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Thursday, December 17, 2009

2 Defining Moments For A Modern Guitar Player - Part 2

Yesterday I looked at the first of what I considered the 2 defining moments for a modern guitar player. These are moments when the light goes on and player's skill set takes a big turn towards what's required by a professional musician.

Just as yesterday, this post is an excerpt from the band improvement book "How To Make Your Band Sound Great," but was prompted after finding a couple of guitar pedal sites that I liked. Unfortunately, I didn't mention the site that really inspired me yesterday and that's As I stated then, I've become more of a purest after my defining moments and generally don't use pedals at all (especially when there are so many cool high quality effects in the studio), but I totally understand that they're integral to a player's sound (especially delays and modulation). Plus, I do like the proliferation of good pedal sites.

Here's the 2nd excerpt and defining moment:

Defining Moment #2 - When you learn to play clean without the help of distortion or sustain.
This might sound like the same thing as number 1, but it’s not. Playing with distortion is fun but the sustain gives you a false sense of security. The problem is that it can also cover up a lot of mistakes and technique problems that you might have. Distortion and artificial sustain can give you a false sense of your ability and the way to get around that is to learn to play completely clean. Yes, you might not like what you hear at first, but with some practice you’ll find that it’ll make you a much better player because now you can hear all the nuances that you’re either doing well, or need work on that you just can’t hear through the distortion. Remember back in Chapter 1 when we talked about your influences? Remember how we talked about how important the nuances in the playing were? This is the way you learn and refine them in your playing. If you can sound great clean, you’ll sound even better dirty!

Less Is More
Expanding on the above, playing with fewer effects and less distortion helps your band in another big way - it’s a lot easier for you to fit into the mix. The more effects (reverb, delay, chorus, flange, vibrato, etc) and distortion that you use, the harder it is for the audience to discern exactly what you’re playing. This means that the sound of the band turns into a mushy din instead of an exciting mix of instruments greater than its parts.

I’m not saying to stop using your pedals. I’m saying that you should use them with discretion. You don’t need to use them on every song, and you usually need a lot less of them than you think too!

When you’re playing live, if you think of your set as a record or CD (meaning a group of songs released at the same time that are designed to fit together), you’ll notice that the guitar sounds change a lot from song to song. In the studio, this means using different guitars, different amps, different effects - all in the name of keeping the sound fresh. While it’s impractical to do this to that extreme when playing live, you can still do some subtle things toward this end like using different pickup combinations, using different effects in different songs, or different amp settings if your amp will allow you to do it. But once again, the word is discretion. A little goes a long way!

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