Equalizer Pedals Explained: Shape Your Guitar Tone

Playing an electric guitar is playing with sound and musical notes. One way to experience a difference in the sound from your guitar it to change the pick-up you are using while you are playing: Switch the pick-up selectorswitch to another setting and hey presto, you will hear another sound coming from your guitar.
Most guitars will have two or three pick-ups. Depending on the type of guitar you are using [Les Paul-or Stratocaster type] you will have three or five sounds available from your pick-ups. Most of these sounds are usuable, all depending on the musical situation: Play chords on a Strat with the pick-up selector being engaged in the middle position for a bright and open sound, switch to the bridge pick-up for a solo to get a more distorted and trebly sound. Start using your volume-and tone controls, start playing with the tone-controls of your amp and hey, the sound possibilities you have are infinite. But some of us want more, a lot more. For those of us there is the Equalizer pedal.
For today’s blog I will explain how an Equalizer pedal works, which types are available, how you can use an EQ to change the sound of your guitar, amp and the sound of your pedals. If you have never felt the need to use and EQ pedal, keep on reading as you may be surprised to what you will discover.
Equalizers are part of the frequency-response altering effects. The basic operation of these effects is based on filters which change the timbre [tone quality] of an instrument. A well-known example of a frequency-resonse altering effect is the Wah Wah pedal. A less dramatic example of a frequency-response altering effect is the Equalizer. There are two type of equalizers used today: The Graphic equalizer and the Parametric equalizer. Let us now have a look at a Graphic EQ

                  —Graphic EQ—

A Graphic EQ can be seen as a “super” tonecontrol compared to the simple treble and bass tonecontrols which can be found on most guitaramps. Graphic EQ’s started their life in recording studios, as most guitar effects did in the early days of recorded music. They were used initially as problem solvers: For example to “tune” a room, by cutting the high frequencies to create a flatter response to the sound being played back in the control room. Another example could be to add a bit of low end to a speaker with a poor low-frequency response. A typical Graphic EQ will come with a number of bands [filters] which devide the frequency spectrum up into sections. Most guitar EQ pedals do come with six, seven or ten bands. Each of these bands are designed to fine tune the bass, midrange and treble response of the pick-ups from your guitar. The different bands will allow you to cut or boost a particular frequency, which will create a change in the sound of your guitartone. Some pedals will also come with a master volume which controls the overal volume of your sound.
Adding a bit of boost to a particular frequency can often add unwanted distortion. Adding a little bit of boost is often enough to create the desired sound you want.
I myself am fond of playing electric guitar at low volumes, whether I play on my own or with others I do not want to sound to be too loud. Of course, playing an electric guitar at low volumes cuts down the bass and treble of your amp. Add a bit of boost with an EQ pedal and the amp will sound a lot fuller, similar as when you would be playing at higher volumes.

                 —Parametric EQ—

They are less common and more subtle in their effect to your sound. A typical parametric EQ for guitar usage will include one- or two different filter stages, as opposed to the six, seven or ten filters available on a Graphic EQ. The frequency response of a Parametric EQ is often handled by just one controlknob, as opposed to the various controlsliders found on a Graphic EQ. This frequency controlknob can be used to emphasize or de-emphasize the low end, mid-or treble range of your guitar. The overal feel, of the changes you make to your tone with a Parametric EQ,  is very smooth and subtle: They help to stand out a particular frequency of your guitar as opposed to  the cutting-or boosting  of a particular frequency with a Graphic EQ.
A typical use for a Parametric could be to fine-tune an older guitaramp which lacks any additinal tone controls. Find the frequency you like, and play, it could not be any simpler. Parametrics are easy, effective and quick to use since there is only one control to change the frequency as opposed the numerous sliders on a Graphic EQ.
The Boss SP-1 is an example of a simple one-stage Parametric EQ. Unfortunately the pedal is no longer produced today and can only be found on the second-hand market for vintage prices. I myself am very fond of the Yamaha NE-1 which is a two-stage Parametric EQ. Very flexible and works great for bass and guitar. The pedal was orginally designed by Nathan East, as studio musician who plays mainly bass guitar. However the pedal works well for guitar as well since it handles all the typical bass and guitar frequecies: Stage one: 200Hz- 10kHz and Stage two: 150Hz – 6kHz.

                  —EQ pedals for Tuning Your Distortion/Overdrive and Pre-amp Pedals—

Yes it is fine to control the overal tone of your guitar and amp with an EQ pedal, however you can also use them to change the tone of your distortion or overdrive.
I orginally started using EQ pedals because I was unhappy with the distortion coming from my amp. I was looing for a distortion sound with more treble but the distortion channel on my amp lacked any controls to add more bass or treble. The EQ gave me more control over the treble frequencies, and it did give me the distortion sound I was looking for at the time. Once I started using the EQ I noticed I could not only alter the sound of my distortion, now I was able to change the whole sound of my guitar as well. I started using the EQ to thin out the dark sound of a Les Paul, to create a more treble Strat-like  kind of sound.
There have even been times when I tuned a Boss HM-2 pedal to a Boss MT-2 distortion pedal with the help of a Graphic EQ. With a lot of tweaking of the EQ both pedals can sound very similar. I will not go any deeper into the subject of distortion and particular type of dist./overdrive pedals as I will create more specific blogs which will deal with this subject alone in great detail.

                   —Finally–

Most bass players will have some kind of Parametric EQ build in into their amp, as Parametrics are quite common on bass amps. Maybe some of you may not use the effect that much. Start playing around with it to notice what it does to your sound. 
When you will go out shopping for an EQ pedal you will come across a lot of Graphics as they are very common. Once you start using a Graphic and become more familiar with their sound you may also want to invest in a Parametric. They are particularly useful for musicians and guitar players who are interested in homerecording. It is just one of those electronic tools which is useful to have around you.

For next blog: Delay effects and the latest Foofighter song: “Rope”

Smile and enjoy your time while playing the guitar,
Eddie 

Effects and Guitar Playing: Expanding Your Tone By Using Guitar Effects

Most of the music you listen to today was recorded by using effects. Some of the effects being used may have been applied to the music during the recording process in the studio. Another way to get effects onto the recording is by gettting the guitar player to use effects while he is playing his parts in the studio.
It is hard to imagine in today’s world of digital recordingtechnology and musical equipment that there was once a time when hardly any effects were being used on recorded music. In the early days of recorded music recording engineers tried to duplicate the natural sound of the music being recorded. It was during the late 1950s that recording engineers and musicians started to discover effects through experimenting with recording techniques. Echochambers were build in recordingstudios to create more ambience for the music. It was felt that a little bit of echo helped to brighten up the sound of recorded music. As musicians and recording engineers kept experimenting, new sounds and effects were discovered. Most of these effects were purely discovered out of practical purposes, think of echo and reverb, but soon more exhiting effects would emerge: Effects like Flange, Phase and Envelope Filters. Manifactures and designers of musical equipment followed these developments in newly discovered sounds with interested eyes. Soon these newly discovered effects became available in “compact” boxes  which meant, for example, that echo was not only available in the recording studio, no, you could also have it now coming from your guitaramp and from small metal boxes called guitar effect pedals. A new world opnened up for recorded music and for the ambitious guitar player who was interested in the use of sounds.
For today’s blog I do not want to give an overview of the guitar effects available today. I also do not want to explain the mechanics of the range of effects out there today. I will create special blogs about these subjects in future. For today I want to focus on the question: “Why should I try using effects?” “Is there a need for me to use effects as I only play guitar as a hobby?” The truth to some of these questions is that guitar effects will open your eyes [and ears] to the kind of sounds you can create with your amp and guitar. It will also change the way you play guitar, as you will start playing with sound and notes and not merely notes alone.

