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Snappy cleans/breakup tones (country style)


themetallikid
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I have a comp set right, but I'm not really getting that snappy sorta attack.  I like what I'm getting for my rock style stuff, but I want some sparkly/snappy clean sounds (or light breakup).   I have higher output pickups, is that the final part I'm missing to get some decent cleans?  

 

I like the Jazz 120 amp, may try the Soldano clean

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57 minutes ago, themetallikid said:

I like the Jazz 120 amp, may try the Soldano clean

 

For classic country style cleans try the BF Fender models.... Deluxe or Princeton are both quite nice. 

For some light break up tones, another favorite of country players would be an AC30 variant, Dr Z or the Matchless. 

 

57 minutes ago, themetallikid said:

I have higher output pickups, is that the final part I'm missing to get some decent cleans?  

 

Keep in mind that the tone usually starts with single coils... P90's or a Tele Bridge pickup provide a lot of aggression and snap synonymous with the style. I've had some success with higher output pickups by rolling back the volume at the guitar to about 7 or 8. This "sometimes" (guitar dependent) will thin the tone a little yet still retain some high end. 

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In case you're after any kind of authentic "snappy" country tone, single coil PUs are pretty much a must. Some rather low output humbuckers may get you there, also some pseudo-SC humbuckers (using vertical coils), but in case your higher output PUs are humbuckers, you won't get exactly close to that typical sound.

You might want to fool around with an EQ as the first thing in the signal chain, though, hence shaping the guitar tone rather than the amp tone, but that typical country "snap" most often is a result of not-too-high output single coils capturing a rather small "window" of the string (as opposed to the rather wide window, typical hunbuckers are capturing).
There's also some guitar tone shaping IRs around, but anything applied "after the fact" usually won't give you too great results.

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In my experience there are two fairly distinctive "Nashville" styles.  The older "smooth" style centers around the Gretsch style of pickup and the more modern style around the standard Telecaster style.  I suspect the one you're going after is the more modern Tele style for which I use Gen4 Fender noiseless pickups.  There are probably other pickups you can get it with, but the authentic sound is very much dependent on that style of pickup.  Also, if you're using EQ don't take the normal thin slice out at 4.2 Mhz on your parametric EQ as you'll need that twang.  Also the picking technique is a pretty important factor as well, but there are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating it out there.

EDIT:  On YouTube or Google search for "chicken pickin"

 

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Yeah I assumed the pickups were a part of it.  I've used the Tilt EQ trick you showed me and that helps get the tone a bit of a single coil, but its still missing something.  I've been using the amps you suggested up there as well.  Well aware of the Dr. Z being a country fave which was where I started my search and helped determine its more than likely my pickups that are over driving what the compressor is doing.   

 

I'll have to play around with a volume block in the beginning of my chain to see where it needs to be and then make up the volume elsewhere in the preset(s).

 

1 question though, when setting the compressor...I know quick attack/release settings help, and I can surely find the right threshold to get what I want....but is there a 'rule' for setting the makeup/output gain for this application?  I know generally its to help compensate the output volume for what the compressor is doing, but being in front of the amp....am I looking for 'unity' or is the decreased volume also a part of this 'sound' in regards to the signal hitting the amp right?

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3 hours ago, themetallikid said:

1 question though, when setting the compressor...I know quick attack/release settings help, and I can surely find the right threshold to get what I want....but is there a 'rule' for setting the makeup/output gain for this application?  I know generally its to help compensate the output volume for what the compressor is doing, but being in front of the amp....am I looking for 'unity' or is the decreased volume also a part of this 'sound' in regards to the signal hitting the amp right?

 

You are looking for unity... not a decreased volume. Usually this will sound a little louder on it's own, but will sit in the mix properly with a band or tracks. 

 

Pay attention to the gain reduction meters of your compressor. For country snap, you want this to register around -10 with some fairly heavy playing. If it is clamping down more than that, there is too much compression, and every compressor is different on how to lower that.

 

IME... with humbuckers you cannot get a "stomp style" compressor low enough on it's own.... you need to insert a gain block ahead of the compressor and lower the level that is reaching the comp then make up the level at the compressor output. In this scenario, both the "gain and the comp" must be engaged/disengaged at the same time (as one pedal). 

 

The blend can certainly be your friend to avoid over compression... but you still need to get the "compressor" settings right before dialing that in. Squashing the signal then balancing with the blend is NOT the country sound you are after. Get that gain reduction around -10, then fine tune with the blend. 

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This is just my 2 cents, but all other gear and settings aside, trying to get a real country twang out of anything but a Tele is like trying to tee off with a putter... it's gonna look silly, and the results will be crap-tastic. ;)

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:

 

You are looking for unity... not a decreased volume. Usually this will sound a little louder on it's own, but will sit in the mix properly with a band or tracks. 

 

Pay attention to the gain reduction meters of your compressor. For country snap, you want this to register around -10 with some fairly heavy playing. If it is clamping down more than that, there is too much compression, and every compressor is different on how to lower that.

