Why Do Electric Guitars Sound Different?
We can safely say that every guitar ever made has produced a different sound. You’ll find no guitar in the world that will produce the same sound as another one. Multiple factors go into an electric guitars sound. The distinct sound produced by an electric guitar will differ and rely heavily on the amplifier, the string you’ll be using and what your guitar is made of.
For example, if those variables are applied, two guitarists that use the same guitar won’t have the same results if their amplifier or strings are different from each other. However, when it comes to the genre of music, any person who owns one guitar can play every genre on it. A musical genre is not based on a guitar tone; that is to say, it is based on the musical structure. Thus, allowing the guitarist to play every genre on one guitar. When it comes to electric guitars, you’ll need gadgets and appliances to produce the required sound. We’ll look at how those appliances will help bring about different sounds.
Are pickups essential?
Yes, one of the critical elements that we find in electric guitars is the pickups. If you’re a guitar player, you would already know that you’ll need a pickup if you want to convey a sound. If you want people to hear what you’re playing, which we’re guessing that you do, you have various options that will enhance your sound quality. The pickups’ job is to convey string vibrations into electricity. Because of the distance between the pickups and the guitar strings, the height of the pickups has an impact on tone. The vibration pattern, pitch, and sustain of the string change as the distance between them shrinks, as does the pickup output. We can find two types of pickups used on electric guitars:
- Single-coil pickups
- Dual-coil pickups
If you’re using a single-coil pickup, the sound that it produce will have a more precise tone with high frequencies. The most well-known single-coil pickups include Fender or Start style pickups, alongside the Telecaster style pickups.
Why Do Electric Guitars Sound Different? | How do the single-coil pickups sound?
You can characterize single-coil pickups as having a bright and cutting sound. They produce shaper, faster-paced and cleaner sounds. If you want noise, you’ll be getting it with the single-coil pickup. Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmasters and Jaguars all use single-coil pickups. However, while producing noise, they may result in an unwanted humming sound. While they have very clear sounds, they won’t be making the best sound. You’ll find more outside interference if you’re using single-coil pickups, which would be a nightmare when recording in a studio. Thus, making them the designator tool for country and surf music and the most commonly used in 1960s pop music. Some examples of bands and musicians who used single-coil pickups are Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, and David Gilmour, who engraved the Gilmour tone into his music with the single-coil pickups.
How do the dual-coil pickups sound?
As we’ve mentioned above, single-coil pickups are prone to produce unwanted hummings and are more likely to have interference from external noises. The dual-coil pickups, also known as the Humbuckers, eliminate that factor and produce heavier and louder sounds. This is due to the increased output levels, which enable a thicker sound. They also benefit from tonal preferences with their polarity feature and series switching. Made out of two single-coils, the dual-coil pickup cancels out the hum that is produced from the single-coil pickups and produces good sounds that are unfortunately not as clear as the single-coil pickups. Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Dave Mustaine, and Joe Bonamassa are some of the musicians who use humbuckers.
So, we can’t clearly state that one is better than the other. However, both have their own strengths and weaknesses; consequently, it all comes down to personal preference and which tone you want to obtain.
Why Do Electric Guitars Sound Different? | Are Stings Essential in How The Guitar Sounds?
Absolutely yes. Another critical thing to consider when analyzing sounds produced from electric guitars is the string choice. Many guitar string options will contribute to the sound produced. Many factors contribute to the sound of the guitar, including its material and gauge, as well as the form of its core. The gauge that we’re talking about here refers to the string’s thickness, measured in millimetres. The thicker the string is, the harder it is to play. We can find four-string gauges that are:
- “Super Light”, with a High E String of .009 and Low E String of .042
- “Light”, with a High E String of .010 and Low E String of .046
- “Medium”, with a High E String of .011 and Low E String of .050
- “Heavy”, with a High E String of .012 and Low E String of 0.54
If you’re using a thicker guitar string, you’ll be able to obtain an unabridged tone due to the increased tension. On the other hand, using a thinner string will result in a slightly lighter tone.
What Kind of Material is Used for Electrical Guitar Strings?
Steel and nickel are the most commonly used materials for electrical guitar strings that can be used to produce different tones.
Go for the steel strings if you are the lead guitarist and want to stand out in a live performance that includes other instruments. The steel strings produce a higher frequency, thus creating a brighter sound. Musicians that play metal and hard rock are commonly using it.
You can prefer nickel strings in the blues or light rock genres and produce a mellow tone that won’t cut through sound in a live performance.
Electric Guitars | Is the Age and Condition of the String Important?
Definitely, if you’re using an older and worn guitar string, without a doubt, the sound produced will be more mellow and dull. Musicians that use nickel strings aim to obtain a more mellow sound; in addition, to acquire that sound, they use older strings. However, older strings mean stretched out strings. Consequently, using older strings will make it harder to stay in tune. On the other hand, the newer and tight strings will result in a more compact sound and will make it easier for the player to stay in tune.