                   —Play with the Tone Controls  of Your Amp—

Whenever you play your electric guitar make it a habbit to change the settings of your amp from time to time, add a bit of bass or treble to the sound and see how the change effects your sound. Play chords at first, as they are great to hear any changes you have made to your sound: By playing chords you play more than one string, any changes to your sound will be more noticeable as opposed to when you play only one string at a time. Keep experimenting with your settings and tone. At some point you may feel your amp is lacking something: It may not have enough bass or treble or whatever. This is the moment for you to start thinking about effects. Think first what it is your are missing, then start researching what kind of effects are out there to help you getting that sound. Try various type of similar effects to find the one which is right for you.
It is hard to give someone a guideline about how to get yourself into effects. It is a process which emerges over time. Most of it is personal and will depend on what you know, your taste, what kind of music you listen to and your personality.
When I started out playing electric guitar I was curious about effects, I heard them in the music I listened to, and it was one of the things I wanted to try. I had friends who did have some effects, but most of them did not use many of them. They were often bored with their sound [overused their effects in the beginning!] or they felt that the effect took away too much of the orginal guitar tone. I discovered that the use of effects all depended on what you played, on the settings of the effect, how well you knew your equipment and what you wanted to do in the first place. it is true, there are some effects you can use daily, noone will notice anything unusual about your guitarsound apart from you yourself. These kind of effects are my favourites. Then there are the more radical effects. The ones where you step on and anyone will notice the change in your guitar sound. These kind of effects you may only use on certain occasions, maybe for just one solo in a whole set of 45 minutes of music. But that sound may just make that guitar solo sound great, so worth knowing what effect makes that sound.

                        —Home Recording—

As mentioned before, most forms of recorded music do contain effects. If you like making recordings of your own guitar playing, why not start experimenting with adding effects to your guitar?  By doing so you will create some variety to your sound. At first you may want to add a little delay or chorus to a clean guitarsound, then you may want to add a wah to a funky guitar part in a song. Maybe you want to get an extra distortion pedal, one which does have a different sound compared to the distortion build-in into your amp. Before you know it you may get hooked and become really curious in how all these little effects work. Once you become interested your view on recorded music and guitarplaying in general will change. You may also become a collector of particular guitareffects. Anyway, however you will go about it, it will all keep you busy and keep you thinking about making music and playing the guitar.

For next blog: How EQ pedals can improve the sound of your guitar amp.

Keep experimenting and have fun,
Eddie

Setting Goals: How to Improve Your Skills as a Guitar Player, Musician and Song Writer

Most students who contact me, with the request for taking up lessons with me, have all one thing in common: They want to get better at playing the guitar. Most of them do not know how to achieve that goal. There are too many small steps to be taken and they simply cannot see the choises they need to make.
When it comes to playing the guitar, and making music in general, there are a lot of choises you need to consider: Do I play guitar just to entertain myself or should I play guitar infront of an audience? Am I going to join a band or do I want to be a soloartist?
The questions above are just a sample of the choises people need to look at, but most people who start out with playing the guitar will simply not have a clear idea of what it is they want to do. As you travel along the path of making music it will become clearer what you like and it is you need to do to achieve these desires. Setting yourself clear short-time goals will speed up the process of improvement in your guitar playing. Any good guitar teacher can help you with this process. For today’s blog I will guide you through the process of settting yourself goals, explain what kind of goals there are, give you some typical examples of short-and long term goals and will give you advise on how to monitor your own progress.
As with anything in life, when it comes to setting goals for yourself, it helps if you are a Go-Get-It-Now kind of person. Students with a quick mind and a positive response to actions/ideas will achieve results quicker compared to people with a laid-back mentality. However people change over time, the once laid-back student may become all of a sudden very motivated because he enjoys the kind of riffs he is introduced to.

                          —Short Term Goals—

Short term goals are achievements which can be reached within in short space of time, it could be a matter of two weeks, a month, two months or half a year. A typical example for a short term goal for intermediate students of the guitar could be: Learn to play barrechords of the A-shape chord.

                                 A                     C

           E    ————————————————

           B    ————2——————5—————-

           G    ————2——————5—————-

           D    ————2——————5—————-

           A    ————0——————3—————-

           E    ————————————————-

                    Open A chord                 C chord based on fingering of the open A chord

     How to achieve this goal? Play songs you already play, but change the fingering of the chords based on the fingering of the A-shape barre chord. Use songs which only use major chords. Take as many songs as you like, stick to them and try to get the barrechords to sound as smooth as you can. Take a handful of songs you really like and say to yourself: “I should be able to play these songs very well within four weeks from now. After four weeks you will see how well you have done. Can you play those songs smoothly without struggling too much with the new fingerings? If you cannot, do not worry, maybe you did not get enough time to practise, maybe you got distracted by other, new ideas to play or…………………
Whatever the reason is for not achieving your goal, at least you know where you stand. No need to feel bad about yourself as you will have plenty of time to get those chordshapes under your fingertips. At least now you know how to go about it.

                        
                          —Long Term Goals—

A long term goals is a skill which should take you a little longer to achieve, maybe within the space of seven or eight months or one year or maybe even longer. An example of a long term goal could be: Take the songs you have played from the previous example of a short-term goal and say to yourself: “I want to play three of these songs in front of an audience for the next open mike night six months from today”
After you have played your songs during the open mike night you know now where you are: Were you nerveous? How could it be that you messed up that second song? That song was the one you liked most of all, but still………………..
Performing songs is about a lot more than just knowing how to play a handful of songs very well. Yes it does help if you know your songs, but that is only one part of the game.
Anyway, the open mike event taught you a lot of lessons, lessons which will probably open up doors for your next new set of short-and long term goals.

                           —Guitar Player—

No matter how long you have been playing the guitar, there is always scope for setting yourself some goals to achieve new skills. Typical examples of short term goals could be:
                       
                           @ I am going to learn to play ten new cover songs
                           @ I am going to play guitar in a band
                           @ I am going to experiment more with distortion and my guitartone for the band
                           @ I am going to learn how to use time-based guitar effects such as delay and flange
                                for my band.

Stick to your short term goals, monitor your progress, and observe from time to time how well you are doing with your new skills. Some short-term goals are more concrete than others, the example of the ten cover songs is much easier to monitor than for example the time-based effect goal. Keep your goals as concrete as possible. The clearer they are the easier they will be to achieve.

                            —Song Writer—

Within your songwriting you could set yourself short-term targets such as:

                         @ I am going to write songs based on what I hear, not using my knowledge too much with
                             what I know about harmony and melody ect.
                         @ I am going to learn to arrange my songs for a band/orchestra.
                         @ I am going to write songs which are based on a groove.
                         @ I am going to start the songwriting process thinking from a melodic idea rather
                             than a chordsequence.

Goals can be cruel towards yourself, especially when you are not achieving them. Maybe you have set your goals too high? Break them down into small steps, be realistic towards yourself, but at the same time stick to your goals. If you are driven enough and you enjoy making music, you will achieve whatever you set out for yourself to do. It may take time but be patient and enjoy the process in the meantime.

Catch you soon,
Eddie

Breaking Out of the Rut: Become a Creative Guitar Player and Songwriter Today!

