Want to Play Guitar Like the Greats? Start with Your Gear

Guitar distortion

Like food and family, music is one of those few magical things that can bring us together. We might like different styles, artists, and themes, but, at the end of the day, you’ll never hear any disagreement about the feeling of relaxing with your favorite tunes flowing from the radio.

Some people are content to sit back and passively enjoy music. For many others, however, the fantasy of music comes from being able to make it. That’s why, according to statistics from BBC News, over 50 million people across the world know how to play the guitar, one of the greatest instruments across all genres. A lot of these artists will find that they can create their own approach to the six-stringed treasure, but many more will find they simply want to play their favorite artists’ music. With this quick guide to playing like some of the world’s most famous guitarists, including what sort of guitar distortion, amps, and electric and acoustic guitar pedals they use, you’ll be well on your way in no time.

Harnessing the Cool Tones of Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is known for his bluesy riffs and rock sensibilities. However, whether you want to play “Wonderful Tonight” or “Tears in Heaven,” you’ll need to get your guitar settings just right to get the perfect sound. One of Clapton’s most famous styles of playing, according to About.com, is referred to as “Blues Breaker.” In this style, he uses vintage amps and a treble booster, switched on or off with the press of specialized electric guitar pedals. Most famously, you’ll hear this sound in “Hideaway.”

Capture the Blues Rock Power of Stevie Ray Vaughn
Of all the artists we’ll talk about, SRV might be the most difficult to faithfully replicate. His emphasis on keeping a clean sound means that truly getting his tone is mostly about talent and practice. Having said that, there are some things you can do to make your stylings sound a bit more like the master’s. Using a classic rock-style amp, like the Bad Cat amp Hot Cat 30, and screamer-style guitar effect pedals, writes Stevie Snacks, a blues guitar teacher, will take you a long way in crafting SRV’s distinctive style.

Make the Others Bite the Dust with the Sound of Brian May
Brian May’s work with Queen defined rock and roll for generations. Whether it’s the hard-rock accompaniments for “Another One Bites the Dust” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” you’re looking to crack, you’re going to need a very special setup to hone in on May’s rare guitar distortion and playing style. Jim Dalrymple writes in his in-depth look at May’s playing style that May uses a dual-amp setup, but you can get the same sound with a rock-style amp and a screamer-style guitar distortion setup. Just remember, May’s style focuses on brighter, higher sounds. Stay away from too much bass.

While being able to play like your favorite artists is mostly a matter of skill, using the right gear, whether for guitar distortion or amplification, is just as important. Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re jamming out to your favorites. More can be found here.

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