't have them! I had this experience recently when I was asked to play last minute for a young adults night. I wouldn't get to rehearsal in time, but I could get there in time to play the set. Now my pedals were at the time over a thousand miles away being put together by Brian Omilion of Omilion Audio, so I had nothing but my guitar, amp, tuner and the and built in boost switch. However I knew I could handle it, because I had been practicing with the minimum. Of course I wanted to add some big ambient swells and delays, but I could make it work without them. That night I got a lot of compliments for my playing, and most of them I can assume had no idea that I was missing 1/3 of my gear. That was a win in my book. So now I challenge you to put yourself in that situation. If you were asked to play with just a guitar, amp, tuner, and boost, could you do it and do it well? I can be honest with myself and say that I have improved in that area, but that I also have a long way to go. 

  I think as worship guitarists we easily forget that pedals are designed to enhance our tone rather than cover up our mistakes. When we have that mentality of covering our playing, we cheat ourselves of improving as guitar players. We stick ourselves inside this box that we can't play those parts, so instead we just click on a delay that can do it for us. Don't feel like I'm judging anyone that does this because I was the worst of them all, and I would much rather it sound good with delay than sound horrible without it. Overall this experience has just shown me that my priorities were in the wrong place. Of course you should have a solid guitar tone, but you should never let it stop you from improving your abilty as a guitar player. You can have the best gear in the world, but if you can't play the parts, what good is it?

Suhr Custom Classic T Antique

Hey everyone! I am really excited to tell you about my Suhr Custom Classic T! I was very fortunate to buy this guitar a couple of months ago and I can tell you it is one of the best guitars I have ever played. So I just wanted to share a little bit about the guitar and where it fits in my rig right now. 

So over the last 6 months I noticed something about the guitars I was using for gigs. I used my Gretsch Duo Jet 95% of the time. The Gretsch tone was at a whole different level than the guitars I had at the time (Gibson Les Paul 60s Tribute, Fender Baja Tele, SGC Tomcat). Not to say these guitars do not sound good, but why would I play them when I have another guitar that sounds so much better! Yes there are the usual answers like to have more tonal options for different kinds of music, but that part wasn't that appealing to me. I find myself playing primarily worship, pop, and rock music, where you don't need a tone of different tones. So I decided instead of having 1 great guitar and 3 good guitars, I decided to sell the 3 and purchase another great guitar. That is where the Suhr came in. I came across an incredible guitarist Mateus Asato who I saw using almost solely Suhr guitars. After seeing him live, I was blown away by the tone he got out of his guitars. So I started doing some research on the guitars and tried a few out at Matt's Music in Weymouth, MA. The first moment I picked up a Suhr was a magical moment. I say that because I have never had a guitar that plays as well as the Suhr does. The moment I picked up the guitar I grabbed the neck and just said "wow". When I plugged it in for the first time it sounded incredible too! I was concerned that this guitar wouldn't be able to replace my Gibson Les Paul and Fender Tele but the Suhr did it with ease. The pickups are Suhr's Classic T single coils. The pickups are pretty hot for single coils so I pull the volume knob down to get that tele twang and then max out the volume so it can scream like a Les Paul. The Suhr has a really raw tone that can be hard to explain, so instead you can hear for yourself from Mateus Asato below.