For this article I will start offf with a statement: Your Equipement such as amplifier and pedals and other effects and your guitar should inspire you to achieve the sound you want to make.
The sound you want to make? Do you know what kind of sound you want to make, or in other words the kind of style you want to play? Maybe you want to play various styles, and each of those styles may have their own guitar sound.
Not many guitar players do know what kind of sound they want to make when they are starting out. Usually people start off with the music they know, or what they have been exposed to. Once they have been playing for a while and have discovered a few things along the way, they may start to think about the equipment they use and how well it helps them to achieve the sounds they want to make. This is where we start off with this article:
Making music and playing the guitar is a journey, or at least it is for many of us, along the way you find out what you are good at and what you are interesed in, what is possible and what kind of opportunities come along your way. The gear you use should reflect that but there are are varous approaches and for this article I want to outline a few of them:
Upgrade your Equipment:
This approach does have little to do with musical style or preferences, it is more like: Start out with beginners kit and upgrade to get better sounds, but the sounds may not be geared towards a certain musical style. Nothing wrong with this approach, since it is all part of the journey. People may change their amps and guitars after one year of playing to get up to the next level. The new amp and guitar probably will feel better but still, most of those people will have little knowledge of what they want to play, anything better will do for now.
Universal Set-Up: Various Guitars, Amps and Effects:
The players who did upgrade their equipment after one year may discover, after maybe five years or so, that they are interested in playing Blues, Rock ‘n’ Roll 50s style and some Blues Rock. What kind of amp would be good to cater for that style, what kind of guitar? Most Blues players do not play with many different tones, most of the tones they use come out of their fingers, guitar and the amp. I know, this is a general observation but still there is some truth in it. Most Blues guitar players tend to use classic guitarmodels such as Fender and Gibson Les Paul. Again, this is a somewhat simplification, but the truth is those guitarmodels can provide you with a wide range of sounds, and most of those sounds are very useable in guitarstyles such as Blues, Bluesrock and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Okay, so with a basic, good amp and any kind of Fender or Gibson Les Paul you should be on your way to achieve the sounds you want to make in the styles mentioned above. What about if the guitar player is also interested in Jazz Rock, or Fushion or Jazz or Shred style. Can the same equipment help to achieve any of those sounds? It would be possible but you may need to adapt a few things and this is where various guitars and amps may come in:
Set-Up for the Guitar: String Gauge, Action, Fret Size:
Most Blues players will use a heavier string gauge compared to the typical shred style guitar players. When you play with heavier strings you may want to raise to action a bit. Raising the action will help the strings to breath and it will give you more tone. A guitar with a higher action will make you play a bit harder, it is natural since this is what you need to do to make the strings come alive. If you have been playing with higher action the playing harder will become a natural habit, but if you have been playing with thin strings and a low action you will need to adapt your style to get the best out of the set-up of your guitar. Listen to some of the older Blues guitarists and most of them will play with a stronger attack compared to younger players who may use thinner string gauge and lower action.
The fretsize of the guitar may more be personal preference and will not do so much for your tone, it does have an impact on the feel of the fretboard of the guitar. Older guitars were usually set up with thinner frets, but this is a general observation as various guitar companies used different size fretwire over time. Today there is more choice, and information, with regards to the feel of the guitar. The feel is a personal thing, if you have various guitars you may want to set them up in different ways to achieve a different feel and to improve their playability for the styles of music you have in mind. Is it possible to use one set-up and still be able to play various styles? Let us have a look at this question in detail:
As mentioned before: a guitar with heavier string gauge and action will make you play harder, is this kind of set up suitable for playing styles which require a legato style with a smooth distorted sound? If you are good as a player, you will be able to make any set up sound like how you want to play and sound, but some set-ups may be not inspiring to play with.
If you have varous guitars you may want to set them up differently according to the style of music you want to use that guitar for. Having said that, it is easier to swap amps and pedals w hile keeping the guitar and set-up the same:
Amps: Hybrids and Single Channel Amps:
Most vintage style amps of the past were not good at giving you many tones, Fenders may be a bit better compared to Marshalls but still, once you use a Fender you know you are playing through a Fender since it cannot give you those lowdown dirty sounds of older style Marshall amps.
Modern amps today come in a lot of styles and variations and most of them can do more than one tone. What kind of tone you want is up to the style you want to play: A simple basic amp may be just what you need when it comes to playing Blues and Blues Rock. You can augment the amp with a handful of pedals to change your sound a bit.
When it comes to Fushion and Jazz, you may want to use an amp with more tonevariation, but again, all of this depends on your own vision and experience.
The Journey and Equipment:
When you check out some of your well-known favourite guitarists you may find out that they have been using different set-ups over the years People change their minds about what they like and also want to experiment with their tone to keep things fresh. You will notice some things may remain consistent: Some of the 80s style session guitarplayers may still use racks and poweramps since this is what they feel is best for achieving that kind of sound.
One way to look at tone is to think about the history of the electric guitar and amplification: What kind of tone was there in the 1950s and how good it this tone today? Can it be used to achieve what you want to do? Can you work with your playing style while still using a bacis guitarsound coming from a basic amplifier without too many effects and get a pleasing sound for your own needs? It is a question you need to answer for yourself!
Enjoy your own journey and hope to see you soon again for more updates,