 

IME... with humbuckers you cannot get a "stomp style" compressor low enough on it's own.... you need to insert a gain block ahead of the compressor and lower the level that is reaching the comp then make up the level at the compressor output. In this scenario, both the "gain and the comp" must be engaged/disengaged at the same time (as one pedal). 

 

The blend can certainly be your friend to avoid over compression... but you still need to get the "compressor" settings right before dialing that in. Squashing the signal then balancing with the blend is NOT the country sound you are after. Get that gain reduction around -10, then fine tune with the blend. 

That all makes perfect sense.  I forget, how do I know where -10 is on the reduction meter?

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1 minute ago, cruisinon2 said:

This is just my 2 cents, but all other gear and settings aside, trying to get a real country twang out of anything but a Tele is like trying to tee off with a putter...

I"ve done this.  lol....    It was a 97yd par 3.  Elevated tee do a postage stamp sized green.  Overhanging tree covered part of the green if you hit a lob wedge to drop it straight down yardage wise.  I jokingly grabbed my putter, it skipped the downhill portion of the tee box and actually rolled up on the green.  Had about a 25 ft putt, but it was a fun unconventional par.  lol

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21 minutes ago, themetallikid said:

I"ve done this.  lol....    It was a 97yd par 3.  Elevated tee do a postage stamp sized green.  Overhanging tree covered part of the green if you hit a lob wedge to drop it straight down yardage wise.  I jokingly grabbed my putter, it skipped the downhill portion of the tee box and actually rolled up on the green.  Had about a 25 ft putt, but it was a fun unconventional par.  lol

 

Lol... well any port in a storm, I suppose... one time I watched a guy play 9 holes entirely with a wooden shillelagh which looked like he had carved himself with a Buck knife. He beat everybody else in our foursome... "A" for effort, but I still like the path of least resistance. ;)

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1 hour ago, themetallikid said:

That all makes perfect sense.  I forget, how do I know where -10 is on the reduction meter?

 

On the unit itself.... when you highlight the compressor the gain reduction meter will appear in the top right of the the settings. From "right to left"... is shows 0, -7, -14, -21, etc..... you'll want the meter to bounce just over  -7 when you are aggressive, but (IMO) if you hit -14 it's too much compression. 

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Maybe also try using a little bit of slap-back delay.  Not much, just a little.  One repeat.  Very short time interval.  Use a longer time interval first to ensure your repeats are adjusted correctly to one repeat only, then reduce the interval to very short.  Many traditional twangy country songs were recorded this way.

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44 minutes ago, codamedia said:

 

On the unit itself.... when you highlight the compressor the gain reduction meter will appear in the top right of the the settings. From "right to left"... is shows 0, -7, -14, -21, etc..... you'll want the meter to bounce just over  -7 when you are aggressive, but (IMO) if you hit -14 it's too much compression. 

 Good to know, I look at the unit when editing and see the meters usually, maybe I just never noticed the numbering or didn't know what the sections meant.  

 

41 minutes ago, MGW-Alberta said:

Maybe also try using a little bit of slap-back delay.  Not much, just a little.  One repeat.  Very short time interval.  Use a longer time interval first to ensure your repeats are adjusted correctly to one repeat only, then reduce the interval to very short.  Many traditional twangy country songs were recorded this way.

Pro tip, I'll try it.  

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16 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

it's gonna look silly, and the results will be crap-tastic. ;)

 

I might agree on the silly looks, but personally, I find this sound to work quite well for me (admittedly, it could be a little less chimey and bit more twangy, but especially live this works fine). Fwiw, it's the Princess, some homebrewn IR and the Vetta Comp in front. Recorded for a FB group which is sort of about some instant "look and jam" thing with a new backing track posted each week.

 

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2 hours ago, SaschaFranck said:

I might agree on the silly looks, but personally, I find this sound to work quite well for me (admittedly, it could be a little less chimey and bit more twangy, but especially live this works fine).

 

Is that you playing? Quite nice... I didn't take you as a country picker - that's well done! 

 

19 hours ago, cruisinon2 said:

This is just my 2 cents, but all other gear and settings aside, trying to get a real country twang out of anything but a Tele is like trying to tee off with a putter... it's gonna look silly, and the results will be crap-tastic. ;)

 

IMO, any single coil guitar works well for country twang... whether it's a Tele, Strat, any P-90 guitar, etc... etc.. Technique is a big part of "twang"... so it can be coaxed out of many different guitars. I'm not into "looks" so I can't comment there :) 

  

The TELE has fallen out of flavor in modern "country pop"... the players actually avoid them. Then again, modern "country pop" doesn't twang so that makes sense. The underground country scene still twangs... there are plenty of Teles, Strats and Jazzmasters floating around that scene. 

 

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23 minutes ago, codamedia said:

Is that you playing? Quite nice... I didn't take you as a country picker - that's well done! 

 

Yeah, that's me (and my super-bad-taste Elvis hoody). Thanks for the flowers - and no, I'm not really a country picker, but IMO some things country can bring you further than pretty much anything else (triads, finding nice target notes inside of long consecutive note runs without playing pre-made licks, hybrid picking, etc.). One of the interesting things being that pretty much all proficient country players have no issues playing, say, a bunch of jazz standards - but the other way around? Not so much... there's even good (as in almost scientifically explainable) reasons for that.

