Overdrive is one of the most used effects in musical performance, andevery guitarist has at least two overdrive effects pedals in their rig. They are completely necessary for achieving many popular tones, including rock, metal and dirtier blues. As there are so many different kinds of overdrive pedal around to choose from, and no two stomp boxes have the same sound, the above question is a popular one in the internet musician community. Here’s my take on it.
While some players are famous for using the Ibanez Tubescreamer, and others the TubeDriver, it is impractical – and rather expensive – to buy one of each to put into your rig. Even if you had the money to spend and the space to put the pedals, you’d have to remember that the more pedals you have in a line, the more the sound quality of the guitar is effected. For eample, running your guitar signal through a lot of unnecessary effects pedals which have true bypass will result in the high end of your guitar suffering when it finally reaches the amplifier.
So, we don’t want specific pedals for specific songs in our rig. Instead of choosing pedals based on artists who use them, you just need to find the one that is right for your style, and get to know the best way to use it to achieve the tones which you want. Then, once you have found your dream overdrive and are completely happy with it, get the next best one as well. Two overdrives is the best number to have, any more would just be getting crazy. With two carefully chosen pedals, you can have most of the tones you need covered, and also when one is working, turn down the drive on the other and use it as a boost pedal for the solos!
There are a lot of discussions about ‘great guitar tones’ on the internet. Blogs, forums and comment threads on various video streaming websites are a battleground of opinions, speculations and – quite often – heated debate.
Comments often show a clear divide between those who believe that tone is all in the fingers and the way a specific player approaches the guitar, and those who worship at the altar of guitar gear. Proponents of the former will undoubtedly iterate that there is no way for any guitarist to truly mimic the sounds of their beloved inspirations, insisting that the best way for any player to sound good is to forget about the rigs and setups of others, and really listen to his/her own sound in order to develop a personal tone. Supporters of the latter will counter with the idea that, with the right setup for the situation, no tone is out of reach. They will strive to find the exact gear and settings to allow them to sound like their heroes.
I am going to sit on the fence on this one, as both sides have their own valid points. While I agree that, in order to be a really successful player, one should try to craft a hard-hitting, instantly recognizable personal tone, I also believe that taking inspiration from the greats is an important first step.
You only have to look back to that wonderful moment which is forever ingrained in the mind of every guitarist: the time that you heard a lick, solo, riff or even a single note, which to you sounded so breath-takingly beautiful that you decided there and then to grab an axe and start strumming away. Everyone has a clear memory of the moment they began their musical journey. I would bet that for the majority of us, that moment occurred while listening to a piece of music written by another person: a tone crafted and refined by someone other than yourself.
This is why the soundtrack for every guitar shop the world over consists of ‘Smoke on the Water’, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. How often to you hear a player trying out a guitar, amp or effect by playing a piece of original music in such a place? For me personally, the answer is never. Maybe I shop in less creative areas.
The point is that we all need heroes, we all need inspiration. It sets a fire inside of us, pushing us to learn more and play better. Whenever we may feel that something is too hard, it encourages us to keep on trying until we persevere, and when we get there in the end, it provides a reference to show how far we have come and how much our efforts have paid off. With this established, it is much easier for personal creativity to flourish, as we have developed the listening, skills and techniques necessary to allow us to better express our inner thoughts and feelings through the guitar. You cannot write a poem without first learning the alphabet.
It is in this spirit that we at Baroni Lab have introduced a new series of videos about great guitar tones, where we set up the sounds of those legendary rock riffs and solos, with our own equipment. Our aim is to get as close to the original sound as possible, to show the quality of the products we produce, and to show that it is possible, and worthwhile, to study the sounds of great players.
The second video has just been uploaded to youtube, and you can check it out below. In it, I tackle that fantastic, catchy main guitar riff from Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’. This one was truly great fun to record. Mark Knopfler, we salute you!
Being a company which produces vintage boutique amplifiers and effects, we at Baroni Lab are always searching for different tones, as well as experimenting with different combinations of equipment in order to constantly increase the quality of our products.
This, however, is no easy task to accomplish. The world of tone and guitar performance is a veritable labyrinth, with myriad twists and turns involved in achieving the ultimate goal of a sought-after sound. There is an intimidating amount of variables to consider.
For example, say I want to create the classic sound of Cream-era Eric Clapton. For the famous ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ guitar riff, Clapton used his famous ‘Fool’ guitar – a 1960s Gibson SG which later came to be a symbol of the era – going through a wah pedal and into a Marshall amp. Variables with the guitar include the wood condition and paint-job, the pickups and selector switch, the tone control and the volume. The angle of the wah as it filters the sound is another important variable. Then you have the amplifier and speakers: model? Year? Bass level? Middle level? Treble level? Gain? Volume? Presence? Reverb? Size? Speaker cones?