There is also another phenomenon that will be a key player in how your electric guitar sounds: string coating. This coating will prevent corrosion, so if you’re looking for sustainable strings that will last more and be tighter, a coating is a way to go. It also prevents the string from getting worn out, making it perfect for obtaining brighter sounds.
Just like the single-coil and dual-coil pickups, choosing your string depends on you and your tone preferences.
Electric Guitars | What Are the Importance of Amplifiers?
Amplifiers are crucial concerning the sound you want to create for your guitar. Shaping your sound relies heavily on the electric guitar amp, as well as choosing the right amp for your guitar. The amplifier makes it so that your guitar strings vibrating over the pickups can be heard at a higher volume. The type of amp used will determine the sound of your guitar; for example, if you use a Marshall half-stack, the sound will be different from a Mesa Rectifier. An amp has multiple functions: the gain, bass, mids, and treble.
- The Gain is linked to the distortion that is produced.
- The Bass is linked to the low-frequency sound produced.
- The Mids are also linked to the amount of frequency produced; however, it won’t produce a thicker tone but rather a more mellow sound.
- Having a high-frequency sound, the Treble will produce sharper and brighter sounds.
Basically, the better the amp, the better the tone. Musicians that play metal or rock tend to use a half-stack in order to get higher output, and musicians that play blues or jazz tend to use a smaller amplifier because they don’t require a lot of distortion and volume. A good amp will always make the guitar sound much better than it is.
How Do Pedals Affect the Tone of the Guitar?
To obtain the perfect tone that you require, you’ll need pedals. Pedals are toolboxes that can shape the sound of the guitar without actually changing your amplifier or even your guitar. They are characterized as audio effects units that will affect tone quality. They are electronic devices that help the player be more creative by shaping the guitar’s sound and adding effects to the tone. Also known as “stomp-boxes”, they provide sound effects while playing the guitar. You can easily use them during a song and access multiple tones without having to deal with manually adjusting your amplifier. Types of pedals that musicians use include:
Overdrive and Distortion Pedals:
You can use overdrive pedals primarily in classic rock and indie genres. They started emerging in the 1960s and have been a favourite amongst famous musicians like Noel Gallagher and Alex Turner. The overdrive pedals give more grit to the tone of your guitar, imitating the sound of a cranked amplifier. They consequently saturate the notes that are being played on the guitar, giving the sound a grainy feature. The distortion pedals produce a more aggressive sound than the overdrive pedals, hence its name. Famous musicians like Kurt Cobain, Radiohead and Sonic Youth used them. We can quite easily call the distortion pedals the attack dogs of the pedals, pushing for a more aggressive and grainy sound.
The sound produced by the fuzz pedals comes close to being a noisy sound. People can confuse it with the distortion and overdrive pedals; however, they have a pretty unique sound and add more grit to the tone of the guitar. Famous musicians like Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards used fuzz pedals.
These pedals allow you to control your sound’s treble, amount of bass, and mids. EQ quite literally stands for an equalizer and affects the options of the frequency you hear. It equalizes and organizes the frequencies your guitar emits and produces.
The chorus pedals are designed to replicate the sound of multiple instruments played at the same time. The chorus pedals take a signal and double it, distorting the two signals and making the signals slightly out of tune, creating the sound of two instruments playing simultaneously. They have been popular in the 1980s synth-pop genres thanks to their wobbly effect and people can also use it in grunge and jazz.
Does the Shape of the Electric Guitars Affect its Tone?
Yes, the shape of the guitar matters greatly and has an effect on the sound. While most electric guitars have larger internal space, which will enhance the sound volume. Alongside the interior space of the guitar, the construction of the guitar also has an impact on the tone. For example, a deeper construction will produce thicker and darker sounds.
Looking at the brief summary that we explored, answering the question “why do electric guitars sound different” seems to be an easy one to answer. As we’ve seen, many factors will determine the sound produced by an electric guitar. Those variables include the pickups, the pedals, the amplifier and the guitar itself. However, as we’ve mentioned before, it doesn’t matter what guitar you have; you can produce any sound from any genre that you want, thanks to these tools. People are using electric guitars in many genres like jazz, metal, hard rock, soft rock, blues, R&B, etc. The range of these guitars allows players to get creative with the help of the tools that we’ve mentioned. Music isn’t limited to only one genre, so why should electric guitars be limited to only one sound?
Now, how to get the guitar tone you want?
Advancing your way throughout the guitar journey is a wholistic process which includes two main pillars: 1. Improving your playing skills; 2. Tweaking the guitar effects and amps to shape your guitar sound.
We all have a guitarist idol that we dig the sound of, right?
Getting the guitar sound of your favorite guitarists/band can be very costly and frustrating. It can require years of expertise to achieve your desired guitar tone.
Don’t worry, you don’t actually have to spend that much money and effort to get any guitar tone you want. Deplike Guitar FX Amp Sim suite plug-in got you covered on all Windows, macOS, iOS and Android devices. All you have to do is plug your guitar and play!