Playing Guitar - Do You Have Your Own Sound

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Do you have a signature sound when playing a guitar? I do. I can walk into a bar or a performance hall and recognize the sound of a performer I know, that has a distinct sound. Even if they are playing a song I have not heard before. This ability is something lots of people have, because we learn to recognize the personality of a distinct sound.

I have my own favorite ways of differentiating my sound. My favorite sound is built by using a compressor with a chorus effect box, and then running the signal through a digital delay. If I dial in the effect boxes correctly, it delivers a sweet, clean, somewhat jazzy sound to my guitar parts. When I hear this exact sound show up, I get into the experience a little deeper.

You can change your sound to deliver what you like too. With effect boxes you can fatten up your sound, or put a little bit of an edge on it. You can add substantial color to a recording or just add a little sophistication to a composition. You can base your sound on sweet jazzy effects or distorted, fuzzy attributes. It is up to you and there are lots of nuances to test, to see which ones you like best. If you are looking for something to spice up your playing or just heighten your interest, effect boxes can be a welcome change. I know some professional performers who will dedicate an entire day or two to getting their sound just right. I have gone to performances and heard the actual sound of a band that is quite different than the typical recording they sell.

I saw a Sting concert a few years back that turned me around about his band. The sound of the band was similar to what I like to use, and the quality it gave to all the songs made me reevaluate how much I liked them. I think I bought a few more of his CDs after that performance.

In case you are thinking, I only do this with my electric guitars, you are mistaken. I also run my acoustic guitar signal thorough it too. The set up of the effect boxes is a little different but the same sweet sound is obtainable. I usually put a microphone in my acoustic guitars and plug in via the bottom strap peg which doubles as a quarter inch mic jack. The actual mic sits directly under the bridge. This way if I want to isolate the signal and record just the acoustic guitar it is no problem. If you rely on voice microphones you will not be able to play through effect boxes as easily and you usually pick up stray sounds you did not want to record. All of this can have a detrimental effect on the final product. Sometimes it makes the recording unusable.

In the old days, (a few years ago), we had to use separate discreet effect boxes connected by small patch chords in a serial configuration. Now we just get a rack mounted multi effect box or some portable version. Pandora's Box was one of the first to offer over 30 different effects all in one convenient box. The problem was this device was at first a little noisy.

Last year I picked up a portable 4 track digital recording studio by Korg. This device is based on the Pandora line and even carries the name. Not only do you get 32 virtual tracks, you get over 100 effects blended together to recreate finely tuned sounds ready to record with, and lots of drum and rhythm tracks.

I like to set it up and let my friends try it without telling them much of what to expect. Their eyes usually light up and they soon start talking about what a great practice aid this would be. It is really good for roughing out songs.

A close replica of my favorite sound can be found by trying effect 14, Jazz guitar. With this device I can record an electric guitar or add the effects to an acoustic that is recorded using the built in acoustic mic on the recorder. So I might not be able to hear the effect without head phones but my signature sound is recorded with the acoustic guitar. You might not get a finished product using this technique but for working out new songs, it's pretty remarkable.

You can quickly work up some ideas and test them as song snippets. I am often astounded by an idea when it is played back. Sometimes I develop something and fail to really appreciate the effort until I hear it played back as a recording. Sometimes this can turn me around as to how I feel about the piece.

I am working on a nice song right now but I am having problems with some lyrics. My next attempt to finish this song will happen by recording the guitar parts and drums and then trying some different lyrics over the song while I am not playing my guitar. This way I can concentrate on the lyrics without the overhead of supporting the song with the guitar part at the same time. Isolating parts is a good way of fixing and cleaning them up.

The digital effect opportunities have exploded over the last few years. There are many different ways of creating a unique signature sound that supports what you are trying to do. If you believe in Santa Clause there is still time to tell him how good you have been and ask for some creative help. Santa plays too!