This video is bonus content related to the March 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.
For guitarists accustomed to channel switching and distortion pedals, the thought of being forced to plug straight into a clean amp can be a nightmare. But the big, bad guitar sounds of classic blues are all “straight in,” so how do players turn this apparent handicap to an advantage? The secret is to attack.
Your sound begins at the point of impact between the pick and the string. Modern rock technique, particularly shred, minimizes the range of pick motion to maximize speed. The initial sound is small, but electronic effects, such as distortion and compression, magnify the result after the fact.
In blues, the idea is to shape your tone before it leaves the guitar. A big sound requires a big attack, so you don’t pick the strings—you slap them. Since this means hitting several strings at once, you must also train your fretting hand to mute the strings on either side of the desired note.