I’ve been leading worship for a decade now, and my go-to instrument is my acoustic guitar. Through the years, I’ve invested a lot of time and money and developed a really solid rig, and I want share what I’ve learned about building a reliable, clear-sounding rig for your own worship.
Overall, my guitar rig is really simple. In this article we’ll cover 2 things together:
My favorite choice of acoustic guitars to lead worship
The gear I use to get the best sound
I want to be clear right off the bat: this rig is pricey. For me though, the price is worth it because I’ve spent years using my guitars and I want the best sound for it.
You may opt for less expensive gear, but keep reading. Even if you don’t go with these guitars or this gear, you can still know what you look for when setting up your own rig and have a much clearer direction on how to build a rig for yourself.
My first guitar as a worship leader was an Ibanez acoustic guitar (not pictured) that I bought when I was 16 for $500.00. (You can get a lot of great, solid acoustic guitars for less than $1000.00 these days.)
By the end of high school though, I had became a more competent musician and was actually leading worship at my church as a volunteer. I realized I was called to it and I knew that's what I wanted to pursue as a profession.
So, when I graduated high school, my grandmother bought me a Taylor 614 (below) which has served me well for a very long time. It has a spruce top and it has a nice big maple back. I absolutely love this guitar because it’s great for leading worship has a really bright sound that cuts through the mix.
I landed my first full time worship ministry job about 4 years ago and I felt like I needed a change in guitars. I still really liked my Taylor and I use it once in a while, but I wanted more flexibility.
I did some research and I came across the Gibson J45 acoustic guitar on eBay for around $2,000.00. (They go for $2500.00 brand new, but this guitar was only a year old so I saved some money.)
It has a sunburst finish and it's a mahogany guitar, so it has a little bit more of a warmer, darker tone than my Taylor. Plus, the J45 comes with the L.R. Baggs Element pickup, which I think sounds really great. It's probably the most standard workhorse acoustic guitar that's been used for decades upon decades and I absolutely love it.
When it comes to these, I have pretty standard straps. My Taylor has a nylon strap and the Gibson has a leather strap.
When it comes to guitar picks, I prefer the Fender Celluloid medium thickness picks. They work great. It's a pick. What else can you ask for?
I use a very simple pedal board because I’m a very simple guy.
I know it's common practice for worship leaders to apply some delay or reverb to their acoustic guitar. That comes in handy when it's just you and an acoustic guitar, and you want to be able to fill out the sound a little bit more with that instrument, but I don’t need that since I’m with a band.
I just want to send the best sound possible to our mixing console, so I need my pedal board to do a few things.
It needs to tune my guitar. As a worship leader, I need to be able to quietly and discreetly tune my guitar even if that's going to be halfway through a worship set.
I also need it to transform my guitar's unbalanced signal to a balanced signal to send to our PA system.
The final thing I need my pedal board to do is add some slight signal processing so I can do stuff like adjusting the EQ, put a notch in there and boost the signal.
The first pedal is the Shure GLXD16 Wireless Guitar System. The pedal is the receiver of the wireless system. I clip the actual transmitter that sends a signal from guitar's output to the pedal, which then goes into the acoustic DI.
This is a pretty large purchase, being $449.00, but now that I finally have it, I wish I would have bought it a long, long time ago.
This system is awesome for several reasons:
It's super quick to set up.
The battery lasts a long time. Just charge it with a little USB charger at home, and it’ll last you multiple Sundays before you have to recharge it again.
It also has a tuner built into it, so if you don't have a tuner yet, getting this pedal will actually kill two birds with one stone.
Most importantly, the audio quality of this wireless system is great. There’s no lag at all and the signal sounds awesome.
The second pedal I have on my pedal board is the L.R. Baggs Venue Acoustic DI.
The first important thing this does is convert the unbalanced signal from the guitar to a balanced signal for our PA system.
It also has a tuner in it, so I have two tuners on my pedal. Most of the time, I'll probably end up using the tuner on this pedal.
This pedal also has a gain knob so I can control how much signal is coming into my acoustic DI. That allows me to have a really solid signal to process with the EQ, the notch and all the other parameters for this pedal.
The notch feature on the L.R. Baggs
Sometimes, you have frequencies that your acoustic guitar is playing that can easily feedback with your sound system. The notch allows you to adjust it and find that low frequency. Usually, it's a low to low-mid frequency that causes a lot of feedback and it pulls down the gain of that frequency band. That really cleans up the sound of your acoustic guitar and prevents feedback issues.
Setting the EQ
Another thing you can do with this DI is set the EQ of your guitar. You have control of the lows, the low-mids, the high-mids, and the high, so you can dial in the sound.
Another great feature about this pedal is the boost button. Maybe when you're just finger picking and playing softly, you want to send more signal to your sound consoles or your sound guys and have them constantly ride the fader. This allows you to boost the signal for them, and then when you start strumming again, you can remove that boost.
I also want to note that L.R. Baggs makes a smaller version of this DI called the L.R. Baggs Session Acoustic DI. That acoustic DI sounds great too. It has a saturate knob and compression knob.
I paid extra though and purchased the Venue because of all the features I get with it like the boost button, and the built in tuner and just more extensive EQ.
XLR output from the Venue DI
The final step of the signal flow is to take the XLR output from the Venue DI and send it to the stage box that we have that goes into our sound system.
So that’s my acoustic rig for every Sunday morning worship service!
It’s a system I’ve developed after many iterations and hundreds of hours in my years as a worship leader.
I love sharing my experiences and learnings from over the years so if you’re a worship leader or an aspiring worship leader, I want to connect with you.
I want to hop on a call and hear about your goals and figure out how my classes from Worship Leader School can best help you. With these classes, you’ll get a lot of insight from myself and a community of worship leaders.
You’ll have access to a library of material that covers the best practices and “how-to’s” for the pastoral, musical and technical aspects of leading worship.
You’ll join a community of pastors from around the globe who share their experiences and knowledge.
Plus, every week, you’ll also be a part of what I like to call Office Hours. Each week, you can chat with me or a member of Worship Leader School to strategize and receive real time support for your worship ministry.
So apply to Worship Leader School so that we can chat about what you’d like to accomplish in your church.
Looking forward to connecting with you!