Archive for the ‘Worship Music’ Category

Prestige Heritage Elite - Lite Sunburst

Prestige Heritage Elite - Lite Sunburst

It’s one thing to test gear in a controlled environment, it’s an entirely different matter to use it for a gig. After receiving the Prestige Heritage Elite, I took it through its paces in my home studio, and it performed quite well; so well that I gave it very high marks, reflecting the excellent build quality as well as how it sounds, which was awesome in the studio. The operative word here is “studio.”

As I mentioned above, it’s an entirely different matter of testing gear in a gig situation. After all, during a gig, you don’t have the luxury to stop to make corrections on the fly. Furthermore, during a gig, an instrument’s tone interacts and reacts completely differently to the environment than in the studio.

Hope that little section above doesn’t make you nervous about how the Heritage Elite performed 🙂 because it worked great! I played the guitar at my weekly church gig with a full band. Now before you dismiss this venue, let me say that playing in a church is one of the most sonically challenging environments to play in because you don’t have the luxury to crank it up, and churches have pretty high ceilings so dealing with sound bouncing around a big space makes it even more challenging. In light of that, you have to rely a lot on the natural tone of the gear you’re playing. Especially with something like a guitar, it has to sound great at lower volumes, and have voicing that won’t get lost in the ambient.

In this, the Heritage Elite really excels. Surprisingly enough, it doesn’t have the deep ballsy voicing you’d expect from a Les Paul-type of guitar. In fact, the voicing is much brighter, but from the standpoint of playing live, that’s a good thing, and something for which I’ve always praised Saint Guitars. But like a Les Paul, it has that distinctive chirp – that kind of hard to describe, subtle sound. It’s very pleasing to the ears – I dig it!

The other great thing about playing at my church is that I can play a variety of musical styles throughout the course of the service. I played some hard driving rock as well as some soft, finger-style music. Whatever the style of music I played, the Heritage Elite performed great. I especially dug its clean tone while finger-picking.

I also forgot how fun it is to play with independent volume and tone controls. I usually peg the tone controls, then use varying amounts of gain between the neck and bridge pickups to dial in just the right tone for a song. I actually played most of the service in the middle position so I could take advantage of both volume controls, though I used the treble position for leads – the SH-4 JB in the bridge position rocks!

So, whether you use it in the studio or on the stage, the Prestige Guitars Heritage Elite will do the job handily!

By the way, I found out why these boutique-like guitars come in at such a low price point compared to their more expensive counterparts: The guitars are cut, built and finished in Korea, then shipped to Canada to have hardware added and set up. For people who care about build location, this might be an issue. But PRS does _everything_ in Korea for their SE guitars, and they sound and play great! And I guess that’s the point I’m trying to make. Who the hell cares where Prestige guitars cut and constructed? All I know is that the guitar I’ve reviewed has no finish flaws, and more importantly, it sounds and plays great! I’ve even lent it to my close friend, and he’s diggin’ it! He’s amazed at how well it plays and sounds! That’s the most important thing with any instrument.

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I don’t know about you, but as a songwriter, it bugs me when I go for long periods without writing songs; or more precisely to the point, when the inspiration to write doesn’t come to me. I’m not a calculating songwriter, and completely rely on that inner voice that inexplicably sends music to my head. For the past couple of months, I haven’t had the inspiration. Oh, I’ve written short clips of stuff, and I’ve had the beginnings of song ideas; in fact, I just counted last night, and in the last couple of months have recorded 25 song ideas. With some of these, I even recorded several instrument tracks. But none of these developed into full songs.

But over the weekend, I got a new guitar from Adam Hernandez of Saint Guitars (read the review here). This functional piece of artwork stirred something in my soul and I got the inspiration to write a song – it’s about time! The song is based upon Psalm 146; yeah, it’s religious, but hey, a song is a song in my book. Besides, I haven’t written a religious song in awhile, and it’s actually where I started, so nothing like going back to my roots. But more importantly, just getting that one song out has made my creative juices start flowing again, and that’s a good thing. Give it a listen:

Being naturally introspective, I took a look at how I got the inspiration. Sure, the trigger was probably that gorgeous guitar, but more importantly, it had the effect of changing my current perspective. And I think that’s the key to inspiration. When you’re feeling in a rut, do something else or try out some other gear. The idea is to derail the status quo.

