In the early days of the electric guitar, tone was a simple and straightforward issue: Plug in your guitar and play. Most of the music of those days [I am talking mid 1950s/early 60s] was simple as well: Minimal production with emphasis on the song. Recording engineers were mainly concerned with recording a true documentation of what was being played and sang.
Rock ‘n’ Roll may have toyed about with reverbsounds but as far as exhiting guitarsounds we have to fast forward to the mid-up to late 1960s with guitarplayers such as Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and a host of others who started to experiment with their guitarsounds in the studio and on stage.
The development of guitartones is related to the improvements made in recording technology, soundreproduction equipment such as personal stereos and public amplifiers. Not only technological improvements had an impact on music and guitartones, society on the whole, and lifestyle in particular, had an impact on populair music: The mid 1960s were the start of the beginning of a more individual and liberal society for the Western World. As an artist and musician it was now possible to sing about your own personal problems [Think of “Manic Depression” by Hendrix]] instead of glorifying the ideals of the state or the company you worked for. It is during these times that we see the birth of heavy Rock and the thought that any guitar player should have his/her own sound, and this sound was to become more and more reliant on the use of guitar effects.
Instead of giving you a historical overview of the development of the sound of Rock guitar from the 1960s up to where we are today, I would like you to introduce to the one steady ingredient of most rock guitar players throughout the years: The use of Boosterpedals.
Booster, Why and What?……….:
One of the obvious reasons to use a booster is to increase your overal volume. Increasing your volume will not necessarily result in a better quality in the tone of your guitar. To alter the quality of your tone you may want to use a treble booster. Put them infront of any overdrive/distortion pedal and you will get a more exhiting and expansive sound without adding more decibels.
Your guitar tone is made up of different frequencies, by boosting some of the treble frequencies you can add more drama to your overal guitartone. There are a number of ways to achieve this goal. One of them is by using a compressor. Use the compressor as first pedal in your sigal chain, it will create a treble boost to your overal signal, but it will also add compression, and some guitarplayers may not like the idea of this.
Another way to add treble is by using a graphic EQ, as menitioned in an earlier article on this blog, you can use them to boost the treble of your overdrive/dist. pedals by simply putting them infront of your favourite dirtpedal and boosting the treble.
A cleaner way to increase your treble is by using another overdrive pedal: Boost the tone and volume on this pedal before putting it infront of your other overdrive/distortion pedals. Be careful with the various volume-controls, try to keep the overal volume not much higher than the level of volume coming out of your amp.
Adding more treble to your sound may make you feel you have lost some of the body of your guitarsound, to overcome this problem you can a bit a bassboost: Add a bit of bass boost to enhance more fulness to the body of your guitar sound. You can do so by using a graphic EQ where you simply boost the bass. Another way to boost more body is by using another overdrive pedal, placing it staight after your main overdrive/distortion, use it for a clean boost by keeping the gain all the way down. Some overdrive pedals add a powerful bassboost, but not all of them do! Check out the ones which do and start experimenting to discover what you like.
Using a treble and bass boost will give you the feeling you are playing guitar with a more expansive and exhited tone.
Test For Beginners:
Check out any multi-effector you can get your hands on. Find your favourite effect patch and check out which individual effects are being used to create this sound. Changes are there will be more than just one single effect at work! By doing this test I hope it will become aware of the fact that to get great guitartones you may need to mix several individual effects to get the happening tones you like. There are no right and wrongs to mix whatever you want, your ears are the final master: If you like what you hear than you are doing it right. Guitartone is not only created by pedals and your amp, your speaker and the preamp of your amp do play an important role as well, but that is the subject matter for future blogs……………
Go Vintage or…..??…??
In today’s world it is possible to get your hands on the tools of the past to recreate some of those magic guitartones of the 60s, 70s, and 1980s. If you do have patience and do like exploring and experimenting you may like the idea of checking out a lot of pedals to see if you can find some of them which actually do have the sound of some of those magical 60s pedals. You will need to check out a lot of pedals, but it is worth doing so as there are quite a few relatively unknown pedals out there which are able to give you some of those classic 60s and 70s sounds. It is a journey of fun and exhitement to discover how you can apply some of those gems to get the tones you enjoy for your own guitar playing.