I Wanna Rock
September 25, 2009 1:26 PM   Subscribe

What guitar/gear should I buy?

I'm a rhythm guitarist. Current setup is a Fender American Standard Strat through a Fender Deluxe amp. I like the versatility in sound, but wouldn't mind adding something beefier and chunkier on the power chords. I'm dreaming of something like Weezer got on My Name is Jonas, or like Sugar got on The Act We Act (achieved through a Mesa Boogie amp, I once read). I believe those sounds have something to do with tracking the part several times, and if all I need to do is record the part six times on six tracks, please let me know. But is there something else that would make me happier? Different guitar? Different amp? Different pickups? A certain pedal? Thanks in advance for the advice.
posted by troywestfield to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming that you like what you have, but you want to make it more versatile and a bit crunchier.

I don't know how the current American Standard strats are routed but you may be able to drop a humbucker into the lead position (by the bridge) to give you a meatier sound. If you can't do it without routing the body you can buy stacked humbuckers that will work for you. A stacked humbucker in the rhythm position is another possibility.

As far as pedals, look at the Tonebone Classic or Hot British. They're both really good pedals that respond like actual tube amps. You do have to fiddle with them quite a bit to get the sound where you want it though. I have the Hot British, but like the sound of the Classic slightly better, but the classic covers more of the Mesa territory, which I already play through, so the Hot British adds some versatility.

Never underestimate the power that a touch of reverb or delay can add to your overall sound. You don't want to overdo it, just add a little bit to fill things out.
posted by mikesch at 1:45 PM on September 25, 2009

A couple of points:

- What pickups are you using in your Strat? Both Bob Mould and Rivers Cuomo used humbuckers (though Mould's were Fender Lace Sensors)

- The key to the "Blue Album" sound is, I believe, the Mesa amp that Cuomo used with Les Paul Juniors. I know on their "Green Album" tour they were using Line 6 PODs (which are awesome) straight to the PA.

- Have you tried out an Ibanez Tube Screamer? It's not going to transform your Strat-Fender set-up to a heavy metal death machine but it will give your tone a bit of bite (especially if you use your bridge pickup). For $100 it's a great addition to your setup and can really add some punch to your sound.

- Other pedals you might enjoy are the ProCo Rat2, the Fulltone Full Drive, and the MXR Distortion+ (this was one of Mould's main pedals in Sugar).
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:45 PM on September 25, 2009

Just to echo what mikesch said - if you like the way the Strat plays but want the punch of a humbucker definitely check out the Seymour Duncan JB Jr or DiMarzio Pro Track.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 1:50 PM on September 25, 2009

I would drop in a single coil-sized humbucker in the bridge position and invest in a used ProCo Rat pedal off of Craigslist. For the pickup, I really like the Duncan JB in the bridge position, and they make a single coil-sized version that sounds very good. I don't think "boutique" pickups are worth the price. Duncans sound great.

For my heavier gigs, I play a guitar with a Duncan JB in the bridge position and a Rio Grande humbucker in the neck position through a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, and just that pickup combination puts it in Weezer territory pretty easily. I also use an old original ProCo Rat for super heavy fuzz and then kick on the Boss Super Overdrive (which is the same circuit as a Tube Screamer for a lot less money) for a boost on solos. I also play a quite old strat that is unmodified, and it sounds ultra-heavy through that same setup.

So really, unless you're joining a metal band, all you really need to do is get a good fuzz pedal. I like the Rat a lot. Some people swear by the ElectroHarmonix Big Muff, though. A Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face is always a good addition to a rig, but probably more of a T Rex sound than you're hoping for.
posted by The World Famous at 2:06 PM on September 25, 2009

Try out a Gibson SG?
posted by eightball at 2:08 PM on September 25, 2009

Another vote for humbuckers - or at least a humbucker in the bridge position. They give this crunch/fatness that you just don't get with single coil pickups.
posted by zombiedance at 2:10 PM on September 25, 2009

I'm a big proponent of non-standard pickup combinations (including on the SG, which I think sounds muddy with the standard pickups). But before you go doing that, take your guitar to a guitar store and try out some pedals with your actual guitar and an amp just like yours. Ask to do it in a room where you can turn it up to a real volume. Try out a Fuzz Face, a Super Overdrive (Boss), an Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS-9), a ProCo Rat, and a Big Muff.

You will be surprised just how unbelievably fat and heavy a strat can sound - especially when you try out different positions on the 5-way switch. Your problem, though, will be that on positions 1, 3, and 5 you'll have a ton of hum (unless you have noiseless pickups). But try it first.
posted by The World Famous at 2:14 PM on September 25, 2009

I'm going to assume by your Jonas reference that you mean "crunch" rather than "bass" when you say "chunk". The World Famous has got good points but those switch configs are going to change tone, not crunch levels (well, they will in the 2 and 4 pos cause you'll get hotter output, but come on cut me some slack).

