Have you ever listened to Jimi Hendrix, Adrian Belew or other guitar prodigies and wondered how they made sound effects on their guitars? In this article, you will learn how to imitate specific sound effects on an electric guitar.
To begin with, the most gifted guitarists managed to make use of the basic electronics, effect pedals, even the wood of their instruments to create sound effects. If you wish to create your own, experiment with using your guitar to make sound in every way possible, including knocking, tapping and shaking the instrument.
- The Adrian Belew whale song/seagull sound effect: Belew is a master of his instrument who uses combinations of effect and guitar technique to create otherworldly sound. To do this effect, you need an electric guitar set to the bridge pickup with some overdrive on the amp, a delay unit, and a slide bar. Set the delay to a medium-long setting, not slapback echo but not slow delay either. The level should be at 6 or 7, so the delay is quite audible and not all that subtle. Add medium reverb also if you can. Take the slide bar just above where the fretboard ends (over the neck pickup for most guitars), and taking note of the spot, slide the bar downward only a small amount, about 1/2" or so, quickly and repeatedly; use the pick when the bar hits the strings and lift it when the bar is off. You should hear sounds similar to a bird's cry or, if longer, a whale song. As you go on, try to pit the rhythm of your attack against the rhythm of the delay, to create a wash of sound; in other words, don't play in unison rhythm with the delay.
- The Jimi Hendrix wind effect: Hendrix used this sound quite often, and it can be difficult to pull off properly, People were often amazed by Jimi Hendrix's almost limitless creativity with sound effects and sound modification. You will need a guitar with a deep-bending vibrator bar, quite heavy overdrive, and reverb. To start, take your knuckles and start knocking lightly up and down the neck. The open strings will create a drone. As you do this, take the vibrato bar up and down, not just all the way down and back but different positions; this will create the effect of winds rising and falling. If you can, flick the toggle switch back and forth with part of your right hand at the same time you are manipulating the vibrato with the left. This is the most difficult part to manage, although the sound effect can be created without it.
- The ambulance effect: This is the sound of an English ambulance siren, basically. You will need an electric guitar with a fairly heavy overdrive or fuzz. Starting at around the fifteenth fret, play a note on the high E string followed by a note on the B that is essentially a flat fifth, i.e. D to G sharp. let the notes ring, but not overlap, and play them mechanically like the notes of a siren, each given the same length. Play the initial notes a few times, then play them going down the fretboard at irregular intervals; for example, fifteenth fret to thirteenth to twelfth to ninth, et cetera. This will give the effect of an ambulance passing by on the street. Sirens often sound as if they are going down in pitch as they pass by.
It takes a little while, but after some practice it will seem relatively easy to achieve these effects. Once you have had time to absorb the particulars, you may be able to create your own sound effects using the information given here. Happy Playing!
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