The guitar is perhaps one of the most commonly enjoyed instruments in many of today’s worship services. It’s versatility; immediacy and widespread acceptance has made it a foundation of so many music ministries. Whether it’s played acoustically, electrically or, as is often the case today, electronically, a guitar in the hands of an inspired player can add a depth and power to your services, and cover a multitude of musical duties along the way.
The Future Is Now
Imagine being able to seamlessly switch from a “mic’d 12-String Acoustic”, to a “vintage Strat through a Marshall stack”, to a “Drop D-tuned Dobro” with as much effort as it takes to tap your foot in time to the music. That’s just one scenario. How about using your 6-string Electric or Bass guitar to play any instrument of the orchestra? Whether it’s covering cello parts with your 5-string Bass, or adding horn shots from your favorite electric guitar, no longer does the wondrous palette of sounds only belong to the keyboard player (even electronic drummers and percussionists are getting in on the act, but that’s a story for another issue.)
With new sound modeling and guitar synthesis technologies, guitarists and bassists can turn their strings into pretty much anything they can imagine. And the great news is, this can be accomplished with digital fidelity at any volume, whether connected directly to the churches sound system or to an on-stage amplifier.
The applications for this type of versatility are enormous, and as praise music becomes ever more sophisticated, it’s easy to see how guitarists will use it. Whether performing live, or for recording your ministries music messages, the sheer value of owning one system that can produce so many different sounds is enormous. So let’s take a look at how any guitarist or bassist can turn their “favorite axe” into a virtual guitar or virtual bass.
The Virtual Guitar
The Virtual Guitar has been created by combining a special divided pickup and a virtual guitar processor. The sound is processed from each guitar string individually , and the processor uses “modeling” technology to offer faithful recreations of different guitars and different amplifier combinations. Due to the separate processing of each string, guitarists can place a different sound on each string, or create a virtual 12-stringed guitar from a standard 6-string. Every nuance of a player’s performance is perfectly translated without the need to adjust any playing technique. Nylon stringed guitars, instant open-tunings, virtual capo’s, all are possible and immediately accessible.
Bassists can also experience the value and tone versatility of sound-modeling.
The Midi Guitar
Using this same divided pickup technology, guitarists and bassists can also enter into the world of Midi-based music production. This can be as simple as using your “axe” to trigger the sounds of an on-stage synthesizer, or inputting Midi performances into a computer’s software program. Gone are the days when guitarists or bassists have to try to master the “black and white keys” in order to realize their musical visions.
Again, the pickup plays an important role, since it picks up the waveforms generated by each vibrating string and passes them through to the processor, which then turns these notes into Midi messages. The processor can be either a dedicated guitar synthesizer or a Midi guitar/bass interface . Once the Pitch-to-Midi conversion has been done, guitarists and bassists are now free to explore the world of Midi that, once again, has been mostly dominated by the keyboard player. It’s not like I’m picking on the keyboard player here. In fact, many keyboard players will love the extra help they receive by, let’s say, passing that Sax solo over to the guitarist for a change, or have the bassist perform those beautiful solo cello lines in a hymn. I just want to point out the fact that now the playing field has been leveled.
Extra texture, please
You can also explore the advantages of onboard DSP (digital signal processing). Things like lush stereo reverbs, programmable digital delays, chorusing, flanging, all the extra effects processing that you’d expect can be included. This is not only great for live playing, but is also indispensable for achieving polished studio-type recordings.
One final note
It should also be mentioned that some of the technologies described so far are also available in amplifier form (as in the VGA series V-Guitar Amplifiers from Roland). So whether you’re looking for an affordable way to radically expand your sonic palette with your existing guitar/ bass and amp, or looking to update your amplification system with one amp that can sound like any amp, there’s never been a more exciting time for the guitarist or bassist. The future of guitar is here now, and it’s up to you to decide how it best serves your music worship.