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Always A Mess: Tones & Effects


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I'll be using my Gibson 335 and my Telecaster to play this song, but you can play it on any guitar. I'll be running it through some modeled Marshall amps, but once again: 90% of your tone comes from the way you play!

That being said, there's quite a bit going on with the effects on this song. The first odd thing you probably notice is the single note lines with a strange "swell" to them. That sound is made by a compressor. A compressor automatically adjusts your dynamics and generally has two basic controls. A threshold that determines how loud it will let you get before it reacts and an overall volume that can then boost everything, once the peaks have been reduced.

On most stompbox compressors you only have these two controls, but on more advanced compressors you can also adjust the way in which it reacts: how fast it reduces the peak and how fast it lets go again and so on.

What you hear on this song is a compressor with a very fast attack time, slow release and a low threshold. It reduces the volume right off the bat, and then it slowly lets go. This gives you that "swell" sound, so mess around with your compressor if you have one, and if not you can definitely play this part without it as well. I'll also show you some other ways to get around it!

In the last chorus, when they jam out, you hear that one of the guitars have tremolo on it. Tremolo is similar to turning your volume knob up and down really fast. You can adjust the speed and how much the volume varies- the "intensity". In this case it's pretty high intensity and the speed is adjusted to almost match the 16th notes of the groove. Tremolo does not have to be in time like that, but it can sometimes be a cool effect. Many tremolo pedals have tap tempo functions for this reason, but if you don't have that you're gonna have to use your ears to try and match it.