Michael Ross - Getting Great Guitar Sounds: A Non-Technical Approach to Shaping Your Personal Sound

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If You Need a Place to Start, This Is It

Aug 13, 2005 (Updated Sep 22, 2007)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Good introduction to the art of guitar sounds

Cons:Not technical enough, but that's the idea

The Bottom Line: This is a fine introduction to guitars and guitar effects. New players should spend the $15 right now and dig in.


Those guitarheads looking for a quick and dirty starting place to guitar effects and amps need not go any farther than Michael Ross’s Getting Great Guitar Sounds, a non-technical introduction to the fine art of, well, guitar sound. Although a touch obsolete when it comes to the latest effects (this 2nd edition was written in 1998), there’s a lot of very useful information here and even players who have been in the business for a while may pick up a few points. For newbies and intermediate players, it’s a no-brainer.

There are seven chapters and two appendixes. Chapters One and Two discuss the electric guitar itself, first as an acoustic and then as an electric instrument. First are discussions of headstocks, tuning machines (and the problems associated with string trees, for example), nut, frets, necks, body (semi-hollow vs. solid), picks and strings, and set-up. Then you get into cool stuff like the different kinds of pickups (single coil, humbuckers, and active, their placement and wiring, amps and speakers. Again, non-technical but very useful, especially when you’re in the market for a new guitar and the salesman starts throwing a bunch of terms at you and you don’t want to look like an idiot.

Chapter Three is a fast look at the key concepts of compression and distortion and their effects on sustain (i.e., how long a note will last). What’s the difference? Compression keeps volume steady, lowering it when the signal is strong and increasing it when it is weak. The result is apparent sustain (for a loss of dynamics). Distortion occurs when the amplifier receives too powerful a signal, but can be created artificially with a distortion pedal (many many types available).

Chapter Four concerns so-called ambient effects, more as delay, reverb, chorus/flanging (and related effects) and pitch shifting. You’ll learn the differences between tape, analog and digital delays, spring and digital reverbs, and other cool stuff. This is really important information when you’re in the market for foot pedals and don’t quite know what you’re buying or why you need it.

All of this is background for the meat of the book contained in Chapter Five’s “Tricks of the Trade”. This tells you how to actually use all the cool gizmos discussed in the first four chapters. While it’s entirely up to the player as to the sound he wants and likes, there are better ways to get it than others. You’ll learn about the effects chain and why it’s important to put your compressor and distortion pedals first, how you can get a very big sound by using two amps and a delay pedal, multi-effects boxes, etc., and most important, how not to overdo it.

Chapters Six and Seven are short throwaway chapters on live sounds vs. studio and the advantages of vintage equipment. The two appendixes discuss how some famous guitarists get their sounds (not sufficiently technical to really duplicate them) and the author’s favorite effects.

All in all, for fifteen bucks this is a really good introduction to effects. It’ll give you the vocabulary and some good tips. To learn more, obviously, you’ll have to spend time tinkering with a lot of effects boxes to get the sounds you like. You should also subscribe to some good electric guitar mags like Guitar World, Guitar One, and Guitar Player (see my reviews, http://www.epinions.com/user-buffoonery/show_~content/sec_~public_profile_opinion_list/pp_~1/pa_~1 http://www.epinions.com/content_150759575172 http://www.epinions.com/user-buffoonery/show_~content/sec_~public_profile_opinion_list/pp_~1/pa_~1 ), which contain excellent guitar, amp and effects reviews along with player interviews that give great insight on how they get their sounds.

Here's a pretty solid selection of other guitar instructional and song books:

Eric Clapton: The Cream of Eric Clapton
Beatles Complete Scores
Jesse Gress: Guitar Lick Factory
Andres Segovia: Twenty Studies for Guitar
Mel Bay Volume 7
Mel Bay Volume 6
Bill Edward Fretboard Logic
Mel Bay Volume 5
Guitar Tab White Pages Volume 2
Guide to Guitar Progressions
Complete Johnny Smith Approach To Guitar
Don Latarski The Ultimate Guitar Chord Big Book
Aaron Shearer - Classic Guitar Technique
Mel Bay - Rhythm Guitar Chord System
Mel Bay Volume 2
Solos For Classical Guitar: 135 Repertoire Pieces
Ralph Agresta - Chords and Progressions for Rock Guitar
Easy Classics for Guitar
Acoustic Guitar Tab White Pages
Fred Sokolow - Great Jazz Standards of Duke Ellington for Guitar
William Bay - Building Right Hand Technique
William Bay: Building Guitar Speed
Johnny Rector - Mel Bay's Deluxe Encyclopedia of Guitar Chord Progressions
Jazz Guitar Chord Melodies
Serious Guitar (this is a GREAT book!)

and, not to be omitted:

A Parent and Child's Guide to Introductory Electric Guitar , (an essay by ME!)
A Parent's and Child's Guide to Introductory Classical Guitar (another essay by ME!)



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