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Is Your A-chord worn out? Replace it!

March 28, 2011 3 comments

I recently read an article discussing chord embellishment, or direct substitution. The idea is to spruce up your songs by substituting an embellished chord for the original major chord. An embellished chord may include an extra note or replace a note.

For Example:
Instead of

You could try or or Aadd9 or A2 or A6

Not every embellished chord will work or sound right, but you may find that replacing that plain old A-chord with an alternate version breathes new life into a standard pattern.  I personally love the Asus2 (which some people mistakenly call A2) in place of A-chords.  I also love to use the open-A chord on the 5th fret which is really an A-add9.

Do you use something besides a base-position A-chord?
And what song(s) do you use it in?

Categories: Guitar, Music Theory

Boss ME-25 Multi-Effects Overview

February 18, 2011 1 comment

If you haven’t noticed our contest on the homepage, then let me fill you in. Rockin With The Cross is doing something new this year make RWTC more fun. We’re giving away equipment and tools to help you in your music and ministry.

For February, we are giving away a Boss ME-25 multiple effect unit.  We are currently planning our March 2011 contest now, so be sure to check back to find out what it is. (hint: like the ME-25, it can connect to your computer via USB)

Sure its marketed for guitar, but you could  add the ME-25 to your keyboard or bass guitar rig as well.

Some of the sounds and effects in the Boss ME-25 include:

  • 6-second tap delay
  • Intelligent pitch shifter/harmonizer
  • whammy/wah effects
  • 10 distortion/overdrives
  • COSM amp modeling
  • sound freeze
  • looper

Here is a short video presenting some of the things the ME-25 can do:

Contest Rules- One entry per day.  Winner will be selected at random. Final day for entries Feb 28th.

Categories: Guitar Effects, RWTC

A Short Lesson On Strumming w/ Paul Baloche

February 15, 2011 1 comment

In this video Paul Baloche demonstrates the different tones produced by using different picks as well as demonstrations of a few different strumming patterns.

Check out the different guitar materials Paul Baloche has available on his website www.leadworship.com

 

Do you have a favorite strumming pattern?  If so, what is it?
Categories: Guitar, Paul Baloche

10 Guitar Practice Tips (ok, its really only 8)

November 1, 2010 5 comments

Here is a list of 10 practice tips from GuitarAlliance.com:

  1. It’s a good idea to practice at least a little every day. You should set aside some time each day to practice undisturbed, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes a day. You will still see marked improvement from day to day or week to week if you practice a little every day.
  2. Balance your practice sessions out. Don’t just practice your chops, work on your brain power too. 9 out of 10 guitarists spend 6 months learning new things on the guitar and the next 10 years recycling the things they learned in the first 6 months that they began to play.
  3. Spend part of your practice sessions working on your chops and part of your practice session learning new things and concepts  that can apply to your playing.
  4. Don’t get frustrated! You may not see improvement overnight, but you will see improvement eventually. If you’re having problems learning to play something, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ll get it if you keep at it from day to day.
  5. Set both short and long term goals. You may want to keep a journal to list your goals and keep track of your progress towards those goals. An example of a short term goal may be to learn 5 basic chord patterns and their barred versions. An example of a long term goal may be to learn all the notes on the fretboard.
  6. Try recording a practice session then go back a month or two later and listen to it. You’ll be amazed at the progress you’ve made if you’ve stuck with regular practice.
  7. If you start to feel too much discomfort in your hands and/or fingers from practicing you may want to take a break or wait until the next day to continue. Over time the muscles in your hands will develop to the point where they won’t cramp as much, and your fingertips will develop hard calluses.
  8. Concentrate on your weaknesses. Don’t spend most of your practice time on the areas that you would consider your strengths. Take the time to make your weaknesses strong, too.
  9. Keep fresh material. At guitaralliance.com we can provide you with tons of material to keep your practice sessions fresh (if you’re not a member yet then now is a great time to join).
  10. Remember: When working through the material don’t get ahead of yourself. If you come across something that you do not understand don’t skip it and go on to something else. Stop and click the support button or visit the forums so that you get the help you need to understand. Skipping material is like skipping chapters in a novel: you’ll be  scratching your head in confusion.

Here’s my #9 and #10 since theirs was really just advertisements for their training materials.

#9 – Practice with a metronome.  Playing in time is critical whether you are playing by yourself or with a band.  A metronome can also be useful when practicing scales & solos.  Start with a slow tempo and work your way up to full speed.  If you want your notes to be clean and articulate, work on your playing clarity at slower speeds and increase the tempo in increments until your can play all the notes cleanly at full speed.

