Tech Tip:How Can I Get Unusual Sounds From My Guitar Without Using A Guitar Synth?

Exploring your effects is a good place to start. Experiment with using processors in non-standard ways. Forget how they're "supposed" to be used. Turn knobs and try out all kinds of settings. Connect them in a different order. In time, you'll find some sounds you'll want to use. Delays can be used to add complex rhythms. Daisy-chain flangers and phasers set at different speeds for sounds-in-motion. Pitch shifters can be combined with delay and reverb for some ambient shimmers. Delays set from 2" to 10" (or longer) with lots of regeneration can set up loops you can play over. A phrase sampler or echo unit is ideal for this. If your processor has a built-in arpeggiator, add them to loops, combined with echoes, delays, and pitch shift. Place a volume pedal before the effects. As delays/echo regenerate, the pedal can add swells without cutting out the volume of the effected signal. If you have a multi-effects processor with an expression pedal, assign the pedal to an effect parameter instead of volume. Then you can change the effect in realtime, as you play. A wah pedal can add some filtering effects. It can make some unconventional sounds when it's used in a chain with other effects. Place it after a volume pedal, before other effects. Fuzz boxes can alter guitar tones a lot. For a horn-like sound, turn up the volume, set the treble to zero, then add chorus and echo. The Boss SYB-3 Bass Synthesizer is a stomp box particularly useful for non-traditional sounds. It doesn't require a synth pickup - you can plug your guitar into it like any other stomp box. It has two outputs, one for clean, the other for the electronic sounds. Combined with processing, it can lead you to new and exciting sonic adventures. Another unorthodox effect is obtained by using a mini-amp. Plug the guitar into the mini-amp, and connect from its headphone jack (with the plug halfway out) into your guitar amp. As you play, hold the mini-amp up to the guitar for feedback and sustain. Place effects between the guitar and the mini-amp, or between the mini-amp and the guitar amp. Activating the string by means other than picking can also lead to some fresh new sounds. An E-Bow is a great way to get infinite sustain. Use it in combination with delay and lots of processing. You may also want to try violin bows, metallic combs, metal rods, and vibrators. You can produce some bizarre results by tapping on the high E string and pushing it off the fretboard to the side of the neck. The techniques above are only a beginning. There are universes of fantastic sounds awaiting your discovery.


Many thanks to Bill Newman, guitarist extraordinaire and Musician's Friend tech, for most of the techniques described in this week's Tip-of-the-Week. Bill has a CD due out this fall, using many of these procedures.


Musician's Friend carries almost all of the items mentioned above, including a huge variety of effects processors, from stomp boxes to elaborate multi-effect rackmounts. We also have some phrase samplers (such as the Boomerang), mini-amps by various manufacturers, volume and wah pedals, and E-Bows. Check out our Website for more details.