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Thread: That dreamy smooth guitar sound

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    I don't even know how to ask this, but it's troubled me long enough that I want to try...

    How do I get a smooth lead guitar sound? Everyone on the radio seems to have it, though the best examples are hair metal songs. When I play/record, the guitar always sounds choppy because notes only last as long as my finger stays on the string and because the sound is pretty abrupt when I first strike the string. I've experimented with compression to no avail. What gives? How can I sound smooth? Better technique? Effects?

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    You didn't mention the key ingredients here...are you playing through miked amps, or some type of direct box (POD, etc.) or through rack effects units, stompboxes, some combination of the above?? Solid body guitar, hollow body, humbuckers, single coils, bolt on neck, set neck?? Technique and talent is always part of the equation...but for what you're talking about here, gear may be the biggest factor. I have some effects units (especially my Ibanez Virtual Amp) where the notes decay very quickly, and others where this isn't the case at all. What's your gear setup?

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    Whoa, that's quite a question. And there is no one answer.

    Of course a note is only going to last as long as your finger is on the string... that's physics. Delay and reverb can both be used to take the edge off so that it doesn't sound like you're playing inside a tank.

    Reverb is the best masking effect available, in my opinion. It really affords you a lot of room for minor errors.

    Sustain is the next thing you need. This depends on so much though. First and foremost your guitar and strings. A solid guitar with heavy strings will have a natural sustain that is just beautiful. I wasted so many years playing little wimpy strings, using my compressor to help my sustain...now I feel like I wasted that time and am really starting over in many ways. Next volume will help with sustain; using feedback to keep those strings bouncing. Finally you can buy sustainer effects...many guitar compressors have sustain settings. Natural sustain from good strings on a good guitar being played with firm hands is the choice method though.

    Tone. If you like that zippity metal sound then use DISTORTION pedals, not overdrive pedals. Distortion is fakey, but real smooth as opposed to overdriving a preamp. Set your tone knobs such that there is a lot of bass and a lot of treble, and very few mids. My "default Metallica" sound used to come from cranking the bass and treble up to full and cutting the mids 100%...then of course apply distortion, delay and mega compression.

    You. This is most likely the problem. It's really your own ability to play that's going to hold you back the most. You have to add all of the spice. You can't just play the right notes and expect to sound good. Shake that guitar...vibrato as much as you can until you understand it...you'll find that slight squeezes here and can add so much to the warmth of your sound and even sustain. You have to get to know your guitar pretty well. Set it up normally and try to play with as much emotion as you can until your absolutely sure that it's your gear that sounds like shit....then play with the effects.

    I'm not a great guitar player by any means. I get it done for the most part. I'm not coordinated enough to ever be great. However it took years and years of playing, and then the demise of my effects processor (well, crippling) before I realized that most of the good sounds come straight out of the player. So for the past year or two I've basically been starting over with a new outlook. I remember I used to jam with this one guy a while back and his tone was HORRIBLE. Like grinding your teeth on concrete. Oh I hated it. So I'd go over and adjust his equipment and whatnot and he still sounded horrible. So I'd let him play my guitar for a while and it still sucked. What it all boiled down to was that the guy just had no soul...he'd just twang away on the sucker...like your grandpa singing elvis tunes on a roadtrip. The worst part, though, was that he thought he sounded great. He'd be making all of those facial expressions like he was dumping all of his heart into the guitar...but it was just freaky disgusting. There'd usually be several guys there and we'd all kind of make a pact...the first guy who got the chance...turn that dude down when he's not looking....and be subtle about it, after all, it was HIS house.

    Holy shit I'm rambling. Reverb or delay (plenty), distortion (smooth, NOT dirty), compression (lots), EQ (easy on the mids). Play around. You should be able to get a decent metal sound if that's what you're going for! Oh, and that's assuming you have a large enough amp. With a cheap guitar, a cheap amp, and a nice effects box you should be able to get that smooth sound to some extent...but it'll never sound as good as those guys on the radio until you have their gear and their fingers.

