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?