Many people absolutely love blues music, and many love Jimi Hendrix. Some would actually argue that he is the most influential guitarist to ever grace the planet. Blues/rock guitar tends to have a very distinct sound to it. There is of course a very distinct style of playing that goes along with that blues solo sound that is created. How to play blues guitar is covered in great detail in the new Learn and Master Spotlight Series: Blues Guitar. However, one question that is often asked is ‘Once I know how to play the STYLE, how do I get that ‘sound’ out of my amp?’. There are many factors that contribute to this ‘sound’. Let’s look at a few of them.
- Of course the ability of the player to play that style is going to be the most important factor.
- Choice of guitar (i.e. Electric or acoustic?? Solid body or semi-acoustic, single coil pickups or hum-bucking pickups??)
- Choice of what amplifier is used
- Settings on the actual guitar
- Settings on the amplifier
- Other items such as strings and effects pedals
So, we can see that there is not any single aspect that will directly change the sound to make it into the blues/rock sound we are looking for. It is using all of these things together that points to the final sound that we get. Of course one of the most important aspects is the ability of the guitar player. There would be no reason in having all of the other settings correct if the player couldn’t actually play blues guitar.
Let’s get started. First, lets look at the settings on the guitar itself. The best type of guitar would be a solid body electric guitar such as a Fender Stratocaster, or a Gibson lespaul. Any solid body electric guitar will probably work. Once you have the guitar then you should look at the settings. You will want to select the neck pickup. This will be the pick up that is closest to the neck of the guitar. It gives you a more rounded and natural sound. The volume and tone knobs on the guitar can also be used. To get the bluesy sound you should roll the tone knob back to about 7 or 8.
Once you have the guitar settings going it is time to look at the amplifier. The blues guitar sound is slightly over driven and distorted. In order to achieve this sound you should make sure that you are plugging the guitar into a hi-gain input of your amplifier. If there is only one input then use that one of course. Next is the fun part. Thats right, you get to crank up the amp! Turn up the gain to a point where the sound coming out is just slightly distorted. Usually this is just beyond halfway. If your amp doesn’t distort or overdrive then there are other alternatives. You could use a distortion effect pedal and that would work just as well.
Now we need to work on the EQ settings. Basically all you need to do is take a look at the EQ and make sure all the knobs are set in the middle. Most of the bluesy sound really comes from the neck pickup and the sightly distorted amp sound. Thats it! You are set to play your blues solo and I guarantee you it will actually sound like a blues solo when you are learning how to play blues guitar.