So you think you can shred?
From the campfire to the stadium, guitarists have always taken a leading role, much to the chagrin of bass players everywhere.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a beat up old acoustic or a Frankenstein barncaster, as long as it’s played well any guitar will do. That said, there are some makes, models and rigs that seem tailor-made for certain genres.
LondonFuse axed guitar heroes Nick Cifaldi and Derek Stocking at Long & McQuade what the most popular setups are for a variety of styles to help you get started on the road to folk/metal/country/blues stardom.
(If any of the below-mentioned companies wish to sponsor LondonFuse, we’ll take any model in hot pink.)
Folk music comes from the heart. It’s a grassroots thing where authenticity is paramount to performance. While any beat up old acoustic would work, finding the right one to begin beating up is a question of durability and consistency.
Our friends at L&M explained that Taylor acoustics are a popular choice for folk artists because of their uniform tone and manufacturing methods.
“They are kind of at the forefront for having specific machines to build guitars,” said Cifaldi. “For a touring musician, I feel they are really solid.”
For touring folkies crossing borders, if you rent a Taylor on the road, you know it’s going to sound like the Taylor you have at home.
The Fender Acoustasonic is a grab and go amp. They are light, portable, and designed specifically for acoustic guitars. They are a popular choice for the folk legend in the making because they are simple to use and easy to move from town to town as you build your repertoire of down-home ballads.
London has long been a blues town, with a tight knit community of renowned musicians getting their start here. Blues is equal parts pretty and gritty, so a versatile guitar is needed.
For the beginning blues man or woman, the most popular choice is also one of the most iconic guitars ever made – the Fender Stratocaster.
From Jimi Hendrix to Clapton to Stevie Ray Vaughan, the biggest blues talents have all slung Strats. It’s the definitive blues whip.
“It’s kind of hard to get that sound with any other guitar,” said Cifaldi. “So it really stands out with that really unique unique voice.”
Our amp pairing for the day was a Fender Blues Junior III. It may seem like a small rig compared to others in the list, but the Blues Junior has a lot of tube power in a small package, and is great for stage volume. Price point is also a huge plus.
“Since they are so inexpensive they are awesome for someone getting into the blues,” Stocking said.
They are also a regular go-to for studio recording.
Metal is all about two things: gain and speed.
Jackson guitars’ sleek design and flat necks allow guitarists to shred up and down the fretboard with minimal resistance and maximum speed. Locking tuners help keep notes true when playing drop-tuning or abusing the whammy bar. That, and they look totally badass.
“We sell a lot of them,” said Cifaldi. “There is a strong metal and punk community – especially in London.”
The most popular amps for metalheads are Marshalls, hands down. Their high gain and raw tube power make Marshall heads perfect for face melting, sweep-picking solos and bowel-rumbling chugs. Combined with a Marshall speaker cabinet, the tone achieves boss mode.
Marshalls are also one of the most popular rentals for touring acts and venues providing a backline.
The fact is – country is the new rock and roll. Get used to it.
The Tele boasts the title of being the first Fender electric guitar produced, and the spanky tone is still a popular mainstay in country music. Chances are when you hear that clean country twang in a recording, it’s a Telecaster hard at work.
The Fender Princeton line of amps are equally classic and clean, with plenty of reverb available to add some depth and dimension. The Princeton Reverb is a big seller at L&M for country guitarists who want that ’50s and ’60s sound.
Throw in a little slapback echo and you’ve got yourself a stew, baby!
STRUMTHING FOR EVERYONE
The reason you see these guitar/amp combos so often on stage – and in the checkout line – is because they work. In some cases, they even define the sound.
Next time you have an existential crisis at the music store, try out one of these combinations and choose the tone that suits your style best… Just make sure you leave your credit card at home until you’ve tried them all.
Big thanks to Nick and Derek for the inside scoop.
Shred on, you crazy diamonds. Shred on.
Photos by Gerard Creces