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Stuck in a Rut

…but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel… At least I hope so. 🙂

For the past few weeks, I’ve been in kind of a rut with writing music. I’ve got eight songs for my new record, which I recorded pretty regularly over the course of about three months. And it wasn’t just eight songs I wrote. I wrote and recorded about 20 other songs before deciding on the ones that made the final cut. The process was incredible! A song would come to me, I’d grab my guitar or sit at the piano, and in a relatively short amount of time, I’d have a song. Then I’d spark up my DAW, and record a raw piece to make sure I captured it. No sweat.

But as soon as Christmas season hit, it seems that the stress of getting stuff done at work before taking a vacaction, then Christmas itself just sucked the creative juices out of me. Okay, I’ve written some jam tracks and recorded some short snippets of songs, but to date, I really haven’t gotten the inspiration to write a full song. But in spite of that, I’m feeling really positive as there is a bright side to this lack of creative energy.

As you know, I’ve lately been driven to be more academic about what I’m playing; partly because I want to be able to effectively teach what I’m learning, but also because I just want to be a better player. So in lieu of writing music, I’ve been working on my improv skills, and I’ve been really happy with the progress I’ve been making! All this practice is just making me a better player, and that is inspiring in and of itself!

For instance, as many may know, one of my regular gigs is to play at church. Before any naysayers start ripping me about playing at church, understand this: Do a worship service of ANY kind poses particular challenges. For instance, you can’t just rock out all your songs or pick music that is always up-tempo. Worship services need to take people through an emotion journey with respect to the music. Typically, the beginning and the ending songs are pretty upbeat, while the middle songs are much more subdued or, if you do have a more upbeat song, you don’t go all out and rock. The idea is that the music is not the focus, the worship experience is, and the music you play needs to enhance that. Furthermore, because it’s in a church, you can’t play at real loud volumes the entire time. As I mentioned above, you can get away with it at the beginning and the end, but even in those spots, you can’t really play at club or concert levels.

Sounds a bit constraining, doesn’t it? I’ve been gigging for years, and each type of venue poses its own particular limitations. The trick is to work around those limitations so that you can be as expressive as you can be.

All that said, considering the constraints, last night’s service was awesome! To add to our normal volume constraints though, I was missing both a drummer and a bassist, and all we had were two other guitarists besides me, one of which just started playing with us that day. So it was particularly challenging because being the most experienced guitarist put holding down the rhythm to the songs on me. But that was the cool thing. All the work I’ve been doing on my technique has allowed me to so much more than just strumming chords, adding little runs or double adorning some chords with arpeggios or arpeggiated double-stops. This is stuff that I couldn’t do six months ago! And despite not really being able to do any leads, it didn’t matter, I felt totally inspired!

So yes, there is a bright side to this rut. At least I can still play… 🙂

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One of the regular visitors to GuitarGear, Joel Klampert, recently moved his site from CEC Worship to klampert.com (http://klampert.com), and to help promote his new site, he’s holding a contest. Check out his site!

I have to admit, I love free stuff, so I am wantonly following the guidelines Joel gave so I could be eligible for the grand prize (you’ll have to find out what that is yourself…).

Seriously though, Joel has a lot of good things to say, and I’ve linked to his site and followed his blog almost as long as I have IGBlog (which sadly, no longer exists). So whether or not I win a prize, I definitely want to give Joel’s new site a plug.

BTW Joel, really nice layout! Love the new look!

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I actually wrote this song quite awhile ago – I think Christmas Day, 2006. I did an early recording of it – very bad quality, and as I’ve been working on my demo, realized that I hadn’t re-recorded it. This was a must-have song on my demo.

