Thursday, May 22, 2008

Guitar Tones - 3 Ways To Get A Better Guitar Sound

Guitar Tones - 3 Ways To Get A Better Guitar Sound
By David B Black

How many times have you been to see a band play at a local club and you've been blown away by not only the guitarist's skillful playing but also the clarity and quality of their guitar sound? Or maybe you've been less than impressed with the sound coming from the guitarist's rig? A good guitar sound is a vital component of a great-sounding live performance, or any great recording. Think about the signature guitar tones of the great players such as Mark Knopfler in Dire Straits, or David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Would their albums be half as memorable if it wasn't for not only their great guitar playing but also their distinctly individual guitar sounds?

I've been playing guitar as a hobby for 20 years, and professionally for the past 5 years. In this time I've picked up a lot of experience that have helped me to get a guitar tone I'm happy with - it's taken many years, but by bearing the following tips in mind, I'm almost completely happy with my sound(us guitarists are rarely entirely happy!) - and I hope there's some useful info in here for you too.

1. Less Is More

The truth is that we all love to buy the latest gadgets and toys for our guitar rigs. Whether it's a new wah pedal, distortion box or multi-effects unit, it's a lot of fun to explore and experiment with the different sonic textures these add (or subtract!) from your guitar tone. The trouble is, you might find that the more pedals and signal processors you put between your guitar and your amplifier, the weaker your guitar signal gets...

One thing many of us guitar players forget is that the most important factor in determining your sound is your fingers. What you PLAY is what counts. Try using a cleaner signal path with as few digital boxes as possible, and let your amp do the talking.

2. Less Gain, Less Pain

Using excessive amounts of gain on your amplifier can have disastrous results that not only annoy your fellow band members, but also (and most importantly), your audience. Lots of gain can mean your guitar produces a horrific feedback squeal during the the gaps in your playing, which can cause hearing damage, as well as audience members leaving the gig early.

Excessive gain means your signal becomes distorted, which is great for musical styles such as rock and metal. But take the example of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC... Those guys use minimal amounts of gain and let the sheer volume of their amps do the distorting. This means their sound cuts through in the mix very clear, as their sound is more solid and less broken up by distortion. Of course, you have have to work a little harder to sustain your notes (by using vibrato), but the difference in clarity to your sound is the reward.

3. Learn to really use your multieffects unit

If you're using a multi effects unit, for example a Line 6 or a Boss GT-8 or similar, you'll know just how amazing these boxes can sound. There are so many great amp simulations available, the possibilities are virtually endless. However there are so many variables, you could go mad with option anxiety before you finally find your dream guitar tone!

I think the trick here is to ignore the factory presets and design your own tones from scratch. It helps to listen to your favourite albums and try to emulate the same guitar tones you hear. The factory preset tones are usually designed to wow you in the store to make you buy it, however they're not really suitable for live use or recording. Take the time to read the manual and really understand and get to grips with the operation of the unit, and you'll be more confident in shaping your own unique guitar sound.

If you want a tip on how to really get the very best from your multi effects unit, take a look at

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