What Every Worship Leader Needs To Know About Worship Guitar Tone


Today we’re continuing our series of the essential things you NEED to know about electric guitar in order to effectively nurture the electric guitar/band relationship. Why is this so important? If you’re leading a band or playing guitar, it’s important to have a good understanding of the electric guitar and what it has potential to do for your sound.

These are things that both the worship leader AND worship guitar player NEED to know! I’m directing this towards worship leaders, but guitarists please listen in! And if you’re a guitar player who wants to dive a little deeper, check out 11 Golden Rules For Worship Guitar Players.

If you’re just jumping into this series, I encourage you to read Part 1 first. I gave a crucial and very important 1st step.

Worship Guitar Tone

Let’s jump right in! Today we’re talking about tone. The word tone is thrown around in guitar culture ALOT! Just do a quick search on Instagram with the word “tone” and you’ll find hundreds of accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, that do nothing but post pictures of guitar gear and talk about tone. Many guitarists obsess over it! (I am one of them sometimes).

So what is “tone” and why is it so important? Simply put, tone is how the guitar sounds. Many things make up tone; like amps, pedals, guitars, microphones, cables, and even playing style.

I really want you to grasp what I’m about to say. Tone is KING when it comes to worship music. It doesn’t matter what is being played, if the tone is bad, everything is bad. And I hate to say it, but most of the churches I visit, have bad tone. As a result, the band sounds weak and empty.

To make things worse, if you haven’t really studied tone, been around others with great tone, and listened to great tone, it’s not easy to know how to get good worship tone. And even if you have, it takes time to learn. Alas, I am here to help!

Ok, so you’re probably asking, “good tone, bad tone, what’s the difference and what do they sound like?” That can be a very lengthy and even boring conversation if you aren’t a tone nerd. However, I can give you a few places to start!

1. Use Amps!

This is the first place to start! 90% of worship guitar tone comes from the guitar amp! It amazes me the churches, and even “mega-churches,” I’ve seen that aren’t using amps. Generally speaking, plugging in direct to the sound system sounds HORRIFYING on electric guitar! The second half of this equation is: Use a GOOD amp, preferably a tube amp. If you don’t know what that means, your guitar players should.

If you really want to take your tone to the next level, we’ve created the Ultimate Guide to Stereo Electric Guitar. This is a video lesson that covers everything from how and why we play in stereo, to amps and effects. And it’s completely free! Check it out!

2. Pedals!

If you are hearing weird space ship sounds or grungy AC/DC sounds, put an end to it. For the most part, there is no place for that in worship music. I’ve seen way too many guitar players that are very “effect happy.” However, always use your ear. There’s a difference between someone adding a unique/creative effect to a song, and someone that is just throwing a flange/wah/tremelo/octave effect just because they have the pedals.

As the leader, don’t be afraid to say something if your guitarists are doing something that you don’t like. We’ve created a free video series on worship guitar effects that you can share with your team. We go through and talk about specific effects and how they are used in specific settings. I really encourage any worship guitar players to go through it.

3. Mixing

Great tone is going to make the guitar sit in the mix of your band really well, and as a result, make the band sound better. Think of an EQ. Your high frequency instruments are your highs. Like cymbals, high-hats, and some acoustic stuff. Your low frequency instruments are your lows. Bass, kick drum, and some keys. And your mid range instruments are your mids. What are the mid range instruments? Guitars.

In order to have a full sounding band, you need a good mix of all of these instruments. Many times when I hear an empty mix, it’s because the guitars aren’t turned up enough. It’s lacking mids. Most worship music today is very electric guitar driven.

Listen to how loud the guitars are in your favorite worship albums. They’re pretty loud most of the time. Now get the guitars mixed that loud at your church. That’s assuming that your guitar players are playing good parts. If they aren’t, it could actually hurt the band’s sound. In my humble opinion, the easiest way to make sure they are playing good parts, is with a WorshipOnline.com account.  We teach guitar players exactly how to play the songs.

4. Gear

Great sounding gear can be expensive and many guitar players just can’t afford it. However, you get what you pay for and guitar gear is no exception.  If your church has the budget to invest into good amps and pedalboards, it can really enhance your sound. Guitarists don’t have the option to have terrible tone if you supply the gear. (Although a lot of tone is in the fingers)

I don’t recommend just going to Guitar Center and buying what they tell you. Talk to an experienced worship guitarist.  If you know somebody, great!  For some however, it might take hiring a consultant who is knowledgable in worship guitar to get this setup and sounding great for you, but it’s an investment well worth it.

Many of you reading this right now know so much about tone! Do you have any more tips for us? Share it with us in the comments below!

Want to stay connected with us and our community? Sign up to get our blog posts via email! And you can also get access to our FREE 5 part video series on How Today’s Top Worship Guitarist Are Using Effects Pedals!

Click Here To Read Part 3!

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