MEET THE WRITER: ED MITCHELL
Experienced guitarist Ed spent 17 years in music retail before moving into music journalism. He now writes regularly for various mags including Total Guitar and Guitarist.
COLOURING ME IN
So, we’ve taken a look at using and abusing your guitar effects in many weird and wonderful ways, but it seems you still want more?! Which brings me neatly to the other direction you can scurry off in. This fork in the tonal road leads to the art of using effects as 'colour'. Get your paint palette at the ready and read on…
We’ve all heard guitarists at gigs overusing a chorus or wah pedal. I have to admit that I’ve done it. So have you. Go on, be honest!
The chorus pedal has to be one of the most misunderstood effects pedals out there. Most of us buy one because we don’t like our guitar’s natural clean sound. Used properly, however, a chorus can add a wash of warmth to clean rhythm playing (Andy Summers of The Police excelled with this sound), it can simulate a 12-string guitar and, when cranked up, can ape a 60's ‘Beatlesy’ rotating speaker sound.
The chorus pedal, such as one of my all-time favourites, the Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, is an invaluable aid for guitarists in a three-piece band (or ‘power trio’ as folk used to call it). It helps fill space in a band’s sound live. Again, Andy Summers is a brilliant exponent of using a chorus in a live setting. It helps if you have a great bassist and drummer too, natch!
GOT AN ECHO… O… 0… o…
Delay (or echo, if you’re a bit old school) is another versatile tool for the live and studio guitarist. Anything that can pump out repetition, from a classic 50's rockabilly slap-back to super-long Brian May style regeneration, is an essential component of everyone’s signal chain.
Again, it’s all about experimentation and good taste.
Of course, if you like the heavy stuff you could try setting the controls of your delay to match the chugging riffery of your metal rhythm playing. If your timing is spot-on, your downstrokes will perfectly match the delayed repeats. The reward is a metal rhythm sound so brutal it will keep James Hetfield of Metallica awake at night. You’ll definitely kill when playing live (I’m talking metaphorically, of course).
REDISCOVER YOUR REVERB
Yes, that less obvious cousin of delay isn’t just some knob on your amp that you whack up when you want to sound like you’re playing at the Albert Hall. Reverb can be a fantastically dynamic effect when it’s used properly. A room reverb setting works great with a Fender Stratocaster with the neck or neck/middle pickups selected. It harks back to Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and is a favourite with modern blues artists like Philip Sayce and Oli Brown.
For a fantastic example of classic reverb used to colour a track, listen to the 60's mod and soul stomper Green Onions recorded by Booker T & The MGs at the legendary STAX studio in Memphis, Tennessee. During guitarist Steve Cropper’s Fender Esquire-driven solo, his sound suddenly switches from dry to reverb-soaked. It adds a cool dynamic to the solo that’s just as effective as cranking up some overdrive. What’s the technical secret behind such an amazing contrast in sound, you might wonder. Well, the reverb unit at STAX was provided by, wait for it… a microphone dangling from the ceiling in the ladies’ bathroom, unoccupied of course.
Luckily you don’t have to duck into the girls’ loos to recreate the effect as these days you can get killer switchable reverbs from pedals like the TC Electronic TonePrint Hall of Fame and the RV-5 Digital Reverb pedal from Boss.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Another way to get different colour and timbre in your music is to have a go with some of the masses of hand-built and boutique pedals out there. The MXR series of pedals have a long history and some of their run-of-mill effects have a quirky edge, such as the delay and reverb stompboxes.
Another couple of boutique brands to look out for are Pigtronix and Z.Vex, both of which we have on demo in-store, and you’ll definitely notice the difference. And as we’ve just been confirmed as an official Electro-Harmonix stockist, you should check those out too!
TAKE TOTAL CONTROL
I won’t claim that you can learn to be a tasteful arbiter of guitar effects overnight and, of course, part of being a great musician is learning from your mistakes. You’ll one day realise that thrashing all the way through a song doesn’t sound as good as choosing your moments to blast out a chord or lick.
• BOSS CH-1 – This compact Super Chorus pedal gives your guitar sound a great foundation on which to build, with controls over level, EQ, rate and depth to tweak and fiddle with.
• MXR M-169 – MXR's Carbon Copy analogue delay pedal is brilliant for those wanting to experiment with delay effects, especially as it boasts up to 100ms delay time and it's only a shade over 100 quid!
• ELECTRO-HARMONIX CATHEDRAL – Get set for acres of roomy reverb with this E-H stompbox, replete with 24-bit A/D and D/A converters and eight reverb types.
For more information on any of the products mentioned in this article, click the relevant links or give us a call on 01202 597180.