If you are a musician or composer you will understand that guitar is an essential part of so much music. Whether as a main feature or as a supporting instrument the sound of the guitar has been with us in modern music since the 1950s.
Music producers have a need for guitar parts and we all need the skills of guitarists at some point.
You could use a DAW plugin equivalent of a guitarist, but like many real instruments, the sample based version, while passable, is always a pale substitute for the real thing.
Real guitars have a playability and a sound that just can’t be replicated in software or on a keyboard. The frets and strings of a guitar have a completely different physical response than black and white plastic keys. A real guitar with a decent guitarist is always going to win.
A Guitarist’s Sound
If you are going to hire a guitarist for your music, you must know the basics about how guitarists get their sound and what the sound options are.
Aside from it being about the ability to play, much of a guitarist’s sound is determined by the pedals they use and how they are connected together. A clean guitar sound can be used in recordings and played live, however, it is more common to use effect pedals on a guitar. Typically, guitarists use several pedals connected together via short patch leads.
Pedals can shape the tone of the guitar depending on the settings, what pedals are used and what order they are connected. Along with the style of player, this will help create the individuals sound.
There are many pedals, including tuning pedals, volume pedals, wah-wah, distortion, chorus, delay, reverb and overdrive.
These pedals and combinations of them can be heard in many types of music. For example, overdrive has become synonymous with rock music. Early bands that used overdrive include the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
These little boxes can really alter the sound of the guitar. The pedal pictured below, courtesy of AclamGuitars.com, is the Dr. Robert Guitar Overdrive Pedal.
With most guitarists using more than one pedal, the problem many guitarists experience is having to use so many patch leads and pedals and this can often turn into lots of fiddling, plugging, unplugging and knob twiddling before they can even start playing.
Setting up numerous pedals can be very time-consuming and frustrating for other members of the group. Also, with lots of leads and mess, it can be a trip hazard, which is not ideal in a gig or studio situation. A much better way is to use a pedal board.
The organised guitarist will have his pedals organised and pre-wired before the session. It is then just a case of tweaking the sound. The picture above is an example of a very neat solution. This is also from Aclam Guitars. Their pedal boards look ideal for gigging guitarists or session musicians as they are customisable to the number of pedals you have. You can buy pedalboards online from Aclam Guitars.
A Guitarist to Suit Your Music
Firstly, you will need to know what type of sound you are aiming for. Hopefully, from this article, you will now realise that guitar sounds can vary vastly.
If you don’t know the differences then YouTube and Google are your friend. Simply listen to a few examples. Videos like the one in this post are great as you can hear how different guitar effects sound. You can then take it a step further and listen to songs that have the sound you like. Being able to spot the differences between chorus, overdrive, wah-wah etc. is essential in being able to communicate with the guitarist you are working with.
Once you know what sound you are after, you need to be able to find a guitarist whose pedalboard contains the effects you want to use in your composition.
The setup of their pedals will most likely be pretty unique to them, so getting them to provide demos in the style you are interested in is essential.
There will be other factors that affect their sound too, such as their playing style and how the audio will be recorded. For example, it may be recorded through a speaker system using a microphone or it may be recorded directly. Having sample recordings for these will be essential as each guitarist’s set-up will have a different sonic character.
For future projects, I intend to hire the services of instrumentalists so will cover more of this in future posts. I also hope to cover audio examples of the most common guitar effects used in music.
Feel free to leave a comment and share.