Whether you want to create something new using an effect pedal or not, both results are equally valuable. You'll hear in my newest recording, an example of an approach that differs from my usual norm. No effects. Of course, I am adding a little EQ, a touch of Reverb, and even the tiniest hint of a Phaser. But the point is, I am not using obvious effects like I have been doing for most of my recordings. I am not even mixing "clean" sounds and effects on this new recording like I also do on some of my releases. This new experiment was intentional, and it will possibly pave the way for my future recordings. Why? Well the reason for that is partly why I am writing this latest guitar lesson.
By the way, I am not really sure what else to call these articles, because they can be construed as a guitar lesson in some ways, but in other ways they are my own philosophies on approaching the instrument. So, I may or may not actually be teaching you anything. Rather, I am throwing my perspectives your way in the hopes that it may get you to look at your approach to the guitar differently. After all, it is all in the approach.
That sets the tone nicely for me to continue. When it comes to improvisation, especially the way I prefer to meet it, effects give you a leg up. They create some ease and I guess you could say some more freedom, however it is more of a safety blanket than anything else (in my opinion). So when I produce a "clean" guitar recording, I am really "baring it all". Here is where experience and skill are given the spotlight and it will make or break a record. By that, specifically, I mean it will either sound like a weakly performed technical display, or it will blur all lines.
Blur all lines? Yes, that is what I consider to be a sound that inspires wonder. If you listen to something and it takes you to a place where you can't tell whether someone is being truthful or not. Or whether something is intentional or not, like they could be flying off the seat of their pants holding on for dear life, or they could be in complete control and just making it seem that way. That place is where I enjoy being the most. I hold it so dearly that I don't even like to know myself whether I'm in control or not or hanging on for dear life! That's what makes it so adventurous and exciting for me as a player. I hold no regard to rules, nor do I want to. If I'm going to create music and sound, I want it to come from a place that is free from any dictatorship. Why would I do anything else? Especially since I've spent so many years reaching for the ability, so to speak, to attain such ease of expression.
I don't mean to come off as accomplished as my words may lead you to think, I am just trying to illustrate that when you are pursuing improvisation and experimentation, I would highly recommend you discard any effects that would create a barrier between you, the guitar, and the listener. At least just to see what you can learn from it!
This leads me to mention something about creating new sounds. Since there are no more barriers, where will you reach for those new sounds? What I'm about to express might come across as painfully obvious, or outright silly, but to me it makes perfect sense because I've applied it. Imagination. Yes, that's it. Just use your imagination. Okay, now let me elaborate on that. Let's say you hit a note, or 2 notes, any notes and in any fashion. Maybe they might come across as dissonant, or even unpleasant. Or maybe they might come across as pleasant, but the point will be better communicated if we took the first example. Now with dissonance or even a "mistake" (which doesn't exist in improvisation by the way, so I would also recommend you throw away that term and never use it again!), what you have is really a starting point which can take you in infinite directions. Why don't you use that starting point and repeat it, explore it, hammer it on the head with persistence? As you do that, let the sound deliver to you various ways of perceiving that sound. Maybe those notes and the way you're strumming them reminds you of the sounds a sitar would make? If they don't but you want to see if they could, why don't you try a different strumming or picking pattern until they do? Have you understood what I'm trying to point at with this? Forgive me if this is obvious to you. It very well may be, but if it is, then that's fantastic because we have something in common!
How far can you push this concept? Have you tried to find out? Why don't you discover for yourself?