Whatever, what I learned from country stuff has now found its way into pretty much all my playing.

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3 hours ago, PaulTBaker said:

Wow, very nice playing... liked the swell chords at the end and really all of it!

 

Thanks - fwiw, for me, when it comes to these kinda faux pedal steel swells, it's an advance having a bridge humbucker available. I used it in SC split mode for the picking, but for swells, that sound has a tendency to get too thin, so the extra midrange added by switching to full humbucking mode defenitely helps. Add to this that the higher output level also triggers the compressor a bit more, so the swells become a little beefier (as in offering a bit more decay to work with).

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1 hour ago, PaulTBaker said:

Can you point out some of the sites, books, whatever, that you used to learn some of those licks? 

 

To be honest, I didn't use any. I have always been the kind of "explorer" guy.

Ok, I *do* have a pretty solid background, studied at the music university and hence learned a lot of the fundamentals (nothing country-ish, though), which makes it sort of not too hard to examine things on my own. I also seem to have pretty good listening skills "by nature" (never exactly trained them), so that defenitely helps (and yes, it's kind of an unfair advantage over those who do have to practise that stuff a lot).

Anyhow, what I did quite a bit when my interest for country-ish things started, was to get down to the basics of it. Basically, most typical chord progressions are rather simple, so I broke these down even further and started fooling around. As an example, I would just take, say, a I-V progression such as A and E (or E7) and play over it, then start to incorporate some typical elements. Such as:
- Triads (yes, I always play chordal stuff first, it's what brings money home, noodling is just the icing on the cake). For me, triads are the mightiest chord tool ever (for a good number of reasons that I could explain...) and country is all about triad-based music.

- Thirds and sixths. These are key ingredients of many typical patterns, also double bends/stops massively profit from a good knowledge of those. And once you know your triads, they come in quite easily.

- Endless consecutive even length note sequences. No licks. Which means you have to start at a very slow pace. And you need to follow some guidelines, such as "I need to hit a chord note on every downbeat". These things are absolutely crucial and each and every decent country player seems to make use of this more or less regularly.

- Melodic improvising. As in creating things on the fly that you could instantly remember and pretty much sing along with.

- Bends. In general, each note should become a target note for a bend. Using any finger (well, at least ideally, doesn't exactly work all the time).

- Hybrid/chicken picking. Especially concentrating on dynamics.

 

Now, all this is pretty much general advice - but it really gets pretty tricky when you do this over simple diatonic major triad progressions. You're 5th position A minor pentatonic box licks all of a sudden will refuse to work, even in case you look at them as C major pentatonic licks. For me, *the* key thing to learn is the most relevant note movements going from one chord to the other. In my example from above, A to E and back, there's 2 essential movements, namely from A to G# and back and from C# to either B or D (the latter being a part of an E7 chord) and back. In case you don't integrate those into your playing, it will pretty much never sound like more or less authentic country. This is also why it's a good idea to start with playing triads, as you can see all these relevant movements pretty easily, especially in case you're using the shortest possible movements between them. An A triad in root position, namely A-C#-E, becomes a first inversion E triad, namely G#-B-E. First inversion A (C#-E-A) becomes 2nd inversion E (B-E-G#) and so on.

 

Hm, I'm just noticing that this will get too long in case I'm taking it further. Might as well not be the right forum. I could've taken this to, say, TGP, but I'm banned there for life, as it seems.
But then, we could perhaps continue this in a sort of dedicated off topic thread.

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18 hours ago, PaulTBaker said:

I'm a self taught player that has been playing over 40 years.  I confess I don't read music, but I have a somewhat understanding.... 

I would love to know more!

 

On 1/22/2022 at 4:07 PM, PaulTBaker said:

Can you point out some of the sites, books, whatever, that you used to learn some of those licks? 

 

Brent Mason was the studio master of the late 80's, 90's and into the 2000's... Country guitar solo's were still at their peak during this time.

 

I came across this guys video's by accident a while back.... over 70 Brent Mason solos, each played and put in tab. You hear the solo in context, you see the tab, you see how it's played, and it's also done at slow motion in each video. This guys videos is a gold mine of insight on how to approach country solo's. Even though they are all Brent Mason solo's, Brent is a master of many styles so the influences included James Burton, Roy Nichols, Albert Lee, Chet Atkins, Ray Flacke, Reggie Young, Jerry Reed, etc... etc..

 

I've been rooted in Country since the early 80's... and although I haven't actually dove into these videos (it's already how I play), I can attest that they are accurate, and extremely well done. 

 

You Tube Playlist of Brent Mason Country Solo's... 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9GXkEqgKUsBVO_e4Nelc1xI2T5p1Zss-

 

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4 hours ago, codamedia said:

and although I haven't actually dove into these videos (it's already how I play), I can attest that they are accurate, and extremely well done. 

 

You Tube Playlist of Brent Mason Country Solo's... 

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9GXkEqgKUsBVO_e4Nelc1xI2T5p1Zss-

 

Yeah, they're very well done, after all, Levy Clay makes a living from transcribing.

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