How To Sound Like Your Favorite Guitarist
It all starts when you plug in your headphones for the first time and listen to some of your favorite tracks. There comes a point wherein you start to notice that iconic riff wherein you know you’re about to be taken to a place where only you can be brought to.
That magical feeling of angst, power, and groove brings a certain element of desire which inspires you to pick up that guitar and explore endless possibilities.
The goal of this article is to jump-start you into accessing the tools and tricks in which you can use to try and identify how you can sound like your guitar hero, and hopefully, help you figure out your own distinct sound as a musician. It can also be a reference guide on how you can attain these said sounds via tools available to you. After all, music is meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
1. Listen, listen, and yes... listen!
Nothing equips your musical vocabulary more than listening over and over again to different types of music. For starters, you may try by narrowing down what specific genre you are into. After identifying your musical taste, figure out what makes this specific guitar player stand out and distinct.
2. Do your research
After training your ears on how your guitar hero sounds, it’s almost obligatory to do your part in reading certain articles and watching videos of how the said guitar player gets his tone. For example, if you are a huge John Mayer fan, it helps to watch certain concert videos, particularly his “Where the Light Is: John Mayer Live in Los Angeles”. It's noticeable that he has certain sets wherein his gear changes, as well as the set of musicians behind him. All of which are crucial for his tone and sound.
3. Consider your budget
While it can be overwhelming to search for potential gear, you always have to work with what you currently have. Now in terms of the guitar, the amp, and the effects pedals, there will always be cheap alternatives, depending on how much your budget is. You need to figure out what specific type of gear you can lay your hands on depending on your means. It can range from a few dollars to a hundred. It also isn’t that bad to consider owning second hand gear, since you are only starting out and navigating your way through the guitar gear world.
4. Know what works for you
Once you familiarize yourself with the things you’ll need, thoroughly be proactive in watching gear demos and reading reviews. Kind of like doing your research, but with more of a thorough approach and intent. For starters, you can do your homework on figuring out the guitar used by your idol. For our example earlier, John Mayer’s distinct tone is produced by his choice of guitar and pickups. He is renowned for his single coil Fender Stratocaster and his new PRS Silver Sky. He uses this to his advantage by riffing out his signature sound. Next thing you should consider is his playing style, as it is evident in his tone and technique that he is deeply rooted in blues. If you are more of a rocker, than you might want to check out the guitar and gear used by Dave Grohl, Slash, or take it to the extremes with Kirk Hammett from Metallica!
5. Don’t be afraid to experiment
Once you have the gear on your hands, now comes the fun part. Know the functions on each toggle switch on your guitar. Explore different pickup configurations, and know what sounds good to you. In terms of guitar gear and effects, the tonal variety available on each unit is enough to keep you occupied for hours. Since you are well oriented on the tone of your guitar hero, you can try dialing in certain settings on each parameter of your effect pedal. Also consider your amplifier, as certain amps don’t go too well with a certain pickup configuration. It helps to explore and navigate through all available options and setting per parameter, as it is important to maximize the gear available to you.
6. Play with other musicians
As you progress as a guitar player, it’s crucial that you get to practice what you’ve learned with other musicians. It helps you get a sense of groove and rhythm, and it also develops your playing style. You can often discern if your specific tone compliments other musicians, and you can learn to adjust accordingly, depending on what type of music you’ll get to play. It also helps in hearing certain elements of a full band setup, as it give your room to grow your tonal palette as a guitar player.
7. Have fun!
Perhaps the most important of them all, learning and playing should always have that fun element. Sure you are at the learning curve, but doing all things mentioned above will be so much easier if you really have the passion and desire to hone and nurture your craft. There will always be room for improvement as an artist, and once you’re are beginning, it’s crucial to always learn to appreciate your growth and progress as you go along the way.