Jesus Is a Terrible Salesman And Other Impressions Of The NAMM Show

As a guitarist, I've spent years watching video of NAMM shows, lusting over boutique pedals and amps and watching in disbelief at the wildly talented musicians ripping through insanely technical solos to demo the high end gear. Having attended the show this weekend, i can say that there was no lack of talent or gear in the building. Here are a few lessons I took away from spending 8 hours in the worlds largest guitar center. 

When it comes to playing lead, melody is king.

I saw jazz shredders, metal shredders, country shredders, blues shredders and every other kind of shredder you can imagine. While impressive from a technical standpoint, musically it all turns into white noise after about 5 minutes. By the end of the day, if a guitarist played a 5 note hook, I would have bought whatever pedal he were selling on the spot. It's cool to impress with technical ability but a little goes a long way.

Jesus is a terrible salesman.

Apparently every salesman at the NAMM show plays at their church and once they know you run a website for church guitarsts, they are happy to tell you all they try and sell you a microphone. Implying that a piece of gear will "make worship better" is ridiculous. Its okay for us to want to create a certain kind of experience for ourselves and our community, but I certainly hope Jesus doesn't care about our sound system. If He does, those house churches in a China are screwed.

You don't need to talk when you're good.

The demonstrators with the best gear didn't do much talking, they just said, "Listen to this". The same thing applies to musicians. When someone wants to tell me how long they've been playing and how great they are, they sound like they're trying to convince themselves. You don't need to promote yourself.  Let your playing do the talking.

Gear that promises to make learning easy is lying.

There are a ton of gimmicks out there but learning guitar is hard and no gadget can change that.  Feel free to prove me wrong in the comments section.


All that said there are some people out there doing some really cool things and I'm looking forward to highlighting some of them in the the coming months. I also managed to make enough connections that I can demo pretty much any pedal made so let me know in the comments section what you want to hear.

Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

Jesus Is a Terrible Salesman And Other Impressions Of The NAMM Show

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Jason - demo a JHS pollinator fuzz pedal. I'm trying to figure out how I can use a fuzz pedal in worship! :) I mostly use my Wampler Ego Compressor, Analogman modded SD-1, my fulltone fulldrive 2, and a dd-7. That's it.

I love using fuzz in worship

There's are few times when it really works but when it does it's so satisfying. I'll put in for it.


Yeah, the pollinator seems to have a nice 'honk' to it (from the demos i've seen). I have a Visual Sounds Angry Fuzz which is cool because it has an octave knob built in too, so that makes it fun. No need for two pedals (a fuzz and octavia). But the pollinator looks promising.


Hey Man!

I was there for my company! I wish I would have known you were as I would have loved to shake your hand. Great points btw! I saw some of those gimmicks... I don't need creams or 5 minute lessons to make me play better. I have to sit down and practice with purpose... Period.

That would have been awesome!

I totally dropped the ball on that one. I was going to mention we were going to be there and just spaced it. What company are you with?

Starting a pedal board for worship?

Thank you so much for all the information you are putting on this website, it's INCREDIBLY helpful and so thankful I found it! So I am thinking through a pedal board used almost exclusively for worship. What would you suggest starting with? Guitar Center has the TC Electronics Alter Ego X4 on sale :), also thinking either the Fulltone 2 or 3. Thoughts, suggestions?


James in Orlando

Hey James

Glad you are enjoying the site! You definitely have your priorities straight on the effects you're choosing. That alter ego looks pretty sweet. I've never used one myself but totally dug the TC Electronic guys. I'm trying to get ahold of a few to demo. Fulltone does some great work and the addition of the clean boost on the Full Drive 3 is really nice. If you're looking at overdrive I would be sure to check out my demo of the Earthquaker Palisades under the Tone Talk heading of The Green Room. It's a little pricier but I love the options and character.

Fractal Audio Axe Fx II XL & MFC101 Controller

Hey Jason.
What are your thoughts around the Fractal Audio Axe Fx2 XL unit? It's quite an insane product with insane amp, cab, & fx modelling. The price is high, but maybe there's a good reason for it.

A lot of guys are rating it very highly online.


Hello Jason,
I just want to talk a little about the HD 500X. I work at Guitar center and I have replaced a gigantic pedal board and all the cables, power supplies etc.etc. that go along with such a rabid, maniacal beast(HAHAHA!!!) with one of these here handy devices. I too am a pedal and noise junkie and would not have it any other way. But I gotta tell you a guy or a gal for that matter can really dial up some monster tones with this super powered processor. I am more than pleased with mine. At our church we do the in ear thing for the stage, and this unit sounds amazing when set to studio/direct on the output setting. And once you deep edit the tubes etc. etc. (those of you who own one know the deal) forget about it it is a direct match to all kinds of expensive and in some cases unobtainable or unfindable amps. The trick that I have learned to this device is this. Line6 sells a speaker called the L2M and I also have a pair of them and together they are 1600 hundred crystal clear watts. I do not use them at my church but at other venues I have, and they will drowned out a 100 watt tube head and cab ( not that that is the goal) but well capable. Having said that they have the tube like punch needed to drop the hammer and bring it home. So if you are a guitarist, or bassist this can be a great affordable tool to really help you get a ton of great tones for a very fair price.(about the price of 3-5 good pedals)
I hope this helped anyone out there who is on the fence about one. IT IS WORTH THE $$$$$$.
Thank you brothers and sisters out there putting it in for Jesus every week where ever you are peace be in your life as the blessings of Jesus Christ fall upon you and your church.
Jeremy Chandler Az.
P.S. Jason how about some cool harmonizer patches they can be tricky what do you say maybe build a few if you have time. Maybe????

Sense of Melody

I TOTALLY agree with your comment about melody. I had the pleasure of working with Chet Atkins many years ago. A more humble man you could not have found. (He didn't consider himself a very good guitar player and I heard him say this more than once).

But sitting around in the studio...the guy knew more melodies to songs than I thought humanly possible. And could deliver a simple example on the spot. He was a SONGster first...then a guitar player.

Marshall Code Amps

Just started using the Marshall Code 50. It has enough tone and effects to keep one satisfied for 100 years. It works well with my T5 Taylor. Miked properly it takes care of business. Used with an AB switch into Fender Ulta Light head and Cabinet it will cover accoutic needs beautifully. Does anyone else use the Code Amps?