There are some sounds guitarists will kill to achieve. Some like a throaty sound, while some guitarists push for a clean, 80s-style sound. One particular style of sound is well appreciated for its full-body, expressive style – the creamy sound.
Guitarists such as Eric Johnson, Eric Clapton, and Slash are known to have a very creamy guitar sound. However, how do you get that? How can I make my guitar sound creamy?
To make your guitar sound creamy, use a classic tube instead of a modern amplifier. You also can use an electric guitar with a humbucker pickup, such as Gibson Les Paul or SG. You can then increase your amp’s mid and bass sounds before adjusting overdrive and reverb.
What Is A Creamy Guitar Sound?
A creamy guitar sound usually describes the sound quality of an electric guitar setup. It usually describes a big, warm, fat sound with rich sustain. It also has a balanced frequency response and a rounded quality. Guitarists such as Eric Johnson and Slash are known for creamy guitar sounds.
Musicians like to use all kinds of adjectives to describe guitar sounds. ‘Creamy’ is one of the terms used. The word evokes the impression of something rich, thick, and viscous, which may relate to an electric guitar’s sound quality.
Generally, a creamy sound points to electric guitars that produce a big, fat, and rich sound. You can see it as the opposite or clean, thin sounds many jazz musicians seem to like. Creamy sounds are between clean and dirty, and throaty guitar sounds.
Another adjective is to see it as a big fat cruiser motorcycle instead of your underbone racers. Creamy guitars are big and bold, bringing out sounds that get people rocking.
Creamy guitar sounds also usually have rich sustain, meaning the sound rings and stays on longer before they decay away. Some also use the term ’rounded’ to describe creamy sounds. This means once you play a note, the sound comes up quickly.
As a result, many lead guitar players love to use creamy sounds. Creamy sounds help to make their play sound richer and fuller.
Many popular guitarists are known to have very creamy guitar sounds. As a result, many players aim to achieve the same sound effect as well:
- Eric Clapton
- Slash (Guns N Roses)
- Jimi Hendrix
- Steve Vai
It is important not to confuse creamy guitar sounds with the band Cream. Many people may confuse the two, as they mistake the term ‘creamy’ for guitar sounds similar to the ones made by the band Cream.
On top of that, Eric Clapton also played guitar for the band Cream and is a player known for his creamy guitar sound. This further adds to the confusion.
What Factors Determine A Creamy Guitar Sound?
There are several factors that help achieve a creamy guitar sound, including:
- Guitar and pickup selection
- Effects and signals
- Playing technique
In most situations, there are several major factors that can help you achieve a creamy guitar sound. These include:
Guitar And Pickup Selection
Some guitars are known to be able to achieve better creamy sound, much better than others. These guitars include the Gibson Les Pauls or GS. This is because these guitars come with humbucker pickups.
Humbucker pickups usually are capable of producing higher output in sound with a thicker tone. This helps achieve that big and fat sound many associate with creamy guitar sounds.
Guitars with single-coil pickups like Fender Stratocasters can still achieve creamy sounds but may require modification and signal adjustments. Steve Vai is one player that uses Stratocasters and still has a creamy guitar tone.
Using the right amplifier can help achieve a creamy sound. Using older tube amplifiers usually can help produce better creamy sound than using, say, solid-state amplifiers.
This is because tube amplifiers are known for producing warmer and more dynamic tones. These sound qualities are usually associated with creamy sounds.
You can further increase the guitar sound’s creaminess by adjusting your amplifiers’ settings. This is commonly achieved by increasing the mid-range and bass sounds while fine-tuning the reverb and gain.
Effects And Signals
Adding in effects and signals can also increase the creaminess of the guitar sound. This is usually achieved by using pedals and other signal-processing methods such as computers.
Adjusting qualities such as overdrive and chorus can build up creamy sounds. Some players also add in some mild distortion. Combined, these effects and signals help to bring in some subtle saturation, creating creamier guitar sounds.
Finally, certain playing techniques can also enhance the creaminess of the guitar sound. Certain techniques, such as using a whammy bar, heavy picking, and vibrato, can help bring out a guitar’s creamy sounds.
Some players, such as Slash or Eric Johnson, are known to use controlled playing, with gentle touches to create a more velvety and creamy tone.
How Can I Make My Guitar Sound Creamy?
To make your guitar sound creamy, start by implementing these steps:
- Use an electric guitar with a humbucker pickup
- Use a tube amplifier
- Start with a clean tone on the amplifier
- Increase the mid-range sounds
- Add in some bass
- Add in some gain and overdrive
- Fine-tune presence control
- Add reverb
If you are looking to make your guitar sound more creamy, there are many ways to do it. You can copy the setup of players with creamy sounds, such as Slash and so on. However, this approach will be expensive.
There is also a cheaper way to do it, which we show below. It may not get you the perfect creamy sound like the professionals, but it should be enough for most hobbyist ears.
Here’s how you can make your guitar sound creamy:
- Use The Right Electric Guitar: Start by picking up the right electric guitar. Look for those with a humbucker instead of a single-coil pickup. We recommend a Gibson Les Paul, but if you want something more affordable, there is always the Epiphone Les Paul.
- Use A Tube Amplifier: Your next step is to pick up a tube amplifier. These are old-school and yet more expensive amplifiers compared to modern ones. However, they are perfect for creamy guitar sounds since they produce warm, dynamic tones. Here is a more affordable tube amplifier to check out.
- Start With A Clean Tone: Make your guitar sound as clean as possible. This means adjusting all the knobs on your amp back to its neutral position. For most amps, that is at the 12 O’clock position. Strum your guitar to confirm the sounds are as clean as you can make them be.
- Increase The Mid-range Sounds: Start by increasing the mid-control on your amp gradually. Keep strumming on your guitar to listen to it. Keep doing this until you get the right warmth and richness you like.
- Add In Some Bass: load up more depth into the warm sound by dialing in some low-frequency sounds. As you add in the bass sounds, keep strumming until you get the right depth. Stop when the bass starts to cause your guitar to sound muddy; that is when you overdo the bass.
- Tweak The Treble: At this point, consider tweaking the treble slightly. Tweaking the treble may allow you to add in more bass while at the same time preventing your guitar from sounding muddy and dark.
- Add In Some Gain And Overdrive: Creamy guitar sounds usually have some slight influence of overdrive or mild distortion. Add that to your guitar sound here. Increase the gain and overdrive control until the sweet spot. Usually, you stop when the guitar starts to sound too crunchy or distorted.
- Fine Tune Presence Control: Some amplifiers come with presence control. If your amp does, adjust it to add more character to your sound. What presence control does is to affect the high-frequency sound. This helps you to manipulate the sparkles and definition in your guitar tone.
Add Reverb: This is the final recipe to produce that big, fat sound by adding in reverb. If your amplifier allows you to adjust the reverb, go ahead and experiment to achieve that creamy sound. If you have pedals that you can use to kick in some reverb, use that too. They usually can add more reverb to your guitar sounds.