    Slackmaster 2000

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    Slack ! So hows those fingers doin? Was it the string change that got you? *GRIN*

    Anyway, I got the cream your pants solution to lead tone, enough to roll up in a big fat ball of 'Good God!' drippin' with some 'Have Mercy!'.....

    So send $19.95 check or money order to:

    Viking enterprises
    418 W. 6th Ave. Suite B
    Tallahassee, Fl. 32303

    Sorry, no C.O.D.'s......

    Viking_______________________________________

    [This message has been edited by Viking (edited 01-07-2000).]

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    Dude, I've been showering without using my left hand. I think it's working...but it's weird. I've had calouses for the past week...a new record!

    <insert masturbation joke here>

    Slackmaster 2000

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    inserted masturbation joke:
    aren't you scratching your weiner?

    dmc

    [This message has been edited by dmcsilva (edited 01-10-2000).]

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    Sorry I didn't reply sooner... I didn't know you all had responded.

    I use a cheap guitar. A Fender Strat, solid body. I think it has single coil and humbuckers at its disposal but it might just be single coil. My expertise is not that end of things.

    My amp is good. Real nice. A solid state Marshall with tube pre-amp and 65 W of my favorite amp sound.

    My compressor, too, is nice for a low-end. It's the RNC. I confess I've used it pretty conservatively thus far. Not much experimentation.

    I'm a musician with a bent for the rhythm guitar. My lead guitar talents lie mainly with the '60s lead guitar style, for that is the way I was trained.

    It's tough to describe all this without the sounds (hey, Dragon, when is audio coming to this excellent BBS?), but I think you all have helped me some. Problem is I'm 200,000 miles away from my electric for the next three months so I can't experiment.

    But to simplify my first question, perhaps I should say that I don't know how to play a single note without it coming in a bit abrasively. Which is good when I'm doing The Kinks, but falls far short of Poison stuff. Poison needs that soft sound without too much attack, and I don't know where to find it.

    Does that info help?

    Thanks.

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    Oh my god, did you actually say Poison in public? I think that's the first time that name has come up on this BBS. Ok...I won't pick on ya too much.

    If you want that unnatural late 80's early 90's hair rock sound...then you'll be using effects big time.

    Unfortunately your amp is designed to sound pretty damn good, so you'll need to do something about that to get CC's sound. First of all you want quite a bit of treble, half on the mids and maybe half on the bass. Play around with the EQ. That glam rock isn't on the bassy side of distortion, and it doesn't completly cut the mids like some heavy metal.

    You'll also have to screw around with your distortion pedal while you're getting that EQ right because they're really intertwined here. You'll want a really smooth and not the least big growly distortion. The distortion on your amp won't cut it because it's good tube driven distortion...the stuff that rockers during the Poison era were not into. Just about any distortion pedal that existed during that time will give you the sound you're looking for. I know I can get it out of my old Boss multieffects pedal no problem.

    Once you get a basic sound down then you'll get the smoothness with compression. Compress the piss out of your signal until it sounds cheesy...err good. Use some sustain if your compressor has some sort of sustain feature.

    80's rockers were not into reverb too much because it's too realistic. Go the delay route. Use a short delay with fast decay to beef up the sound without being obvious.

    Finally, effects effects effects. Every single time you go to a clean channel you'll want to use a shitload of chorus to mask any sort of flaws in your playing. Experiment also with stereo flange on your distorted signal. Those were the two most overused effects during that time period.

    Your guitar doesn't matter too much. Hell, CC played a BC Rich if I remember correctly. Basically the speed of the guitar is more important than the sweetness or weight. Use ultralight strings. Use a HUMBUCKER. Single coil pickups will NOT sound right.

    Or, you can trade in all of your great equipment for a 1990 model Crate stack and digtal effects pedal and just plug your guitar in. That'll pretty much do it for ya.

    Slackmaster 2000

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    I hope you were being sarcastic man!

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    That reminds me, I'm still trying to figure out that Bobby Dahl bass sound

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