by Pete Prown
We talk a lot about the bands, musicians or albums that have influenced us, but not so much about how the equipment inspires us. If you’ve been playing for a long time, you’ve probably had opportunities to try various instruments, amps, and outboard gear. Each one can potentially alter the way you conjure sounds and, in turn, how you approach music. Like painting with a wide brush instead of a narrow one, or programming drum sounds instead of pounding on skins, tools and technology can influence art.
Like you, I’m a guitarist and, looking back, there have been innumerable axes that have changed my fretboard sensibility. In 1980, I got an Ibanez Iceman IC200 — my first pro-grade
In the ’90s I landed a Telecaster Deluxe Nashville, which coincided with my discovery of surf rock and the twangin’ electrics of the Hellecasters. Soon afterwards, my fast, shreddy licks got a little funkier and bluesier and, thanks to this “mexi” Fender plank, my lead playing finally started to grow up. The Tele also was ideal for R&B comping, and my rhythm playing finally began to take shape. In hindsight, it’s the
The Whole Rig
It’s not just guitars that can bring out new ideas and talents, of course. When I bought a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe combo, I was blown away at the fat tones I was able to produce from this mass-produced tube amp. Paired with the Telecaster, I began to morph from an ’80s speedster into a ’90s blues twanger. The amp’s clean tones and unique overdrive also helped wean me off űber-saturated crunch and explore some more interesting clean and low-gain sounds. I’ve used good tube amps ever since (my latest is a terrific Mack 18-watt head — definitely worth a test drive).
In the years to follow I had greater epiphanies as I learned to record digital audio using Cakewalk’s Sonar digital-recording sequencer, a simple, yet powerful program. More importantly, my vague musical ideas came to life as fleshed-out compositions in this digital universe. I could argue that no piece of technology has changed my approach to music more than this software has, and I bet many music makers would agree (whether they’re using Sonar, Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, or other DAW software).
Recording good-quality guitar sounds is easier now than ever before. An army of DI amp simulators, whether hardware (such as the ubiquitous Pod) or software (Amp Farm) now allow us record our
Many guitarists have further broadened the palate of available tones through synthesis. In my case, a host of fast-tracking
Pick of the Litter
Granted, I’ve been at this a while and by now am truly spoiled. The guitars in my project studio — from a 2001 Jeff Beck Stratocaster (my favorite
A friend of mine who plays fingerstyle almost exclusively told me recently that he never would have explored the style if he hadn’t lucked into a Taylor acoustic with a fast, comfortable neck. In the same breath he mentioned that he had just picked up his old PRS and felt about as competent on that solid-body as he would be on a tuba (he doesn’t play tuba). Whether it was a matter of string tension, nut width, action, or just luthier mojo, each
By picking up any
So how about you and your guitars? Have they directed your musical journey onto certain paths — and is that where you intended to go?