Rock ’n’ roll is far from dead, but is it as bold and experimental as it used to be?
A recent comment on one of my YouTube videos really got me thinking. The video I'd produced was about how to, in my opinion, use an Ibanez Tube Screamer “correctly." Anything goes in music and art, of course, but a Tube Screamer tends to shine when you crank up an amp, get it cooking a bit, and then hit the amp hard with the pedal's output cranked and the gain and tone fairly low. This creates a great blend of amp drive and mid-forward pedal clean boost with some overdrive.
The aforementioned viewer, however, feels differently: “If you're going to jam in a band, you have to adjust your volume to blend well with the rest of the instruments. You can't just increase your amp volume to a certain level just to get the tone you want out of a pedal. Why not just change the sound of the amp (crank up the gain instead of the volume on a Marshall JCM2000, for example)? " This month, I'm going to discuss why I think this line of thinking is a slippery slope.
Experimentation is key. Let's go back to the birth of rock guitar for a minute, when experimentation was the key to innovation. In the relatively short span from the mid 1950s to the late 1960s, we went from the first solidbody electric guitars and small combo amps to Jimi Hendrix with fuzz pedals and a wah pumped through a wall of veryloud Marshall stacks.
To some extent, I feel we take the music that resulted from Jimi's experimentation and sheer boldness for granted now. But Jimi could not have made the music he made without the tools he chose and, most importantly, the way he chose to use them. That primal, visceral tone of his created a figurative and literal feedback loop, allowing Jimi to take the guitar to places no one had ever imagined possible. Imagine if someone had insisted that Jimi “turn down." Even scarier, imagine if he'd listened.
The era of bold. After Jimi came players like Brian May. Brian developed one of the most unique and expressive tones in rock 'n' roll by using a homemade guitar, a treble booster, and a Vox AC30 amp. That AC30? The volume was dimed, as in on 10. Then a few years later comes Edward Van Halen, whose playing and tone absolutely set the world of guitar on fire. His tools of choice? A homemade guitar, a few simple pedals, and a Marshall plexi. And you guessed it (if you're seeing the pattern here). Everything was cranked up to 10.
Trends in gear and music. There have been more than a few recent articles about the decline of the guitar in popular music, and how rock 'n' roll isn't the cultural force it once was. Yet we live in an unprecedented era when it comes to guitar equipment! Every day it seems I hear about the release of a new effect pedal, guitar, plug-in, or amplifier. The equipment is there and just waiting for us guitarists to use it. Maybe what's missing is that boldness that guitarists like Jimi, Brian, and Eddie had. In a world of bare stages, in-ear monitors, and digital modelers mimicking the raw tube-amp tones of yore, is it possible that the guitar has been neutered to the point of being on par with [gulp] synthesizers?
The future. This is food for thought for young up-and-coming guitarists, but I'm not advocating for sheer volume just for volume's sake. I'll use the band Gov't Mule, who I've had the good fortune of jamming with on a few occasions, as an example. Warren Haynes uses 100-watt Soldano amps, and their bassist, Jorgen Carlsson, uses both an SVT and a Category 5 Marshall Major-style 200-watt amp at the same time. There are two Leslie cabs onstage—one on either side—for the Hammond organ. And yet, because they play so dynamically, their stage sound is extremely controlled, but positively explosive when they want it to be. This allows the band to take their audience on a sonic journey by using their powerful gear and tones as a conduit for expression.
The guitarists I've mentioned share some important traits. They play/played dynamically with flawless musicality and technique. Assaulting listeners with a deafening tone is never a good idea. But developing and honing your musical skills in conjunction with a bold, unique sound is a recipe for guitar greatness. I encourage you to find your voice on the instrument and to never be afraid of experimenting with the tools available to you.
Having said that, I've written plenty about “keeping it simple." It's crucial to balance experimentation while not getting overwhelmed chasing the latest and greatest gear. What's important is to develop a style in combination with a unique, expressive tone. When your parents are out, crank that amp. Mess with your pedals and use the knobs and the pickup switch on your guitar. See what happens! And then go use your bold tones within a band context. Think of players like Jimi, Brian May, EVH, Tom Morello, and Matt Bellamy. Talent that's coupled with experimentation, boldness, originality, and hard work is what it takes to become a player that makes the kind of musical impact these guys did. Who knows? You could be next.
Until next month, I wish you good tone!
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
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For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
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The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.