#10- Play with other musicians.  You can learn something from everyone.  Typically, your guitar part is only one piece of the sonic puzzle.  Playing with other musicians forces you to listen to the other players.  Listen, listen, listen.  Learn to follow other players.  Are we speeding up? Are we lowering the overall volume? Learn to react to other players nuances and techniques.

In all of your time playing and practicing what important things have you learned?

Categories: Guitar

Guitar Tech for Worship with Matt Underwood

October 21, 2010 3 comments

Hey all – Matt Underwood here, talking a little bit about gear.  We’ll cover guitars, amps, pedals, and combinations of them together.

First things first – reality is that you need a good combination of gear.  A great guitar through a junk amp is going to sound like the back half of the equation: junk.  It’s vital that each link of the chain be a good, strong link.

Guitars – are the source of everything we are discussing.  You don’t need me to tell you that there are tons of amazing guitars to choose from.  However, choosing a great guitar on a budget can be a challenge.

I have several guitars that I rely on, such as a Gibson Les Paul Standard, Fender Telecaster Deluxe ’72 RI, Gretsch White Falcon… the list goes on.

However, if you can only choose one or two, choose something with diversity.  The tele deluxe is great because it has 2 humbuckers, giving it a warm, full sound, yet also has the ability to clean up and sound pretty, like all teles.

Also, a hollow-body, such as a Gretsch (or, if looking for a good guitar on a budget, Samick has some great models).  The hollow body combined with a humbucker creates a very full, yet very pure sound.  Very diverse.

Amps – the next important part of the equation.  If you are playing live, you are likely using effects pedals.  This is a huge factor, as some amps sound great with pedals, and other’s do not.  I love the sound of amp tone, through and through.  I will take tube amp overdrive over a pedal any day of the week – however, it’s not always logical to use live, for many reasons.  One thing I do is generally stick with low-wattage amps through a 1X12 or 2X12 cabinet.  Tube amps always sound better when they are pushed (aka when you crank them).  But, in a live setting, especially in a church, it’s not always practical to have a screaming loud amp.  By choosing a low-wattage amp through a smaller cabinet, you can eliminate a lot of the excess volume.

Matt's amplifiers

For instance, live, I almost always use my Vox Handwired AC-15.  15 watts sounds tiny, I know, but trust me, this amp can belt.  I rarely turn it above 4 or 5, and that can still be ear-piercingly loud.  This is great because it allows me to get a great sound out of my amp by pushing the tubes to a slight amount of breakup, giving me just a little bit of natural overdrive from the amp.  However, it is slight enough that if I want to clean up my sound, I just roll the volume back a bit on my guitar.  It’s also slight enough that when I put on an overdrive pedal, the pedal merely enhances the sound.

So, a low wattage tube amp that keeps it’s sound fairly clean is the way to go (Vox AC15 or 30, Fender Bassman, Marshall JCM 800, etc.)

Last but not least – Pedals.  As we are on the topic of overdrive with amps, let’s transition to overdrive with pedals.  If you have a slightly overdriven amp (where your tone is mostly clean with a just a small amount of breakup) then you want an overdrive that is not going to overpower your sound with fuzz.  A great place to start is the Ibanez tube screamer.  It cleans up nicely while still getting dirty when needed.  The key is dialing in the right amount of grit on your amp and then turning on your pedal and dialing in the perfect amount of overdrive that doesn’t oversaturate your sound, but merely enhances it and makes it bigger, warmer, etc.  Great places to start are the tubescreamer, Fulltone Fulldrive, Visual sound route 66, or any boutique overdrive pedal.

Matt's pedal board

Other pedals that are important – delay, volume, tuner, reverb, poly-octave generator, or anything else that gives you the sound that you want.

As most Christian music today is in the U2 ethereal vain, delay is the go-to pedal.

When playing live, I use a combination of boss pedals (dd-5 and dd-7).  I use two because sometimes I like to use them simultaneously on different settings.  I keep the dd-7 on a warm, analog sound set to standard quarter notes.  I put the dd-5 on the “U2” setting, or the dotted eighth note.  When used simultaneously, it creates a ping-pong sort of effect.  Then, add some reverb and you can create a sort of swimming sensation.

We could go on and on with gear, but I these are a few of the keys to creating great tone.  Keep in mind the saying “You are only as strong as your weakest link.”  This greatly applies to guitar tone.  Each step of the equation must be equally as strong; otherwise your tone will suffer.

Also, remember, it’s not about how expensive the gear is – you can make decent gear sound great if you know what you are doing and you know how to build the equation.  I’ve heard plenty of killer rigs sound terrible in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to really use all the elements.

