An ‘electric guitar’ is the most popular phrase in the use of people who seek after some heavy and overdriven tones. If somebody as a kid used to imagine themselves on a stage playing their favorite songs on an electric guitar alongside their rock idols, this is definitely the best place to be.
The main rule for obtaining the sound is always the same. A pickup receives a vibration from metal string and converts it to a signal, which gets through a cable to an amplifier, and becomes a sound we hear from the speaker.
What influences the sound of a guitar, are not only the pickups, but also its body along with the wood used to make it, as well as for example its bridge.
If we search for a guitar for rock music, we should basically focus on its pickups and body. The best choice are guitars with humbucker pickups, thanks to which our tone can get a bit more thick and heavy.
Humbuckers are divided into passive and active ones. An active pickup differs from a passive one in the fact that it’s powered by a battery. A good example here is a set of active humbuckers by EMG, used for example by Zakk Wylde from Black Label Society. Their sound is more dynamic and has got more attack than passive pickups. Passive humbuckers though still obtain a strong signal despite not having any extra power from a battery. In this case it’s worth to mention Seymour Duncan, which is a leading company producing high quality pickups, right next to the aforementioned EMG or DiMarzio.
Single coil is a pickup with less power, also looking seemingly like just a half of a humbucker. Its sound is lighter and it goes along well with softer rock, though it still depends on what kind of a pickup do we own specifically. P90 is a mix of a humbucker and a single coil, looks like the former, nut its sound is not as heavy and will probably be a little ‘milky’. A good example of a guitarist using this kind of pickups is Phil X of the band The Drills, also known as the reviewer for the Fretted American music store. His guitar is equipped in P90s and is able to make a lot of noise, and is simply loved by his fans.
Bodies of type like in Les Paul guitars are often chosen for heavier music, this howsoever, doesn’t mean that other guitars won’t do. We can also choose from explorers, SGs (which is the body of the guitar used by Angus Young from AD/DC for example) or flying Vs. It’s worth to look into brands like Cort, Washburn, Epiphone, Fender, Gibson or Ibanez. These are ones of the most popular brands, although there’s still plenty more. Guitars called “superstrats” are also great for rock music. Within their looks they resemble classic Fender Stratocasters, but within their tone they’re very different. If we want to hear such a guitar in action it’s enough to listen to stars like Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai. Superstrats are usually picked by the group of guitarists more interested in shredding, which obviously stands for fast and technical playing. Their built and well-adjusted, thin neck is what makes it so suitable to this kind of playing. The most popular guitars of such type are made by Ibanez, though they’re not the only choice we have. We don’t have to spend that much money on it, for example like with Cort Katana guitars, which are a great example of well-built and not so expensive gear.
There’s also guitars of hollow body type, commonly described as jazz guitars. Their bodies are distinguished by being big and empty inside, what really affects their tone. The fact that they’re widely used for jazz music doesn’t mean they’re not enough for anything else. Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters uses a Gibson hollow body instrument and it still sounds as good in rock’n’roll settings. Brian Setzer from Stray Cats or Brian Setzer Orchestra also uses a hollow body by Gretsch, where their sound is definitely a staple for energetic rockabilly.
When we buy our first guitar our budget might not be too big, that’s when brand like Cort, Epiphone, Squier or Washburn are what we might look for, which a solid guitar for not too much money. If we have a bit more we can search through Fender guitars, which will supply us with some higher quality gear.
All the guitars are different from each other, but it’s still possible to play all the genres on all of them. Les Paul will be ok for something more than rock, it might still be used for jazz music as every other guitar. A Stratocaster with single coils is probably fit for light rock music, but you can still obtain some more abrasive sounds on it. A telecaster widely chosen for country music, will be just as good for jazz, especially a telecaster thinline, which is also a hollow body guitar. What’s more, John 5 (ex-Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie) is also a huge fan of telecaster guitars, and he obviously uses them to play heavy music.
You can use guitar in many different ways and for example what’s interesting, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin used to used to play their song “Dazed & Confused” with a bow, creating some innovative sounds. Jónsi from Sigur Rós is another musician who employs the bow to play his guitar, though he surely uses it much more than mr. Page.
There’s so many electric guitars, everybody can find something for themselves, it’s enough to just look for it and adjust to what you need. There’s plenty different techniques and styles, from playing chords, though heavy riffs and solos, to tapping (which is a staple for Eddie Van Halen, you can go and listen to “Eruption”). Regardless of your level you can easily select something for yourself, and hopefully you’ll find this article helpful.