Tone Tips: Thicken It Up!
By employing a good, basic ABY box with a buffer to properly drive two outputs—like the Lehle Dual SGoS shown here—you can put a simple mono digital delay on one amp as an effective tone fattener.

Fatten up your sound with these tried-and-true tone roux recipes.

No matter what style we play or whether we use a clean, crunchy, fuzzy or heavily distorted tone, most of us guitarists crave a sound that’s balanced and full. But what about those scenarios when your standard “full tone” isn’t big enough? Perhaps there are songs where you just need to get truly massive in the choruses to set them apart from the verses. Perhaps you play in a guitar/bass/drums trio and you need to fill up quite a bit of space sonically. It might be that you wish your acoustic or electric guitar didn’t sound so small, mono, and pinpointed in your in-ear monitors when playing live. Whatever the case may be, I’d like to share some strategic ways to fatten, thicken, and widen your guitar signal.

I’ve previously touched on both the virtues of buffering your signal when appropriate and the benefits of a clean, properly wired rig. It should go without saying, but clean wiring will help ensure that you are starting with a robust, core tone that’s free of loss due to capacitance and free of ground loops or extraneous noise. So, with that out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff.

Choruses and harmonizers. When chorus units came on the market in the ’70s, they found favor by providing guitarists with a quick and easy way to make rigs sound thicker, while also helping to create a stereo setup (when desired) by running the output of the chorus to two amplifiers. The initial aim of choruses was to create an illusion of more than one guitar playing—hence the “chorus” moniker—and that was accomplished by delaying and modulating the core guitar signal and then blending in that modulated signal with the core tone. Notable guitarists in trios, such as Andy Summers and Alex Lifeson, have used stereo chorus units to great effect for thickening and widening their tones to fill up sonic space.

Harmonizers came on the scene in the late ’70s, and some guitarists used them to create dense harmony lines with multiple intervals. (Trevor Rabin’s solo on the Yes classic “Owner of a Lonely Heart” is a good example.) Other players discovered that a harmonizer could be used to create a sort of “still” chorus effect—accomplished by slightly detuning the core guitar tone by generally +/- 9 cents or less. This technique can sound fat and like a subtle chorus in mono, but in stereo, it can sound positively huge, which is why it became a staple sound throughout the ’80s and into the ’90s. (Eddie Van Halen relied heavily on this sound for over a decade.)

Delays can be used in simple, creative ways to build a larger than life tone, but without the obvious modulation of a chorus effect.

More subtle thickeners. Delays can be used in simple, creative ways to create a larger-than-life tone, but without the obvious modulation of a chorus effect. If you have a simple mono delay pedal and two guitar amps, try placing the amps a few feet apart and running your guitar into an ABY box. Send “A” to your first amp and send “B” to the delay pedal on its way to the second amp. Dial in a very short delay time, the mix to 100 percent, and the feedback all the way off. When you play through both amps at once and switch the delay unit in and out, you should hear the image go from pinpointed and cutting to wide and huge. By varying the delay time (but always keeping it quite short), you can fine-tune the width and the diffuse quality of the sound.

If you have two amps running in stereo via a stereo delay unit, try setting up a stereo delay patch with a different short delay on each channel (30 ms on the left and 40 ms on the right, for example). By setting the feedback to zero and blending in the delay using the mix control, you’ll hear the stereo image get fatter and wider the more delay you blend in. If your delay has modulation controls, increasing these can create a cool chorusing effect.

In-ears and the dreaded mono guitar. Many artists are using in-ear monitors these days, but it can be a difficult adjustment for guitarists, especially if you use a mono amp or acoustic setup. We just aren’t used to hearing our instrument in such a pinpointed, mono way! Using a stereo rig can really help, but not every guitarist can do this, or wants to do this.

Try this trick: Have the engineer pan your main guitar signal left 40 percent and use an auxiliary send to route your guitar signal to a delay set for 8 to 11 ms of delay, zero feedback, and 100 percent wet. Send the return of the delay to another channel and pan that channel 40 percent right. Then pull up that channel, blend it at the same level of your main guitar channel, and voilà—your sound is now far more spacious and stereo-ized in your in-ears. This sounds great on electric-acoustic guitars as well as miked guitar amp signals. Singers who play guitar really dig this trick because it splits the guitar wide and makes space for their voice up the middle.

I hope you get a chance to experiment with some of these tricks. Until next month, all the best to you, guitar nerds!

Equipped with noise reduction and noise gate modes, the Integrated Gate has a signal monitoring function that constantly monitors the input signal.

Read MoreShow less

Luthier Maegen Wells recalls the moment she fell in love with the archtop and how it changed her world.

The archtop guitar is one of the greatest loves of my life, and over time it’s become clear that our tale is perhaps an unlikely one. I showed up late to the archtop party, and it took a while to realize our pairing was atypical. I had no idea that I had fallen head-over-heels in love with everything about what’s commonly perceived as a “jazz guitar.” No clue whatsoever. And, to be honest, I kind of miss those days. But one can only hear the question, “Why do you want to build jazz guitars if you don’t play jazz?” so many times before starting to wonder what the hell everyone’s talking about.

Read MoreShow less

A modern take on Fullerton shapes and a blend of Fender and Gibson attributes strikes a sweet middle ground.

A stylish alternative to classic Fender profiles that delivers sonic versatility. Great playability.

Split-coil sounds are a little on the thin side. Be sure to place it on the stand carefully!

$1,149

Fender Player Plus Meteora HH
fender.com

4
4
4.5
4.5

After many decades of sticking with flagship body shapes, Fender spent the last several years getting more playful via their Parallel Universe collection. The Meteora, however, is one of the more significant departures from those vintage profiles. The offset, more-angular profile was created by Fender designer Josh Hurst and first saw light of day as part of the Parallel Universe Collection in 2018. Since then, it has headed in both upscale and affordable directions within the Fender lineup—reaching the heights of master-built Custom Shop quality in the hands of Ron Thorn, and now in this much more egalitarian guise as the Player Plus Meteora HH.

Read MoreShow less
x