Don’t play or own a guitar but want some rock or country sounds in your tunes? Well, it’s now easier than ever to use the technology at your fingertips to create realistic axe tones. Here are six common and not so obvious methods…
Some of us, no names mentioned, got into making music with technology, simply because making music with real instruments was so damned hard. We tried to learn guitar years ago, but the bloody strings hurt our delicate little fingers.
Piano? Yep, tried that too, but the ancient person teaching it practiced educational methods from the 19th century that were enough to put us off music making for years. Then, thank you technology gods, along came computers, and we never had to pick up a recorder or experience piano witchcraft ever again.
In recent years, creating great guitar sounds, in particular, has become one of the hottest areas of music production technology. From the very DAW you use to some extraordinary virtual guitars and hardware solutions, there are some fantastically hi-tech ways to get a great guitar sound if you lack the skills (or friends) to rock out properly…
1. Effect it up
The software guitar effect has also undergone a revolution, so that you can ‘effectively’ use your computer or iPad as a live guitar effect or even turn non-guitar sounds into realistic shreddage. One of the first guitar amp simulators was IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube and this is now available in a variety of configurations for iOS from €14.99 (www.ikmultimedia.com). Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig is the do-it-all guitar effects processor for desktop, and while the full version is £169 (www.native-instruments.com), there is a free, cut-down one available, which is well worth a try.
2. Your DAW has it (probably)
Most DAWs come packed with virtual instruments, effects and samples and many of these will be dedicated to creating the sound of the guitar. Cubase comes with the HALion Sonic SE sample player to play the sounds and the VST Amp Rack to add effects. Logic’s EXS24 sampler is looking a tad tired but the software’s Pedalboard offers enough effects to ‘guitar-up’ any sound. Ableton Live’s Operator has Power Chord and 12-String presets ready to go, and with other DAWs, if they don’t have dedicated instruments to create guitar sounds, then they can certainly host them. And next we’ll see how good these are…
3. Dedicated soft explosion
Software produced specifically for creating realistic guitar is where it’s at. These can run in the above-mentioned DAWs or very often standalone, and they have moved on apace in recent years and are now capable of producing stunning guitar sounds, either from huge libraries, recreations of virtual guitars or a combination of the two. Check out some of the following for a wide range of guitar sound creation. Impact Soundworks Shreddage 2 IBZ (£119, www.impactsoundworks.com) offers huge metal sounds; uJam Virtual Guitarist bundle (£283, www.timespace.com) has four classical guitarists on tap; Native Instruments’ Session Guitarist Strummed Acoustic and Electric Sunburst (both £89, www.native-instruments.com) deliver acoustic and electric well; Vir 2 Electri6ity ($399.95, www.vir2.com) offers pretty much every classic electric guitar in soft form; Sample Logic Cinematic Guitars Infinity ($599.99, www.samplelogic.com) has more ‘out there’ guitar sounds; and Chris Hein Guitars (€189, www.bestservice.com) has everything from jazz to banjo. Check www.musictech.net for many more soft options.
4. Sample someone special
When we discovered samples, we realised that our fingers were safe and that digital audio could well be our new guitar friend. Nowadays you can get guitar samples everywhere. Loopmasters (www.loopmasters.com) offers everything from sample producers Organic Loops, AUBIT, Black Octopus and many more starting from £14.95, while over at Time & Space (www.timespace.com) Big Fish Audio’s, Cinesamples, uJam and more have a slew of guitar sample titles from around £20.
5. The stimulator
No round-up of guitar technology could be made without mentioning the specific product that is the Kemper Profiling amp, as it is not only a guitar effect and amp simulator, but can ‘profile’ any other amp set-up. That is, it models the sound produced by an amp and can then act like that amp in a spooky kind of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers kind of way. It looks damn cool too.
6. Control your expression
The new breed of MPE controllers allows expressive playing and control plus incredible sonic experimentation. With gear from people like ROLI (www.roli.com) you can manipulate sound in new touchable ways. A happy side effect is that these also make creating proper guitar effects and sounds via a keyboard-type controller easier too, so those sensitive fingers of yours (okay, ours) will remain happy forever.