Delay Pedals for Worship: What you really need.

Delay pedals are used by a lot of guitar players ranging from the most diverse styles of music, but if there’s a genre that really exploits the benefits (and misuses) of delay effects it must be Worship music. I know a lot of people don’t like to label contemporary Worship music as a genre, but for the sake of simplicity, throughout this post, we’re going to refer to it as a genre, like Rock, Pop, etc.

If you’re reading this post, I have the hunch that you may looking for the answer to this question: “What is the best delay pedal for Worship?”. Or maybe you’re setting up your first pedalboard and you play on your church during the weekends, and you need to get some delay pedal (maybe nothing too fancy) to play the guitar riffs properly. Either way, I have to say that the answer to those questions obey to knowing the fact of what you really need and how much are you willing to invest to cover that need.

If you want the short answer, then it’s this one: get a good digital delay pedal with tap tempo function, preferably with the option of having external tap-tempo capability. This will help you immensely if your goal is to be the lead guitarist and apply the signature melodic lines or guitar riff of the most popular Worship songs. It will also help to enhance the sound of your playing if you’re the rhythm guitar guy.

But of course, if you’re looking to understand the reason why I think that’s the way to go, keep reading the post and find the answer :).

A Quick Side Note

I think the problem today is that there’s an overabundance of products concerning guitar effects; imagine, you can choose between lo-fi delay, analog delay, digital delay, tape style delay, etc. For each category you can easily, encounter at least 4 different products from various brands.

The goal of this post is to show that you don’t need some “mystical” delay pedal. For doing that I would like to show you what are the pedals the most popular Worship bands use. Specifically, we will look at Hillsong Worship, Hillsong United and Jesus Culture; we may occasionally see something from Bethel Music, but let’s see how everything unfolds. I know this sounds contradictory (mainly because the use expensive gear) but bear with me :).

Hillsong United

This was THE Worship band of the 2000’s. I remember attending one of their concerts in 2007 and something made click inside of me. The dynamics, the effects, the songs, the lyrics, it was simply great.

A year later I joined the Worship team in my local church and my journey as a guitarist started, and with that, a little later, my fascination with guitar effects.

Let’s look at Michael Guy Chislett pedalboard. I think this has been his main board for the last year or so:

MGC Pedalboard
Image from: http://www.worshipmusician.com/17-08-pedalboard/

You can see he has not one, not two, but three delay pedals! They are:

  • Boss DD-5
  • Moog MF-104M Analog Delay
  • Death by Audio Dream 2

I mean, there must be a reason why he sounds so incredible when he plays, right? The truth is, as Hillsong United’s song developed, they went from something like rock/alternative to a more pop/80’s-oriented style of music, with lots of synth-like effects. Think about it. The Death by Audio Dream 2 has controls for modulation and depth, which helps the player to create (when desired) a beautiful modulated soundscape, with oscillation, some distortion and haunting echoes. This may be what he wants to have to aid the ideas behind the composition of some songs. The thing is, I’m pretty sure he can get by with a lot less. You don’t believe? Look at his pedalboard from the mid 2000’s:

MGC Pedalboard - 2000's
Image from: https://cotyroberts.wordpress.com/2009/04/29/michael-guy-chisletts-gear/

As you can see is a less crowded rig, with a Boss DD-5 (he kept this fella all these years for a reason) and beat-up Boss DM-2. I’m pretty sure that if you get even more back in time, you would see that the started perhaps with just one digital delay. Later on, we will see that even Nigel Hendroff, Hillsong Worship’s musical director can get away with just one digital delay.

I know it is evident that he nowadays has more pedals because he needs them for creating the sounds he has in his head; at the end, pedals are like the colors an artist use to paint in the canvas, but I have to say, you can go some lengths with just one delay (sorry for the quality of the video):

Jesus Culture

Let’s move on to another example. Let’s consider Jeffrey Kunde’s gear. As you may know he’s the lead guitarist for Jesus Culture. With him we will see something peculiar. During the beginning of the 2010’s he had a pretty big rig. In the picture below, you can see some pedalboards from the band:

JC Pedal Boards
Image from: https://www.pinterest.ie/pin/531213718520211361/

If I’m not mistaken his pedalboard is the one on the right, with the Memory Man and the Strymon TimeLine. So basically, he has two massive delay pedals. The Memory Man is straightforward but consumes a lot of footprint. The TimeLine is basically a do it everything digital delay, it has so many options that I’m pretty sure by itself it’s enough for any guitar board. Nonetheless, he had a place and a use for both, so they legitimate belong on his board.

But something interesting happened during the las two or three years. If you go to his website (http://jeffreykunde.com/gear/) you will see he has to types of board: “The Little Board” and “The Big Board”. Forget about the big one and focus yourself on the former. This is what you get:

JK Little Board
Image from: http://jeffreykunde.com/gear/

It’s obvious he has a TimeLine and we know it’s an expensive pedal, but do you see what’s going on here? You can change the Timeline for a more affordable option, like an used DD-20 (or a Nova Delay) and you still have a pretty versatile pedal.

In his own words:

 Our most recent creation, this little board went around with me most of 2015.  I needed something a little more convenient this year, and this board did the trick.

Hillsong Worship

May we give credit to Hillsong Worship (formerly Hillsong Music) for popularizing this genre? What started during the late 80’s on their church in Australia, became a global sensation and the standard on how we qualify Worship music (I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth ;)).

Out of all their guitar player, Nigel Hendroff is probably the most famous one. Going through his gear, would be like entering a woman’s wardrobe, but let’s do our best!