Anyway, here’s the song: http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=85823

Note that I have instrumentation details on the iCompositions site, but I will say that my Fender Champion 600 is a really great amp for home studio use. For this recording, I didn’t even bother running the amp through my Hot Rod’s speaker cab. I close mic’d the amp using a combination of a Nady RM200 ribbon mic, plus my trusty Sennheiser e835, which really brings out the low-end without being muddy. In my opinion, the 835 and 935 series mics just blow the Shure SM58 and 58Beta away. I’ll be writing a review on the Sennheiser in a bit… In any case, enjoy the song!

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I wrote this song based upon a passage in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus talks about being called into justice and mercy. The passage inspired me to write “We Are Called.” Note that the only amp I used was a Fender Champ 600. Using two different mics, spaced at different distances to provide a little depth. I placed a dynamic mic right in front of the grille cloth, and a ribbon mic off-axis about 10″ away. The result was a very nice tone. The dynamic mic picked up the lows really well, while the ribbon caught the ambient – all this from a 5Watt amp with a 6″ speaker! Ha! You gotta love it.

For the opening lead part, I did “cheat” a bit and used my Hot Rod’s speaker cab for a bit more tonal depth, but still powered with the Champ. I love that little amp! Here’s the song:


Guitars: ES-333, Strat; Piano, Bass

Drum loops were standard GarageBand loops, and everything was mastered in GarageBand. Not bad for demo-quality work.

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Listen to the song!

I actually wrote this song a couple of years ago, and have played it live a ton of times since then. Don’t know why I didn’t record it earlier, but I think I was a little scared of the arrangement of the guitars – I needed three to pull it off, with each one doing a different thing. It was a little daunting, especially considering this is a really straight-forward song. It’s loosely based on Saint Paul’s “Faith, Hope, and Love…” passage, but I added a bit more to the message; mainly dealing with putting your full trust in God, and leaving it up to Him to guide your life. Of course, we all have our choices, but why worry when we’ve got Faith, Hope and Love? 🙂

Anyway, give it a listen. Frankly, it’s one of my  favorite songs because it’s loud and rockin’, but in a real fun way!

Equipment Used


  • Fender Hot Rod Deluxe – I’ve got THD Yellow Jackets in the power tube section – very sweet, early distortion.
  • Fender Champion 600 – This is my debut of this cute little amp. I played my ES-335 with it stock for the base rhythm track, and drove the 1 X 12 cabinet on my Hot Rod with it, when playing my Strat for the “counterpoint” rhythm part.


  • Gibson ES-335 – This sounded so very sweet through the Champ, and I haven’t even full broken it in yet!!! That’s a testament to how great that little amp is!
  • Fender Strat – Admittedly, the Champ sounded a little tinny with the Strat, which is what I expected, but driving my 1 X 12 cab on my Hot Rod really did the trick!
  • Epiphone ’58 Korina Explorer Re-issue – Used this with my Hot Rod in the drive channel, which create an ever so sweet distortion with the EL-84’s. Combined with the fact that the Explorer just wants to overdrive naturally, this was a great combination.

All other instruments were MIDI (bass and organ). I used a combination of several GarageBand drum loops to create the drum track.

Note: This was also the very first time, I used extensive volume automation in a song. I’ve avoided it because I felt it was too much work. It is a lot of work! But I wanted to mix down the song without normalization this time because GB normalization can make a song too quiet. And in this case where I was hitting the red zone in gain – it was in a place where I wanted to get a bit of breakup anyway – but it’s so slight, you barely notice it. Once I get into the studio, we’ll be able to master it properly. But for now, it’ll do for a

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I wrote this song about three years ago, and finally got around to doing a recording of it that I liked. My original recording was only a piano and an acoustic guitar, but I always wanted to do more with it, and also arrange it a bit differently than I originally wrote it, which was quite mellow. With this rendition, the tempo is just a little bit faster, and I added bass and acoustic guitars, plus a couple of harmonies. I like it much better. You can listen to it here:

Gathered As One Body

For you liturgical musicians, feel free to download the sheet music here.

