Bluffing Great Rock Guitar
Sound like Jeff Beck
I played at our bass player’s birthday party recently, part gig, part jam, which is how I got to hear how I sound when another guitar player ran his Les Paul through my Marshall stack.
Except I didn’t really get to hear how I sound because he sounded like him not me. Which brings to mind two thoughts. One; it’s the player who creates the sound not the gear. That lovely smooth rich tone your favourite player gets from a 335 through a Marshall, he also gets from a Strat through a Fender Twin, partly because of the setting he uses on the guitar and amp, but mostly, simply, because of the way he plays.
So there’s no need to spend lots, or indeed any, money on buying the same gear as your hero, Jeff Beck or whomever. Just learn to play like him (or her).
What pedals did Hendrix use?
Live; a Vox Cry Baby wah wah and whatever distortion box came to hand. I’m pretty certain he had a “Fuzzface” when I saw him in 1967. Plus of course the legendary Octavia pedal for studio work. I have, I confess, a mortal fear of appearing to be a player who gets his sound from pedals. It’s an irrational fear that doesn’t bother most people. The Edge is a great guitar player but what he is master of is shaping the sound of the guitar with effects; it doesn’t bother him, he makes a feature of it.
I only use three pedals. An echo pedal because some numbers just need that stadium-as-big-as-the-galaxy sound, and one or two benefit from a little slap echo. When I saw Robben Ford he used a fairly short echo live as his standard sound. It works for him but I personally find occasional use of any effect has much more impact than letting the audience go deaf to it through familiarity.
I also use a Wah Wah. It’s a classic sound typical of the period, and there are some songs that just don’t sound right without it; White Room and Watchtower to name but two. Apart from the songs that demand it, it gets a bit of use to spice up the sound from time to time, but again no overuse or over reliance.
Finally I have a chorus pedal, which gets used twice in the set at the moment. Once on a very heavy, fast chorus to nearly replicate Jimmy Page’s Leslie cabinet effect in the solo to “Good times bad times” and again on a lighter slower setting to give a bit of “psychedelia” in the Beatles medley we do in the middle of “Rock and roll fantasy”.
If you asked me I’d say the two pedals that were indispensable in Classic Rock would be the wah wah and the echo. That’s it.
Ritchie Blackmore made easy
My woodwork teacher at school always said “let the tool do the job”. He meant, don’t put your back into sawing wood, just pull the saw across and let the saw do the cutting. It’s the same with guitar. How hard you pick the note makes a difference to the sound of course, but that should be a choice, not because you’re trying to hammer the sound across the room. Turn the amp up another notch and play just a little more gently. You’ll be able to play faster, smoother, and your fingers won’t get so tired. Same with your fingering hand. You only have to press on the neck enough to get the string down behind the fret. You don’t have to squeeze the life out of the neck and affect the tuning of the note. There’s no harm, and a lot of showmanship, in making it look hard and making it look like you’re putting a lot of effort in. There’s no need to actually work hard.