Now that you have decided to create your own songs you may wonder where you get that moment of inspiration from? You may want to write instrumental songs which do not contain any vocals and lyrics. Logical isn’t it? Because you play guitar and making music is all you do. On the other hand you may want to write songs which do contain lyrics and vocals. If you have never written any lyrics before it may be a less obvious choise for you to take. Similar story for the vocals: If you have not sang before you may not feel comfortable about singing. Today’s blog will deal with the inspirationprocess, where to get it from, how to nurture it and how to develop it. What kind of songs you will write is up to you, you need to make up  your own mind about this matter. Your choises may change over time as you get more experienced.

                               —-Own More Than One Guitar?—

Neil Young once said that every guitar contains at least one song. This is very true, as each guitar is unique in sound and feel. One guitar may inspire you to create a very delicate piece of music, whereas another one may inspire you to bring out the Rockmonster in you. When writing songs bear this in mind: Play different guitars for a while, keep them around you, put them on a stand in the room where you usually play, make it as easy as possible for yourself to play your guitars. If you own a few of them, make a habit of playing them regularly, do not get into the habit of: “Oh this is my all-time favourite guitar” If you have guitars you do not like for whatever reason, do not keep them, sell them, as someone else may enjoy playing them. Make sure your guitars all work well as they should, no obvious problems with pick-ups, volume-and tonecontrols ect. as your guitars should serve you as a moment of inspiration and joy and not a headache.
Try to admire the differences in guitars, their different feel and sound. Try avoiding an attitude like: “I really love this guitar as it is so EASY to play, the neck is so smooth etc. Guitar players who have this approach to their guitars often overlook the unique quality guitars have: Each of them sound- and feel different. It is an art to find out what your taste is, and to find guitars which match that taste. I will create more blogs on this particular subject but for today, I only want to make you aware of the different feel and sound of your guitars, and to use this for your creative powers. Why are all guitars different? A few reasons, again too many to discuss in one article. One reason is the different factories around the world, and the tools which are being used for building the guitar, these change from time to time. It is true that all guitars of a particular period in time will feel and look somewhat similar. Sunburst colours do look different throughout the times. There are the particular 1970s colours, and you will see this amoung all brands. It is due to the kind of paints and finish which were being used etc. Quite and interesting subject in itself but too deep a subject for today’s article.

                          — Pick-Ups:Single Coil Electric and Humbuck Guitars—

If you have one of the above, educate yourself how your pick-ups work what they stand for and find out about the other pick-ups: What makes them sound and feel different? Next thing is to play some of those guitars equipped with pick-ups you do not own yourself. Maybe borrow one of a friend before you buy one yourself. However you go about it, once you own one of each, listen carefully to their sounds, play the same thing on one guitar, use the other one and listen to how different is feels and sounds. You may want to write a song just using that one guitar, because it sounds so thick and dark. The guitar may inspire you to write a really mean riff. Let your electrics inspire you in sound, and use that sound as a starting block for your writingprocess, more about this later on.

                         —Play Electric Guitar without Using the Amp—

You must be joking Eddie! Do you do this yourself? All the time!! and I will tell you why: An electric guitar without the amp will speak through its strings and woods. Tune up a few electrics, play the same musical idea on each guitar. What do you hear? Changes are it will sound different with each guitar you play. Now use your amp, and those differences will be exaggerated through the pick-ups and tonecontrols of the amp. Playing an electric without an amp will also improve your tone as you need to work on it, you actually make the sound, not the pick-ups and amp. Once you amplify the guitar, the pick-ups and the amp will interact with your tone. Only inexperienced guitarplayers tend to think their amp is responsible for their tone and volume. Do not be fooled: You create your own tone, it starts with you, your mental state of being and your fingers, from there the amp and the pick-ups of your guitar become an extension of you, not the other way around!

                       —Acoustic-or Electric Guitar—

Try using both guitars as they are both different animals. If you have never played an electric guitar changes are you will miss the bigger bodyshape of your acoustic, you may even treat the electric just as another acoustic. A lot of beginners fall into this category, because they do not experiment with the amp, pedals and tone in general. Why not? Partly personality, partly not knowing what to look for in sound and electric guitar in general. There must be a reason why we eneded up with an electric guitar on this planet. The answer is volume, once people knew this they started looking for more, and tone was the next thing people started manipulating. Jimi Hendrix pushed the envelope in the 1960s, he was not the first one to use effects, but he was the first guitarplayer who openly admitted to the world how fond he was about using his effect pedals. 
An easy way to manipulate the tone on the electric guitar is to use your tonecontrol. In itself the tonecontrol is a mini-wah. I am really fond of using it, as you have your own build-in wah. Play around with it, if you like it become curious in a wah pedal, which really is a tonecontrol you can manipulate with you feet to change the tone of your guitar instead of using your fingers to work the tone control.

                      —Let Your Sound Tell You What to Play—

Once you have a particular sound with your amp, guitar and effects, use this sound as a springboard for creating riffs or a chordsequence. Do not think too much about what you are doing as the sound may be just right for what you are playing now, play same idea on an acoustic and it may not make any sense at all. You may only play a few notes, but so what?, it sounds wonderful so use it for writing a new song with. Document how you create that sound so you can recall the sound a few days later.

                       —Night Time Playing—

Night time is the time when all around is becomes quite and dark, a perfect moment as the human brain tends to relax and work in a different way: It is less critical and just want to create not matter how it comes out. During the busy hours of daylight there are all kind of critical voices in our head at work, voices which tell you how to play, how not to play, how to behave ect. All pretty normal stuff really, as we operate in a world around us, a world which puts rules on us on how to behave and act as we are with other people, but a nighttime this critical voice inside us is less active, use this to get to your fun moments of joy and playing. Record what you come up with, some of it may be pure nonesense, but there may also be some great moments. Use these ideas as a starting point for a new song.

                         —Finally—

These are just a sample of some of the things I use, there is a lot more, but again, I will create specific articles in future which will deal with this subject. There will be blogs on how to use your capo creatively, how the use of open tunings can open up a new world, the wonderful world of distortion, what Equalizer pedals can do for your amp. All of these topics can stand on their own, but really they are all about the inspiration and the joys of sound coming from your guitar.
For now, have fun, do not be to critical as you are only human, but at the same time stay focused on what it is you want to do.  

Hope to see you soon to read the next article which will be about setting goals for yourself and how it can improve your guitarplaying.
Enjoy,
Eddie

  

The Songwriter: Why Guitar Players Should Write Their Own Songs

Now that you are on your way to become a better guitarplayer you will need an outlet for all those scales and chords you are learning. It is fine to play scales up and down the fretboard, to create jangely sounds with glassey 9th chords, but the best place to demonstrate all your skills and artistery is still within songs, and you are the one who should be writing those songs.
Up and till now you may have been playing coverversions of some of your favourite songs. Most guitarplayers start off like this as it is a good learning ground to let your fingers go with all the tricks and riffs you have learned. Ain’t it now time to start writing your own songs? Why? Because only YOU know how you would like to play those solos and chordsequences. When you create your own songs you can make them sound any way you like: You can go for obscure songs, no problem, as you can make them as weird as you like. On the other hand you may want to write hit songs. Songs which need to be heard by listeners from all over the globe. Even though you want those songs to be commercial, you also may want them to be full of original guitarsounds and solo ideas. You will have the freedom to create these songs because you are the guitar player who will be writing them. When you are playing covers you will be restricted by how the song was written. Yes, you may want to change the arrangement fo the song to suit the style of your band  or your style of guitar playing. Truth is you will still be bound by the chords and melodies of the coversong, simpley because you are playing someone else’s song, someone with a different taste and a different take on guitar playing compared to you.
Let us  first have a quick look at some of the well-known guitarplayers from around the world to see how they went about their business , and why they started writing their own songs:

                                     Eric Clapton:
Started out with John Mayall in the 1960s, became quite successful as a guitarplayer, but his starstatus rose dramatically when he started composing his own songs which he sang himself. Eric has written quite a few classic songs, and it is for these what he is remembered for, yes it does help that he can play guitar as well, but the songs are first.

