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Help me design a “clean” sound

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I am a praise and worship guitarist and occasionally I play electric.  I am having trouble achieving the fat, warm, smooth truly clean tone that I hear on the various videos that I am watching.  When I am working on designing tones, I listen through headphones.  In use at church, we go direct from the line out.  I listen through the personal monitoring system.  My axe is a Mike Kelley with humbucking pickups.  It sounded great through the small Vox amp at the store.  Lastly, I have downloaded a few patches designed for praise and worship and they have also fallen short in this regard.  I keep tweaking them to make them better to my ears.  

What I want is a truly clean fat tone that sustains with little to no breakup in the tone.   I am not having trouble finding the delay and reverb that I want.  I have tried so many combinations of amps and cabinets.   Any suggestions would be appreciated.  Thank you.  


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In general, the following parameters can be used to clean up an amp:

- reduce Gain (obvious I guess)

- reduce Master volume (reduce/avoid power amp saturation, effect depends on Amp model)

- increase Bias & BiasX (prevents power amp saturation)

- reduce Sag (prevents power amp saturation, maintains dynamics)

- reduce Ripple & Hum (this is more to reduce subtle noise)

In extremes, this might lead to a harsh and crisp sound.

Does not sound like what you are looking for, but "fatness" can be added by some EQ and sustain by a compressor.


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I'm going to disagree with some of the above - but then it all depends on what you call a fat clean sound.

I'm thinking the John Mayer type of sound - but you might also be thinking say a very Jazz sound - or a crystal clear hifi type of sound........they are all totally different.

All the cleans I like are actually just before the amp produces noticeable distortion. That adds natural compression and subtle harmonic content.  Also, volume is unfortunately part of the problem - as discussed here often - thing sound different depending on volume - our hearing is volume dependant - look up Fletcher Munson - it is real stuff most of us learn means any sound created at home needs tweaking - basically you will almost always find yourself reducing tops and bottoms as the volume gets to live level.

So keeping all that in mind, I'd start with a fender model, just because most people like fender cleans.(Twin Reverb?)  I'd set the gain so it's just distorting and then back it off a tad till you felt that the clean you like is "under your fingers"  so a little more enthusiasm might just be adding a hint of grit. To me then, I've got a dynamic interactive amp relationship with my playing.

You can make that a little less dynamic, but very player friendly with some subtle compression - you either will or won't like that - you have to play around with the compressors.

Also almost no one likes a clean without some reverb - so add that and adjust - plate or spring in legacy section are likely choices.

If you want to do fine tuning, you could put an EQ pedal after the amp ( I like the simplicity of the Cali Q as I'm always reducing the lows and fishing in the mids for the exact sound).

Obviously you might like to drop the amp/cab default combo and use an IR - but at this stage it's all personal taste.

One thing I'd say loud and clear - and something I keep hearing others disagree with - is using high and low cuts.  No good guitar sound should have much below 100Hz and much above 6KHz (often 5KHz) if you want a "smooth" sound, so don't be subtle with those low and high cuts!

The fender amp thing is just to get you started - you can take the same approach with a Vox or a surprising range of other amps in the Helix.  Even some known for their overdrive make good cleans when run clean(ish).

The suggestions above will give you the "other" clean - crystal cleans - see how you go!

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In addition to what has been said already, you might want to check the global "Guitar Input Pad" setting. Activating it gives you more clean headroom, something I find useful for myself. Needs to be said that this is a global thing and hence will affect all your patches.

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