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Make a Strat sound like a Les Paul?!


YammerUK
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My new band is in the process of writing and recording songs. After release, comes rehearsal and gigging. I've already decided that I'm going to stick to one guitar: a Strat, (a) because it fits the band's sound best, and (b) I don't really want to take 2 guitars on a small stage.

 

I'm working on a song that was started before I joined the band. The existing guitar part contains a stormer of a riff, which was played on a Les Paul through a dirty amp (I can't tell what), and then into Logic through a treble booster and (maybe) Vox amp plugin. We like it so much, I don't really want to change it, but we can't use the original recording.

 

I know how to play the riff, and I've tried quite a few ways of replicating that sound, but I can't get close enough to the tone of the original. Does anyone have any suggestions how to get that thicker meatier Les Paul humbucker sound with a Strat and a Helix? I guess that pickup choice, picking position and EQ are fairly important. Are there any Helix effects modules which make the job easy?

 

I can post links to sound files, if that helps.

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Could try the 3Sigma Guitar IR's.  They are decent, not great but decent.  

 

Other option would be to find some sort of EQ curve of a LP and try and emulate that.  You could probably find that using some time of analyzer and solo'ing the recording you cant use to help find the prominent frequencies and then adjusting those in a parametric EQ (or two)

 

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I commonly use a Strat on many songs that are based on a Les Paul rather to minimize the number of guitar changes.  In those cases I build a completely separate preset specifically for the Strat with a different amp, IR and other signal chain elements to give me a deeper, punchier Les Paul sound.  It also helps that I'm using a Strat Elite which has the version 4 noiseless pickups with S1 switch which helps in giving me a believable Les Paul sound.  Something to consider.

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Try this for a start, it's optimized for the bridge pickup. You'll need to tweak the parameters for different single-coil pickups, pickup angle, and the kind of Les Paul you want to emulate, but this is a decent place to begin. I've also done HB to SC EQ conversion, which in some ways is easier to do. 

 

image.thumb.png.bc42a3bcfea6cc4566307ed6af78ca22.png

 

This isn't an exact emulation, but I think it captures the vibe reasonably well. Basically I analyzed a humbucker's response (top image), and applied EQ to give the same kind of curve for a single-coil pickup (bottom image). More stages of EQ give a more accurate emulation (I needed 5 stages to convert a single-coil pickup into an ES-335), but you reach a point of diminishing returns after a while. Hope this helps!

 

image.png.287f2b8162f832ec21916353a07c35bf.png

 

(P.S. - If you have my Helix eBook, these are in the Free Files folder.)

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I use a parametric eq to do that:

Parametric:
LoFreq 20Hz
LowQ 0.1
LoGain +6dB
MdFreq 2.1kHz
MidQ 1.4
MdGain +5.5dB
HiFreq 3.7kHz
High Q 1.0
HiFain -6.0dB
Level +3.0dB

The HiFreq is at 3.7kHz because that's my Strat bridge pickup's resonance frequency (found by ear).

Humbucker resonance frequencies are typically around 2kHz. Use MdFreq to adjust to taste.

The LoFreq with low Q=0.1 (very wide) adds fatness and the level adds gain.

 

Try it and report back it it does the trick for you!

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Thanks. I have tried the EQ route in a DAW, to see if I can get closer, and I think I'm getting nearer, but not near enough. I'll try these EQ suggestions and see if they work better, and I'll report back.

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On 2/10/2022 at 12:13 PM, YammerUK said:

Does anyone have any suggestions how to get that thicker meatier Les Paul humbucker sound with a Strat and a Helix?

 

All the suggestions above are very good.... I'm just offering my approach as another option. 

 

The simplest method I have found which is also extremely flexible is the TILT EQ..... 

  • Place it early in the chain. Since you want to change the characteristic of the guitar, change it before any effects or amps.
  • The Center Frequency default is 1K, you can start with that..... (this is the frequency that the EQ "teeter totters" on)
  • Set the TILT to about a Dark 50. 
  • Raise the gain about 4db DB (humbuckers are usually hotter than single coils... this accounts for that)

That's just a starting point.... you still need to tweak it for your guitar....

  1. TILT: Use the TILT to get the tone "about" right.... lower it to get the shrill off the strat and make it a little thicker/meatier. "Dark 50" is a good starting point in this situation.  
  2. CENTER FREQUENCY: If the low end is a touch muddy at this point... I find that raising this a little helps define them better.
  3. Continually tweak 1 & 2 (a little) until you find a sweet spot.

