You…a Rock Guitar Goddess. The crowds wait to cheer your name and your future history is destined to become legend. But how do you ascend from the “you” of today to “Rock Guitar Goddess” status of tomorrow?
Of course, there are many paths you must take on your road to becoming a Rock Guitar Goddess (for example, talent, image, connections, etc.), but here are some of the secret weapons that will greatly help you amaze people when they hear your guitar tone.
As I’ve been referred to as a modern day Hephaestus, Blacksmith of the Guitar Gods, I want to impart some pearls of wisdom for getting tone mightier than thou fellow guitarist. While these tips reference specific gear commonly associated with the guitar, know that they can commonly be adapted and used for the bass, as well.
In addition, know up front that this largely involves modification of existing gear so if you’re not familiar with or skilled in doing these changes, I’m glad to help or contact a local qualified technician in your area. This also makes the assumption that you’ve already figured out your preferences for the basics like what picks you like, strings, cables, etc.
To help you think through your whole rig, I’m going to start with the power source and then work my way forward through the amps, guitars, and pedals..
What you want from the outlet you plug into is clean, consistent power and the tools to do this with are a variable autotransformer (aka a Variac) and a power conditioner. For a brief overview on variacs, see the “Variac – Why You Should Have One” tab on my http://www.atlantatubeamp.com/ site. More on this will be covered soon. With power conditioners, there are various makers out there, but I use Furmans. If you really want to get the skinny on power conditioners, check it out on the http://www.howstuffworks.com/ site.
Superior Powerstat 3PN116B
Furman Power Conditioner
Here I’m focusing on “tube amps” or guitar amplifiers that use vacuum tubes (i.e., thermionic valves as they’re called in Europe). If you don’t have one, it’s what serious rock players use. There are exceptions as some jazz cats make excellent use of solid state amps but again, here I’m focusing on tube amps. Now the two most potent changes you can make to your tube amp are the tubes and speakers.
Vacuum Tubes – First, for tubes, I use and recommend JJ tubes as I firmly believe that they are the best modern production tubes available. So what I’m saying here is to replace your existing tubes with JJs and you’ll notice an immediate and noticeable improvement in your amp’s tone and dynamics. Your amp will thank you many times over with more awesome, closer to Holy Grail tone.
Speakers – Secondly, I recommend that you upgrade your amp’s speaker especially if the stock one is still in there. As a general reference, for more vintage American tone there’s Jensen Alnico speakers. For more of a British rock tone, I recommend Celestions. For modern, full range tone, I recommend EV speakers like Mesa Boogie uses. A personal favorite of mine is the Celestion Vintage 30. Don’t be fooled by the name though as it’s a warm, modern sounding 60-watt speaker … they rock! Also, I love the Avatar Hellatone, but that’s me.
Obviously there is an ocean of them out there but the below recommendations can largely be applied to others with a similar configuration.
David Gilmour Switch
Fender Stratocaster – With the iconic Stratocaster, here I break it down to the three areas of mods, pickups and appearance. With mods, as a public service announcement, I point out as a reminder that the #1 mod for any guitar is strap locks as they will save you more times than you know. Continuing on, I pinpoint the areas of pickup height adjustment, the 7-Sound Stratocaster and “relic”ing your guitar (i.e., an aged finish). These mods to your guitar will have it sing heavenly and look like it’s been dragged around the block a million times.
Guitar Strap Locks
Gibson Les Paul – The #1 mod here is the Gibson 50s Wiring. You can do a search to find out more but suffice it to say, it’s what Gibson saves for their best (and highest priced) guitars because it sounds so amazingly good. I do this to all my Gibsons.
Gibson Les Paul 50s Style Wiring
Fender Telecaster – For the universally friendly “tele,” the 4-Way Switch to put its pickups in series is the #1 mod as it gives its customary twang an unexpected roar which rocks for solos. It’s kind of like a wolf in sheep’s clothing kind of thing. There are some Fenders out there that have this with their S-1 switch.
Fender Telecaster 4-way Switch Part
In this golden age of gear, there are many off the shelf, amazing sounding pedals. Unfortunately, they can be a little on the pricey side. What I have found to be the best bang for your buck are pedal mods (i.e., circuit modifications done to popular pedals that you probably already have). So take stock of the gear you have and see what mods are out there. An example is the number of amazingly pro sounding mods available for the long time selling BOSS DS-1 Distortion pedal as well as many other wildly popular pedals. The great thing about pedals mods is you get boutique quality sounding pedals for much cheaper. This is an area definitely worth checking out.
BOSS DS-1 DOOM
So there you have it. I am 100% confident that if you use the above pearls of Rock Guitar Goddess wisdom, your tone with absolutely soar to Olympus!
Let the rock flow through you.