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5 things you need to know about reggae guitar! 


1. What guitars?

Any decent guitar can be used as a reggae guitar but, the top three are the Fender Stratocaster, The Fender Telecaster and the Gibson Les Paul. Get your hand on anyFender strat reggae guitar of these babies and you are good to go. Again let me reiterate, any good guitar can be used as reggae guitar but, the above ones are the most popular.  So which are the best reggae guitars?

The Fender Stratocaster is by far the most popular guitar ever and it comes as no surprise that it is the most popular model used in reggae. It really does not matter what strings you use, what you are after is a nice high clean sound that will give the chop/chuck sound. Check out the how to play reggae guitar for more on this.   

A favorite for many reggae guitarists is the Fender Telecaster because of its simple design and sweet sound. There are no rules cast in stone as to how you go about getting your tone for reggae. With this guitar, play with the settings a bit and use your ears to figure out what sounds best.  Quick tip, listen to one of your favorite reggae record and try to match the sound.

And last but by no means least, is the Gibson Les Paul. Bob Marley (Bob Marley reggae guitar lesson) used it and so did his lead guitarist Al Anderson and many others. You could start off with the pickup switch in middle and if that is not to your liking, then change the settings to see what works best for you.  If you work in the studio a lot, look into some reggae guitar VST.

2. Amps 

Before I get started bare this in mind, reggae has no set rule on what amp you should use for your guitar. Use what ever amp you feel comfortable with, so long as you can get a good sound out of it.  

A good starting point for reggae guitar is the Roland JC – 120. This is probably the most sought after reggae amp on the reggae circuit. It is industry standard for its gorgeous clean sound. Junior Marvin form the Wailers used one and so does legendary reggae jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin. This amp may not be for everyone since it is solid state.  This amp works very well effects pedals when connected via the effects loop. 

If you have the money to spend and you like the reggae guitar sound of valve amps, then the Fender Twin Reverb is the way to go. Remember you are after a clean sound, so don’t drive this baby too hard or she will start to break up.  However, if you are playing lead then feel free turn the volume up.

The Vox AC 30 is another very good amp if you can get your hands on one of them – remember they are heavy. A friend of mine who worked for Vox said that the ones with the old blue celestion speakers are the best. Dalton Browne used one at Harry J Studio in Kingston Jamaica when they were recording Horace Handy Living It Up album. Check out the album to here how it sounds.

Marshall has some very good amps and one that springs to mind, if you can afford it, is the BluesBreaker.  The valvestate ones that they make are cheaper and I have heard some players say that they are very good. 

Irrespective of what anyone says you do not necessarily need an amp for playing reggae guitar. You can actually do worst than the venue PA system  and an effects pedal. So if you have this set up, by all means use it and don’t stress over getting an amp.  Click link for the 10 best Reggae amp

3. The sound 

What you want for the reggae guitar sound is a sparkling clean sound that cuts through the mix. To achieve this, start off with the volume, bass, mid and treble at 12 o’clock. Roll back on the bass a little and turn the middle up three quarters of the way and do the same for the treble. 

Manipulate the other amp settings to taste. Make sure to listen carefully to what you hear, chances are if it does not sound right, maybe it isn’t. If you are stuck here, listen to one of your favorite reggae records and try to use your guitar and amp to emulate the rhythm sound.  

4. Effects 

Most reggae guitarist use four main types of effects: reverb, delay, overdrive (some use distortion instead) and some kind of wah or envelop filter (auto-wah). Using effects is a very personal thing so follow your ears on this and if you dig the sound then play on! 

A very good technique you could try when using your effects, especially if you are the sole player of rhythm in your band, is to turn up the reverb about half away, then use a good amount of delay and then set the auto-wah to taste.  

This gives the effect that the bass organ would give. It also adds body to the entire sound of the band in very profound way that makes the music sounds just right. If you are playing lead then you could try an overdrive or a distortion pedal of some kind. Traditionally though, most of reggae’s lead parts are played with a clean tone.

5. The Chop 

Believe it or not, when playing reggae guitar, you can actually get by in a live setting without using the chopping/chucking technique. This is good news for those who maybe struggling to master this technique.

All you have to do is simply strum down then raise the strings off the fret board slightly to dampen the sound. Do this over and over and you will mastered the art of reggae guitar strumming.


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Dwayne Griffiths

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