Ultimately, it’s about you, as a guitarist, and as a worshipper, connecting with the gear you have and creating a sound that is your “voice.”  Once you have that sound, and you know it inside and out, you will free yourself up to really create when you are playing instead of clouding your thinking with technical worries.

Matt Underwood

Keep playing, keep discovering, keep growing.   –Matt

About Matt Underwood - Matt has played guitar in worship for Sonicflood, Jonathan Lee, Ayiesha Woods, and Andy Kirk among others.  Has Recorded guitar parts for Charmaine, Philmont,  David Marshall, and Brentwood Benson Demos.

Categories: Guitar Effects, Technology

Modesty in Worship – Guitar Solos?

October 6, 2010 2 comments

Since we broached the topic of modesty in worship previously, I was wondering how or even if guitar solos fit into a worship set.  I just saw a fun challenge (for myself and maybe you too) from Lincoln Brewster to play the guitar solo on his new song “Reaching For You” (get the chord chart on RWTC).  Which got me thinking about our modesty in worship discussion.

Can guitar solos fit into a worship set?

Could God be pleased or glorified in any way with a guitar solo?

Is it different than some of the things singers do vocally in worship?

What does it look like when a solo is played in worship?

If you have the time, tab out this guitar solo for the rest of us!

New Music and New Chord Charts

September 10, 2010 1 comment
We Cry Out
I Will Follow
Reaching For You

As many people know, Jeremy Camp just came out with a new worship album (which is quite good, by the way) titled We Cry Out.  If you check the “New Tabs” section, you’ll see that we have the chord chart to his song, Not Ashamed.

Both Lincoln Brewster and Chris Tomlin also released brand new singles to their upcoming, yet-to-be-released albums.  You can find chord charts to their songs as well in the RWTC archive.

Have you figured out chords to any old or new songs that aren’t in the archive?  Rockin With The Cross is a community of worship musicians who share their arrangements of songs with each other, so submit them today!

When you add new tabs to the Rockin With The Cross archive, we’ll give you a free month subscription for each song!

PS: be on the lookout for a RWTC update coming soon.

Play Skillyfully and Shout For Joy

August 27, 2010 1 comment

I don’t know about you, but I love to peruse catalogs, websites and ebay for musical instruments.  I bet David would have loved the diversity and styles of instruments available to us today.  I believe David was always on a search for new ways to praise the Lord and new songs to sing to him.

Psalm 33

1 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
    it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
2 Praise the LORD with the harp;
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
3 Sing to him a new song;
   play skillfully, and shout for joy.
4 For the word of the LORD is right and true;
   He is faithful in all he does.
5 The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
   the earth is full of his unfailing love.

If David could have any instrument available today, what would he choose?

Categories: Devotional, Guitar

Changing Strings

July 8, 2010 1 comment

Changing strings is like changing the oil in your car.  You need to do it to maintain your vehicle … or in this case, your guitar.  Personally, I’m terrible with changing my guitar strings regularly.  So, why should we be diligent with changing our guitar strings?

Why you should change your strings regularly?
My top reason would have to be the sound.  When strings get old, they simply don’t sound good.  They don’t stay in tune and they lose their intonation.  Strings also break over time, and its quite embarrassing to be playing in front of friends or church and have your strings break.  Also, finger sludge on your guitar strings just isn’t cool. 

How often should I change my strings?
The real answer to this is “it depends”.  It depends on a number of factors such as the type of strings you use, how much do you play, how hard do you play, how sweaty or oily your hands are while playing, etc.

When should I change my guitar strings?
There are a number of signs to look and listen for.

  • deadened tone
  • decreased sustain
  • intonation is effected making chords sound out of tune
  • noticeable dirt and grime on strings
  • noticeable wear on strings at fret locations
  • string(s) breaking

What kind of strings should I use?
Type of strings depends a few things.  The type of guitar you have, the sound you like and the way it feels.  First and foremost, you should use strings designed for your type of guitar.  If you have an electric, you should use strings designed for electric guitar.  If you have an acoustic, likewise.

Strings have various materials used in their construction and manufacturers also use different techniques which effect sound, strength and tone.  Classical guitars use nylon strings for the E-B-G strings.  Acoustic strings can be made of bronze and brass with additions of zinc, copper or tin.  The ratio of materials effect the tone.  Electric strings are made of stainless steel, nickel plated or pure nickel due to the magnetic response of the pickups.  Then there’s a whole slew of manufacturers using various coatings on the strings to prolong life and tone (ie: Elixir nanweb and polyweb strings)

How do you decide which to use?  It really comes down to your preference.  It would be great if the stores had your exact guitar strung up with different types of strings, but that isn’t likely.  So trial and error may be the only way  to find out.  Whenever you change strings choose a different brand or style and make note of the sets you like the best.

