Sunday, 27 April 2014

"Refine Your Guitar Tone" 6 Lesson Concepts (Using BOSS GT-100 Multi-Effects)

Hello there ! How are you ? :D
Well I just had another super inspiring and fruitful class with my guitar teacher Az !

Topics covered in this blog post:
1. Eliminating unnecessary pedals from the chain
2. Types of Delay/Reverb/Distortions etc
3. Compensation/Complementation between pedals & parameters
4. Reverb levels for comping
5. Compressors & feedback
6. Tone break-down for swing comping

I reckon that to start this post off I shall just show you a little note I made on my lead guitar tone settings for my upcoming Berklee audition hehehe.

Check this out:

Yes, really specific numbers - but that's because I use a digital multi-effects pedal, the Boss GT-100. 


You might have noticed the mini section "IMPT: Pedals to be EXCLUDED from the chain" and I really have to say this is a very SIGNIFICANT component towards getting a strong, beautiful lead guitar tone.

For guitarists who assemble their own pedal board with individual pedals I guess this would be less of a problem, but for guitarists like me who use the multi-effects, sometimes it becomes a source of problem that we didn't even know existed !

I typically use preset tones, which I have to choose from quite literally a SEA of guitar tones - many musical styles/categories to choose from, such as "Blues", "Soul Funk", "Liverpool", "70's Hard Rock", "80s Metal", "Fuzz Rock", "Surf Rock", "Country" etc and then within EACH style, there are a TON more preset tones for you to pick. 

Alright let's take for example "70's Hard Rock", within this genre category, tones to choose from include WholeStack, BurninRiff, Drivin' MS, Solo Delay, Phase Riff, Rockin' VOX, Long Delay, Mid Boost, Stack Crunch and BackinRiff.

So what I do usually would be to surf through the genres and tones and then select the one that I like most to work on. I would then save it to a patch and then start tweaking the tone from there and often I don't realize that the preset tones have TOO MANY pedals in the chain to start with !

At any given tone, there are at least 11 pedals "on" simultaneously & not counting any add-ons yet, thus contributing to the chaotic sound mess, or "jungle" as my teacher calls it.

Well I have to admit that I am no geek pedal - typically if a pedal stays "on" in the chain, I never had the intuition to tell myself to "off" the pedal. I would really just grope around in the dark and keep tweaking parameters and values but never seem to find the tone I want and eventually end up doubting the effect pedal. Hahaha ! How hilarious does that sound ?

There is always something I didn't like about my tone but I never was able to pinpoint the source of the unpleasantness. Alright, well I found the answer today !

Well I learnt that:
If there isn't any practical business for the pedals, I should just eliminate them from the chain. The culprits are:
-The double preamps when I could have just left them out totally because eventually I will be plugging my pedal through an actual amp.
-The double (& even triple) EQ pedals !
-The double Noise Suppressors

Again I realized it's easier to have thought of getting rid of the extras if the pedals were physically visible, but I guess that's one of the cons when it comes to a digital system whereby everything is contained within 2 LED-lighted screens. LOL or that I just ain't bright enough hahaha !


The settings noted above was adjusted by my teacher and I absolutely love how it sounds - which brings us to a more in depth look at how we arrived at those values:

Firstly, I need to ask you a few important questions. Ready ? Okay, let's go.

1. Do you know the sound difference between a Tape Delay, Analog Delay, Reverse Delay and Stereo Delay ?

2. Do you know the sound difference between a Spring Reverb, Plate Reverb, Hall Reverb and Room Reverb ?

3. Do you know the sound difference between a Blues Overdrive, Metal Distortion, '60s Fuzz, Metal Zone Distortion and Turbo Tube Screamer ?

The list goes on.

Well, are your answers to the questions above mostly "yes" or "no" ?

Well I don't know their detailed differences hahaha !

And that what I realized becomes a huge disadvantage when it comes to adjusting tones & parameters within the GT-100 which is packed with a hundred and one stuff.

So my teacher basically understands the different types of delays, reverbs, distortions etc, so it was pretty much a much more focused and directed effort as he decides the choices and parameters.

Lesson is:
Pedal-geek or not, it is always an advantage to delve deeper into the characteristics of the different gadgets.


Next on, compensation/complementation concepts between pedals & parameters when adjusting values.

Because yet again, my Ibanez semi-hollow is totally prone to feedback and thus the compensation concepts would really apply here. 

For example for "Distortion", if both the Drive and Effect Level values are adjusted high, it would be a feedback feast. To avoid feedback, there needs to be a little give-and-take - if you want to put higher Drive, reduce the Effect Level. High Drive and relatively lower Effect Level gives a very gain-y sound. On the other hand, if you want higher Effect Levels, be prepared to compensate on the Drive and lower its levels.

It's pretty cool especially when my teacher started to talk about how the Distortion pedal's parameters has to be adjusted in a way that complements eg. a Chorus pedal ! That instantly planted into my mind a very visual sea of sound effects that are very much in harmony ! That made me realize why my previous sound was very much chaotic and messy-sounding - the various effects and parameters ain't complementing each other and thus clashes.

So there is always an ideal balance and sweet spot between the different effect pedals that make them sound best when used together.


Now let's analyze together why certain tone settings are not effective for their respective purposes:

Firstly I had a tone patch, supposedly for swing/bossa nova comping that wasn't quite effective. And as my teacher called it "The sound is too wet" - because comping tones shouldn't have that high reverb, in fact reverb has to be at pretty low levels.

Az said that his usual levels of reverb are typically set between 20 to 30 for lead playing. And in fact, for the riff-ing tone that Az set for me, he actually put the Reverb effect level to ZERO ! Hahaha yup.


So how good are you guys' knowledge of Compressors ?

Hahaha well apparently Compressors are pretty guilty when it comes to causing feedback LOL. So this is definitely additional add-on information for me from my last Guitar Feedback lesson when factors introduced causing feedback are mainly Gain, Volume and physical placement of guitar relative to the amp.

And so Az mentioned that the Sustain parameter of Compressors has a close relationship with feedback - the higher the Sustain, the greater the Feedback.

This brings us back to the process we went through to rebuild a tone patch - we "off"-ed every pedal in the chain within GT-100 and trust me, that went up to more than 10 pedals. With all pedals "off", the moment the Compressor was "on", feedback occurred immediately, yes because Sustain levels are put too high.

Moreover when it comes to adding too many pedals into the chain unnecessarily that serve no whatsoever purpose - I am the master of it LOL. In the most exaggerated case, I have had patches whereby I switched on 2 pre-amps and 2 Noise Suppressors on top of the already super cluttered chain I have !

I'm glad that in this lesson, my teacher told me that since I always do plug my multi-effects into actual amplifiers, it would be great to just leave the pre-amps out of the equation.


Now to swing/bossa nova comping tone patches - what Az did was to only have ONE pedal, the Compressor, in the chain ! How awesome, now we're talking simplicity. And this contrasts sharply with my previous attempt at enacting a swing comping tone, that actually ended up sounding more like gypsy jazz comping tone I think.

The rest of Az's advice for swing comping tone included to 1. Roll back the Tone knob significantly, to between "2" to "3"
2. Roll back the Volume knob slightly, to between "7" to "8"
3. Set pickup to "Neck" Position
4. Just increase the volume when playing swing lead.

And guess what ? Those are the last bits to be covered in this blog post. Hahaha, hope that this has been a relatively informative and fun read for you, and that you benefited from it.

A blog post on "Rhythmic Soloing" would be up, hopefully soon. In the mean time keep practicing, stay awesome, be happy and keep following my blog !

All the best and love you guys,
Sapphire Ng <3 <3 <3

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