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,