You could make a strong argument that reverb in particular is what really sets modern worship tone apart from modern pop guitar sounds.
Although we all use it heavily, it can be a difficult thing to dial in a high quality worship guitar reverb sound. Honestly, not many worship guitar players put in the time to achieve a quality and clear reverb sound.
Let’s dive into what you can do to dial in a worship guitar reverb sound comparable to what you hear on your favorite records.
First something to understand as a baseline, remember what reverb is meant to accomplish.
The main job of reverb is to add sonic size to your sound, filling extra space that a dry guitar sound simply wouldn’t be able to do. As with any advice or guidance with guitar sounds, there are no hard and fast rules. You have to adapt what you learn to your hands and your rig.
Second, start with the length of the feedback.
Essentially you have to decide how long you would like the reverb trails to last. When deciding this, take into consideration the context you are playing in. In our case we are looking for worship guitar reverb sounds.
Are you playing driving eighth notes? Long trails might be too much. You can easily end up playing on top of yourself. Ambient sounds or swells?
Short trails will probably leave you wanting more. How much or how little you can set to taste, but context is everything. Seek to compliment the mix, not being too bold or too timid.
Third, Mix is the next stop.
This is where you decide the ratio of dry signal to wet signal. Similar to the decision process used when setting the feedback, it’s all about context.
A very simple way to look at it is how many other instruments are playing the moment you are using this reverb.
If not many people are playing with you, you can really pull off a higher mix. If you are in a full band, big chord moment, a lower mix will help you not to get lost. This is a general principle, but often the opposite approach of what I just discussed is taken when approaching worship guitar reverb sounds.
We all know and love those soaring lead lines and big moments that Bethel is famous for. Those are high mix settings used in a full band big moment. On the other side of things, one of my absolute favorite sounds is high feedback but very low mix used in a “down” moment. It is super clear but adds a nice ambient bed for the sound to sit on.
Fourth, A quick note on pre-delay.
This is an amazing feature that sets the duration of time for when you play a note to when the reverb comes in. Using a bit of pre-delay can add a tremendous amount of clarity to your settings with a higher mix. This helps you stick out while still soaring in the juicy reverb goodness that we love in worship guitar reverb sounds.
Fifth, the only one I have pretty strong opinions about is the TONE of your worship guitar reverb.
That is simply because it is so easy for a tone to be way too bright or way too dark. Luckily this is the easiest setting to dial in. Dark sounding guitar tone should use a brighter reverb, bright sounding guitar should use a darker reverb.
No need to over complicate it, experiment if you like! You find out quickly that your Tele going into a shimmer reverb into a twin reverb is “a bit much” 😅.
Sixth, types of reverb and modulation.
I don’t have a strong opinion about what type of reverb is best simply because I love them all. This is where you can play around and really come up with a sound unique to you. But if you are looking for the classic worship sound, you’ll find it with a modulated hall reverb, much like that found on the legendary Boss RV-5.
Modulation specifically can add a very nice dimension of movement to your tone.
I love to use it very liberally. Like syrup on pancakes. But much like syrup on pancakes, I still want to taste the pancakes. Many modern reverb pedals offer modulation depth that goes a bit extreme, once it’s no longer in tune, dial it back.
The Fun Stuff: What are the good reverb pedals?
There are PLENTY of amazing pedals out there (If you’re still using pedals like a boomer…KIDDING). It is tough to beat the S tier pedals like the Strymon Big Sky and Specular Tempus. But if you are looking for some more affordable options the previously mentioned RV-5 is amazing if you can snag a used one.
If you are able to swing it; having a pedal with at least two usable presets will make your on stage life much easier, simple as a big and a small setting.
Choosing to be the player that goes beyond the stock settings will always be worth the time investment.
It is not overly complicated to do and the work to reward ratio is great. Just remember to always seek to serve the context you are in, have fun and sound a little better every time. Dialing in your effects won’t be an overnight success. So give yourself some grace in the process! The effects bug bite is contagious, but is such an exhilarating itch to scratch. Happy scratching & good look funding the perfect worship guitar reverb sound.
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