on 18 May 2012
Dave Hunter has written several excellent books on the subject of guitars and amplifiers. Clearly a technical expert with substantial practical experience, Dave Hunter is adept at giving explanations that are clear and make sense. With the benefit of having a long-term relationship with the major publisher Hal Leonard, his books benefit from superb layout and design, quality editing, plus the ability to source photographs and images that lift them to a very high presentational standard. Being aligned to a major publisher also enables wide distribution and helps keep costs down, providing incredibly good value for all the material it contains.
Some guitarists are perfectly happy to use the same instrument and same amplifier for every song and every band. Others swap guitars for different tunes, or change amplifiers for different gigs. Sometimes this is down to choice or availability - but sometimes it can be about aiming for a specific tone quality with just the right amount of overdrive, crunch, or whatever. There's no right or wrong approach and whatever works best for you is probably the easiest way to look at it, and also the sentiment that comes across strongly from Dave Hunter in his writing.
This particular volume looks at "classic rigs" for guitar and amplifier set-up combinations. This raises the inevitable question of what exactly does "classic" mean in this context? The precise answer is that it means different things to different people, but more generally it usually is taken to refer to amplified guitar music from the era when electronic circuitry still used valves - so about 1955 till 1972ish. From 1973 onwards when transistors widely replaced valves, we began to get the "modern" sound - and the addition of supplementary effects and stereo trickery became more commonplace too, thanks to advances in multi-channel recording and other developments. In reality there was of course a more gradual change and there were plenty of fine modern recordings made earlier, and classic sounding recordings made later - but that's roughly the time when manufacturers were thinking about the components they used in the mass produced models. During that 1950s and 1960 classic era, many different forms of popular music took shape and gained followings. This book takes a close look at twelve genres, e.g. rock and roll; surf; rhythm and blues; country; jazz; British rock; etc, and drills down beneath the surface of the guitar and amplifier set-up.
With every style of music there has usually been a core of key artists who were extolled and widely copied by others. Recognising this, Dave Hunter has looked at what instruments and equipment they used in order to produce their signature sound; the sound that others wanted to attain. Most importantly, he then goes on to explain how that equipment worked and what impact different control settings would have. For example, the tone controls on a top-boost Vox AC30 have a different function to those on a Fender Bassman, and reading this volume has enabled me to understand why, and to get a better sound more quickly with my own rig.
There is a wealth of fascinating back-story on the various manufacturers and their product development which, along with the photos and layout, helped make the volume a pleasant read (as opposed to the technical manual it might easily have been in other authors' hands). I suppose it is one of those books where it might help if you already have some grasp of different gear before you pick it up but, that said, it's well enough written that you could probably also use it for accelerated learning even if you're not yet familiar with all the different gear combinations possible.
I should mention that there are several modern styles of music which, by definition, are not included in this volume, or modern boutique manufacturers - so you'll not find the settings to dial up let's say, post-industrial grime; or speed-metal; or hardcore fusion; nor how to get those epic Boogie or Soldano sounds. But what you do get is top-drawer for what it does cover. There's also a CD that comes with the book, so you can hear examples of the different set-ups in action. Hurrah! Yes, a really helpful book.
on 1 January 2010
Much has been written about classic guitar set ups and sounds to assist people in emulating some of those sounds heard on famous recordings. More often than not such text ends up in a mess of waffle worthy only of pretentious wine tasters. This is not the case with this book, which clearly and authoritatively sets out the building blocks of and factors affecting the sound of amplified electric guitars. There is a well produced CD that demonstrates precisely what the author is on about, with detailed information on the kit and the settings used to enable someone to have a reasonable stab at recreating that tone. It's all down to personal taste, but to my ear some of the 'classic' tones leave a lot to be desired - especially with the older more primitive kit, but there more than enough great sounds to give the player ideas about which amps and kit to try to help find his/her own sound.