                                     Jimi Hendrix:
The Classic example which demonstrates my case: He did get kicked out of the coverbands he was playing with during the early 1960s, because he was playing too much, and his playing was too way out for the songs he was performing. Jimi just liked it that way, but noone cared untill he started writing his own songs. Ironic maybe that his first hit was a cover, but he would demonstrate very soon that he was capable of writing much better material than that particular  coversong. 

                                    Eddie van Halen:
Started out with covers, but their manager at the time suggested they should write their own material. By that time Eddie already had developed his own distinctive guitarstyle. Think of Van Halen’s cover of the Kinks “You Really Got Me”, but it would still take their band’s own compositions which would show the world what an amazing Rock band Van Halen really was. Eddie’s guitarplaying would serve as a template for the a lot of Metal and Rock players of the 1980s, some of those guys would become an influence in their own right, later on.  

                                    Pete Townshend:
Being able to write funny pop songs is one thing, Pete would prove he could write in the style of an Opera. The idea was born with the concept album. Pete was not the only one to experiment with this form of writing, but he certainly was one of the first ones to realise that so much more could be done with the standard 3/4 minute popsong of the day.

                                   Joe Satriani:
Joe was fed up with the band he was with. The band was not going anywhere and he realised he had to do it himself to get the world to recognise what kind of guitarplayer he really was. So he did, but it wouldstill take him a couple of years before people started to see his potential. On Joe’s second album: “Surfing with the Alien” he pulled out all the stops: “The sounds had to be bold, the playing had to be over the top, so nonone in the guitarworld could really miss him. Joe is still today at the top of his game, he only got better over time, and yes, he too had to do it himself.

                                  Steve Vai:
Was taken on board by Frank Zappa to perform Stunt Guitar Tricks, what a job that is eh? Zappa’s stint gave Steve the break he needed to establish himself in the musicworld of the 1980s. Like Joe, Steve is still there, he even now does run his own recordcompany, not bad eh? For a man who just started out playing guitar!

                                 Mark Knopfler:
Wrote all the songs for Dire Straights. He had been writing long before the band started, and he would still write after the band split up. Mark is still going strong, and is still at the top of his game. Check out his albums!!

The musicworld is full of songwriters, some work on their own, some in teams think of people like:

                                Mick Jagger and Keith Richards:
The Rolling Stones played in their early days a lot of blues songs. Like with a lot of bands from the mid 60s, the Stones were told that writing their own songs would be better if they wanted to increase their success as a band and as recording artists. Over time the band developed its own sound with Keith’s particular way of playing guitar. Having said that, it took Mick Taylor to get the band to sound the way they did in the 1970s. Mick Taylor may have been responsible for writing most of those well-known riffs of that time. Fact is, after he had left, the band’s sound was changed forever. 

                                The Beatles:
Not just one songwriter, but four. Like so many other 1960s bands, the Beatles started out with covers, but soon would be writing their own songs, and it is these songs which people remember most of all.

                                Ritchie Blackmore:
Worked with bands such as Deep Purple and Rainbow. Was the main guitarplayer in those bands, and the main person who contributed the riffs. Most of Rainbow’s songs do have songcredits for various people: The vocalist [for writing the lyrics] the Bassplayer and Keyboard player. All in all, it was a teameffort, but still Ritchie had to provide the main blulk of the riffs and chorsequences before the others could run with it.

                                David Bowie:
Not a guitarplayer as such but more a musician and songwriter. Yes he knows about the guitar, is able to use it to flesh out songstructures with. When it came to reccording his songs he would  often hire guitarplayers, sometimes these guitarplayers would become part of the band for while, while on other ocassions guitarplayers would just stay for one tour.

As a guitarplayer and musician you need to set yourself goals where you want to be and what you would like to do. It does take time to find out, and it will also depend on the people you will meet. On the other hand I think it is a wise desicion no to be too dependable on other people around you. I hope that some of my previous examples have demonstrated that point. If all those guitarplayers would have waited for a band to pick them up we may have never heard of some of those guys.

When it comes to making the choises you need to make you could aim for being a songwriter who writes [and Sings] his/her own songs. The writing of the songs will certainly give you a better understanding of what is going on musicwise within the songs. It will also make you a better musician and leader. On the other hand you may want to become a specialst who is good at one particular genre of music. You may be lucky and get hired by a band or soloartist. It is just another way to get yourself a break in the industry.

For next few blogs: How to get inspired to start writing your own songs, and all about setting goals for yourself as a musician and guitarplayer.

Get busy writing now,
See ya,
Eddie

Lady Gaga and Creating Riffs: How to Write Riffs for the Charthits of Today

The music fashion moves in cycles. What is popular today will be forgotten tomorrow. Protestsongs were in the 1960s the order of the day, todays songs deal with a totally different subjectmatter. Guitarsolos were a must have for most songs of the 1970s. In the 1980s most of those solos were replaced by synthesizer-and drumsounds. When you wanted heavy Rock riffs in your populair songs you had to wait sometime until 1986/87 when Gun’s ‘n’ Roses brought back the Les Paul, and with it the Classic Rock guitar sound and attitude of the 1970s. Move up a few  years and States Eastwards from California to Seatlle to meet Nirvana and Grunge. Heavy [or maybe I should say “Dirty”] guitarsounds were back in the chartmusic of the early 1990s and they seemed to stay there for a while. Of course the musical landscape had changed a lot in the 1990s too: More and more subgenres away from the charts. If you wanted Metal and Country guitar, you could hear it the whole day. This is no different today. I really want to focus on daytime radio, which plays chartsongs for the masses.
Today’s music is loaded with pretty ladies who are singing hitsongs made by producers. Most of these producers are very good at creating impressive sounds with the use of digitial reocording tools, but they seemed to have somehow forgotten about the sounds of the guitar and the emotional impact a guitar can have on the listener.
Seems to be the perfect landscape for ambitious guitar players from all around the globe to get serious with their riffs and sounds, and to give them a place in the chartsongs of today.
For today’s blog I will take you through a few hitsongs which chart today. I will give you some ideas how to spice up these songs with guitarsounds, things like: “Where to put a riff or solos in this song”, I will talk about sounds and other issues etc. I will not give you any notes to play, my hope is that are good enough to do this yourself. My imput will merely be inspiration and advise. A bit like “Some afterwords from the producer”. Enjoy

Okay, the Ladies’s song again. Have a good listen, listen to the sounds which are in there at the moment. Some of them could act as a guitar. To add your riff to the mix you need to anticipate that something has to be taken out of the exhisting mix, this for the sound not to get too cluttered. In fact this song is very dense in sound, sounds pop in and out, the dynamics go up and down. That is one of the reasons why the song works the way it does.
Create a riff after her first few words during the intro [from 0.19 onwards], base your riff on the material of the chords of the keys. This riff will be your main riff. Use this riff also for the chorus, make it as big and bold as you can, as it is the hook of the song, the one where people will say: “Hey I love this song, I want to hear this sucker” Keep playing the riff, play along with the heavy drumsound, make your guitarsound sit in with the drumgroove, this will anker the sound very well. Stop playing Main Riff from 0.27 onwards, no guitar here, just as the original! Now create a fairly similar riff [riff Two] for the next part. Riff Two should have a much lighter sound. Bring in riff Two from 0.43 onwards. Keep playing this one until the break before the chorus, bring back your Main Riff during chorus. You have now created two Riffs which work dynamically very well with the song. All you need to do is alternate from Main Riff to Riff Two. Once you can play the song well [timing, breaks etc.] you can change the sounds you are using, or maybe create a different Riff which acts as your Main Riff. I would suggest you to play only one riff as Main Riff, this will make it easier for the listener to connect with. When you are playing songs you need to be aware of the listener. Keep the ideas you play as clear and concise as you can. It does not matter what style of music you play, this rule applies all across the board: The best songs are the ones  where the listener connects with straight away, and people connect with clear  musical ideas.

