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Now What Is The Perfect Setup? (Part 3: Effects)
Written by Tank

Circuit component Hardware programmer Electronic instrument Gadget Computer hardware

First of all a big sorry for the long delay before this last part, but the new year greated me with a rather severe influenza and it took some time to fully recover and get back with all my work and gigs.

But now let us dive into the final topic of this series: Effects.

Effects are an integral part of guitar playing today. Of course there are some guitarists who believe that effects are sent from hell and you should not use them. One of them rock legend Angus Young of AC/DC, who only uses his guitar and vintage modified Marshall Amps. However this is as always only half the truth. The subtle effects you hear in his playing come from a huge rack of different amps, microphone placement and several effects via the PA or via the recording equipment in the studio.

So the question is: Do you need effects or not?

My recommendation is always start without them until you get the basics done. Of course a little distortion and reverb are also nice for starters, but most of the time your first beginners amp has those built in. Now what are the basics? Well with my students that go towards rock, which is the most part, I wait until they have all the basic chords, have a solid understanding of the fretboard and the blues scales, can play and solo to a few simple songs which do not involve to much shredding and are able to improvise nicely to the basic blues and rock songs.

But now the time has come to get effects and get to know them. The hard part is always to decide what to get, a big multi effects thing, a few simple stompboxes that look so nice on floorboards or a rack?

Of course there are arguments for all of those solutions. Multi effects offer a wide range of flexibility but are often criticized for less quality on some effects. A rack while a good option will most of the time burn a deep hole in your wallet and stompboxes while nice looking can be total crap and those nice high end stompers or even boutique ones are also costly at best. This combined with the fact that you do not even know yet what effects you really want to add to your tone often totally frightens even seasoned guitarists and they step back from using effects at all, apart from the usual reverb or delay.

Now most of the time I recommended my students to start with a cheaper multi effect, just to get to know the effects and to experiment, so they can find their own tone and then buy into something more expensive when they have settled what effects they will use. One company now has come up with something that I really really like and tend to recommend now, which is the Line6 M13. I am no fan of Line6 at all, but that thing is really nice, especially for a starter effect. It has a lot of effects built in, but it prevents you from doing to much by limiting you to 4 at a time. It works like stompboxes so you can learn how to setup those in the process and gain more understanding of those parameters should you decide to go into bigger multis or rack effects. This is combined with a rather good quality of all effects in the M13. Now while it is more pricey than the usual starter multis I recommended, I would say this thing may even be a keeper for longer times.

Well, now we have decided on our first effects you should start to experiment with them. I also recommend listening to bands who are heavy on effects like U2, so you can get a feeling "with how much effects can I get away with and not sound cheesy" and then compare it to bands using very few to no effects like AC/DC. Then continue to experiment more and you will find that there are some effects that you use most of the time and some that you only use occasionally and others that you do not like at all. Write those down and make a list of "what I use", "what I sometimes use" and "what I do not like". Very important then is to have a lot of color stickers, I use that small dots that come in lots of colors and you can put them on your list. I then start with one effect and one color and put the same color dot beside those effects that I would use in combination. For example you start with a distortion and mark it blue, then put a blue dot beside the phaser, delay and reverb that you like in combination with said distortion. So in the end you will have a list of effects that you will use and color coded which combinations work for you.

With this method you should get a pretty good understanding of what effects you like, that add to your tone etc. Keep an open mind in the process and again: DO NOT TRY TO IMMITATE, INNOVATE! There is nothing forbidden here. Experiment as much as you like, as long as you stay true to your own sound and mindsetting.

Now I can only wish everyone a lot of fun with this, as it is really exciting to get to know all those effects.

Until the next time!
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