Nail that sound with these classic combinations
With so many different types of guitars, amplifiers, pedals and other gizmos, it can be hard to know where to start to get the sound you’re after. Sure, most modern equipment is reasonably versatile so you could, for example, get a passable metal sound from an old blues amp using the right combination of pedals, but there are certain rigs which are just meant to make certain tones. There’s a reason why they’re classics, after all. It makes sense, therefore, to look at some well-known guitar and amp double acts from over the years.
This has been one of the harder articles to put together on account of it being so subjective. Put simply, there isn’t a general consensus that one particular combination sits above all others for achieving a certain sound. This is true of all genres. Different players preferred different gear because that’s what gives an individual his or her sound.
So, rather than looking at specific players’ rigs, we’ll focus more on a few different genres of music and, if you’ll excuse us, in a fairly generic way. This gives us a bit of leeway, and the ability to recommend more than one potential combination for a specific sound. So, without further ado, here’s a look at some of the best guitar and amp combinations around today.
Ah blues, the famous old sound of love, lament and loss. One of the easiest styles to start with but also one of the most difficult to master. It’s true too that most modern guitar styles have some sort of grounding in the blues, making it one of the more versatile styles there is.
There are however a few select pieces of playing gear which keep rising to the top, gear which will always be associated with a classic blues sound. And, as with many styles, the choice often comes down to either a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul. We’ve plumped for the Gibson 2018 Les Paul Studio on account of its no-frills, all-out rock credentials.
Look back at any of the famous blues players and you’ll more than likely see a Strat or Les Paul in their hands. Clapton, Hendrix, Green; all defaulted to the guitar world’s ‘big two’ when they needed to nail that warm, slightly overdriven tone.
To complement the guitar, you’ll need an amp which offers a woody, mid-range heavy sound. The obvious choice to accompany the Les Paul is a Marshall, and the specific choice we’ve made here is the Marshall Origin 5 combo which, at 5 watts, is small enough that you can get from gig to practice without breaking your back and get some sweet sounds without shattering any windows. Gibson into Marshall. It just doesn’t get any more iconic than that.
Alternatively, if you’re more biased towards a Fender, then the ideal amp to complement the Strat would be a Fender Blues Junior which has that creamy, mild overdrive down to a tee.
At the other end of the spectrum sits jazz, with its unrelenting quest for tonal clarity. Often you’ll find jazz players favour big-bodied semi acoustic guitars plugged into high-headroom amplifiers which veer far away from the overdrive so sought after in other musical styles.
As the more esoteric strands of jazz incorporate ever more obscure chord voicings, so it figures that the players want an amp which will allow their sound to be heard accurately no matter the volume. For this reason, many Jazz players will favour something like a Roland JC40 Jazz Chorus. The clue’s in the name. This is an amp which, regardless of what volume you push out, will stay surgically clean.
We’ve paired that with Gibson ES-335 hollow body guitar, which will complement the JC40 nicely and sound gorgeous together.
Metal is slightly more formulaic in its requirements; mahogany bodies and multiple gain stages are the order of the day here. Without getting too genre-nerdy, there are so many different strands of metal that it’d be impossible to recommend a one-size-fits-all combination. The thrash guys will find certain high-gain rigs too dense and woolly, while the sludge guys need more mid-range so an ultra-scooped EQ section isn’t going to cut it for them.
Increasingly, Orange has become synonymous with modern metal. It’s Rockerverb and Thunderverb amps are the dream ticket to a range of different metal sounds, yet we’re going for something slightly different. The Blackstar HT Stage 60 MkII is a beast for this kind of application, running the entire tonal spectrum from tight cleans, to warm overdrives, right through to highly saturated metallic tones that’ll put hairs on your chest.
We’re pairing that with the iconic – genuinely iconic – Ibanez RG550 reissue, because not ony is this brand synonymous with metal in the guitar world, it just looks amazing. The RG550 is metal royalty, and gives players of this genre the perfect playground onto which they can legato til their fingers fall off. Pairing this with the Blackstar would allow you to access a range of tones which border on pure filth, too.
Even after writing this it has become apparent that there are no easy or obvious combinations. There are broad, generic, obvious links between certain brands and genres, but picking specific guitars and amps is slightly more difficult. No doubt people will have their own ideas and we welcome the debate but, for now, here’s our list of the best guitar and amp combinations.
View a complete range of guitars and amps over at the Dawsons website.
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