If you do any graphics or photography work at all... this is how I describe the controls on the TILT EQ....

  • TILT acts like a BRIGHTNESS control
  • CENTER FREQUENCY acts like a CONTRAST control. 
  • Get the brightness right.. then clear it up... 

NOTE: This is just a simple workaround. Given a chance, I would ALWAYS grab a humbucking guitar if that's what I needed. 

 

 

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SO working on presets for a new group, I need some country sounds and I tried Coda's suggestion and it works, but didnt get me there.  Probably more to do with my pickups rather than his solution being flawed.  

 

Funny enough, I went back and tried those guitar IR's that I suggested.   Of course I tried the Tele/Strat single coil 1st position IR's....They were ok, but seemed to be missing that sorta hollow sounding snap that single coils have.  I tried the LP Single Coil IR...and what do you know...combined with a Gain block -6.5db, low cut EQ, compressor (for the snap) and its decently close enough that my tone doesnt sound like 'me' anymore and sounds more like I strapped some boots and a hat on and am looking for some cowgirl action.  lol

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12 minutes ago, themetallikid said:

SO working on presets for a new group, I need some country sounds and I tried Coda's suggestion and it works, but didnt get me there.  Probably more to do with my pickups rather than his solution being flawed.  

 

Funny enough, I went back and tried those guitar IR's that I suggested.   Of course I tried the Tele/Strat single coil 1st position IR's....They were ok, but seemed to be missing that sorta hollow sounding snap that single coils have.  I tried the LP Single Coil IR...and what do you know...combined with a Gain block -6.5db, low cut EQ, compressor (for the snap) and its decently close enough that my tone doesnt sound like 'me' anymore and sounds more like I strapped some boots and a hat on and am looking for some cowgirl action.  lol

Ultimately this is why I have a Telecaster as well as a Gretsch hollowbody and presets that go with them.  There's just no mistaking when you've got the proper country twang going on and that requires a Tele with string gauge no greater than 10's,  and the older Chet Atkins fingerpicked style that needs a Gretsch with 11's or 12's.  It's just physics....

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I spent a couple of hours, listening to my riff, played on the neck pickup and bridge pickup, with the Looper as the first block. I tried the 3Sigma "Paul" IRs, which didn't really make much difference. I also tried a couple of EQ suggestions, with limited success. Then I spent ages trying to massage the EQ curve, with EQ blocks and amp controls. I realise that my request is a tall order, and that you will never get that close. They are different designs, with different tonewoods, pickups and scales. Really, it's a case of "what is close enough?"

 

I sort of got near, but I'm questioning the sanity of trying to reproduce a riff and tone which was randomly recorded, when I really have better things to do!!

 

But, I'll try the Tilt EQ next. I've not heard of that, and I'm intrigued.

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5 hours ago, DunedinDragon said:

Ultimately this is why I have a Telecaster as well as a Gretsch hollowbody and presets that go with them.  There's just no mistaking when you've got the proper country twang going on and that requires a Tele with string gauge no greater than 10's,  and the older Chet Atkins fingerpicked style that needs a Gretsch with 11's or 12's.  It's just physics....

Totally agree.... for the amount of country I do.  Its not worth the purchase for me.  We will do maybe 10-12 country-ish tunes.  Mostly newer country, so more twangy southern rock style.  Plus we are doing 80's/90's/00's rock so I'd tend to lean more towards that sounding style of country tones anyway.  

 

But if you got the tools, totally use them. lol  

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8 hours ago, YammerUK said:

 I realise that my request is a tall order, and that you will never get that close. They are different designs, with different tonewoods, pickups and scales. Really, it's a case of "what is close enough?"

 

Blue Cat Audio makes a program called Re-Guitar, and ReValver has guitar sound converters. Of course, none of them sound exactly like the guitar they're trying to emulate...but they sound more like it than the guitar you started with, which is probably enough to fulfill the intended function in a mix.

 

The only way you're going to get close with EQ is if you have the target AND source guitars, and can A-B them until you get it right. Even the smallest pickup, string, and placement differences are significant.

 

True story: I was hired by Gibson (along with the late Bart Walsh, David Lee Roth's guitarist) to emulate a Tele sound using the EQ in Gibson's ill-fated FBX. There was a "jury" of several guitar players who couldn't see which guitar was being played. At first, they could bust the faux Tele every time. After more tweaks, it got to where they really weren't sure. So I gave the FBX one last tweak to make it sound like the idealized Tele sound I heard in my head. To my surprise, the jury now thought the FBX was the Tele..."okay, you've nailed it now." Go figure.

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