August 18, 2023
It’s not like the guitar is ever boring. But sometimes you just want to branch out and see what else you can accomplish. This is true if you’re in a noise band or hyper-experimental act, but it’s also true if you’re in a straight-ahead rock band looking to add a few crazy moments to your show or record. So, let’s look at a few advanced effects you can try for that experimental vibe.
This may sound ironic, but unconventional distortion and overdrive is a classic tried-and-true way to push experimental boundaries of guitar tone. You can always get something distinct and unusual and open up new avenues for creative expression with crazy distortion. Nowadays there are more and more of this kind of pedal. From old-school overdrive to bit crushers and other digital craziness, distortion never seems to get old.
One newer avenue you can explore is extreme gain distortion. These pedals go beyond traditional overdrive and distortion, pushing the signal into higher gain territories. They can produce thick, saturated tones, ideal for heavy genres like metal or experimental noise music. You can sculpt a pretty wide range of aggressive and textured sounds with extreme gain.
If you want to revisit an old-school option, fuzz is still great for a warm, vintage, and often chaotic tone. Fuzz pedals create a thick blanket of distortion – great for turning your axe into a wall of sound. Think Hendrix or Gilmour – you can continue their psychedelic/bluesy/fire-eating tradition. There’s always new ground to cover there.
Not everybody includes an octave pedal in their rig, but they probably should. Octave-up or down is a perfect shortcut to harmonically rich tones and can really help fill the sound when the band’s lineup is sparse or if you’re a soloist. But even beyond that, you can get downright otherworldly just by incorporating a simple octave pedal.
Next up: modulation. With various modulation effects, you can really embark on a sonic journey that’s distinct, unusual, and filled with endless possibilities. Modulation adds movement and depth to the guitar, allowing for unique sonic textures. Whether it’s a phaser, flanger, or chorus, the basic effect here is that swirling, shifting, comb-filtered, oddball sound we might associate with Gilmour, the Edge, or Kevin Shields (of My Bloody Valentine).
Here we’re talking about delays, echoes, and reverbs (which ultimately are pretty much the same thing with different time settings). Having at least one delay in a pedal rig is pretty common, but if you want to transport your guitar into realms of ethereal beauty, adding a few options is a good idea. Check out some granular delays, tape echoes, and multi-tap delays can give you intricate rhythmic textures and let you create mesmerizing patterns and atmospheric landscapes. Delays and verbs are just a great way to turn your guitar into a whole different kind of instrument.
For further ethereal transformation and a sense of space (perhaps literally), go for some other ambient and atmospheric effect. Try a shimmer pedal – they combine the main signal with octave-up and octave-down, resulting in a lush, expansive sound. They’re perfect for dreamy, atmospheric layers that envelop the listener in a sonic haze.
Next, try freeze or infinite sustain. These effects let you sustain and hold a note or chord indefinitely, creating sustained drones and evolving soundscapes much like a keyboardist would. They let you explore the interplay between sustained tones, textures, and evolving harmonics, which makes mesmerizing and immersive sonic experiences.
If you’re looking to open even more possibilities. Tools like loopers and sample manipulators offer the ability to layer, manipulate, and transform sounds in real time. Yes, loopers and samplers can serve as a way to make a soloist sound like more people, but they can do more. You can incorporate other sound sources of a pretty much endless variety, and using your other pedals, you’ve got a whole world you can add to the guitar to get truly innovative and boundary-pushing musical expression.
There’s a dizzying array of possible effects you can try these days – finding a new sound just takes a little boldness and experimentation – and maybe carving out a little time to dive in and play with things. Whether your goal is super experimental craziness or simply a few choice moments, dig into some alternative and advanced effects – you won’t be sorry!
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One of the most misunderstood things in mixing is bass – whether it’s getting the low end right in general, letting the bass guitar cut through without overpowering everything else, or just making the bass interesting and cool. It can be tricky to get it right, but there are plenty of tried-and-true tricks for getting there quickly. Let’s go over a few of those.
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