                      ~~~Additinal Ideas: Alternative Sounds~~~

Use Different Sounds for your Main Riff to add extra spice, bring in these sounds during the chorus from time to time,  as the chorus is fairly long you do have time to bring in different sounds. Sounds can also work as a hook, just as a riff can. Keep in mind to keep the sounds clear, do not let your sound get too cluttered by too many effects. I think a bit of Flange could add some extra drama from time to time in the chorus. Set your Flanger at a dirty setting, not a nice full sound, no, get it really extreme. Think of Lady Gaga, it need to be bold and weird, just how she would like it to be, but at the same time make it work and make it FUN!!

Over to the next song which will be very different in sound and approach:

Now this song does contain a little bit of  electric guitar, from 2.39 onwards, but it is fairly weak and we can improve on it! There is an acoustic right from the start of the song
It is an art when you are rearranging a song not to destroy the orginal ideas, and to keep the song the way it is but at the same time to enhance the song by adding new sounds to the song.  For this one we are going to add guitar in this song next to the piano. Let us take out the acoustic guitar at the beginning and replace it by a clean humbuck guitar, something like a Les Paul. We will be playing chords with little embelishing riffs in between the chords. We will be playing those notes in between Adelle’s vocals, we will need to keep things sparse, as there is not much space. The vocals are busy during the whole first part of the song, so careful as we do not want to add to much guitar there. Now during the Pre-Chrorus we will play a little chord idea after the first piano stabb [from 0.42 onwards] again it should be fairly understated as we are not yet in the chorus, we are still building to the climax. An arpeggiated chord idea should do, one where the piano is played first and our guitar idea comes right out of the piano. It now sounds as there is interaction between the two instruments!
For the Chorus we can play a Riff which is bigger in sound, we will bring this in from 0.59 onwards. This riff can go right over the pianochords, so the piano and bass are the only instruments which play harmony and the vocals and guitar provide the melodic content of the song. In this way we have a good balance between the sounds which create the harmony and melody for the song. Like with the Lady Gaga song, for this one we can alternate between what we play for the verse and the chorus, straightforward really but effective at the same time.
From 2.32 we will stop playing only to come back with a solo from 2.39 onwards. This solo will replace the orginal idea on the song. Our solo should be clear  and short, the sound should be similar as the one we have already been using, the guitar needs to go up a little in volume an the solo needs to interact with the vocals, like a question and answer idea. We will play the solo until 2.50, which is the same as the orginal. Now during the next chorus we will add a solos as well, this time with a slight bit of distortion, this solo should be dramatic and a bit longer, also different from the first one. It should stay close to the vocalmelody, but we should ride on this solo as it is a dramatic climax, it is the one which ends the song, we do have more time to develop the ideas of the solo, no need to rush with our ideas. 

When you create riffs or melodies it is a good habit to hear what you actually play. As I write this, I have no guitar near me, I listen to the songs and can hear the ideas as I would play them on a guitar. It takes time to develop these skills but you can discipline yourself to get into this habit. A common habit of beginners is to play all the time, to look for the notes they want to hear. Hearing before you play is really an art you need to develop, but this is also related to your personality: Some people speak and you can hear them saying something, while others make a sound, more or less respond to what they hear but they do speak out a clear message.
With hard work you can develop your composing skills to create great melodies for your songs and riffs. This will be the subjectmatter for futureblogs. I will create more blogs on how to compose your solos and melodies.

Playing guitar is all about setting goals for yourself, you may be involved in making chartsongs but at the same time you may play sologuitar in a Jazzstyle or something which is more Latin based. There is so much guitarmusic out there, it helps to know what has been made before to get an idea of the history of the guitar and the things you could be doing.
I would like to leave you with this song, just to give you an idea there is so much more than the pop music of the charts of today.

My next blog will be about how to keep yourself motivated and to become a more creative as a musician and guitar player. Have a great time and hope to see you soon.
Eddie

 

 

 

 

Songwriting and Getting Attention: Create Better Introductions For Your Songs!!

The introduction is the opener of the song, it acts as an invitation to listeners to keep on listening to your song. Weak introductions may put listeners off from  listening to your song. It is worth to make sure your song does have a strong intro which acts as a great opener. There are many ways to create introductions to your song. Some songs simpley start with the chorus, while other songs do contain specific introductions which may be repeated at particular moments during the song. These introductions could be in the shape of a particular melody,a riff or even a certain chordsequence which is repeated a few times.
Each era seem to have its own cliches of introducting the song. I will take you through some well-known songs to demonstrate what these songs use to introduce themselves to the world:

In the sixties, and in particular the world of Motown, the producers of the day had a particular way to dress up their songs, when it came to songintroductions they often used a particular bassline which acted as a riff to open the song with. Listen to the following example here of that kind of introduction:

The introduction of this song carries on even further, the whole song seem to be based on this riff, or at least the rest of the harmony does contain parts of that particular bassriff.

Another example of a similar song I have discussed here before:

As in the previous song, the bassriff is also part of the actual song. It is a very distintive sound which is particular for the Soul music of the early 60s.
Here is a modern adaptation of those kind of intros: No bassriff here but a chord. The first chord of the song is picked as an arpeggio, it is the first chord of the rest of the song. Again, the whole song is based on a short chordsequence, and the first chord is played during the introduction.

Now an example of a Riff which was to introduce this song from the early 1970s:

The Riff is used throughout the song. When you listen to what comes after the Riff, it almost sounds like it is another song, a typical 60s and 1970s approach to making music: Let  us make ’em as long as we can and use as many solos as we need to get our point across.

The 1970s would prove to be the Golden Era for the  Riff to introduce songs.
Here is a well-known song from a band which is still going today, but unfortantely people all around the world seem onlyto know this song of them:

If you like the sound of the Golden Earring, I will discuss a lot more of their songs in detail as they are a great Rock band. They made some amazing albums during the 1970s and 1980s, they do have a great Twin Guitar Sound and they are all great guys, so stayed tuned for more info about them in later blogs.

Now a song which uses a part of a chordseqence to introduce the song. I heard this one during breakfast on my radio this morning. Listen to how the intro is used several times during the song, it is a very distintive sound.


