One of the most time-consuming aspects to playing the electric guitar is the different ways you can affect your guitar’s sound. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending countless hours adjusting and tweaking my guitar’s sound. But for a beginner, trying to perfect your sound can be incredibly frustrating. We’re used to hearing recordings of incredible talented musicians, who inevitably used multiple takes to get their guitar part down. Many of these musicians are sponsored, and rarely are they playing cheap equipment. Yet here we are, trying to get the same sound as David Gilmour, except we’re playing out of a 15 watt amp with a $100 guitar. As your ear gets better, you’ll realize that there are some things about your guitar that you can control, and some that you can’t.
The number one thing you can control is your actual playing. While you may not be able to get the exact sound as a recording, nothing will beat actually learning how to play your part clean and precise. Guitar effects can wondrous things, but can’t make your sloppy guitar playing sound clean. So you focus on playing your parts exactly the same as the recording and you still don’t sound the same do you? There are thousands of guitar effects available, and while there are certain industry “standards,” it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what pedals to get first. While I have recommendations based on pedals I use, everyone likes different sounds, so nothing will beat actually sitting in a guitar shop and experimenting with different pedals.
Where Should I Start to improve my guitar’s sound?
Guitarists today are extremely lucky in that we have lots of resources available to us. Just as I recommend researching your favorite guitarist’s guitar and amp, it has become increasingly easy to find the pedalboard layout for bigger artists. If you are looking to replicate your favorite artist’s sound, you should examine all of his/her various pedals. I find that attempting to replicate another artist’s sound is a good place to start, but not necessarily the end game for you as your own artists. Miles Davis has described his experience as a young musician in Charlie Parker’s group, and the overpowering sound of Dizzy Gillespie. Growing up in the bebop era, Davis was trying for years to replicate Gillespie’s sound. Who wouldn’t want to play lightning fast with such a hard hitting sound? Yet Miles wasn’t being true to himself. It took finding his own sound for Miles to really take off and become the worldly figure he is today. The same can be said for guitarists. We want to take a look at all of our influences, and find what about their sounds that we like. Then we can start to create our own sound, and come into our own as artists.
Pedals can be expensive, and there are typically two different routes that guitarists can go: a multi-effects board or custom building a pedalboard. Multi-effects boards are great in that you can get a lot of different sounds packed into one unit. This is the biggest advantage to a multi-effects board, in that it is a cost-effective solution to having lots of different sounds available to you. Additionally, the amount of presets allows you to plug-and-play without having to create your sound. Here are few recommendations for those who want a multi-effects board:
Boss GT100- a great all-in-one solution. Since boss makes individual stomp boxes, they have put a lot of their sounds into one board for you. While I’m not a big fan of amp models, the classic tones are a great, cost-effective solution
Digitech RP Series- this is what I started out on. You can find these boards pretty cheap, and they have a lot of effects. The biggest downside is with the smaller models, it is harder to switch effects easily.
Line 6- known best for the amps processor, which allows you to experiment with well known amp sounds. A note of caution: as good as these sounds are, nothing will beat playing through the actual amp. Still, this is a great way to experiment. If you want to learn about EQ, compression, and other effects, this is a great place to start
I hope this gives you an idea of what multi-effects boards can provide you in your quest to find the perfect sound. Over the next few blogs, I will be discussing several of the larger categories of guitar stomp pedals.