Understanding and Creating Your Sound in Your Guitar
A great guitar tone depends on many factors. You can have the best gear and play with a lot of skill, but you need to know how to use it to get the right sound.
A modelling effect can make your guitar sound like a different instrument, amp, or even speaker. These can be dynamic or time-based.
The pickups in an electric guitar are what amplify the sound of the strings you play. They convert the vibrations into electrical signals, which can then be processed through an amp and speakers to produce a fuller tone. The type of pickup you choose will have a significant impact on your overall sound. They can affect everything from the quality of your tone to the feel of playing your instrument.
There are many different kinds of guitar pickups, from single-coil to humbucker and active to passive. The size and type of magnets, how the wire is wound around the bobbins, how thick that wire is and even how it’s insulated can all have a huge impact on your sound.
Ultimately, it’s the combination of these variables that will decide what your final sound is, which is why choosing and experimenting with different pickups is an essential part of developing your own unique style.
Pickups are also one of the few components in your guitar that actually directly influence your tone, which means they’re the best place to start when looking for new sounds. Once you have the right pickups for your guitar, you can use a variety of effects to manipulate the signal, but it’s better to find the sound that works with your guitar and string combination at the source rather than trying to fine-tune it with EQ at the end.
The most common type of pickups in electric guitars are magnetic. They consist of 6 magnets that surround a coil of wire, each of which can be electrified to generate a proportional current when the strings vibrate. The various spec variations for guitar pickups can result in myriad tones, and it’s important to understand them before selecting the ones that are best suited to your specific instrument. For example, a pickup’s resistance can be one of the most misunderstood specifications, because it basically tells you how hard it will be for electrons to travel through the coils. Alnico 2’s have a classic sound, while alnico 5’s are a bit more punchy and used in multiple genres of music.
Achieving your perfect guitar tone is an endless journey, and even after you’ve dialed in a great sound with your pickups and amp settings it’s always possible that one little tweak could make things just that bit better. Amplifiers are a huge part of the sound of any electric guitar, especially tube amps, and they have a lot to do with shaping your tone.
In general the weight of an amplifiers tone falls heavily on the output transformer, which essentially turns the distortion that comes from your power tubes into something musically pleasing and guitar-friendly. This is the single biggest reason why tube amps have a huge advantage over solid-state amps, which don’t employ power tubes.
The next big piece of the puzzle is your amplifiers equalization, or EQ controls. Your amplifier has a variety of different EQ control knobs to help you shape your guitar tone, such as bass, middle and treble. If you turn your bass all the way up, it will give your guitar a lot of low-end rumble, but too much of this can cause your guitar to sound muddy.
Your mid control allows you to vary the amount of mid range frequency that’s in your tone, and this can also affect the overall balance of your tone. For example, if you turned your mids all the way down, it would create a scooped tone that was very thin in the middle.
Finally, your FX loop is a place in the amp where you can plug in a wide variety of effect pedals. Pedals are used to add effects to your guitar tone, and many guitarists like to run their pedals into the FX loop so that they don’t impact the amps preamp circuit, which has already processed their clean or overdriven guitar tone. Running a pedal into the FX loop will instead add the effect on top of this existing tone, and this can be great for creating interesting sounds such as chorus, which can give your guitar a shimmery sound. This can also be helpful for adding some subtle delay type effects to your rig, which can add some extra clarity without making the tone too thick.
The quest for the perfect guitar tone can be an endless road, paved with scales to master, techniques to learn and gear to acquire. But chasing tone isn’t just about the technical side of playing guitar; it also involves tuning your ears to hear what works and what doesn’t.
Your tone is the result of the vibrations of your pick or fingers strummed through a properly maintained instrument, transmitted through all of the electronics used to shape that signal and ultimately broadcast out through an amplifier. Even something as seemingly insignificant as the type of strings you use can have a big impact on your sound so see more on artiste card to make your guitar playing luxurious.
While most guitarists will keep their guitar’s volume knob turned all the way up, keeping it turned down just a little bit can add some great subtle tonal variations. Similarly, using the effects pedals in your signal chain can help you add some extra coloration and nuance to your overall tone.
Effects can do everything from making your guitar sound like an acoustic guitar (or even another type of electric guitar) to giving it some spacey ambience. Many effects have a lot of settings and options that can be adjusted, so take the time to read the manuals and experiment with them!
A common mistake that new players make is to use their amplifiers in a “clean” mode, which can be great for clean sounds but will not give you the same tone as a more driven amp. If you want to be able to go from a clean sound to something more crunchy, you will need to learn about gain staging and how to properly control your amp.
One of the more fun and energizing aspects of the quest for perfect tone is trying out different guitar amplifiers and other gear. For example, a tube amp that has been driven way too hard will produce a very distinctive and unique sound that is difficult to emulate with solid state gear. There are lots of other great pedals that can be used to add cool sounds, too. For example, a chorus pedal can be shaped with the rate and shape controls to achieve a range of sounds from a simple washing effect to long delays a la David Gilmour.
There are a lot of factors that can affect your tone, but tuning is one that’s pretty important to get right. If your strings are out of tune it can make a big difference in the overall sound and quality of your guitar tone. This can be especially noticeable when you play a chord and move your hand from the 12th fret down to the open string, which is why having an accurate tuner is so important.
Another thing that can change your tone is the type of strings you use. Fresh strings are brighter and more lively than their worn-in counterparts, which can give you a more vibrant and full tone. You may also want to try experimenting with different types of strings to see what works best for your style.
Some guitarists like to push their amplifiers to extreme EQ settings, and for the right players this can work really well. You can experiment by plugging straight into your amp and adjusting the EQ to find the best tones for you. You can even take this a step further by using an EQ pedal to make adjustments in real-time on the fly while you’re playing.
Effects can add a wide range of sounds to your guitar and make it sound completely different. There are a huge number of effects available, and many guitar players will have a large collection of them on their pedalboards. The basic effects include things like delay/echo, reverb, and modulation. More complex effects such as phaser and flanger can be used to create different sounds, or even to duplicate other instruments, such as vocals.
A slapback delay is a dynamic effect that adds repetition to the signal and can thicken it up. This is a great effect for creating a rhythm or adding a “talking” feel.
An octave/pitch shift is a frequency-based effect that can change the pitch of your guitar up to an octave higher or lower. This can be useful to add a bass sound, or to make your guitar sound like a twelve string. Some octave/pitch shifting pedals double the signal before shifting it, which can create a more harmonized effect similar to a harmonizer pedal.