The entire recording was done in GarageBand, which I continue to have a love affair with. I still use ProTools, but for spec stuff like this, GB offers me close to production quality – plus it’s so easy to use, it really allows me to be creative.

Instruments: Piano (MIDI), MIDI Drum loop from GarageBand, Bass, Acoustic Guitar.

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This is a cover of John Foley’s original song, “Come to the Water.” My version is in a folk-punk style ala Elliot Smith or Death Cab. http://www.icompositions.com/music/song.php?sid=81505.

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Demeter Opto CompulatorI was at a casino last weekend, sitting in a bar with a couple of friends and listening to this great duo play classic rock hits. During one of their breaks between sets, I went to the stage to talk to the guitarist (he had a cool name: Buford) and checked out his gear. He had a fairly simple setup: Just two effect boxes going into a Vox amp modeler that then went straight into his mixing console. What caught my eye though were his two effect pedals, both by Demeter (pronounced Deh’ meh tur) Amplification. One was Demeter’s FUZ-1 Fuzzulator drive box, and the other was the Opto Compulator. I knew a bit about the Fuzzulator, but I wanted to know more about the Compulator, as I’ve been considering purchasing a compression pedal for some time. So I asked him a few questions about the box. Here’s how the conversation went:

What’s your main application for the compressor?
Even though this is a pretty small stage, we’re playing in a fairly open environment at low volume. When I need to play distorted, I’ve got to fatten up my signal a bit, so I can cut through the crowd noise. Distortion always thins out your tone a bit, so this helps me compensate for that.

Doesn’t a compressor affect your overall tone?
In general, yeah. But this has got to be the most transparent compressor I’ve ever used. With this box, I maintain my tone, but just give it a slightly fatter delivery. And like I said before, in this environment, I need a fatter signal to cut through the crowd noise. I’ve played with a bunch, and this one is the absolute best I’ve ever had.

So what’s so special about the Compulator?
Like I said, it’s really transparent, and the compression effect is so subtle, most people wouldn’t even notice – I hardly notice it myself, but I know when it’s not on. And maybe there’s a bit of me being used to the sound. Other than that, it’s real easy to use. You have two knobs: The left-hand knob controls the amount of compression you want to dial in, and the other knob controls the gain. You also have a little trim dial on the side that you can adjust with a small screwdriver to trim the volume up or down – but I’ve never had to use it.

Can I do an A/B comparison from a slight distance away?
Sure thing. Step back about 20 feet, and I’ll show ya.

So I stepped back, and he played some chords and riffs with it on, and with it off. I’ll be damned! He was right. His tone was the same, but had just a tad fatter quality! Now that’s transparency! And that demonstration convinced me on the spot that the Compulator is the box I’m going to buy.

About compression…

For a good article discussing the general concepts of audio compression, click here. It doesn’t go into into the heavy technical details of compression, but it definitely helps to demystify how it works. For a more comprehensive and technical discussion, click here.

COMP-1 Opto Compulator Features

  • Compress Knob – controls amount of gain reduction up to 30dB.
  • Volume Knob – increases/decreases the output volume (aka “makeup gain”).
  • Trim Pot – very nice feature to adjust the unit’s preamp gain. If you plug a hot instrument into the unit, you could get distortion. You can knock down the input gain to avoid that.
  • Powered by a 9 volt battery, but also has a standard 9V jack.
  • Street Price: Generally around $199.00 (do a Google search)

My prospective usage

I normally play in very small, low-ceiling venues, so compression has not been a big issue for me. However, when I play with my band at my church, I have to play at fairly low volumes, which makes playing in distortion a huge challenge, because in order to hear the effect, I have to turn up my volume. That usually makes me stomp on the mix. With a fatter signal, I should be able to punch through the mix much more effectively without having to pump up my volume too much (or as much as I have been 🙂 ).

After hearing this unit, I’m convinced this is the right pedal. And getting input directly from a guy who swears by it and was willing to demonstrate how it worked had me sold.

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