And here is another one which is about a similar subject matter!! This time a Riff, or really a short chordidea: Very distitive for the Rolling Stones to use this kind of intro. It would become the trademark of Keith Richards’s style of guitarplaying. If you like this kind of style I will create a lot more special blogs about the Rolling Stones and Keith’s way of playing the guitar

There is a whole genre of music, which used to be populair during the late 1970s where the intro was often a very mellow guitarpart before the song kicked into a higher energylevel with a more agressive sound.
Let us start this example of with this song here:

They really took their time to get things going, but still good song, great sound and very distintive for its time as lots of other Rockbands would follow suit with this kind of introducing their songs to the world.

These boys here often introduced their songs in a similar manner. In fact the whole Heavy Rock genre would produce Ballads like no other genre of music ever would. Again in this example, the intro forms part of the chordsequence for the rest of the song, the clean guitarsound is similar throughout the rest of the song.



Now over to the Masters of Metal to see how they introduce some of their songs:

The song starts of with a guitarpart which will function as the first part of the song, then the song builds up dynamically [as they should!!1  as the song progresses it changes with more parts added to the mix and different sections popping in and out. The intro is heard throughout almost the whole song.

Another Master at work here. Now how does he introduce this song here?

There seem to be a period in time where Heavy Rock introduced its songs with little bits of noise, bits of talk, sometimes even a whole conversation, before the actual instruments kick in.
Joe does start the song off straight away, first a couple of bars of the rhythm guitar before the melody kicks in. Again very distintive for Joe’s style at the time. If you like Joe’s playing, I will create more specials about him for futureblogs.

Okay one more Heavy Rock example, I could carry on as the genre is full of good, great examples of how to start your song, but I would like to look at other styles as well, which are as equally fun to play and listen to.

This song here does have a different way of introducting itself to the world:
 

Stand along the highway,  hitch a ride and listen to the cars passing by, be careful not to be run over by the…… Holy Crap you may wonder how on earth did they get that sound? A studotrick with a mighty delay!! Sounds good eh? I always perceived the introsound as the sound of cars passing you by on the Highway. The trick with the delay has been done by more bands but again, this is the stuff for later blogs about studiotrickery and how to dress up your songs!! Amazing player Eddie van Halen is, again in future blogs a lot more on Van Halen, their sounds and  Solos.
Now we wizz over to a different style, let us see how things are being done overthere:

The sound does contain a strong riff, but before the riff kicks in there is the synth. sound, and then just the beat, the groove. It is the groove you need to remember for now, as a way for introducing your songs. Why? Let me show you in a few seconds, but just for now a little more about Mickael’s song: Strong Riff, and again Eddie van Halen to show the rest of the world how you can dress up a dancehit with this kind of guitarplaying.
For all  of you serious guitarriffers out there I have something to tell you: Where are the guitars now in all the songs we hear from today from all those pretty ladies? There is a job for you to do, and yes I am serious about this, but again, this is the stuff for the next blog!!

Listen to this song and remember what I menitioned before how some Heavy Rock songs seem to introduce themselves.

 What do we hear here? Yes the tradition carries on, but just  in a slightly different way. How does the music introduces itself?  Synth. sounds, talk and then the music starts more or less straight away with the first chords of the song. Sounds familiar? Whatever you do,whatever the style of music you play, please do pay respect to the tradition of recorded music of the last 40 years and the world will reward you by buying your songs!

If you like Lady Gaga’s style of making music, for next blog I will suggest you how her songs can help you to become a better a guitarplayer. Sounds kind of crazy? Read about it some time this week. Enjoy listening and hope to meet you soon again!
Eddie

The TS9 TubeScreamer: How to Use it to Improve Your Sound

Tubescreamers were first developed during the late 1970s and early 80s. Ibanez was one of the first companies which pioneered the technology with their TS808 and TS9 model. Both pedals function as an overdrive pedal to give your amp a boost to create a natural, overdriven sound from your amp. There are countless other models of other brands on the market which function in a similar fashion as the TS9. For sake of simplicity I will mainly concentrate in this article on the Ibanez TS9 Tubescreamer.

                —Why were Tubescreamers Developed?–

Common guitaramplifiers of today do come with a lot of bells and whistles. They come often with their own build-in effects such as chorus, flange and delay, they also come often with different kinds of distortion sounds. The typical guitar amplifier of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s was not like that: They were often capable of only producing one sound. If you liked the sound of raw and loud Rock you went for Marshall, if you wanted a more clean and delicate sound you went for Fender. I know, this is an oversimplification, as there were other brands, but most of these amps were based on the Marshall or Fender design. Ampwise, the situation as described before stayed pretty much the same up and till the early to mid 1980s.
When it comes to guitarsounds most guitar players like distortion, some want a lot of it while others like a slight bit of dirt to their guitarsound. To get distortion from your amp you typically had to turn your amp up in the past, often all the way up to 10, as what is often mentioned in the mytical stories of any Rock ‘n’ Roll band of the past.
Most amps of the past came only with one volume control, to get it loud [and to get some kind of distortion] you had to turn the amp up, there was simply no other way. The downfall with this was that anyone around you had to turn their amps up as well, just to match the volume of the distorted guitar.

               —The Pre-Amp and the Master Volume—

At some stage during the mid 1970s  guitar amp designers started to experiment with adding pre-amps to the signal flow of the amp. A pre-amp meant simply adding another volumestage to the guitar amplifier. This volumestage had its own volumecontrol. The pre-amp could be turned up to create the so much wanted distorted sound. The Mastervolume could be used to keep the overal volume down. The result of this design made it possible to have distortion of good quality at fairly low volume levels.

              —The TS9 as Pre-Amp—

When Ibanez came out with their first type of Tubecreamers they were simply listening to the request of guitar players to get distortion from their amps at low volume levels. The TS9 with its Drive, Tone and Level controls simply acted as another pre-amp stage in front of the guitar amplifier. Turn up the Level, add a bit of Drive and set the Tone to how you like it and you were on your way to create your own type of distortion while you could keep the overal volume level of the amp at listening levels.
The Downside? The TS9 added midrange to the overal guitar sound. For some guitar players this was not a problem. [Listen to the early Punk albums of the early 80s, also some early Chili Peppers, and you will immediately recognize that typical midrange boost in the sound of the guitars] 

             —Why the Name Tubescreamer?—

They were typically designed to break-up the volumelevels of your guitar amp to create a natural overdriven sound. Increasing the Volume, Drive and Tone on the TS9 literally made the tubes of your guitar amp go beserk [read–break-up the sound—] Off course it was also a good marketing name: “If you need distortion [and who does not eh?] you will need a tubescreamer, not any kind of distortionpedal, as only a tubescreamer will be able to give you that natural, overdriven sound”.

             —Only Works with Valve Amps?—

No, while they work very well with valve amps [which were the common amps of the 1970s and early 1980s] they also work well with transistor amps. You can put a Tubecreamer in front of other distortion-and overdrive pedals, and in this manner they will function in a similar way as to how they act when placed in front of a valve amp: They will add boost to your other pedals, they will also add a bit of midrange to your overal sound.

             —Tubesceamers Still Used Today?—

Yes, even though we now have amps which are of a totally different design from the amps of 20, 30 years ago, Tubescreamers are still popular today. You will find their designs popping up among the different distortion/overdrive pedals made today. Some of those pedals are straight copies of the Ibanez design while other may look very different from the typical look [and feel] of a Ibanez TS9. The TS9 can still be bought new today as Ibanez started producing them again since the early 2000s.

