Is Your A-chord worn out? Replace it!

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?


Boss ME-25 Multi-Effects Overview

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.

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

Here is a list of 10 practice tips from

  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 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?

Guitar Tech for Worship with Matt Underwood

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.

Modesty in Worship – Guitar Solos?

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

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.