using pickups, tone, and volume . . .

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by macca, Aug 28, 2008.

  1. macca

    macca Member

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    Hi everyone. Seems like many in here minimize their use of pedals when playing live, prefering to usie different pickups, the volume and tone knobs to acheive a variety of sounds when playing live. I understand how these different things work in general, but have never really mastered using them to aceheive GOOD and USEFUL differnt tones. I can get different tones easily enough, but usually end up having one setting that I like and use (typically bridge or both pick-ups, with everything else maxed out).

    So my question is . . . what are some of your favorite techniques and approaches for using your guitar's controls (rather than an effect) to get different sounds and tones when playing? For example, how would you approach a song that requires, at differnt times, some "strumming" rhythm work, some dirtier riff-type rhythm work, and some even dirtier soaring lead tones?

    (and yes, I know there are rhythm and lead labels on some pickup selectors, but they never really seem to work out that way for me, and I'm looking to learn.)

    thanks for any advise or tips you can provide
     
  2. dead of night

    dead of night Member

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    I hope I am not evading your question by saying this, but another idea is where you pick the strings. Sometimes I start a riff, picking near the neck, and finish it by picking it near the bridge.

    This technique offers a great variety of sounds, without touching a knob.. Also, there are different combinations: neck pickup, picking near bridge, bridge pickup, picking near neck, etc.

    Tom Verlaine liked to use his bridge pickup and pick near the neck to get great clarity.
     
  3. macca

    macca Member

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    thanks, dead that is something I've tried (more on bass and acoustic though) and it does get me some notable differences but nothing radical enough to use to switch back and forth from clean to dirt, for example. I'll experiment some more with it.

    I should also add that the technique I have tried the most is to set my amp so that full volume on my guitar gets the distorted sound I want, and then trying to roll back my volume to get a clean sound. The clean sound I get seems dull and anemic using that technique, however.
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2008
  4. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    I use the volume control(s) a lot on my guitars. I use it mostly as a gain or dirt control as opposed to an actual volume level control. To control volume, I usually will just play softer of harder.

    One aspect of being able to make use of the guitar's controls is the amp settings. Setting the amp to give more volume and/or saturation than usual allows you to run the guitar at, say, 8. This gives you some headroom to turn up and get a little more drive at certain times. There is a whole range of sounds available by mixing the variables of amp volume, guitar volume and the picking dynamics.

    I use the tone control less than the volume knob on my guitars. But the same thing described above can apply. Make your amp a little brighter than you typically do. This allows you to roll off some treble and brighten the tone as desired from the guitar.

    I install a treble-bypass cap on the volume pots of my guitars to reduce the loss of treble as the guitar's volume gets turned down. Some guys prefer to leave them off so the tone gets darker as volume is reduced.

    Experiment.
     
  5. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    It's important to have a decent amp that will be responsive to these changes, especially when riding the volume knob on your guitar to alter the amount dirt. You'll have much more success with an older non-master volume type of amp than a newer amp with a MV, gain knob, etc. Most of the older Fenders (pre-silverface) are good at this, older Marshalls, etc.

    But the other thing to consider is it really depends on the style of music you're playing. A lot of guys on this board play blues and blues rock, and for that music often the parts that require a clean tone are lower in volume and dynamics than the parts that require the overdrive- so the band naturally comes down to match the guitar's level. Also there usually isn't a million other instruments to compete with (other guitars, keys, etc) so the more subtle changes you make to the tone still come across. But if you're playing in a more pop or pop/rock context it might not be like that. For instance I'm in a band that plays original funk and disco music, and there's no point in even trying to play around with my volume controls- I just leave them full up all the time. Any changes I could make in that situation would be too subtle- I need either ultra clean, fairly dirty, or over the top distorted and you just can't get that range from working the guitar's volume knob.

    So you should look at the situation you're in and figure out if it's even something you can do. No matter what changing the pickup you're using, rolling off the tone control, picking near the bridge, etc are things that you can use, but I feel riding the volume is something that isn't going to work in every situation.
     
