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How to get great electric guitar clean tone the easy way

Getting great clean tone is easy with any electric guitar when you know the right stuff to use.

Above is a video of me playing my Ibanez GAX30. The only things I've done to this guitar was a setup and a string change. It's 100% stock with all original hardware.

I'm mentioning this because it honestly doesn't matter what guitar you have. It could be an inexpensive GAX30 or a ridiculously expensive PRS McCarty 594. What does matter is how you approach clean tone.

Recording

I use a Line 6 Spider V 60 plugged direct into my computer. It's not required to have this amp to get good clean electric guitar sounds. But it is certainly much easier than placing a microphone to an amplifier speaker.

Recording direct, be it through a modeling amp like the Spider V 60, effects unit like the DigiTech RP360 or software, does allow for the most noise-free sound.

Effects

There are two required effects and one optional here.

Required: Compressor effect

All guitar modeling setups these days be it amp, multi-effect unit or software have several compressor effects available to you. One of them that's usually just right for recording is anything that emulates a BOSS CS-3 Compression Sustainer.

Could you use an actual BOSS CS-3 instead of emulated? Yes. If you have one, the CS-3 can be used direct and works well.

The level of compression to use depends on what pickups your guitar has. Typically, single-coil pickups require more compression because of lower overall output and humbucker pickups require less compression because of higher overall output.

Required: Delay effect

Like the compressor effect, all modeling amps, multi-effect units and software have several delay effects you can choose from. Like the CS-3, the best delay for recording is something that emulates a BOSS DD-7 Digital Delay.

The key thing to know here is to use digital delay and not analog. Where clean tone is concerned, analog delay can color the sound too much and not sound right.

The level of delay to use should be 40% or less. You do not want the delay "in your face", but rather as a nice compliment to the clean sound to fill the empty sonic space.

Optional: Chorus effect

Once again, the chorus effect is available in just about all modeling amps, multi-effect units and software.

As far as the best chorus to use, it's not one that would try to emulate any specific pedal effect but rather one that can be used with a slow rate.

Generally speaking, the way a chorus effect works is by rate adjusted from slow to fast, and density for how much of the effect is heard. For optimal clean sound, a slow rate with a mild density usually works best.

Using a scale of 1 to 10 for easier comprehension, rate would be 1 to 2, and density would be 3 to 5.

Order of effects

Compressor first, chorus (if used) second, delay last. For most people, this would be the best chain order to use to get the best sound.

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