Since the development of the electric guitar, rock music has taken every advantage of all of the sounds and effects available to the instrument in order to create a distinct and creative style found in no other type of music. If you listen to rock music and its progression from the 50s until today, there are readily identifiable sound effects developed from innovative techniques that you can find in the best guitar effects pedals today. Five of the most common sounds in their order of development are:
1) Distortion - Dave Davies of the Kinks is often credited with having developed this effect by slashing the speakers on his amplifiers with a razor blade, which created a strange and vibrating effect that is a hallmark of rock music today. Almost all subsequent rock musicians have gone on to take advantage of this sound as a way of adding power and aggression to the music and it can be found on almost any effects pedal today.
2) Wah Wah - In terms of power and loudness, Jimi Hendrix was not only known for his use of distortion and feedback in his guitar sound but also his use of the "wah wah" effect. By using an effects pedal that constantly alters sound by pivoting back and forth, Hendrix added a distinct flavor to his guitar sounds that anyone would readily associate with 60s rock guitar sounds.
3) Voice box - The voice box is a popular guitar effect that gained traction in the 70s. It is basically an effects pedal with a long rubber tube connected to it in which the player could change guitar sounds just by opening and closing their mouth over the tube. Anyone familiar with the guitar sounds of Peter Frampton ("Show Me the Way") and Joe Walsh ("Rocky Mountain Way") knows and immediately recognizes this guitar sound.
4) Echo - Echo effects became prominent in the 80s and can be heard in many British new wave and other rock bands during the era. Basically, with the echo sound effect the guitarist plays one note and it is repeated over and over at whatever rate the guitarist wants. A classic example from the 80s would be the just about any song produced by U2 and the Edge at the time.
5) Instrument mimicking effects - Today, high end effects pedals have become so sophisticated the guitarist is no longer limited to guitar sounds. Sound effects can be used to make the guitarist a virtual one man band with the ability to play drums, trumpet, saxophone, bass or even flute all from one instrument.
The electric guitar since its inception has been one of the most versatile instruments ever created. All of the sounds that have been developed by its innovators can be used today by any guitarist and are usually contained within one single high-end effects pedal. With such digital tools, the possibilities for creation are limitless and are certain to inspire new rock musicians and spawn new genres of music into the future.
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