Guitar pedal that makes me sound like the band?
September 10, 2011 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Does a guitar FX pedal or computer program exist that let's me plug in, select a song, and then start playing my guitar with the exact FX the original guitarist used?
posted by WhereAmI to Technology (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not that I've ever seen. You'd be hard pressed to find out the original guitarist's signal chain of even recently recorded songs, much less account for what the mix engineer/producer does with it after it's recorded.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 12:14 PM on September 10, 2011

A lot of the Line 6 products, such as the newer PODs, have some "good enough" settings. They might have a setting like "Stairway - solo" that is a pretty good imitation of the effects used for the Stairway to Heaven solo, or settings for Pink Floyd songs, or whatever. Some of them are endorsed by the original artists (Satriani - Satch Boogie) while others have names that hint at what they are, but are just different enough to prevent a lawsuit or something.

Like most of these things, there's a lot of guitar god wankery settings, but some of them are decent.
posted by bondcliff at 12:19 PM on September 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

this would be really hard to accomplish.

just last night i spent some time reading about the replica deacy amp that took 12 years to make and they were only successful because they got brian may's permission to completely disassemble his amp and test every single part individually.

or like when sonic youth got a truck full of gear stolen, there were sounds they weren't able to make again because they were dependant on heavily modified equipment spanning 15 years of playing and tinkering.

with a little more work, you could use a resource like guitar geek and a piece of equipment like the line 5 pod hd and do the set ups artist by artist, but that still won't get you song by song.
posted by nadawi at 12:25 PM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

There is some set of plugins that will mimic any set of effects chains.

The technology that lets you duplicate other songs is to go on a guitar message board and ask people which plugins would duplicate the effects in the songs. (or just google it)
posted by empath at 4:30 PM on September 10, 2011

A song is not recorded with "an effect on the guitar". It's recorded and engineered with layers upon layers upon layers of effects and equalization." It's not just one thing and would be impossible to identically reproduce.
posted by xmutex at 6:55 PM on September 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

arg. i, of course, mean line 6. those damn keys are like RIGHT next to each other.
posted by nadawi at 8:23 AM on September 11, 2011

I agree with the other advice here. There's no device that will give you exactly what you need.

I'll add that Guitar for the Practicing Musician (an American magazine published in the 1980s and 1990s) used to sometimes show diagrams of exactly what pedals and settings were used for a song transcribed in the magazine. If you're trying to replicate the sound of one particular song from that era, it might be worth seeing if it's online somewhere.

Also, interviews with guitarists (or even guitar techs) often describe what equipment was used in the studio.
posted by tomwheeler at 11:23 AM on September 11, 2011

Best answer: I, too, agree with the other advice here.

I also want to add that interviews with musicians and engineers and articles in magazines that discuss the gear, pedals, amps, etc. used on any given recording are almost guaranteed to be inaccurate and educated guesses at best. There are so many variables, from the guitar used to the pickups used, the switch and knob positions on the guitar, the amp, the brand and model of speakers in the amp, the settings of the knobs on the amp, the size and architecture of the room, the positioning of the microphones, the brand of microphones, the type of preamps used and the settings on them, post-effects, eq, post compression of different kinds, mastering, any post effects, and just so many other variables that the only way to know exactly how a sound was achieved would be to have someone keeping meticulous notes in the studio and drawing diagrams of things, measuring microphone to speaker distances, and peeking over the engineer's shoulder the entire time. Add to that the fact that re-amping (putting a dry signal of the recording through different amps than were originally used) and multi-amp setups (see, e.g., Josh Homme) are common and it's just impossible to know.

I am a producer and recording guitarist. I am in the middle of recording a full-length album where I am playing all the electric guitar tracks and recording most of them in my own studio with my own gear. And I am in the room and sometimes on the board for all of the production, mixing, and mastering. I don't have that many different guitars to choose from - a total of I think 5 electrics. And I'm not using any real amps - it's all modeling.

But even being that close to the process and even though I've recorded all those tracks in the last month, I couldn't tell you how, exactly, each track was created. I could tell you most of the time which guitar was used. But for some I can't remember. Sometimes I can remember what pickup switch settings were used. But I'm using any combination of 5 or 6 different amp modeling plug-ins, each of which has hundreds of models and settings, plus any number of 5 or 6 different outboard preamps. After that, those tracks are being reamped, doubled or tripled with different settings on different tracks, put through plug-ins like Ozone and Tape Head, put through a stack of reverbs and delays, and loads of other production and mixing stuff.

Since I'm there as a producer and writer as well as just the guitar player, I know a lot more about what's being done to make those sounds than most guitarists in bands would. But there's just so much complexity to the process that I simply don't remember how we did it all - even when I'm the one doing it. I'm not keeping meticulous notes on how each sound was made. I could go into the Pro Tools session and peel away layers. But even that wouldn't remind me whether I was using the sunburst Strat with the coil tapped humbuckers or the black Strat with the mid-80s single coils. Did I use one of the Gibsons on the bridge pickup, or did I beef up a Strat with the preamp to get that sound? And what about the one riff that is actually 5 different guitar tracks playing slightly different parts of the progression with different amp settings on each one?

Even if it's a recording of a guitarist who is famous for having a super simple rig - Fugazi or the White Stripes, for example - the guitar's tone on the recording is colored so much by mic placement, amp settings, recording preamps, and production that you're basically guessing when you try to replicate it.

It can be a lot easier to re-create a guitarist's live sound instead of the sound on a recording. Some are still super complicated and are made using a bunch of different amps at once, a rack full of preamps, power conditioners, and other stuff. But others are simple, spartan, and realistic to try to copy. The problem is figuring out which players are lying when they talk about their live rig in interviews. Eddie Van Halen, for example, just cannot be trusted when he's talking about his live rig. I'm not sure Jack White can, either, given that he plays with a big pedalboard where he has painted over all the labels on the pedals and then tells everyone he doesn't use effects. But again, if you want to sound like Ian MacKaye, all you'll need is a Gibson SG and a Marshall JCM-900 half stack. Then you have to play like Ian. That's the hard part.
posted by The World Famous at 11:17 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another guitarist here, completely seconding everything The World Famous said.
posted by troywestfield at 6:24 AM on September 12, 2011

Response by poster: Interesting, I appreciate the feedback.

Any suggestions on a cheap, long memory looper? It seems so expensive for loop pedals that have more than 30 seconds of memory, but I've downloaded a 1.99 app on my smartphone that loops up to 5 minutes. What gives?
posted by WhereAmI at 3:28 PM on September 12, 2011

Guitar Rig will let you do that. I use it to mimic Brad Paisley's tone just because I like it. Watch Dweezil Zappa demo it. It's pretty dead on. It may not use the exact same effects the original artist used but it will allow you to compare, side by side, the tone from the original song and your settings. Pretty badass.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:46 PM on October 2, 2011

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