April 02, 2021
Guitarists are an interesting bunch. Although we strive for individuality in our musicianship, style, and sound, we are shaped by the players and bands who inspire us. As a result, our gear choices lean towards using what our heroes used and, in some cases, purchasing the signature gear of our favorite guitarists. Not only do we buy it to show our love and support but often we believe the signature gear will get us THAT MUCH CLOSER to achieving the tones of our heroes.
Here we’ll give you some tips on getting YOUR sound from signature guitar gear.
First, let’s define what “signature gear” means. We’ll describe it as this: a guitar, amplifier or effect pedal that is designed with an artist, marketed as being associated with that artist and has a distinctive sound or look connected to the artist. For example, think of the Steve Vai Legacy Drive Preamp Pedal. This pedal was designed with Steve Vai to achieve his sound, have a look and sound that is uniquely his own and is sold to the end user as a product he endorses and uses.
So let’s dive in…
From the outset, it’s important to remember that no piece of signature gear is wildly different from its “stock” counterpart. There are obvious changes to aesthetics or specs but the basic functions remain the same. A “Treble” knob still increases and decreases the amount of high end present in the final tone. If it helps, just think of the signature as a “decoration”. With that frame of mind in place you can begin to explore.
You may find it helpful to start tonal explorations by finding the artist’s preferred settings. These can often be found online in forums and groups. Although you may not want to use them these settings will give you an idea of how the artist thinks their gear sounds best. As you go about your tone chasing you can also come back to these points and use them to recognize the changes being made to your tone. You may be surprised at what you hear.
Once in a while, you may find yourself wanting a piece of signature gear that just “doesn’t make sense.” You may not be a fan of the guitarist but somehow the gear calls to you. Don’t forget: famous guitar players are still GUITAR PLAYERS! Our heroes have often found themselves in the same predicaments we have. And it’s those times that inform the tweaks they make to their gear. As a result, you may be attracted to an amp that’s outside of what you normally play because it sounds unlike anything else. Let’s go back to the Legacy Drive for a minute…
When we set out to design the Legacy Series of amplifiers for Steve Vai we were tasked to meet his tonal desires. One hallmark of the Legacy sound is its smooth and warm distortion sound that can sustain for days! This is a sound Steve desired as he predominantly plays Lead guitar and melodies during his performance. Since the release of the Legacy Series all the way to its current incarnation as the Legacy Drive, many players around the world have used this amp to fill a need in their arsenal. (This author in particular finds the Legacy Drive to be a highly versatile centerpiece for a pedalboard-based guitar rig.) You don’t have to play like Steve to want what he does in a guitar tone. You just need to be open to the idea that the amp could work for you!
If you’d like to see some examples of this kind of exploration, check out this video on the Legacy Drive…
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