  6. macca

    macca Member

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    I agree the context is important, rockingrob, so let me give some -- an example of the kind of playing and techniques I'm looking to try is Townshend's playing on Live At Leeds. I think he gets a great variety of clean, quiet, loud, dirty, and everything in between using just his guitar and the amp (I don't think he used his fuzz except for ading in some noise when destroying stuff). Is he really just doing that by lowering and raising his volume knob? Granted I don't have Hiwatts running at full balls, but I've got some good tube amps and guitars and I'm still not able to achieve that.
     
  7. rob2001

    rob2001 Member

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    Good stuff! I'd mirror the idea of having an amp thats responsive to the changes offered by a guitars controls alone. I've had rigs in the past where even every guitar sounded the same. Those were usually higher gain setups.
     
  8. henry_the_horse

    henry_the_horse Member

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  9. macca

    macca Member

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    thanks, henry, I had missed that thread, and your advice therein was helpful and will give me something to experiment with
     
  10. dewey decibel

    dewey decibel Supporting Member

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    Here's one of my favorite clips:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUu0B63qnAI

    I love that stuff, and Townshend was a master at it. But a couple things to keep in mind- there's no other guitar player or keyboard player, and the group comes down dynamically when he cleans up the sound. And there's definitely some fuzz pedal at the end of that clip.

    Another thing that can help is if you have a guitar with the two pickup/two volume/two tone controls like a Les Paul or SG. With that you can set one pickup for clean and slight OD sounds and the other for dirtier sounds. And then you can change the sounds with a flip of your toggle switch.
     
  11. Tomo

    Tomo Member

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    If you have Fender Champ... just plug in your guitar...

    Before many things.. you can really work on how you pick the strings.. touch.. attack.. release... sustain...

    i set my guitar voulme around 8-9... I don't go up to 10. Then play many way to express yourself.

    For amp setting. I like to set treble around 6-7 and bass at 3-4. everything else is just how you pick.. how you speak...

    Try something like that.

    It's fun!

    Tomo
     
  12. guitbeef

    guitbeef Member

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    Very well put, I'll second that. Kind of an overlooked viewpoint or overlooked real-world situation. I do enjoy recording my Sovtek Mig50 cranked and working the volume knob when the track at hand calls for it, and there is an art to it. But I gotta do what the live gig calls for and I'm in a similar boat. Live I do still work the guitar volume to vary gain on overdriven/ distorted tones, and I work the tone at times a little also though, but never as the only way to do it.
     
  13. Jon

    Jon Member

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    This mirrors my situation - those people who say "just plug in and use the guitar's volume control" are probably not playing in a wide range of musical situations. If you need a heavily overdriven tone for a lead line that has to sit lower in the mix underneath a vocal line, then go to a semi dirty tone which is louder, for a riff that needs to stand out and then go to a loud clean jazzy tone for a solo, you can't do all that with the guitar's volume. It's pedal time!
     
  14. macca

    macca Member

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    wow, so funny that that's the clip you posted . . . i saw The Kids Are Alright movie growing up and it changed by life, with the Quick One performance being the most mind-blowing one of them all . . . that is the song I usually practice to when trying to get a bunch of different types of tones with just volume and pickup manipulation, because (1) of all the different parts and (2) I love it to death

    is there one pickup you would typically set for your clean sound or vice versa? it seems I usually have my favorite pickup on a particular guitar (sometimes neck, usually bridge) and when I deal in a tone I like on one, it is hard to get tone I like on the other. for example, if I go with the bridge for my louder, distorted sound, I'll try to get a cleaner sound from my neck, but the neck cleans then seem too dull and muddy in comparison. I'm going to keep experimenting.

    thanks for all the replies so far
     
  15. speedemon

    speedemon Member

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    You seem to be addressing picking technique for tone here, so I will post my question.

    For years, it seems, that I have had this very shrill overtone when speed picking lines. I don't hear it in other's playing. It does not appear when I record my guitar at home, but is constant in live recordings. I postulate it has to do with my attack (which is very heavy/hard).

    Can anyone shed light on this one?

    Thanks!
     
  16. ndemattheis

    ndemattheis Member

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