Obviously, it is challenging to reproduce certain tones, the ‘Woman Tone’ being a great example. This is why a lot of players wishing to cover ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ get lazy, and will buy a digital effects system and model the sounds electronically, using samples of famous distortions and speaker cabs or, even worse, just stick any old overdrive pedal in the line and crank up the volume on the guitar. These methods will never even get you close to the desired tone. It is a process which takes time, thought and, above all, careful listening. Real Italian-designed vintage tube amps also help a great deal 🙂
One thing which I have become increasingly more aware of is the importance of the pickups used. They come in many different shapes and sizes; single coil or humbucker, covered or bare, active or passive, and they all have their own unique ways of processing the string vibrations into electrical signals.
The latest product video I made (YouTube link below) was for the Baroni Lab ‘Moon Sound’ distortion stompbox. Its a great little effect, designed to recreate Dave Gilmour’s lead tone on the famous Dark Side of the Moon album, and it does a great job. While producing this video, however, I was confronted with the issue of pickup selection. Gilmour used the bridge pickup on a strat for the much of his solo work, and so it seemed the perfect place to start. The Moon Sound was set up to give the perfect tone for the solo from ‘Money’ with this pickup, and the result was amazing. It sounds just like the original in every way, and I posted the exact settings to achieve the tone on the video.
The pickups on my strat are passive, but our guest player for the video played with active pickups. The higher response from the active pickups meant that, in order to achieve the same Gilmour tone, The ‘Moon Sound’ had to be set up differently to accommodate the different pickup types.
This shows exactly how much care and attention is required to produce a great tone – or to recreate a classic one – and can be a lesson for many aspiring rock stars. Equipment selection and setup is vital to a good sound, and is as important to study as learning to play the guitar itself. We take pride in delivering top of the range boutique amplifiers and effects, and every one of them is created with amazing quality of sound as the main goal. Sometimes it can be hard, sometimes nearly impossible, but it is always rewarding, and there is nothing quite like that moment when you strike a chord and hear exactly the tone that you have been trying for days to transfer from inside of your head to the amplifier.
The ‘Moon Sound’ did a great job at crafting the Gilmour sound with two completely different kinds of pickup, and so it truly passes the test for being a wonderful and versatile effect. Check it out at http://www.baroni-lab.com.
It has been a busy few months for us here at Baroni Lab, both in and out of the offices. We are proud to introduce a new amplifier to our range: the Baroni Lab 40w head. This is a great amplifier for medium to large venues, with plenty of headroom and the capacity to reach a high level of volume while maintaining a crisp clean sound. Crank up the gain to hear its mean side. Expect a YouTube demo coming up real soon on our YouTube channel.
Outside of the office, our Baroni Lab demo band have been kept very busy, playing a number of shows to spread the word of our boutique stuff in university shows, as well as a spot on TV, where we played a great set in front of a live studio audience and millions of viewers. The 100w stereo power amp and the 20w combo looked cool on TV, and it was a great experience for the band too.
We have also been getting a lot of upcoming artists in to record some original tracks in the studio, which has been great fun. Among them was Riven, a powerful rock band with a light, spaciously airy guitar sound set against low rumbling distortion, with a strong rhythm section and soaring vocals. We are pleased to collaborate with and support the music scene around us, and help to get some of these great musicians into the spotlight! We still have more recordings to go, but a CD’s worth of original music, recorded with Baroni amplifiers and effects is the goal. Expect some updates and studio footage on our website soon!
The three most important things a guitar player wants from an amp are tone, tone and tone. This is why boutique products are always the better choice. There is nothing quite like that moment when you try out a new boutique amp for the first time: you can see that every detail has been meticulously thought out, and that it has been cared for and loved every step of the way from conception to testing. You find a place to set up your new best friend, plug in your favourite guitar – savoring every moment – and flick the switch that starts the magic. The tubes start to glow with a deep red aura, warming up to deliver that rich, deep tone they were born to give, and then when the time is right you strike the strings and the rest of the world ceases to exist for the briefest, sweetest of moments.
Designing and building amplifiers can be a simple manufacturing process, or it can be a kind of alchemy, mixing just the right tasteful amount of wood, plastic, metal and glass into a thing of beauty. This is the main difference between the boutique amplifier builder and the standard amplifier manufacturer. Bigger companies have the wrong idea; they exist for money only and so they deliver products as quick and as cost-effective as possible. Cheaper components, automated manufacturing and thousands of the same product are the result.
The boutique amplifier company is another creature entirely. These companies are smaller, more personal and care more for the quest for the perfect tone than anything else. Components are carefully sourced and chosen purely for their effect on the sound of the amplifier: if the more expensive component is the better one to use to get the desired sound, then the more expensive component is the one that is used. Even if it has to be flown in from the other side of the world.
With so much attention to detail, careful component sourcing, and hand crafting, boutique amplifiers are often more expensive as a result. But to skip over them in favour of a cheaper model from a bigger manufacturer is false economy. When a tube amp is used for extended periods of time, the heat from the tubes and the vibrations from the speakers put the internal components under a huge amount of stress. Cheaper components will not handle this very well and will often break sooner, and with devastating results. The boutique amplifier, however, is ready for this. The quality of the components means that boutique amps not only sound better than their mass-produced counterparts, but they also last much longer and – thanks to the flexibility of the designers – can be custom made to look better too.