Sunday, December 23, 2012

Guitar tips for fat tone and less pain in the ass!

So, i was doing that gig last friday and almost everything went well with exception of one of my guitars running low on battery and sudden detuning on the other one. I had a total of 4 guitars (different tunings)  at Sariola's gig and i decided to put all those things on one tip list for myself and for all you guitar-maniacs worldwide! Let's get started!

read on...


Yes, you do need new strings. Not just in a live situation. Even more important are new strings when you record. Just remember it. old strings = bad. You will never get a FAT tone out of your guitar with old strings. Old strings will sound dull, old strings will have less attack. Old strings will suck. And even worse: old strings could tear while you're playing your main hit-song live. Get new strings on. End of story.


Like everywhere else: a chain is so strong as it's weakest link! And as a guitar player you have countless links in that goddamn chain: Your hands, plectrum, strings, pickups, effects, amp (which has multiple links inside), speaker cabinet, microphone. And of course CABLES. Just imagine you've got a custom ESP guitar, an DIEZEL Hagen and a TC-Electronic G-System with total worth of over 7.000 $/€. And the you have your cheap-ass ebay cables for 2 $ pro meter. You'll get mud, you'll get noise and you will ruin your very sound. So just spare a 100 $ and buy some proper cables, ok?

3. Preamp gain vs Poweramp gain.

Now this is a mistake that a lot of younger guitar players are making: they crank the hell out of their preamp's HiGain while keeping the master gain hideously low for reasons known: neighbours, eh? A good amp need VOLUME, baby. If you just crank your preamp's gain knob, all you'll get is dirty, ugly, skinny, noisy peace'o'crap sound. And it is something you don't want to achieve unless you're playing in Darkthrone. All that fat, all that beef and punch comes from the power tubes, that are in the POWERAMP section. You will notice that when those are driven high enough you do not need such amount of distortion in the preamp section anymore! Bear this in mind if you want to ever achieve good sounding metal/rock guitar, equally for live and recording situation.

4. Killing the midrange.

Ok this one's classic as well. You boost your bass, you boost your trebble and you kill all effing mids, eh? In conjunction with ultra-armageddon-distortion. And it sounds so great while you're practicing at home or playing alone in your rehearsal room? But then, when the other guys come, or you're playing live, or trying to record and all you get ist some hirange hiss and noise? And all your ingenious riffs can not be even heard, while your drummer beats the hell out of his drumkit and the bass player grinding his five-string? Yeah, that's because you killed your mids, baby. If you'll watch an instrument frequency distribution chart, you'll find out, that the range of a guitar is about 80 Hz to aprox. 2 KHz. Got the idea? While bass guitar and kick drum will occupate everyhting from 40 to 100-120 Hz The vocals, keyboards, cymbals etc. will take all the highs. The other frequencies of your guitar you muted already. So always leave enough mid-range tones while playing. Different amp's equalizers would behave differently, but all in all, mid range must be there!

5. Keeping your setup simple.

Now all the guitar geeks out there will advise me to f**k myself, but i will state it: keep your rig as simple as possible. For the reasons are plenty: The more elements you use (pedals, rack gear, wireless units, multiple amps and blah blah) the more noise and potential mistake sources you get. I would advise to use only the gear you absolutely need for the character of your own sound. All devices that do some subtle tone change will most likely do bad service to you. This is of course for a live situation. Just think of it: how much gear you'll have to transport, install, connect, fine tune and so on. Earlier i had a guitar effects chain as follows: Boss Noise Supressor, Boss Compression/Sustainer, Boss Turbo distortion, Boss, Metalzone, Boss Graphic equalizer, Ibanez wahwah pedal and a boss-gt multifx processor for modulations and revebr/delays. So many cables, tons of gear, hours waisted for connecting and unpacking and blah blah. Then i just switched to an H&K Matrix 100, and Switchblade afterwards only. For it had all the needed FX built in (besides wah). And guess what? My sound improved a lot. Nowadays I'm using just the Engl Savage Head with a tc electronic g-sharp, or g-major, or even a behringer virtualizer and in some rear cases the Ibanez demon wah. That's it. If you'd been there this friday you would be blown away buy the fat sound my setup delivered. Only use what you need. It will save your time, money and the nerve!

6. Use a noise supressor.

Any explanation needed? Buy one, you'll never regret. Trust me.

7. Volume Pedal

Ok, the title could be actually, use a boost pedal, use different channels of your amp, use separate master sections of your amp or similar. The point is: there are a lot guys doing solos or just leading riffs, that can not be heard at all. They just get lost under the riffs and the drums. You want to get the lead sound louder than anything else. It wouldn't be called LEAD sound in a different case, wouldn't it? You can use a normal Volume pedal, after your FX signal chain, or between the pre- and power-amp section. Or you might use and boost pedal somewhere in your chain or you just can switch to another channel on your amp that is tuned louder and more for lead sounds. Or if you want to do it like i do =) You'll change the master/presence section on your Savage and don't spend extra cash and time for an external device (see part 5.)

8. FX & FX-Loop

Nobody can forbid you to overcrap your sound with tons of endless delays and canyon-like reverbs. It's all art and it's all up to you. But if you wan't your sound to be comprehensive and professional  use your fx sparingly. I'd suggest you connect your main modulation and reverb/delay fx between pre- and poweramp section of your amp (fx-loop). Get The dry/wet fx knob on your ampt to 100% wet and then adjust  dry/wet ratio on your effects. Otherwise, it can become hard to control the signal, since dry/wet knobs are mostly at the back of the amp, b-sides with some fx, like tremolo, for instance, you would want to have the fx on 100% wer. Sometimes all you need is that the effect is even not really heard. But when you turn it off, you'd miss it. Sometimes you need more of an aggressive approach in order to underline the dramatic effect of a musical passage. However, excessive use of fx would most likely make your guitar sound washed, blury and most likely like a piece'o'crap. If still using all the stompboxes pay attention to the connecting order of your pedals. For example i wouldn't advise you to connect a reverb before distortion, or Wah Wah before a compressor. On the other hand it could just lead you to some interesting result. Who knows?

9. Change those batteries!

And change them best right before your gig starts. Hell! Last friday i forgot to turn down the volume knob of my emg-81 stuffed explorer and i played one of our main songs with and effing clean sound. Goddamn! Such a great song, spoiled by a stupid 9V battery! Just change 'em. Don't forget this! I mean it!!!!!

10: Replacing strings.

Last but not least, replace your old strings with new ones with sufficient time left for the new strings to stretch and have stable tuning. Especially if you're using floyd rose. Let them sit over night and tune them again. Or if it's just a few hours before the gig, play for as long as you'll need so the tuning is stable. The last thing you want is that your' strings run out of tuning while you're plaing live or record.

I hope this tips, although they are all old as the guitar playing itself, will help you to maintain the good old FAT guitar sound and save your nerves ;)

Stay Tuned,