Yikes, 'universal' distortion tone. I'm a little scared with trying to create anything that everyone will like. However, I'll give it my best try.
I think usually people want something 'warm' and not too harsh. Therefore I'd say stay away from hard-clipping distortion, like the solid state distortion that heavy metal guys use. Something that is over-driven tube sound is probably most ideal. I've used Boss SD-1 (asymmetrical clipping) and Ibanez Tubescreamer many times. A friend of mine has had great success with Tech21 NYC XXL. Another friend uses a Boss Blues-Driver BD-2. I'd avoid Boss Metal Zone MT-2 or even heavy fuzz pedals like EH Big Muff Pi or Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face.
Are you using a modeler, like a POD? For me, sometimes I get the sound I want simply from the Amp modeling only, without any "stomp-box" modelled. I really like 'driven' Vox models, especially the AC30. The Matchless Chieftain also sounds great, just when the sound starts to break-up/distort.
Not sure what pick-ups you're using as well. (I know this is a 'effects' groups, but everything affects the sound.) Last Sunday I used a guitar with some new Gibson USA made vintage P-90s. I found the higher output helped fatten up the sound as well. If you find the sound too harsh, try rolling back your guitar volume. That can help clean up the sound. So the control is not just at the pedal, but also on your guitar as well. I know the P-90 are sensitive to volume, but clean up nice as you back off the volume.
(For the record, I change my tone quite often from song to song. Lighter, sometimes almost no distortion for clean songs, and heavy thick sound for driving songs.)
I agree with the universal reaction. I just really need a happy medium, 'churchy' distortion as a jumping off place for other tones. I come from a metal background, so trend in that direction - which isn't necessarily conducive to worship for the congregation (doesn't bother me though). I have never been able to get the distorted tones I often hear on worship albumns
I am using a Boss-GT5 that I've had for a while. It does have amp modelling and speaker sim. Oddly, I have tones using both your suggestions - the AC30 (the GT5 doesn't call it that, but it is Vox) and the Matchless.
Unfortunately, no p-90s. Mine are alninco classic humbuckers. Newley acquired Epiphone LP Ultra.
From your advice concerning the modeler, it seems like I may be on the right track. I just feel like the tone I have is missing something, I just can't put my thumb on it
The classics should be close Gibson Classic '57. You should be able to get some nice beefy tones from those alnicos. It's not like you got a pair of really hot ceramics or EMGs. The humbuckers should have lots of signal to really drive the amp. (If you were using a strat with some thiner single coils you may have more problems really driving the tubes.)
If I were a 'tone-doctor', I'd ask you are you plugged straight into the house? Are you not liking the tone from FOH speakers? If so, I'd start to break it down. I'd listen to only my guitar (possibly bypass mode) on the setting I'm using and see how it sounds first off. Is it too hot and distorted? Nice mellow sound, probably start with neck pick-up, with lower tone, but 8/9 volume and adjust it to where I like it. Full out 10 may be too "hot".
You really reap what you sow. Good nice guitar tone to begin with will help you a lot to get that final sound you want.
Then I'd check GT-5 with headphone out, something I knew was 'true'. I find that the house sometimes colors the POD-XT Live sound. I then I have to EQ the pedal out to compensate. Sometimes my POD-XT Live sounds so different from my home set-up. Sometimes I punch out a little more presence to really cut through the mix too. So the trick may be more EQ at the house.
If for some reason amp modeler isn't breaking up the way it's supposed to, you could add gain stage to bring up the signal level, to cause the amps to break up quicker.
Experiment with various combination. Up the guitar signal, drop the gain. Drop the guitar signal and then up the gain. Play with the tone knob to get just the feel. If you want mellow, you'll probably want a lower tone setting, making sure the highs are not over-emphasized, (and then of course will get amplified by the gain stage in the amplifier. This may be making your guitar tone harsh). etc.
I'm pleasantly suprized by the ultra. I've always played 'super-strats', high-end jacksons, hard to find top-end kramers and the like. This is my first axe after several years of giving up.
Thanks for the head phone tip.
I think I found the problem. It was a huge change in the effects chain (almost completely reverse of the 'stock' chain). This had huge impact on the sound. I was able to completely drop the overdrive effect and use the amp-model's 'natural' overdrive. This is how I would run the matchless in real-life anyhow, so much better I think.