This was his gear during the mid-2000’s:

NH Guitar Rig Mid-2000's
Image from: Screenshot from video (see below)

As you can see, he had a rack just for dedicated delay sounds (a Line 6 Echo Pro) and other type of effects (he used a TC Electronic G Force, which is basically a multi-effects processor). He controlled all that through a switching system. He goes on and explains that he uses all that for live worship nights or concerts, so he doesn’t have to “tap-dance” to get the right tempo, in doing so he uses his full concentration primarily on remembering the guitar parts.

But then… then… he shows his “practice” pedalboard. And on this rig, he has a faithful DD-5 and a DM-2. He says he used this rig for small trips and recording sessions:

NH Practice Board
Image from: Screenshot from video (see below)

Once again, we can observe that you can get by with fewer pedals and less sophisticated effects. If you would like to know see how everything sounded, I encourage you to check the Hillsong guitar workshop for the 2005 album “God He Reigns” here:

Nowadays he has a lot of gear for the Hillsong Worship tours. He added a TimeLine to his rig as well as some other current guitar pedals. Just to illustrate this, for the “No Other Name” tour in 2014 he had a separate rack with all his effects; he uses his stomp boxes through a switching system (similar to the one on you can see on the “God He Reigns” workshop) that seems to be something more sophisticated. He had two drawers with pedals (yes, you’ve read that right, two drawers with pedals!); on the first one you can see Boss PS-2 (a pitch shifter delay), a DM-2 and DD5. He explains he uses those pedals mainly for ambience sounds. On the second drawer he has a TimeLine, which seems to be his main delay with all the presets for the songs on the tour. You can watch Nigel himself explaining everything in detail on this video:

Again, I’m sure he has a place and a reason for having all those pedals (man, he was using 4 delays stomp boxes!) but, can he get away with less stuff? Will he be able to play an entire album setlist with maybe, maybe, just one delay pedal? The answer my friend is YES! He can do that. You may be wondering now, why I am so sure about that. Keep reading and you’ll find out :)!

The Other Nigel Hendroff

The answer is very simple: On the year 2008 Hillsong Worship (back then Hillsong Music) launched a DVD training series aimed to teach how to play his songs on smaller settings, it was called Hillsong Creative. The idea behind it was to show that even smaller churches could pull great rendition of the songs without having all the gear and musicians that usually they showcase. The DVD contained 5 songs:

  • Run
  • No Reason to Hide
  • You Deserve
  • You Hold me Now
  • This is Our God

It was cool because first, they went through the songs with the original arrangements and after that, the team discussed how they could make a simpler version of everything that’s being played. Just listening to that is pure gold; and they did everything with a regular five-piece band (ok, I must be fair on this, they are all great musicians!). But the highlight for me was that prior to all that, Nigel showed his pedalboard. He had two; the first one was similar as the practice one previously showed:

NH Hillsong Creative Pedalboard
Image from: Screenshot from video (see below)

And then, something awesome happened; he proceeds to show the rig that he was going to be used for the training demonstration:

NH Hillsong Creative Session Board
Image from: Screenshot from video (see below)

Yep, you saw that right: a tuner, two overdrives and DD-5. That was all. Furthermore, he was only using one amp. I’ll put the video down below, so you can see it for yourself, but I just want to quote something that you will hear him speaking but I think is important to remember:

It’s really just to show you that, the sounds, the parts, the songs, don’t necessarily depend on […] how many amps you have or how many pedals. It’s really […] coming up with creative parts.

You can watch the video here:

Sadly, the training DVD is no longer available, but thanks to the power of YouTube, we can still find it there. I highly encourage you to watch the sessions and see how he adapts his way of playing to the different scenarios. For instance, watch how the re-arranges “Run” to a much simpler way of playing the guitar parts:

If that doesn’t not inspire you to think out of the box and get the most out of the gear you have, then nothing will!

My Own Experience

My whole goal with this post was to shed some light about the best delay pedal you can possibly have for worship. A digital delay with tap-tempo will be your most versatile weapon for your worship rig. After all you’ve read and seen, hope it does make sense by know.

Sadly, when I first started, I really didn’t have a clue about all these stuffs. My first delay was an analog delay, a Memory Boy. I reaaally like this pedal, but I also quickly realized that it wasn’t achieving the sounds I wanted mainly because I was using it in a way it was not meant to be. I later learned how to use it to enhance my sound and get a cool guitar tone with it, but I was still lacking a delay effect to help me achieving those dotted eight sounds. It was time for a digital delay.

My first one was a Behringer DD 600 (an affordable pedal), which was basically a copy of the DD-6 but with external tap-tempo. Sadly, I have to say the pedal sucked so much volume that I was unable to use it, so again I had to go hunting for yet another digital delay. I ended up trading my EHX Big Muff for a Boss DD-7, and this little guy didn’t disappoint!

Buying a digital delay with tap-tempo will depend a lot on your budget but this are my two main suggestions: get a DD-7 or a used (but in good condition) DD-5. You can get a new DD-7 on Amazon for around USD 160. A used but in good condition DD-5 can be around USD 75-90 (sometimes even higher), you can check them on e-Bay. Both pedals are awesome and there’s a reason they’re loved by the pedal community (specially the DD-5). Remember, sometimes less is more!

Some Final Thoughts

I hope that after reading this post you will have a better understating of the delay pedal you should be using for your worship rig (at least at the beginning). Of course, you can add more delays later on and get more intricate effects and guitar parts, but just remember, you may not need all that to sound great. In the future I’ll be posting about how-to set-up a pedalboard and how much money do you really need to have a great rig (well that’s the idea, let’s see how everything unfolds :)).

Thanks for your time and as always, fell free to comment about what you’ve read. I’ll love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Until the next time,

M.M

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