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How to record "washy" reverb with an electric guitar the right way

In the demo above, I play some guitar (on my Squier Strat) using some very "washy" reverb.

There's are right and wrong ways to record reverb. I'm not saying my way is the absolute method you should use to record an electric guitar with washy reverb, but chances are it will work for you.

Rule #1: Use a digital reverb

Analog reverb (like spring reverb on Fender amps) won't work too well because every so often you'll hear a spring "clang" happen. For lower amounts of reverb, spring works, but for high amounts like in the demo above, spring will create undesirable clang noises just due to the nature of how it works.

Any digital reverb will do, such as DigiTech DigiVerb, BOSS RV-5, Alesis Nanoverb 2, or whatever you have currently as long as it's digital.

Rule #2: Play with mild overdrive, no compression and guitar volume at half or lower

What guitar players typically do is turn the guitar up to 10 and use compression but with no overdrive, and the end result is a "tinny" sound. Most would describe it a a sound that "has no body to it".

Instead, kill the compression, use a light overdrive, and turn the guitar volume down to 5 or lower (you'll figure out what works best for your guitar). It doesn't matter what guitar is being used, although you may find single-coils much better suited for this type of stuff compared to humbuckers due to the fact singles have more treble response. But if a humbucker-equipped guitar is all you have, just work with it.

In the demo recording above I purposely bang a chord hard at the end where you can hear the overdrive ring out to prove I was actually using it.

Rule #3: Try the middle pickup position on the guitar first

More often than not the middle position on the guitar will work best, as it will give the most "even balance" between treble and bass response. It doesn't matter whether your pickup configuration is SSS, HSS, HH or HSH. Use the middle first before going anywhere else, because chances are you'll want to be there anyway to get the desired sound.

Remember, this is for studio (or home studio) recorded stuff and not the stage

On the stage, it's too easy to get "lost" when using high amounts of reverb, so I don't recommend using it there. Instead, use delay (DigiTech DigiDelay, BOSS DD-3 or DD-7, MXR Carbon Copy, VOX Time Machine or whatever you prefer) as a substitute because in a live situation it's a whole lot easier to get control over.

And yeah, I know, you're saying to yourself, "But delay is totally different from reverb!" You're right. But on stage, delay actually sounds more like reverb because the effect is being used much more "in the open", so to speak. And believe me when I say your sound guy (as in the guy running the PA mixer) will much appreciate the fact you're using delay and not reverb out there because it's a whole lot easier on his end to hear what's actually going on.

When in the studio however, go ahead and wash out the reverb all you want, because you've got the controlled environment and it works out just fine there.

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