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Blues Guitar Lessons: Gear

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Now before we actually start playing,
let's talk a little bit about what it
is that you're gonna be playing on.
If you're watching this video,
of course, you've got a guitar.
There's a lot of mythology about blues and
blues instruments and blues equipment.
And what I'd like to say, I'm not gonna
go into great detail about models and
years and all that stuff.
The most important thing is that you
have a guitar that you enjoy playing.
And that means that it's tunable and
sometimes you get a guitar and
the intonation is off.
If you're not familiar with what
intonation means, that really has to do
with the relationship between the nut,
which is where the strings meet the body
over here, and then the bridge.
The bridge on different guitars,
they look different,
they have different adjustments.
If that adjustment is not made properly,
the guitar will never play in tune and
that will frustrate the heck out of you.
So you wanna make sure
your guitar plays in tune.
Fortunately, you can go online and
find lots of tutorials
about how to set up your guitar,
how to set intonation, things like that.
So set it up so that it plays in tune.
If you have questions and
you can't figure it out,
that's when you go to a guitar repair
guy and have him work on it for you.
It shouldn't cost much money.
The other part of it, of course,
is the feel, the action,
how high the strings are set,
how easy it is to play.
You want a little bit of
resistance in the strings.
In other words,
if they're too loose and floppy,
the guitar will sound out of tune because
you hit the strings and they kinda waver.
So you want a little bit of
resistance and, at the same time,
you don't want it to be so
high that you have to fight it.
Old-time cheap guitars,
they were very hard to play.
A lot of people quit
guitar because of that.
Fortunately, now you can get a good guitar
for a couple hundred bucks that'll play in
tune, has pretty decent action,
or playing feel.
And then as you go along,
the more you play, the better you play,
the more you hear.
You start to make decisions about
what kind of gear you'd like and
you might put that guitar
away get another one.
This is obviously a Fender Telecaster,
classic blues sound you hear
on a lot of blues records.
Versatile guitar, it goes from kind
of a nasty sound to a very sweet sound, so
a lot of players like it for that reason.
There's the Fender Strat,
obviously, big, popular instrument.
The Gibson Les Paul.
The Gibson ES335, which is semi-hollow,
sort of a cross between a jazz guitar and
a solid body.
But you don't have to go for
the big names.
You can buy budget instruments by
Fender or by Gibson, or you can go for
another brand that's made somewhere
else and made by another company.
As long as you like the feel,
you like the way it sounds and plays,
you don't have to spend a lot of money.
And also, you want it look cool.
It should be something you're proud to
hold in your hand and you feel like yeah,
this is the real deal.
So that's pretty much all
I'm gonna say about guitars.
Now, if you have a question about
your guitar or about your set up,
you can always send it to me and
I'll get back to you.
We'll talk.
As far as amplifiers,
the same rule applies to me.
You don't have to go for the mythological,
super duper tube amp that is hand wired.
Those are great, but
they're also very expensive.
When you're staring out, you just need an
amp that's gonna produce a reasonably good
tone and a pretty good clean sound.
And my experience is it's much harder
to get a clean sound out of an amp,
a good clean sound,
than it is to get distortion.
Distortion is pretty easy to get
these days, but a good round,
clean tone where you can hear all the
detail, that's what you're looking for.
You don't need anything
more than about 20 watts.
And even if you're playing
in a band with a drummer,
a 20-watt amp will kick pretty good,
you know.
I've been told to turn down a 20-watt amp,
so you don't need a lot more than that.
What you get when you have more power
is that you get a cleaner sound at
a lower volume.
If you have an amp that only sounds
good when it's wide open, and
if that sound is very distorted,
what you're doing is limiting yourself and
it's going to take away some
of the detail in your playing.
We'll talk more about that later.
As far as effects are concerned,
if you have a good-sounding, clean amp,
gets you a good rhythm sound,
then you can always kick on that pedal and
get distortion for your solos.
Lots of choices there.
The effect technology has come a long way
over the last few years in particular.
Tons and tons of choices.
You will wind up buying and probably
selling a lot of gear over the years,
the longer you play guitar.
But what I found over the years,
too, is that if I buy something and
I sort of fall out of love with it,
I don't sell it right away.
I put it away cuz I might fall
back in love later, you know?
So you wind up with a closet full of gear.
As long as you have a place to put it,
it doesn't hurt anybody.
So you got your guitar,
you got your amp, you got your effects.
[COUGH] And you don't need
a lot of effects, by the way.
For blues, it's really down to reverb,
which is often built into the amp.
And the old-school reverb was a spring
reverb which actually had a spring that
Now they can do it digitally,
it sounds pretty good.
You've got tape delay or
just echo, as they call it,
often set for a very small echo.
You don't want any of that stuff
to be too obvious cuz it gets
in the way of your sound.
Rather than enhancing,
it kind of distracts.
And then you've got the distortion sounds,
various kinds of lead sounds,
as we might call them.
Lots of choices there.
As we go through the lessons,
I'll probably use some of that stuff,
at various times.
I'll tell you what I'm doing,
and we'll talk about tone and
how it applies to different kinds of
grooves and different kinds of techniques.
Now the other parts of the equation.
You've got a cord that runs
from your guitar to your amp.
You don't want to skimp on the money
to buy a good cord cuz if it buzzes or
it breaks all the time,
you're just gonna keep buying new cords.
So spend a little bit of extra money
get a decent cord that will last for
a long time.
You got a strap obviously.
Set the strap where you're comfortable.
One thing about strap length is that
if you practice sitting down and
your strap when you stand up is way lower,
it will affect your technique.
So adjust the strap to where it's more or
less in the same ballpark as your seated
position, or practice standing up.
It's gonna make a big difference in
your sound when you get up and play and
your technique doesn't
suddenly suffer as a result.
And then finally, you got this little
thing that we all use, the pick.
Picks come in literally all shapes and
I prefer the standard teardrop shape.
And lots of different manufacturers.
Fortunately they're very cheap, so you can
buy a bunch of them and try them all out.
See what your favorite players use.
Buy one just like that.
One other thing I should mention,
by the way, and that's little thing here.
If you've never seen one,
it looks pretty weird.
But it's called a capo, or
on the street they call it a cheater.
Because what it allows you
to do is play chords and
different sounds that you normally
play in the open position.
But let's say that's the key of E.
I wanna play in the key of G,
I just clamp this thing on here.
Voila, play the same exact thing.
Now you say that's kinda cheating,
and kind of it is, but
a lot of great blues guitar players
have built their styles around using
this little device right here.
So I'm gonna refer to it
from time to time, and
I might even use it from time to time, but
I'll also show you how to play without it.
It's an added weapon in your arsenal.
They're cheap, good thing to have, okay?
So I think we're all set up and
ready to go.
Let's get down to it.