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Anatomy of Guitar Tone: Overdrive after Reverb

[guitar plays]

In this week’s Anatomy of Tone, I’m going to talk about capturing a more authentic spring reverb tone at more of an apartment recording level.

One of the things that happens with an amp when you play it live with something like a Princeton or a Deluxe Reverb is that the more that you push the volume, the more the amp breaks up, but the reverb in that circuit is post-preamp, and pre-power amp. So that means it’s pre-power tubes.

So as the power tubes start to get pushed harder with volume, it starts to compress the signal and get a little grittier. For me, this is an important part of spring reverb.

I tend to like my Fender amps at around 5 or 6. They start to get a little gritty. Now the way that I’ve found to recreate this in an apartment setting for recording at home is to use a spring reverb before an overdrive pedal.

Now I use this Tube Drive from Effectrode. The reason I like this is it has tubes in it, and I have a 12AU7 for low gain, and basically it’s a very gentle tube overdrive. I’m going to place this last in my chain, and I’m going to put a spring reverb before it.

What I’m trying to emulate here is just a gentle touch of that tube saturation. Now, I place before it this Strymon Big Sky. The reason I did this instead of a traditional real spring reverb was a lot of people are using pedal boards, and nowadays, for transportation *** [2:35], or just various gigs.

So I wanted to use something modern and digital to see how we can recreate that vintage sound. Make it more practical.

I pretty much just setup the Pipeline preset on the Strymon. Maybe I pulled back the tone a little bit so that it was just a little bit darker, which is pretty typical for me to do.

From there on out, I went into the Tube Drive. So remember, the Tube Drive was post reverb, which is unusual for signal chains. A lot of people will place their spring reverb or their reverb pedal last in the chain.

I did want to mention one thing about the saturated spring reverb sound. Within the Big Sky, they’ve given us the option to choose how we want the spring reverb to be saturated.

This is really cool, because you can get your reverb sound to be very clean, or tube, or overdriven. As you’ll see, we have — I’m going to pull up the preset here for a trashy spring sound — and I’m going to go into the parameters here and I’m going to select Dwell, and within here, you see options for tube, overdrive, combo, clean… If you pick overdrive, it’s going to give you a pretty saturated reverb tone.

This is slightly different from the sound that we got in the video, because the sound we were working on was pretty much overdriving the whole signal, and when you activate this option within the Big Sky, it’s only going to saturate the reverb sound, so you still have a clean signal coming through with a saturated reverb, which is also a really cool flavor, but just slightly different than the idea of what it’s like when you have an amp really loud and your guitar signal plus the reverb is overdriving at the same time.


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Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall

Mark Marshall is a producer, songwriter, session musician and instructor based in NYC. More at
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