Does string gauge matter?
Absolutely!  String gauge is simply the measurement of string thickness.  Thicker strings produce more sound due to their mass which is why many players depend on thicker guage strings for better tone.  Tone is great, but if thicker strings make it harder for you to do bends or cleanly fret your chords, it may not be a good move.  Also, changing your string gauge will effect your guitar’s setup (intonation, neck bow, etc).  If you change string gauges, it would be wise to get your guitar set-up again.

OK, I’ve changed my strings, now what?
This is the easy part … play … and play some more.

Guides to Changing Strings:

What are your favorite strings and
How often do you change your guitar strings?

Categories: Guitar, Guitar maintenance

Tone Techniques (part 2)

June 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Here is the 2nd part to Michael Hodge’s article in the Roland Worship Connection e-letter.  If you missed part 1 of Michael’s article, you can find it here.

Roland Worship Connection

This is part two of a two-part article by Michael Hodge profiling his pedal boards and how he uses them throughout the varied facets of his ministry.

RT-20 Rotary Ensemble (virtual Leslie speaker)
I use this pedal A LOT. I had a Leslie at one time because it sounds amazing on guitar, and this one is even more awesome…and slightly easier to carry. It also does a Roto Vibe thing quite well. I love the slow setting with an overdriven sound. It’s very convincing. I also use the fast setting for guitar lines that I want to really stick out. There is an incredible energy when you are changing speeds from slow to fast and back. You can adjust how long it takes to spin-up to full speed. This is also the coolest looking pedal in the dark. The LED display looks awesome. It also has distortion built in if you need it. This is one of my favorite BOSS pedals, hands down.

DD-20 Giga Delay
I could easily write an entire article on this pedal. If you play modern worship music, you know all about delays. I rely a lot on delay for swells, ambient pads, Ebow lines and choppy staccato notes. Of course, it’s essential for all the “Edge-U2” stuff that is so fun to play! I have one of these on every pedal board I own! One cool thing is that the direct signal doesn’t lose tone. This pedal sounds great and is really versatile.

On the DD-20, there are four programmable settings with one “extra” default setting that you can change as well. I like to use the “Smooth” patch as the default setting, which is a delay with reverb. I have progressive amounts of delay on presets one through four – the 4th preset being the longest. You can set the display to show milliseconds or BPM. I’ve started using BPM live since we have the tempo written on our charts, so I know if my “tapping” is in the pocket. I do save certain tempos for quick song changes during a service. We do a lot of segues with little time to tap out the new tempos. Some other favorites are the “modulate delay,” which is like a “Memory Man” and is wonderful for swells. The “pan delay” I use a lot in the studio. For me, the DD-20 is a must have these days.

FS-5U Foot Switch
I use this as a tap pedal to set delays on the DD-20. You can use a Y-cable out to set multiple delay pedals at the same time.

RV-5 Digital Reverb
This is a great stereo reverb pedal. There is a spring reverb setting, as well as a plate and hall. I tend to go for the plate or modulate setting. I use it whenever I play slide or Ebow along with some delay. I also use it with no delay for the R&B “chicken pickin” stuff to give a little warmth and “spank.” Since I play through two amps I have the RT-20, DD-20 and the RV-5 all in stereo mode.

BOSS Pedal Board
Signal path for Michael’s BOSS pedals

Other BOSS pedals I use:
In the studio I use the OD-20 for metal tones and for the octave effect. It is really nice. I use the looper pedals as well – both the RC-20XL which packs a huge punch for the size, as well as the big brother RC-50, which I am using to do the “Phil Keaggy” thing. I have a PS-5 on my studio board, which does Vibrato-bar simulations – very cool!

I also have a much-coveted VB-1 vintage vibrato which I found used at a local music store near by. It does something very unique and is analog, of course. This puts a special mojo on swells and is kind of similar to a tremolo.

Whatever you are doing in your music career and ministry, especially if you are a guitar player, BOSS pedals are your friends. They never complain and let you walk all over them! May you be filled with creativity and passion both in writing, playing and ministering to His beloved people!

Michael Hodge is a self-described “pedal geek” and is currently a guitarist, producer and worship band leader at Lakewood Church in Houston. Check out Michael’s guitar tones on any Lakewood recording, such as Free to Worship. If you’d like to get in touch with Michael, email him at michael@michaelhodge.com.

If you could add one pedal to your arsenal what would it be?

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