There are some great guitarists out there who have made a name for themselves. Their sound is automatically recognizable as soon as the song or a solo starts. How do these guitarists sound like that?
A lot of it is personal style and touch, but one minute they are making the guitar scream and the next it’s crying.
Large amounts of talent plus a little technology is maybe the secret.
Let’s take a look at the technology side of things and see if you need a guitar pedal.
#1 THAT SOUND
The band “Boston” has an immediately identifiable sound that was on all their records. It was and is unique. I watched a documentary on them once and low and behold technology did have something to do with their sound, however, it’s not what you might think.
One story has it that a busted amp had a rather cool sound that they then later reproduced with their own self-designed guitar pedals.
I’m not sure if that had any impetus on today’s quest for soundscapes through guitar pedals, but it’s kind of a great story towards getting your own sound.
No guitarist can rely solely on tech and this band has a lot of musicianship going for them too, with some great compositions. Those layered waves of guitar do sound great.
With today’s vibrant marketplace and innovation, there are a lot of great sounding guitar pedals out there, from unique boutique type pedals to some great all-in-one pedals that house dozens of different sounds.
A new soundscape in the arsenal can really be inspiring and if you are a composer this can open up a whole new level of creative space and even if you are not a composer it may take you to that place anyways.
Every once in a while your guitar playing may hit a slump or a plateau. This is normal but I have heard some guitarists indicate that along with a good swift kick a guitar pedal can reignite that spark and get them playing again with the old zeal and then some.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating rampant consumerism here to solve a plateau problem you might be facing while working towards that next level of your guitar playing, but switching it up a bit with a new soundscape can sometimes help.
#4 ICONIC SONGS
If you play in a cover band or just wish to get that particular sound for a couple of songs or even part of a song, it is pretty difficult to perform an iconic song and not play it with that certain sound. If you’re going to perform it, then you’ve got to figure this one out and do a little research on the sound you need to achieve it in order to get the gig. Your own style of playing and touch on the guitar will ensure your own stamp is on the tune, but some songs you just can’t mess with too much.
#5 PERFORMANCE TOOLS
Most guitarists that perform or jam with friends often need to switch from rhythm guitar to lead guitar without stopping the performance for a gear change. Therefore, the guitar pedal is the tool. Although many amps provide foot switch capabilities allowing you to seamlessly change from one part of the amp to the lead part with the click of a foot switch, you are still a slave to the current settings on the amplifier that you had set before the performance started.
To get around this, musicians have adopted a few necessary guitar pedals and place them into a pedal board for easy access and to develop a certain sound that they desire, as placing several pedals together in a chain can affect the sound output of your guitar and amp.
If you have a preferred or signature guitar solo sound you are probably using a pedal that not only boosts the volume but some of the frequencies to better allow the sound to cut through the other instruments during your solo, such as Ibanez’s famous Tube Screamer, that boosts the mid frequencies. Rockers and blues players have become famous with this type of sound.
Many of these guitar pedals can create or carve a beautiful full and layered sound. The rest, of course, is up to you and how you play your guitar.
It is one thing to write a song that requires two guitars to play it but what if you are the only guitar player in the band? The answer is the guitar pedal. You can even get beautiful sounding pedals that will create a second guitar part an octave higher or lower than what you are playing and it all comes from your one guitar.
If you are playing that high ambiance tune you wrote with the ethereal qualities to it then you will be stepping on the reverb, chorus and delay pedals.
It’s time to get a pedal board!
In most cases a performer needs to vary their sound to fully achieve the artistic requirements of the music they are playing.
Sometimes you have to use the right tool to get the job done.
#6 A GUITARIST AND HANDY
Some pedals as we mentioned earlier, have become almost iconic. Certain genres have their own sound.
But who creates these sounds on a technical level? Sure, there are the big names and others but what about the true originality of sounds that some bands and individuals have created for themselves?
Hey, if you’ve got some interest and some tech skills, take a look at what makes a guitar pedal work.
You never know.
I can’t emphasize enough though the importance of how to use a guitar pedal to its’ full advantage, and that is to use your fingers, not just your foot.
Remember, although there are many uses for guitar pedals, there is no magic potion that suddenly makes you play better once you plug into one. The sound still comes from your fingers. Everything else is like tubes of paint waiting for you to paint the canvass.
So, keep your chops up, start painting your soundscape and enjoy!
About the Author:
Marc-Andre Seguin is the webmaster, “brains behind” and teacher on JazzGuitarLessons.net, the #1 online resource for learning how to play jazz guitar.
He draws from his experience both as a professional jazz guitarist and professional jazz teacher to help thousands of people from all around the world learn the craft of jazz guitar.