Building a Rock Guitar Sound


This tutorial goes through the process of building a rock guitar sound, using a range of effects.

Click here to hear an MP3 of the full example (6.2MB). A transcript of this is given below.

What we're going to do here is build up a good general rock sound.

I'm going to start with the dirty channel on the amp, and the EQ set fairly flat. We'll take the gain up to about halfway, about number 5, and we'll hear what that sounds like...


That gives us a good general sort of distortion sound. If we take the gain up a little bit further, up to around number 8 and hear what that sounds like, you can hear that it starts to get a little bit too mushy...


That's not particularly good, because the individual notes aren't too well-defined if you play them singly. If we take the gain down to about number 3 and hear what that sounds like...


That's nice and defined, you can hear the individual notes but it's not quite distorted enough for the rock sound that we're trying to get.

With the gain set to about halfway, that gives us a good basic sound. What I want to do now is tweak the EQ a little bit; add a bit extra bottom-end and also turn the treble up a little to bring out the top-end from the distortion sound...


I usually add a degree of reverb to whatever sound I'm using, just to fill the sound out a little. What I'm going to do here is add a spring reverb effect, set to about number 3 or 4 - nothing too extreme because I'm going to be adding some delay on later which will fill the sound out even more. So now let's take that basic distorted sound with the tweaked EQ, add a little bit of spring reverb and hear what that sounds like...


OK, that sounds quite good. What we're going to do next is take a delay sound set to about 300 milliseconds with quite a number of repeats on it and add that to give some more depth to the sound. We'll hear what that sounds like. In particular, listen to the way that the last chord decays away...


That sounds good - you can hear the way that the echoes from the delay, added to the reverb add depth to the sound and make it quite full.

What I'm going to do now is, at the start of the effects chain, add an effect called a Dynamic Exciter. This actually is fairly subtle, and basically is just going to add a bit more presence, a bit more sparkle to the sound. So, let's add that in and hear what it sounds like...


So you can hear how that has built up to a good general rock sound. Now what I'm thinking about doing is adding another effect because what I want to do is to use this as a rhythm sound. What's quite useful for a rhythm sound is you have some sort of modulation effect in the rhythm part and then for the lead part to remain quite dry. To make this a usable rhythm sound I'm going to add a flanger effect - nothing too extreme because I don't like the effect to detract from the notes that are actually being played. This is just something to add a bit of wetness to the sound, and give a contrast to the lead. So we'll add a bit of flanger and hear what that sounds like...


There you go - that's a good general rock rhythm sound. Dynamic exciter at the start of the effects chain, a distortion sound with a bit extra bass and treble on the EQ, flanger to add a bit of wetness to the sound with some depth coming from the spring reverb and digital delay.

If you want to build up your own sounds you don't have to follow this formula. You could tweak it and put in some effects of your own. Try a different distortion sound, or maybe try using a chorus effect instead of the flanger. You could add some compression at the start of the effects chain to fill the sound out even more. It's up to you. That's a starting point, that's how I built that particular sound up. Go off and experiment on your own. Have fun!

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