When it comes to the guitar, it’s not just about the notes you play. Your tone can have a huge impact on the way your playing comes across. You can add ambience to create a relaxing atmosphere or add some overdrive to imply more aggression and attitude. Many of our favorite guitarists spend countless hours crafting the perfect tone for a guitar part. This involves choosing the right amplifier, guitar, pedals, effects, and even recording techniques.
In this video lesson, Ayla Tesler-Mabe digs into her five favorite guitar tones of all time and shows you how you can replicate those sounds yourself. This is more than just a history lesson, it’s also a great way for you to deepen your understanding and appreciation of guitar gear and the role it plays in your own playing.
If you aren’t yet familiar with the different types of guitar effects and their names, this might be a good time to check out this lesson: Guitar Pedals 101
Obviously, recreating the exact rigs all these amazing players used to get their tones would be unrealistic. They all used different guitars, amps, effects, and recording techniques. So Ayla will be going directly into her computer while using the Line 6 Helix Native plugin. This gives her the freedom to use different amplifier and pedal combinations while also having control over some fancy routing options.
This software comes in a few different formats and you can get it in a hardware unit or as a plugin to be used within your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Line 6 Helix Native Plug-in
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The Guitar Tones
Turn Your Lights Down Low – Bob Marley & The Wailers
The guitars on this song were played by Junior Marvin. To get close to his tone we’ll be using a Stratocaster on the neck pickup. For an amp, we’ll use a Fender Twin Reverb on the vibrato channel with some ‘63 Spring Reverb. To get the modulation on the original recording we’ll use an Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser for a little bit of modulation. Finally, we’ll add a partially-cocked Dunlop Crybaby wah pedal to get the unique reggae character of his guitar tone.
20th Century Boy – T. Rex
When Ayla was 14 years old this was one of the most powerful and heavy guitar tones she’d heard. Mark Bolan was a pioneer of the glam rock movement of the ‘70s. We’ll be using a Gibson Les Paul into a Marshall Plexi Tremolo 50 amp. As for effects, we’ll be using a Vox Tonebender-style fuzz and some spring reverb. Since this tone comes from many multitracked guitars playing the same thing, we’ll add a second channel with the Helix software with slightly different EQ and fuzz settings to fill out the harmonic spectrum. This second channel will also be run through a vintage digital delay to make it feel like two separate guitars playing the same thing. Lastly, we’ll apply an Analog Tape Machine emulator for that vintage warmth.
Just Kissed My Baby – The Meters
This song was young Ayla’s introduction to funk guitar and groove-based music. Before Leo Nocentelli used the Starcaster he was famous for, he used both Stratocasters and Telecasters. This song sounds like a Telecaster was used based on the boxiness of the tone. The amp Ayla is using here is a Fender Twin Reverb. As for effects, we’ll run it through our trusty Analog Tape Machine emulator as well as both an envelope filter (auto-wah) and a standard wah pedal. To nail the airiness of the tone, we’ll run a second channel with a chamber reverb panned off to one side.
Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix
No Ayla video would be complete without some Jimi Hendrix. Not to be confused with the more famous Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Voodoo Chile was a 15-minute studio jam from the Electric Ladyland album. The key to getting Jimi’s tone here is to have a low output, 60s-style neck pickup on your Strat. While he was famous for using 100-watt Marshall amps, for this recording, Hendrix used a Fender Bassman. Make sure you tune your guitar’s low E string down to D here as well. The effects used here are an Xotic EP Booster, a healthy amount of spring reverb, the Analog Tape emulator, and a duplicated signal that’s delayed to add some space.
Crimson and Clover – Tommy James & The Shondells
This last tone ignited a love of tremolo in Ayla. This guitar part was originally recorded on a Jazzmaster, but a Strat can do a good job nailing the sound as well. The amplifier used was an Ampeg Gemini 2, but we’ll be using an Ampeg SVT on the bright channel. Add some spring reverb and the Analog Tape Machine emulator. Most importantly, you’ll want to set your tremolo to the same tempo as the drums of the song. Lastly, you’ll run everything back through some tape delay. To really get the sound of the original recording, you can play with your fingernails rather than with a pick.
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