Friday, May 23, 2008

Not hiding behind effects

When I was 11 I got my first electric guitar, 15W Crate practice amp, and Boss OD-2r overdrive pedal. When I wasn't practicing what I was supposed to be working on I would rock out by kicking the OD-2r into Turbo mode, crank the gain, and ALSO turn the distortion on the amp up to 10. It was great, nothing sounded bad because it all sounded the same... like distortion. But then again nothing sounded good because it was all indistinguishable. At the time, though, I thought it sounded great! You couldn't tell if I was shredding or just hitting random notes as fast as I could. I was hiding behind the effect.

I've been thinking about this lately and wondering if I still do it to an extent. Last weekend I was playing "You never let go" by Matt Redman and on the chorus I play:

b--4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-4-7-7-5-5: repeat

Or some sort of variation on that. Changing from 477 to 457 to 447 is a little awkward for me, I use my pinky to play the b and e string on the 7th fret then switch back to using my middle finger to play the b string and my pinky to play the e string. Switching between the two positions means I can't leave the e string ringing and the notes get chopped a little. My first reaction was to put an eighth note delay over the top so the delayed notes will hit on top of the notes I'm playing and hide my rusty switches. Why is that my first thought? I use this form a lot and it would be much more worth-while to spend an hour practicing the switch until it was clean than rely on effects to fix it.

I have a sneaking suspicion that worship guitarists use delay as a masking tool more than we should. Don't get me wrong, I love delay and when used right, will add a thick texture to our sound. I do, however, think it's temping to let delay wash out our playing and like my early distortion, cause everything to sound the same... like delay.

I guess in practice, we should never NEED an effect. Anything we play should sound good played through a clean, effectless, amp. From there we can add effects to change the atmosphere and tone, but effects should never be used to hide bad playing.


Phillip said...

I agree that you can use effects like delay as a crutch, but there's a fine distinction between hiding behind effects and using them to create sounds that you couldn't otherwise.

rhoy said...

i do agree that practicing riffs/lines should be done as clean as possible. but of course, you also want to nail down the line with the effects that you want to use. for instance, if we are using a dotted quarter note delay patterns, we have to make sure that our down-strokes does not interfere with the delay pulse. or a tremolo that is out of sync can sound really really bad with incorrect timing.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough but I don't think the Edge would agree with you.

electric community said...

I think Edge would agree with me. I'm not saying not to use effects, I'm saying effects shouldn't be used to mask bad hands. If you gave Edge a guitar and clean amp with no effects, would he sound bad?

Steven said...

However, this is why effects exist- to change your sound. Many artists I thought were awesome and could never copy their runs-- i realized they were using a compressor to pull up their signal on their "bad notes". Nothing wrong with masking your mistakes. One should always be able to play it clean first, but at the end of the day how you sounded in performance is what matters! The audience, layman doesn't know better, why worry?
Part of my mantra (having played in Nashville with AWESOME people my whole life) is KISS. Keep it simple stupid: Why play in A when you can capo G? The pros do it! Why play in D, when you can tune down and play in E?
Why worry about that perfect riff when you can stomp delay and make it sound the way its supposed to?

ANd now your shamless plug:
I am doing my take on guitar. I blog average 1 and 1/2 times a week (or so i think). We're talking about effects/personal sound first.

Worship Guitar Guy said...

I actually find that how I use delay magnifies technique issues. If my playing isn't up to where it should be, my delays make my mistakes even more of a mess... since those mistakes are repeated over, and over, and over... ;)

electric community said...

WGG- good point, who hasn't hit a bad note with a 1000ms delay and 6 repeats. Ouch!