Electric Guitar Tips
PROBLEM: How do you use existing two channel amp technology to get the range of electric guitar tones needed for contemporary praise and worship music?
GUITAR TONE JUMP CHART FOR TWO-CHANNEL TUBE AMPS
1. Set amp to a sparkling clean rhythm sound on the clean channel with the neck pickup (PU) and a loud, rich lead tone on the overdrive (OD) channel with the bridge PU. Gain should be set so that a good crunch tone can be achieved on the OD channel by rolling back the guitar volume a few numbers. (I prefer numbers on my volume controls since there are different tones at different numbers.)
2. Be sure to add brightness capacitor to the guitar volume control (220 pf, preferably a sprague orange drop type) to keep from losing all your highs when you roll the volume down. Every guitar should have this, and it is cheap and easy. Just find the ground connector on the potentiometer and solder the cap across the OTHER two leads.
3. I prefer to have a coil-splittable humbucker in the bridge at least, though a nice, loud single coil can work well also. Seymour Duncan has nice SC-sized humbuckers (JB Jr., Lil’ 59, Hot Rails, etc.) to add to Strats with no modifications.
4. Effects (in the loop) can be left in place for all of these jumps, i.e. you can have chorus on your clean sound and still get a good crunch or lead tone when you switch to the OD channel. Choose the effect setting based on the tone that is most important for that song, then check to see if the others are passable. I use the noise gate even when not using effects. You can also cut noise with a complete humbucker set up, but I like the crispness of the single coils (SC’s). I love my Abigail Ybarra Fender Custom Shop 52/57 PU.
5. If none of the following works for you, you can always buy some pedals*, a three-channel amp, a floor processor, or a full midi-switchable rack set up for a few thousand, BUT unless you try the following combinations on simple rigs, you may never understand basic tone for electric guitar. I think I am sounding like a bit of a retro prig here, but two channel rigs are plentiful and cheap. Of course, there are plenty of amps now which have multiple channels, switching, modeling, lunching, and refluberation. Only a few of them have good tone. If you want GREAT tone, tubes are best and simple tube amps are cheaper and more reliable. (* A boost pedal such as a compressor, clean boost, or eq can make the jump to lead easier, also.)
6. The following can be done without any pedals which gives your pickups a direct connection to the first 12AX7 tube in the preamp. This gives the best chance for good basic tone, it’s cheap, and it's reliable because there are NO PEDALS to go bad with their many contact switches and spaghetti cables. After you have an amp with good tone and a guitar with good pickups (essential!), it’s just a matter of learning to use them.
1. Smooth clean to crunch to lead -- Select bridge humbucker (HB), roll back volume to 7 or 8 to play clean rhythm. Hit channel footswitch (FS) for clean to crunch, and roll vol up to 10 for lead. (two jumps).
2. Crystal clean to soft lead/hard lead -- Use neck single for sparkling, acoustic-like rhythm and jump to soft lead with FS, then move the pickup (PU) switch to bridge HB to get a loud, creamy lead tone (two jumps).
3. Crunch/bite/blues to lead -- Use Bridge HB/bridge SC/Neck SC with vol. rolled back and amp on OD channel, then roll up vol. to full for lead. For quicker changes from rhythm to lead, set the volume control higher, hit the chords lightly, and then dig in for ad libs OR you can add a compressor or EQ floor pedal to push the OD channel to lead.