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Cleanliness Leads to Guitarfulness – The 3 Keys to a Clean Guitar Sound


A clean guitar sound is something people actually struggle with.

To me it was always the opposite. I had the hardest time getting the distortion sound I wanted, as I’ve mentioned before.

I think the key to a great clean guitar sound is threefold.

  • Clean guitar
  • Clean amp
  • Clean fingers

Clean Guitar

Some guitars are made with metal in mind. If you’re looking for a nice clean guitar sound out of them you might be disappointed.

Opt for a classic model, a Les Paul or a Stratocaster depending on whether you want a humbucker or single coil sound. If you have a guitar with pickups called SuperDistortions, don’t be surprised if they don’t sparkle and shine.

Clean Amp

Some amps are designed the same way. Sometimes it’s just impossible to get a nice clean sound out of an amp that’s designed for hard rock. A solid state amp can give you very nice cleans. You don’t need a tube amp to get a good clean sound.

However, some guitarists really don’t like the transparent solid-state sound and always opt for tubes. If that’s the case make sure no amount of hard strumming will overdrive your clean channel.

Make sure the pre-amp gain is set so that it’s impossible to distort. That might be the biggest issue when recording. A guitarist might really get into the that particular take is essentially ruined.

Make sure the amp keeps clean at all times.

Clean fingers

It’s all in the performance. If you can’t get a clean guitar sound because the performance is sloppy there’s really nothing to do except send the player home and make him practice or settle for a sloppy performance.

You might get away with that if it’s that sort of genre, but the best takes come when the guitarist can really play. If they’re conscious of they’re playing and experienced with playing cleanly, you will get a clean guitar sound.

When you’ve recorded a great guitar performance it’s all downhill from there. Mixing becomes easier and you can allow yourself some time to experiment and have fun because you don’t have to worry about fixing it in the mix.


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About Audio Issues and Björgvin Benediktsson

At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

We help home studio musicians and project studio producers make a greater musical impact in their lives by teaching them the skills needed to grow their hobbies and careers. We do this by offering simple and practical music production and success skills they can use right away to level themselves up – while rejecting negativity and gear-shaming from the industry. A rising tide floats all boats and the ocean is big enough for all of us to surf the sound waves.

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