The sound of someting like my name is jonas (I'm thinking of those first couple chords) has a lot to do with distortion. So like, you have this 22W tube amp, how loud are you playing it? All the way up? Do NOT get the Mesa unless you are willing to play it on max or you won't get the sound out of it. Before you buy anything else, trying cranking up all the tone and volume knobs on your strat and crank the volume knobs but put the tone knobs in the middle on the Deluxe. What does that do for you?

A lot of times, a very small, cranked tube amp (like a Champ or a Princeton) even if it doesn't sound huge to you in the room, will sound huge on tape, because you're sticking a mic in the speaker's throat anyway, so you're getting the level, (basically no room sound with this type of sound), but you need the sound of the various parts of the amp giving up: rectifier sag, clipping, etc.

If the Deluxe won't go there, start to look at things to push it over the top: tuberolling is a possibility, but it will honestly be cheaper and easier to probably get a pedal. I would start with something like the Analogman Tubescreamer. Its affordable and it adds crunch to this type of setup.

A lot of records that sound like My Name is Jonas are not generally made on Fender->Fender, the fender distortion is not really what people first think of, but the guitar is fine. I think a lot of these records were actually made by taking say a cranked Orange or Marshall head through a 4x12, sticking a offaxis 57 against the grille cloth of your favorite speaker, and calling it a day. But like, Green Day records of this period have a similar crunch and they are made with strats.

After you try playing with everything cranked, and then adding a pedal like the TS-808 (also agree with suggestions of old Boss OD and MXR Distortion+, MAYBE the Rat (rat is much heavier distortion and less crunch-oriented, these other pedals will add fuzz and clip while helping push your amp), but before you splurge on Fulltones or other pricey pedals), then I'd look at the hotter pickups options. Pickups can do a lot but its not exactly like a ten-minutes/I'm not out any money option. You kind of have to commit to it, so it'd be my last choice.

Also, I think honestly, I've never played a Fender Deluxe, but with an old simple circuit tube fender of low wattage and a strat, you can get pretty damn close to this sound with just a straight cable, and really close with a TS-808. I'd be surprised if the Deluxe couldn't do similar things.
posted by jeb at 3:19 PM on September 25, 2009

Oh, my answer got so long I forgot: yeah, doubling the parts will make it sound thicker, but it will also make it sound louder and probably muddier. So do the doubles/triples whatever, then buss that all to a new channel, cut a bit of low end and run it into a compressor and then lower the overall level. Another old-time trick is taking some set of guitar tracks and hardpanning the doubles to either side of the stereo field. You can get the same overall level but on speakers it usually makes it sound thicker.
posted by jeb at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I play a Gibson SG ('61 Reissue) and the humbuckers really give you a crunchier tone. I run a Sparkle Drive overdrive pedal, and I also have a phase shift pedal with the settings set super low. I'm running it out of a Fender Deluxe Reverb. I can get pretty chunky sounds out of it when I need it.

The humbuckers are the thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:40 PM on September 25, 2009

Thing is, if you are running the strat in 2 or 4, you basically have humbuckers right? stock strat pickups are pretty low output, even on Am Stds, but..still, its not *just* that its humbucking right? You could probably put a hot single coil in there and get the same level boost, it would just be more bitey and less bassy, which would lead to less crunch. But still, the principle is level hitting the distorting elements.
posted by jeb at 4:28 PM on September 25, 2009

If you're running the strat in 2 or 4, it's not really like humbuckers - it's out-of-phase single coils, which sounds extra quacky. The bridge pickup on the strat is the most likely to get a good crunch, but the middle and neck pickups will give a fuller sound.

I think I agree with Ironmouth: Humbuckers are the key to the crunch.
posted by The World Famous at 4:30 PM on September 25, 2009

Considering the great advice above, I'd be torn between getting another guitar or a POD.

I'm not against modding guitars, but your strat is probably pretty sweet and I wouldn't do it (install a humbucker) unless it was a high-mileage road warrior.

Also, considering that your a rhythm player, you probably want to try another guitar anyway. And THAT leaves the door wide open. Many options there, both with appearance and sound.

Now, what about a POD? I've had one for a couple of years and haven't used an amp the whole time. Definitely check that out before you make any decisions.
posted by snsranch at 6:34 PM on September 25, 2009

New axe. Mother humbucking pickups. Go double. That's what Kerry King would do.

Now, for the mesa-boogie studio sound, you'll need to get a studio and a boogie. Or else look into a preamp or even an effects processor. I don't touch the stuff myself, but effects processors are all the rage with the kids these days.

Best to set a budget and go to your lgs on a Tuesday afternoon. Sit and try stuff out.
posted by valentinepig at 10:18 PM on September 25, 2009

I think every guitarist in the world should get a Variax 300 - you can find them for around $300, a world of different guitar tones for a song. Plug into a Distortion Modeler, and every hard rock sound you could ever imagine is right at your fingertips.
posted by dbiedny at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2009

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