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Unfortunately, figuring out what kind of gear you need can be a baffling proposition. Here are the three main equipment categories that comprise your music-making rig: your electric guitar, guitar amps, and effects pedals and units. These components all work together to create your sound. And because you can swap out equipment and change settings, the creative possibilities are virtually limitless.

Your amp is where everything gets louder. In effect, the amp takes the signal from your guitar and translates it back into sound waves in the air that your listener can hear.

The circuitry within most guitar amps contains several stages that shape your guitar signal in a variety of ways, one after the other, allowing you to alter and enrich your guitar tone, above and beyond merely amplifying it. Chapter 15, therefore, also explores many permutations of both traditional and alternative pedal set-up orders. Many guitarists like to mount their effects pedals together on a pedalboard for convenience of transport and setup, and I provide info on these handy devices, too.

Guitar amplifier

Exploring the signal chain. Discovering how all parts of the chain work together. Investigating the interdependency of guitar, effects, and amp.


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Considering the significance of accessories. Every player with even a modicum of experience learns pretty quickly that his or her electric guitar sound is comprised of far more than just an electric guitar.

Understanding Guitar Amps

In more complicated setups, the number of ingredients that contribute to creating your precious tone can be vast and truly mindboggling. In this chapter, I unboggle your mind by laying out the building blocks that, when chained together, work hand in hand to make the sound of your music.

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When you understand the influence of each little step along the way, you can craft a sound that best suits your style — one that most fluently translates your creative expression. Your signal chain is the sequence of elements that work together to get the electrical signal that carries your guitar sound from its starting point to its end point.


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It can also be referred to as a sound chain, because its sole end is to make a sound. Although you may think of your sound happening instantaneously, exploding from your amp when you hit the guitar strings, it really is the culmination of an electrical signal that travels along a path and which is influenced by many factors along the way see Figure It happens very quickly, sure, but the reaction is far from instantaneous.

These big players in your signal chain are examined in a little more detail elsewhere in this chapter and in a lot more detail elsewhere throughout the book. The way that each individual piece performs very often influences the performance of several other individual pieces, so that in fact your sound chain is really one big mess of variables. For now, simply be aware of this fact: One type of guitar can often make many effects pedals react quite differently from another type of guitar, and the combination of a certain guitar and certain effects pedals can react very differently as it progresses through the circuit stages in any given amplifier than a different combination of guitar and pedals might react.

To complicate all of this, the very same combination of guitar and pedals comes out sounding considerably different through one amp than it does through a different type of amp.

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Beginning to get the picture? The variables are infinite, but you can get a sense of all the possibilities by delving into the basics of the individual stages and how they interact with each other. The signal chain that works to create any electric guitar sound is made up of several major building blocks, each of which has lots of smaller building blocks within it.

These main ingredients that influence your sound include. Note that I examine each one in far greater detail in subsequent chapters that are dedicated entirely to each specific link in the chain. This section is just to get you up and running regarding the symbiotic nature of all parts of your setup. Note that different types of guitars, effects, and amps tend to excel at making different types of music. In this section, I discuss more about how, in a generic sense, each of these items is linked with the others, but later chapters go into detail on what specific sounds you can expect to achieve with different guitars, amps, and effects.

In addition to being a musical instrument in the pure sense, your electric guitar is a signal generator: It produces the small electrical signal that carries the sound of your playing all the way to an amplifier see Figure Notice how I put sound in quotation marks there? Figure This is where it all begins: a musical instrument, yes, but very much a signal generator too. I discuss the electric guitar in detail in Part II, where you also find a photo that introduces you to all the important components that make up the instrument, but for now, just focus on it as the first stage in a journey of sound.

Try to start thinking of your electric guitar as a device that produces an electrical signal. Now envision that signal as it travels down the wire from stage to stage, being treated and conditioned by different circuits along the way. Still, this is where it all starts, and the way in which your guitar generates its signal influences everything else down the line, in addition to everything else influencing it. Effects pedals are relatively compact, individual boxes housing circuitry that treats — or effects — your guitar signal in one way or another. They generally have a few knobs with which to control their parameters and volume levels, and a footswitch that you step on to turn them on and off see Figure They also require some form of power to make them work, which is often supplied by a 9-volt battery or by an adaptor that plugs into the wall.

See that guitar signal entering your first effects pedal? But for our purposes here, picture a clean, bright, pure beam of white light entering the input of, for example, your overdrive pedal, which is switched on. Now, what do you see coming out the output? Your guitar generated one type of signal, but this is now the signal that is headed on down the chain. Figure Effects pedals contain independent circuits that apply one type of sonic treatment or another to your guitar signal.

If your freshly overdrive-fattened guitar signal that light beam again now enters another effect, say a tremolo pedal, you can imagine it emerging from that box as a segmented or wavy beam that now represents what the tremolo a pulsing up and down of the signal level has done to it, but the pulses still have that added texture and thickness and color from the overdrive.

And whatever other effect your signal may go through, it is changed according to what that circuit does, while still retaining, underneath it all, everything that has. This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue? Upload Sign In Join. Home Books Pop Culture. Save For Later. Create a List. Summary Learn the secrets to achieving your ultimate sound Whether amateur or pro, guitarists live for the ultimate sound. Topics include: Gain-based effects, like distortion, compression, volume pedals, and gates Tone-based effects, including graphic and parametric EQ, and the wah-wah pedal Modulation effects, like the flanger, phase shifter, and tremolo Ambience effects, including reverb and delay The journey to incredible guitar music never ends.

Read on the Scribd mobile app Download the free Scribd mobile app to read anytime, anywhere. Discover the guitars, amps, and effects that work together to achieve different sounds. From Classic Tones to Total Originality Some guitarists — like artists in any field, really — jump right in and find both original sounds and original ways of playing when they are still virtually beginners on the instrument. Variations in guitar designs The sound of any electric guitar is established largely by the fundamentals of its design and construction and the ingredients that go into making it.

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The following blueprint elements determine the tonal ballpark of the instrument, which is only tweaked or enhanced — but not drastically altered — by whatever else goes into it: Body style: Solid, semisolid that is, semi-acoustic , and entirely hollow electric guitars all have different personalities. Pickups and electronics Your guitar generates the fundamental sonic characteristics of every note you play, but the pickups are the part that makes it electric.

Hardware By hardware I mean the metal components that are attached to your guitar, most of which play some part or other in keeping the strings anchored and keeping them in tune. Amps: Your Tone Machines! Major considerations include: Finding an amp that hits the sweet spot — that is, the ideal ratio of clean to distorted tone — for your type of music and playing.

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Guitar Amps and Effects For Dummies

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Store Policies. Subscribe to Our Mailing List. Contact Us. Your cart is empty. Facebook Pinterest Twitter. Written in the characteristically easy-to-read Dummies style, this is ideal for beginners and experienced musicians alike. Provides guidance on topics ranging from the guitar itself to amps, pedals, and other sound technology.