              —Super Tubesceamers of Today—

Not happy with the sound of a stock TS9? Too much midrange for your taste? No problem, as you can get your TS9 modified to get rid of that midrange honk. You can get them just to boost the sound of your amp without adding any additional colouring to your sound.
Guitar Players from all around the world find their own unique useage for the TS9. I myself use it typically to boost some of my other distortion/overdrive pedals and my small amps. I use a stock model, unmodified, and yes, I do get that midrange boost but I do not mind as I happen to like that sound: It adds urgency to my solos and riffs.

Start listening to your sound today, what is missing? How could you improve it?
Happy experimenting!
Eddie

Get a Better Sound From You Small Amps

You have spent a lot of time researching which electric guitar is right for you. You have informed yourself about all the different models and makes of guitars, and all the sounds these guitars can create. You are buying an electric guitar right? Hang on, the guitar will need an amplifier to make all those happening sounds heard. An electric guitar on it’s own without an amp is like a fish on dry land. You will need the Right Amp to make that guitar speak. How do you go about this? Where to start from? Today’s blog is all about why using Small Amps can be quite useful. If you are a beginner this can be the place to inform yourself about which amp is right for you. If you are an experienced player you may be in for a pleasant surprise as small amps are really worthwhile investing in.

When it comes to buying a guitaramp most people tend to think: “It needs to be big and fairly loud” This is not necessarily true: Powerful amps [stageamps I will call them from now onwards] may be great when you are planning on performing music with a band in front of an audience. When it comes to playing at home on your own it may be easier to use a fairly small amp. Why? For the simple reason that small amps are easier to control volumewise and are easier to manipulate with pedals. Pedals? Yes you will need effect pedals to make those small amps come alive. More about this later!
Stageamps, compared to smaller amps, do have large speakers. The larger the speaker, the more volume you will need to make the cone of the speaker move. The cone needs to be moved in order to get a good sound. Playing at louder volumes at your house may not be very practical for the rest of your family and your neighbours. Small amps may be the solution here: They do not take up too much space in your house and they can sound, with the right approach, almost as good as a stageamp at higher volume.

                                   
                               —How to Make Your Small Amps Sound Great—

Anyone who has ever plugged his/her guitar straight into a small amp will have experienced that the sound coming from this set-up may not be very pleasing. The secret lies in how to treat that small amp:

                                 —Using Two Small Amps At a Time—

Combine two small amps, push on one amp the bass, while you boost the treble on the other amp. You will have now a bass- and treble amp which you will be using at the same time. Remember that stereospeaker with its woofer and little tweater? This is what you have now created for your guitar. What is good for music in your house and car is also good for your guitar: Seperate the different frequencies of your guitar through different speakers! Sounds logical and simple, and it really is, but it does work.

                    
                                   —Equaliser and Treble Booster—

Now we have our two amps set up for different sounds we can start playing, but hang, sounds like there is still something missing. The sound may be different, but is still fairly weak. Okay, here is how we can treat that problem: Use an equalizer, and boost the bass bands of the equalizer. This will give both amps more bottom end, in some cases it may even create a bit of distortion. Make sure at this stage that you keep the volume on your amps fairly low. Now that we have more body in our sound we will add a bit of brightness: You can do this by using a distortion- or overdrive pedal where you boost the treble and volume while keeping the gain all the way down. The added treble will increase the volume and create a slight bit of distortion to your overal sound. 

                                   —Distortion and Compression—

Now that you have your basic clean sound, although it is somewhat distorted through the equalizer and treblebooster, you may want to add one of your favourite distortions to create a more agressive tone. Which distortion you use is up to you, your taste and what you like. Keep the gain fairly low, just put the volume slightly higher than the volume on the amps and the treble-booster, and you should get a good sound.
Adding compression will give you more control over the overal tone and sound, it will increase the treble a bit and the compressor will also function as a mastercontrol: You can play at ANY volume, while the QUALITY of your sound will not change! Great!

                                    —Adding More Effects—

Finally you may want to add a bit of reverb to create some ambience to your sound. You may even want to add a lot more effects, pedals like Chorus, Flange, Phase ect. All depending on your taste and the sounds you like. Remember that most of these effects will only add colour and ambience to your sound. The basic overal sound is shaped by the two amps, both their speakers, the equalizer, the teble booster and the distortion.

                                 —Applications For Small Amps—

A set-up as described above may be very satisfying for recording or rehearsals with other musicians at low volumelevels. When it comes to performing in front of an audience you may need bigger amps. When using bigger amps you may find they you need less effect pedals as most stage-amps do tend to sound good on their own.

Using a few small amps combined with some effectpedals you may want to watch out the volumelevels on the different devices and your amps. The overal volume needs to be equal otherwise you may be just pushing the sound of one pedal too much with the result that that particular pedal is the most audible one.   

I hope to create some videos in future where I will demonstrate what I described above, as hearing some of this is one of the best ways to explain and inspire people.

Hope I have given you an incentive to start experimenting with your sound and the tone of your electric guitar in general.
See you next time,
Eddie
                      

Electric Guitars and Why They Are Special

Hello and welcome to all of you. For today’s blog you may not need a guitar in your hands. No need to look at the fretboard,  to check out which fingers to use ect. Nice, as you can give those sore fingers a rest. Today I will look at some of the unique features of the electric guitar, what you can do to improve the sound of your guitar, how to keep your inspiration alive and how to find out what you like about electric guitar.

             
                            —Brief History of the Electric Guitar—

The electric guitar as we know it today is a relatively new “invention” It was developed out of purely practical reasons: Guitar Players playing in Big Bands during the Swing Period in the 1930s wanted more volume for their instruments in order to compete with the much louder horns [Mainly Saxophones and Trumpets] Guitar Players wanted to play solos, and the sound of the single string was just to weak to be heard above the sound of those Saxohones and Trumpets. Guitar Players started to experiment with pick-ups to increase their volume. The early electric guitars were merely acoustic instruments with a pick-up attached to the body. The body of those typical early electric guitars was hollow. Turning up the volume on the ampilifier  also increased the sound to come back, this “problem” was called Feedback. To cut down on feedback guitarbuilders started to experiment with solid-body guitar shapes. We fast forward in time to stop at the late 40s and early 1950s to meet guitar player Les Paul, and radio-repairman Leo Fender. Both of them revolutionised two electric guitar types which are still the main staple of today’s music: The Les Paul and the Stratocaster

                           —Les Paul and Leo Fender—

Les Paul was a guitar player himself, apart from experimenting with  the shape of the body of the guitar he also pioneered four-track recording and discoverd how you could change the sound of music by overdubbing and adding echo and other sorts of electronic effects to the music, this all to enhance the perception of recorded music.
Les Paul’s guitar was unique in the sense that the bodyshape of his guitar was fairly small compared to the bigger acoustic models of the time. For the pick-ups he had chosen the humbuck model: A type of pick-up which creates a dark, thick sound. He created the hum-buck by sticking two single coil pick-ups together. The pick-up he created also was less noisy compared to the single coil pick-up.

At the time Les Paul came out with him guitarmodel there was another guy on the scene who was working on something similar but different, his name was Leo Fender. His vision was to create a guitarmodel which was entirely different from what was known before as a guitar. He felt that the guitar had to stand for something bigger, it had to embrace the new feel of the 1950s: A time of progress and new inventions, new standards and a new life-style for the masses. Popular Culture as we know it today started developing in the late 40s and 50s. Cars in America became cheaper and more accessible to the average person in the street. One special feature of those cars was the large wings at the back. The two Cutaways on the Stratocaster guitar were a way of saying to people how Leo Fender was inspired by the new look of those cars. The two Cutaways are of course not only a visual gimmick, they are also  a very practical devise to improve access to the higher registers of the fretboard.
Leo Fender created two guitarmodels in the early 50s, one was the Telecaster, which was fist known as the Broadcaster, his second model was the more revolutionairy Stratocaster with its two Cutaways, [also know as horns at the time] three single coil pick-ups for very bright and clear sounds and a Tremolo arm,which enabled the guitarist to mimick the bends of a pedal-steel guitar.

