guitar effects question
July 6, 2005 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I really like the sound of the intro guitar on Modest Mouse's song "Worm vs. Bird." It's a sort of compressed, almost tubular sound. I am an electric guitar n00b. Is this sound somewhat replicable with a simple pedal purchase, or do I have to go buy some obscure vintage guitar and run it through a tube amp built by elves or something? 30 second snippet from the Amazon

Worms vs. Birds <--Amazon link to free download of said tune.
posted by mecran01 to Grab Bag (5 answers total)
I'd say it's a combination of things.

For one, it sounds pretty heavily compressed to me.

It probably is being played through a tube amp a bit below the breakup level. There almost certainly is EQ being applied before, and probably after, the amp stage. This is the part that's tough to do at home but it might not be required.

For another, it sounds like he may be picking rather close to the middle point of the string than nearer to the bridge. There is sort of a sweet spot that makes a sound similar to that. For an open string the place to pick would be around the 12th fret (halfway down the open string). If you're playing a note further up the neck, the spot will be further up also, directly between the note being played and the bridge. This is kind of a longwidged description of a fairly simple thing, does it make sense though?
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:54 AM on July 6, 2005

Adding to RustyBrooks: Definitely compressed, virtually all recorded guitar is compressed. I think he is playing on the bass strings high up the neck. I don't have my guitar with me or I'd figure out the notes. Possibly he is using a wah pedal as a filter, just not moving the treadle. The middle pickup of a Strat gets a similar sound.
posted by mischief at 11:03 AM on July 6, 2005

Response by poster: Yeah, that makes total sense, especially the part about picking further up the neck. I was sorta hoping for the "cheapo pedal" solution but suspected it was something a little more involved. Looks like I'll stick with my $20 danolectric practice amp for now.
posted by mecran01 at 11:04 AM on July 6, 2005

Dunno whether I'd go as far as Rusty there, although I think he might be broadly right. I reckon I could get a sound not too dissimilar to that with very little recourse to effects. It's all in the tone - mellow and middling, so I'd pick away from the bridge, take the top off the tone, lean towards the rhythm pickup(s), that sort of thing. Yeah, maybe some compression too, but I don't think that's the big part of what gives the sound the character that's pleasing you. I like mischief's suggestion of the fixed wah pedal, actually. You can get these slightly hollow tones very nicely with that. I've done it myself.

Golden rule with effects: get as close as you can to the sound you want without them first. Then tweak.
posted by Decani at 11:10 AM on July 6, 2005

He's been playing that sound forever, so I don't think it's anything exotic. Sounds largely like a product of his string gauge, picking higher frets on thicker strings, single coil pickup, and his hands.

Here's a gear list I googled. It sounds right, and pretty straightforward, Fender guitars and tube amps.

Never underestimate the hands.. I know a couple people who can transmogrify a guitar when they play it, it's hard to believe it's the same instrument.

But I'd start playing high up. I seem to recall him playing pretty high up (6 years ago was the last time though..), that also lets him do that heavy bending more easily.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 3:51 PM on July 6, 2005

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