Guitar Lessons by Chip McDonald - The "Clean" Sound that Really Isn't?

Friday, December 14, 2018

The "Clean" Sound that Really Isn't?

"Fender clean".

 This is something you're hear/read about.  It's pretty elusive, yes.  Because it's very easy to get on most Fender amps turned up a bit, and nearly impossible otherwise.

 It is NOT a completely "clean", undistorted sound.  It's actually a bit compressed above 1k, and when you play hard the low end distorts.  Which is the trick. 

 Check out Mark Agnesi demonstrating this (ridiculous) strat.  He's going through a Deluxe turned up a bit:

 Note that the chords at first a little bit distorted, the low end is getting saturated.  But then notice the single note lines are not "distorted" per se.

 You can sort of do this on other amps, and on sims.  Kinda.  You have to sort of really moderate your pick attack, and even then you can't really be as expressive on the single string things because the difference between the "soft and chimey" sound and the "aggressive/bitey/distorted" accented sound comes on suddenly. 

 It's also usually the same timbre as well. 

 Effectively speaking it's the quintessential "play soft and it's clean, hit it hard and it's dirty".  But what's really going on is that there is always distortion above 1k, compression, that keeps the treble sounding up front while the low end is make more "present" by adding harmonic distortion when you give it more voltage.  It's not "clean" in reality; if you ran music through it you'd hear bright garble for the most part. 

 The beauty of the sound is that it's very expressive.  There are differences in sound as you play, it's never "perfect"; it's not homogenized.  Which is almost the opposite of digital sims, which can mimic the frequency spectrum perfectly *at one level*, but not across levels.  It sounds "identical" but it doesn't respond identical.  You can practice to try to get the same effect - but that's defeating the purpose, and time is short. 

 If you want that kind of sound, you get the right amp.  The reason I'm writing this is that I've sold off the vintage versions of amps that did this; my Gibson GA-40, and a '65 Deluxe reissue - and now I've got to figure out how to get that back in a more affordable manner, so I've got "Fender "clean"" on the mind.

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