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How to Get Great Electric Guitar Tones

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well.

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Now, today what I wanted to do was to talk to you — what I wanted to do was talk to you about getting good guitar tones for recording. I’m just going to use one amp. It’s a tube amp, and I’m going to explain how I get different sounds.

Now, the reason why I’m doing this is because I’ve had a couple of people sort of like, make comments about the tube amps, saying that the tones weren’t clean, and I think there’s something important about using a tube amp. Tube amps should be set so that when played, say like this…

[soft guitar playing]

They’re relatively clean, but when you dig in…

[harder playing]

They start to break up a bit.

That’s kind of the sound of a tube amp. That just before it distorts, start to distort, is the thickness of it. So what we’re going to do is I’m going to explain how I setup my amp, and I’m also going to give you a couple of versions of tones, etcetera that I use, and we’re just going to record it with an SM57, and we’re going to go through our DMP straight to Pro Tools!

Okay, so let’s get started.

Again, back to our inexpensive guitar here, which is a Pacifica, as you know, I love these, because it has Seymour Duncan pickups on it, etcetera, etcetera. And they’re a very inexpensive guitar. I am, however, using an old Marshall amp, which is probably a $1,000 amp. So it’s not the cheapest of all amps, but you know, I do love tube amps, they don’t have to be this big size head that you’re going to see here. You can use a little five watt tube combo.

I know Vox makes them, I’m sure Marshall do, and lots of people make smaller tube combos. Some just have single volume, others that have preamp gain and master volume gain, so you can set different levels of distortion.

Let’s have a look at this one over here. So what I have here is an old JMP. If you can see the way I’ve got it setup here, I personally like the treble down a little bit. I cut a little bit of mids, I boost the bass, and I’ve got presence high here to compensate for the treble.

I find Marshalls a little brighter maybe than quite a few amps. Now, the way I’ve got it set, I’ve got the master up relatively high. My preamp’s at like, three. If I go to the bridge pickup on guitar and drive it…

[guitar amp]

There’s some drive, but I’m playing hard.

[electric guitar]

And that’s — now, if I take that same pickup and just play differently…

[clean guitar]

Really quite clean. But it’s thick sounding, so it might be clean — clean enough to the human ear. Especially in a track, that’s pretty clean.

[clean guitar]

Clean enough for an arpeggio. Go to the neck pickup…

[guitar, neck pickup]

You know, that’s kind of a little Jimi Hendrix-y sound. Obviously, he used the middle pickup. We don’t have the middle pickup, but…


Again, it comes down to how you play it. If I play it like this…

[electric guitar, soft]

You almost get a jazz tone, you know? So I would call that a clean tone, frankly. I know it’s slightly breaking up, but in a track, that’s going to appear very clean, but it’s also going to sound thick.

Now, that’s sort of where I would start off with most tones. If I go to the bridge pickup, which is a lot higher output…

[guitar, bridge pickup]

That little bit of breakup is very slight, but I dig in…

[guitar, harder]

It’s a little — now let’s go to my fuzz pedal down here. So this is a pretty cool Fuzz that I’ve got. I like this one a lot.

[fuzz guitar]

Now I’ve got it setup pretty crazy here. You’ll see the bass is up, mid is sucked out. There’s also this deep control, which we could add back in.

[fuzz guitar, deep control on]

But for me, you see, that’s — and I can drive the amp harder by putting the level out. This will really get us… See how thick that starts to sound? Interesting. With this down here, it’s super thick.

My point is, with that amount of gain and this particular fuzz pedal, I mean, obviously each pedal is going to react differently, it does just enough for me. It’s adding enough distortion, slight amount of distortion from the preamp to make it sound like a thick sounding tube amp, and the pedals respond nicely to it.

I think if this was going into an incredibly clean or transistor amp sound, we wouldn’t get that kind of richness that we get. Again, the same thing could be true of like, using a chorus pedal. You know.

[guitar, chorus]

Here, I’ve got my chorus here. It’s a double chorus, but I’ve got this side here.

[electric guitar, chorus on]

It’s a little bit of breakup. But again, if I play it softly… It’s pretty clean. And you know, I could even play a little funky with this.

[electric guitar]

Maybe, you know, I might want to wind down the guitar slightly. I mean, in the true sense of the world, is that crystal clean clean? No, but does it sound really good and thick? Yes.

So that’s why we love tube amps. Just that kind of — that perception of a clean tone, but that thickness. Again, you know, delays…

[guitar with delay]

I mean, I love it. If I’m going to do arpeggio kind of stuff… I just feel like it’s very, very versatile. These kind of settings allow me a lot. Obviously, combine the chorus and delay here — I mean chorus — yeah.


Yeah, I can get… Once again, not super clean, but just enough grit to give it some thickness and have it cut through.

Now, obviously, with amp simulators, you can do the same thing, so if you go to your Eleven, or guitar amp, or whatever particular amp simulation you have, Amplitube, etcetera, setup something similar. Set it up so when you play heavy, you know…

[electric guitar]

Let’s turn this stuff off. When you dig in really… I mean, I’m playing heavy. You’re getting just a little bit of distortion. Then when you’re backing off and playing normally… There’s a tiny bit of breakup. It just sounds sweet. You can just dig in.

So even if you’re not using a real amp, you’re just using a simulation of one, I would setup that kind of tone, and that will allow your guitars to just sound that little thicker, they won’t have that little tweed, little thinness where some of the high strings are like, poking out a little bit too much.

You know, and these kind of settings I like, especially with the Marshall. I have the presence higher than the treble. It’s kind of more of a high range — mid-range thing for me.

So anyway, I hope that helps. Of course, go and subscribe below. Go to and sign up for the email list, and we’ll send you lots of other free behind the scenes stuff, and we’re always doing giveaways and stuff, and thank you ever so much for watching!

Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at
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