I think now the main issue is not hearing warm, tube-overdrive/distortion. Nothing I can do about that for now. Unless someone drops off some vintage warm tubes as donation. :)
My understanding was that it had the new "nano-mag" pick-up with stereo-output. I looked at this guitar at one point, with it being chambered and having an acoustic pick-up to augment the humbuckers. Much like Godin Montreal or some Parker Fly guitars.
Higher-end Jacksons and Kramers. Nice... mega shredders! =)
For me too, my POD is the closes I'll probably get to a Budda or Matchless. =) I have some smaller, vintage tube amps, but I'll settle for an 'approximation' for now.
Now I know what you are talking about with the UtlraII. I played one on the day I bought mu ultra I. I found the sound very pleasant but the controls very cumbersome. It would have been better had Gibson/Epiphone put in another switch that effectively turned it on/off. Something like a jazz master's two separate circuits that still let you blend the pickups how you like. So with a flip you get accoustic or electric pickups. It sounded really good. I was thinking how cool it would be to be beside the guy with the Taylor and all of a sudden start sounding like a Hummingbird or something, but i'd have a hard time with getting it right in a live situation. The controls killed it.
I use a Keeley Mod Blues Driver for great, softer singing overtones, and a ZVex Box of Rock for heavier tones (works best in front of a Marshall-type amp). I don't know which processor you're using, but I've generally found them wanting in the distortion side. Often the best distortion comes out of amps, so try creating a good tone with the amp drive instead of a box. If you need to have a distortion box, I would really recommend finding a pedal that you really like, test it with your own gear for the best results...
I will go direct into the board. At the house, just a nasty old solid state 25 watt crate.
Very right on with the comments concerning metal guys cutting mids. I find myself constantly resisting the urge to cut the mids.
Concerning the tube amp. I've had a couple so am aware of the difference in distortion. This is one of my problems. I quit playing for some time and sold off all my stuff. I can't afford anything at this time. So I'm stuck with solid state for the time being.
I have a more country rock influenced sound that consists of a warm, rich overdrive. I like the sound I get out of modeling a Vox AC15 with some help from Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive or the Tube Screamer. I also like the sound of a good Marshall Plexi (listen to some of Lincoln Brewster's stuff). My dream is to one day own the twin channel Orange amp! Fender is nice for a warm drive with some crunch without getting very heavy at all, and obviously, Fender's also phenomenal for nice sparkling, mellow clean sounds. I use a Digi Tech Rp350 and I love the sounds I can get out of modeling the amps. You should definitely look into Digi Tech's and Line 6's. Lots of tonal versatility with modeling systems rather than just one amp.
I have a Boss GT Pro, similar to your GT 5. I thought the Vox AC 30 sound was really good for a happy distorted sound (I went for the Queen tone with that one). I use a Marshall JMP1 pre-amp now though for my main tones.
I think a large part of getting a good distorted sound for worship greatly depends on how you play. I've heard people play chords like they would on an acoustic, but with loads of distortion and just sounds muddy. I use loads of distortion sometimes for solos, melodic bits, and loud bits of songs, but I'll play mainly power chords and let the other instruments add all the nice bits on top. That way you can really lift a worship song to another level without it getting in the way of other instruments. I tend not to have it too bassy either, otherwise it sounds too metally, which is not really what I go for in worship. I do use a John Petrucci type sound though (old style), which is good.
If I want to go for something with more melodic, ringy/open chords I bring the distortion right down, so it has a bit of bite to it without being too muddy.
HI there, I think this is any musician's dilemma and to some extent what I call a Musician's Syndrome ;)... No joking apart..Everybody is giving you the right suggestions, however, you have to turn back to yourself and ask what sound would you like to have. If the sound that you are after is the same sound that you will be using in you garage/rehearsal room or the sound you want in your church, if the sound that you are after is when you will be plauing on your own or with your whole team/band...
Again you have to see what your church / prayer meeting is after as this will definitely tone your sound.
This is a painstaking process that sometimes takes even years to please yourself. Talking about myself, I found a very comfortable with this setting
A PRS Custom 24 as my primary axe
A Line 6 POD XT live upgraded with all model packs
Laney LC 50 Tube Amp.
I play in various settings and events and this is the winning setup that I have been using over the last 5 years, although my syndrome and quest for other equipment has never ceased off... lol
One good thing I found with the POD is that they have an online community who share their custom tone setting which you can download and sync through pc... I found some great tones that I use them very very oftenly.