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Thread: How do you get that jangly 80's new wave guitar tone?

  1. #1
    Punk Freud
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    Talking How do you get that jangly 80's new wave guitar tone?

    As the topic says, I'm having an entire awakening about 80's music. Back then, I thought it was all about synthesizers and drug abuse and such (i'm 15, yknow), but after hearing The Smiths, I now want to be Johhny Marr.

    But I'm having tone and technique problems. I don't know what setup (EQ and such) to use for my guitar and what kind of harmonies to use on such songs. I plan to compose some in that style, leaving shred metal for a while. So could somebody give me tips?? Help would be really appreciated.

  2. #2
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    you need to wrap some tye-dye clothing over your amplifiers tubes, and then you need to fill the fuse sockets with illegal drugs. that should give you a tone similiar....

  3. #3
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    drill holes in your tubes and inject LSD.

  4. #4
    Late bloomer high-strung's Avatar
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    Tune your guitar half-step or whole-step HIGHER. I heard Johnny Marr used to do this.

  5. #5
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    no wait...


    tune down a half step...

    turn you mids all the waaaaay down...

    treble, bass, all the way up...

    put a really powerful treble boost in the effects loop....



    then crank the amplifier and play a guitar hero controller through it....



    blindfolded

  6. #6
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    It's funny, growing up during that period of music I never thought much of it, but now when I hear it I find all sorts of hidden gems. From the Police to the Smiths to INXS, tasty guitar parts abound in 80's pop music. Guess I had the Iron Maiden cranked up too loud to notice.

    I've never really tried to get that 80's tone, but I'd probably start with single coils and a chorus pedal into a not-too-dirty amp. EQ would vary greatly depending on guitar/amp combination, but the idea is to have lots of treble, not much bass and just-enough mids to keep from sounding too sterile. Overdrive, when needed, should be kept to a bare minimum.

    As for the technique, I hear a lot of similarities to reggae and funk in as much as the players tend to favor the first four strings. Review all your major and minor chord inversions involving these strings, and when changing chords try to find voicings that work well together instead of just shifting the same chord shape up and down the fretboard. Scale-wise, I don't recall anything too exotic -- majors and pentatonics should work just fine. As with anything, I'd let my ear find the notes first, then use the scales to arrange those notes for comfort in fingering.

    Don't overthink the music, either. Chances are that if you understand everything I just said, you already know more than most of the musicians who played that style of music in the first place. Have fun, and let us know how it goes.

  7. #7
    Punk Freud
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    Well, thank you for the advice magpie. Its nice to find at least one person who doesn't discriminate new wave music here. Not to mention minors. So, most of the scales used are majors and pentatonics? Lol, I thought "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and a bunch of The Smiths stuff were in Lydian. xD

  8. #8
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    I think treble and chorus and sometimes delay and only a little reverb was pretty common for that style.

  9. #9
    Registered Crutmauler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Babsi
    As the topic says, I'm having an entire awakening about 80's music. Back then, I thought it was all about synthesizers and drug abuse and such (i'm 15, yknow), but after hearing The Smiths, I now want to be Johhny Marr.

    But I'm having tone and technique problems. I don't know what setup (EQ and such) to use for my guitar and what kind of harmonies to use on such songs. I plan to compose some in that style, leaving shred metal for a while. So could somebody give me tips?? Help would be really appreciated.

    Some digital compression and an EQ that cuts out the bass and low and accents the mids. Try that.

    Forget the drugs. That had nothing to do with it.
    Last edited by hairballxavier; 01-27-2008 at 07:51 AM.

  10. #10
    Registered User ashc's Avatar
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    As "high-strung" mentioned Johnny Marr was tuning up a tone quite a lot in the early days. But, as he found out, you're going to break a lot of strings like that so it's a lot easier to use a capo !!

    The Smiths records are heavily layered with guitar parts so hard to get that sound on your own, but (without getting too much into gear) as mentioned by others thin/trebly sounds from a bridge pickup or single coils, chorus and mostly clean sounds is the way to go.
    Last edited by ashc; 01-28-2008 at 08:48 AM.

  11. #11
    Artistically Bankrupt
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    Grab an acoustic, and work up some strumming patterns. Then, plug an electric into a clean amp with the midrange killed and play the same thing. Viola. 80's pop guitar is born. Chorus pedals and a slight delay are a major plus.

    I am not denigrating the music. I am only pointing out that it was largely music played on an electric that one wouldn't normally play on an electric. It is almost as if the arrangement of the songs happened in the studios.
    "If a child learns which is jay and which is sparrow, he'll no longer see birds nor hear them sing."

  12. #12
    Punk Freud
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    Quote Originally Posted by ashc
    As "high-strung" mentioned Johnny Marr was tuning up a tone quite a lot in the early days. But, as he found out, you're going to break a lot of strings like that so it's a lot easier to use a capo !!

    The Smiths records are heavily layered with guitar parts so hard to get that sound on your own, but (without getting too much into gear) as mentioned by others thin/trebly sounds from a bridge pickup or single coils, chorus and mostly clean sounds is the way to go.

    of course! i completely forgot about the capo!! but what about it, should I detune my guitar 1 or 2 steps (ala robert johnson) or should i stick it while on standard?

    @blutwulf
    hey, i agree with you. its mostly studio tricks on its part. hell, I swear i heard some em7 (from the upper register) to a b-flat diminished (from the 2nd fret!) and alot of chord changes i deem impossible to play at the speed live. but i think that's not the point, its still beautiful music, and i love it.

  13. #13
    Late bloomer high-strung's Avatar
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    Really liked "William It Was Really Nothing". Some nice rhythms on that one.
    The Smiths were a good band, always brings back middle-school and high school memories for me

  14. #14
    Registered User ashc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Babsi
    of course! i completely forgot about the capo!! but what about it, should I detune my guitar 1 or 2 steps (ala robert johnson) or should i stick it while on standard?
    In standard and then capo, no detuning down - I think this was partly to fit things into Morrisey's vocal range, but it anyway contributes to the sound.

    EDIT: And don't forget to make the capo count by using chord voicings with open strings (and not just at 1st position)

    Marr may have also used non-standard alternate tunings on some things as well (I have no idea if this is true) since he was heavily into guys like Bert Jansch and that english folk scene was big on alternate tunings (lots on that if you Google it I would expect).
    Last edited by ashc; 01-29-2008 at 06:16 PM.

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