This is a topic that is very dear to my heart. I’m very used to people asking me what pedals or gear that I’m using (quite often actually), and it’s very honoring that someone thinks I sound good enough to want to replicate my sound.
However, I’m not oblivious to fact that there’s this belief in our “gear culture” that it’s the gear that makes someone a great player, or causes someone to sound great. So whenever someone asks me about my gear, it takes everything inside of me not to change the subject to all the things that will ACTUALLY make you sound better, other than gear!
If you don’t know Jordan Holt, he’s one of the guitar instructors here at Worship Online. Jordan has played for and worked with with a handful of artists from Matt Redman, Ben Cantelon, Leeland, and Kari Jobe (who he’s on the road with now). All while serving his home church The Beloging Co. here in Nashville.
When Jordan sent me this post he wrote last week about all of the things he wished he could tell “gearaholics,” I knew it had to be shared!
If there’s something Jordan knows about, it’s gear. I’m constantly asking him questions about pedals and guitars, and as you can imagine, he get’s asked about the gear he’s using…a lot. However, there’s one thing Jordan knows even more about than gear, and that’s how to actually play WELL and sound incredible, which has nothing to do with gear at all.
Jordan does an incredible job sharing about the 6 things that will make you sound better than any gear ever could in this weeks post! Without further ado:
As I’ve grown as a musician, I’ve had to learn quite a few lessons before arriving here where God has brought me. To many people’s surprise, where I am has very little to do with what overdrives are on my board or what type of guitar I use.
Don’t get me wrong, I love gear and am a truly a gear nerd at heart, but there are some things that have proven to be immensely more helpful to me time and time again.
1) Be Tasteful
Learn how to play simply. “Less is more” may sound cliche, but it really is a statement that we all need to meditate on. Nothing is worse than playing in a band with a left-hand-busy keyboardist or a guitarist that plays like he isn’t allowed to stop playing.
When I am writing new parts I love to record them, step away for a few minutes, then listen again. Most of the time when I do this, I find myself actually wanting to play less notes. Try practicing intentionally playing less, and making the most out of the notes you do play.
2) Play Dynamically
A solid indicator of a pro musician is refined dynamics. Dynamics apply to technique, sensitivity, tone, or what you play and when you play it. These things are true for any instrument, but for guitarists in particular, spend time learning how to use your picking hand in different ways. I am constantly adjusting the angle of my pick and how hard I hold it.
Spend time with your effects to learn how to make yourself sound larger or smaller. Finally, and similarly to the first tip, pay attention to how your parts fit in the song. Staying out of the mix and then coming in at a key moment can really make a song win.
3) Play in Context
The best musicians I know are the people who can also be producers. What I mean is that they can look at a song as a whole, access what and how everyone is playing, then in turn determine what is appropriate for them to play. A bad habit that I have had to outgrow is staying in my “own world.” The best way to avoid that is to be comfortable with the songs you have to play, which leads to my next tip…
The more time you put in beforehand the better you will be able to play well on stage. Use Worship Online for this! Work on your vibrato, practice scales, learn songs from various genres of music, etc. Ultimately, I feel like simply playing my guitar more has allowed me to better be able to express myself in what I play.
The “feel” you put into each note will do more for your tone than whether you play a Klon or a Timmy (guitar pedal reference).
5) Master Your Gear
There really is something to be said for taking the time to actually dive into what your pedal can do, rather then simply trading it for the next big thing. It’s kind of funny how many people I know have $450 pedals, that basically have the power of a MacPro, yet only use 1 or 2 settings. I have been guilty of it.
Try placing your overdrives in a different order. EQ your amp by listening to it mic’d up rather than standing in front of it. Set your reverb or mod pedal to random settings and try finding a part that fits what comes out. I have fallen in love with different pieces of gear, and found new inspiration, simply by just spending more time with them.
6) Spend Time Alone With God
I really cannot emphasize this enough. Having a personal relationship with God is everything. He is the Creator; and all of your creativity and gifts come from him. Never forget that. The more time you spend with Him, the more you will realize you are like Him because you are his child.
He will unlock every unique bit of musical goodness He has put in you. If your confidence is in Him and not in your own ability, I promise you that he will move through you in every area of your life.