Saturday, July 19, 2008

Discover Distortion (Guitar, Beginner)

When I learned how to play the guitar, practice amps didn't have built-in effects or special channels, so how to make that distorted guitar sound eluded me for quite a while. (The Internet was nowhere as big as it is now, no one I knew owned a personal computer, and guitar magazines took it for granted that beginners didn't know basic amp knowledge.) Semi-foolishly, I bought a distortion pedal to get the sound, not realizing I could have distorted my amp for no extra money whatsoever. (On the bright side, stompboxes encourage the development of tap-dancing motor skills while playing the guitar.)

Beginners with amp effects and/or stompboxes, ignore this entry if you want and be happy that you can basically phone-in some decent-sounding distortion/overdrive. I was happy that the stompbox I bought made it easy, while I was still ignorant of what I already had...

Fortunately, my practice amp (only amplifier at the time) had a master volume and a gain knob. Eventually, the secret of amp distortion was revealed to me. (I won't bore you with that story.) Basically, if you have a small, 15-watt transistor combo and want to rock out, keep the master low and crank the gain and the regular volume for some nifty distortion. Max out your electric guitar's volume. Adjust the amp's bass, mid, and treble knobs - and the tone knob and pick-up switch on your guitar - to go from crunchy to creamy, depending on how you want the distortion to sound. Earlier Metallica songs had the mids "scooped out" (the mid knob at zero), so try that if you like.

The point of discovering distortion is this: If you're a beginner and you're a bit frustrated that you can't quite nail the F chord (yet), creating some wonderful cacophony will most likely inspire you to soldier forward. If you have an electric guitar and an amplifier, then discover distortion (if you haven't already). If you have an acoustic, use glass bottle or an aluminum can as a slide. Unfocused slide work is also fun and chaotic. You might discover something new, or you might only annoy those immediately around you. In any case, have fun with the guitar.

It's THE GUITAR for crying out loud!

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