All in all, both the Les Paul and the Stratocaster proved to be very successful amoung guitarplayers for several reasons: Both guitars looked very different and distintive at the time, both guitars had their own sound which proved to be very usuable in all kinds of music. The Strat was a hit straight away, the Les Paul was somewhat of a success, then became less populair but came back with a vegenance during the mid 1960s and never went since then.

During the 1950 and 1960s most of the guitars produced came out of America and Europe. Some of the European models were copying the American models, some had their own take on the designs from America. From the mid 1970s onwards the Japanese started copying American guitarmodels and were very successful at it. The Stratocaster and the Les Paul were amoung the most copied guitarmodels at the time. This is still the case today.

The Les Paul and the Strat are not the only guitarmodels but they are the most popular models. In the 1960 both Fender and Gibson experimented with guitarshapes. They could do this because the shape of the guitar no longer had an impact on the sound, since the sound came from the pick-ups mainly. Some of the less conventional guitarshapes which were created at the time were the Flying V and the Explorer. Both models were designed by Gibson. Later in the 1970s BC Rich took this idea a bit futher, and Ibanez in the 1980s added some more spice to the well-known guitarmodels of the time. All in all, those guitarshapes may look very different, their sounds were still based on what Gibson [read the Les Paul] and Fender guitars had to offer.

                                 —Electic Guitar Today—

Okay so far most of you who have been reading this may not have read anything new, since most of  what I mentioned before is part of the modern history of the electric guitar. Now why is electric guitar so unique, why does it feel so good?, What does it do to music in general? [read Rock, and Pop Music] Basically the way an electric guitar functions has not changed since its invention. In a world dominated by computar- and digital technology, the electric guitar today is pretty much how it was in the early 1950s.  Yes, new models have been designed, models to improve what the older guitars had on offer. Better pick-ups have been made. Today [and this has been for quite some time now!] you can customise your stock guitar with pick-ups of your own choise, you can put different necks on your guitar to change the overal feel ect. But all of this does not really change how the guitar works: The guitar still interacts through its pick-ups with the amplifier and the pedals you will put it through.  What may be new today is the modeling guitars [one guitar which can mimick the sound of different types of guitars through the use of digital equipment] This idea is also found on guitaramplifiers, however all of this does not really change the basic idea of how and electric guitar works: Strings, magnets, speaker and electronics all interacting with each other to create a sound we know as electric guitar.

Some of you reading this here may be interested in the how and why the electric guitar works the way it does. Then there are the people who respond to how the electric guitar sounds: It can sound very gentle [Think Hank Marvin and the Shadows, Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits] On the other hand the guitar can also sound very agressive [but sweet at the same time!] Think of Nirvana, The Sex Pistols, the Clash and countless other Punk Bands. Then there is Metallica and host of other Metal bands who use a guitarsound which is based on a more agressive sound.

 
                        —You and Your Guitar: How You Use It and Your Taste—

Now we have come to the more interesting part of this blog, the part why you started reading this blog in the first place. Yes I needed all that information mentioned before to get to this point: What do you like in music and what would you like to do? How do you get there?
I meet a lot of students in my work, some of them have a clear vision of what they like soundwise and what they would like to learn, but most of them simply want to get better at playing the guitar and do not have a strong vision of what they like.

                        ~~Electric or Acoustic?~~

Most people get either one or the other, for the ones who simply play acoustic I would suggest: Try an electric guitar, play it for a little while, whack it, experiment with the amplifier. Change the controls on the amp and listen to how the sound changes. Try playing just with the sound, turn the controls on your guitar up and down and listen to what happens. Listen to the artists you like, ask yourself what guitars they play, what kind of sounds do they make? Do they use a clean sound or mainly a distorted sound?. Familize yourself with the main brands and makes of electric guitars. Get to know what these guitars sound like. Educate yourself through the use of internet and numerous guitarmagazines on offer, about electric guitars and related equipment. Read interviews which feature your favourite guitar players, see what they have to say about their guitars, amplifiers and guitarpedals.

Once you have made your choise on what electric guitar is for you, you need to become curious, curious in what you do not own and curious in what you hear on the albums you listen to. If you are an absolute beginner I would suggest you need to play simple musical things to get yourself going. Experiment with what you can do and keep on playing. The goal is to become familiar with what you know, to get to know the fretboard, your guitar, music and your amplifier. Keep on checking out the music you like, find out how you need to play that kind of music, but do not stop there: It is better to learn a whole lot more than what you really need!!

If you have been playing guitar for a long time, but only own One Amp and One Guitar, aks yourself why this is? “Are you really into guitar?”  Having different guitars around  [and amps] can add a huge inspiration factor. You do not need a whole lot of equipment to keep yourself interested in the guitar for the rest of your life. It does help if you have a few guitars and a few bits and bobs. Cannot afford to buy anything yet? You probably do know a few friends who play guitar,  borrow their equipment, see how different their instruments feel and sound compared to you own guitars. Go to your local music shop, check out the gear, even if you do not intend on buying. You will still educate yourself on what is available, and you get and idea of the variety of musical gear what is on offer.

                       —Keep Changing—

Have been using the  same type of guitar and amp for years? See if you can change them, keep the one you have and get another one! What about your strings? Have been using same string gauge for years? Change it, go up in gauge, see what it does to your tone. Have a look at your taste and the ideas of what you like. I meet people who say they do not like Blues. Their idea is based on thinking that playing Blues is about a format to play twelve bars with three chords using a particular rhythm. I cannot blame them, I used to be the same, thinking a lot of Blues music does sound the same. How wrong I was!!  To get over this attitude it helps to check out a particular genre of music, to check out how it is made, what kind of people play that type of music and what their attitude is towards playing and life in general. Sounds like a lot of work? Yes it is, but all this work will reward you with a deeper understanding of the music, and  it may want to you to play it and get deeper into that style of music.

Over the years of experimenting I have discovered that small amps, combined with the right choise of pedals can create very powerful sounds. Most of the sounds I hear on albums I can duplicate with just the use of those amps. It is partly about wanting to be creative with sound and a curiosity about how each amp reacts with particular guitars and pedals.

                        —-Finally—

I cannot help feeling that you need to fall in love with guitar, it is the one thing you need to do to get further into the musical landscape, the bands you listen to and the things you want to do musicwise. I do love guitar as much as I was introduced to it in the beginning, I am still as much surprised by the sound the electric guitar can make as I was when I was starting out. Yes, today I understand, before I even plug into a particular guitar, pedal or whatever it is, its sound, but still the feeling of amazement and being overwhelmed remains.

For next time a special about Small Guitar Amplifiers and Pedals.
Next to the lessons you are already used to reading here, I also plan to create specials about bands such as AC/DC, Steppen Wolf, Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler. The blogs will be like a listening session to particular songs where I will analyse the sounds and the song. It will be more a talking session rather than a guitar playing session where I will take you through the solos and chords. Knowing what you hear is as important as being able to play what you hear. We listen all the time to music and during our listening we learn a lot, but you need to know how to listen.

Hope you enjoyed this blog and hope to see you around next time.
Happy Playing
Eddie