Whether you play Heavy Metal, Blues, Pop or Indie Rock, there's always certain equipment choices that will be more suitable for one music style than the other.
How To Choose The Right Gear
The first rule is: there are no rules. Making music is about being creative, so you should never feel you're too bound to any particular rule! But, having said that, there are things you may expect from a particular type of music rather than another - for instance, you wouldn't expect a singer-songwriter like Ed Sheeran to go onstage playing a Flying-V through a Marshall stack turned up to 11. Or to see Kerry King playing a banjo with Slayer.
Well, maybe THAT could be cool, but you get the idea: there's just some sounds more suited to a particular style of music than others, and, because of that, there's some gear which is more commonly used for making one kind of music, rather than others. Whether you're joining the current Firestone Battle Of The Bands 2016 or not, it's always good to make sure your band got some suitable gear - this is important for pros but, perhaps, even more crucial if you're just starting your musical journey! Here's our guide to set you on the right track.
Best Music Gear for Classic Rock
The "Classic Rock" era is typically defined by the music made by all the, well, classic bands from the 60's and 70's. Though The Beatles and all the other legendary bands from the Sixties are considered Classic Rock, it was Eric Clapton (in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers and in Cream) who set the template of the sound we now call "Classic Rock", by plugging a Les Paul into a Marshall amp.
The true apogee of that musical style came in the Seventies, though, with Led Zeppelin. So, taking them as a template, we'd recommend:
- Gibson Les Paul: used by 9 out of 10 classic rock bands from the 70's! If you can't afford a Gibson, Epiphone make excellent, cheaper versions, while the Eastcoast L Series will are an even more affordable alternative.
- Marshall Amp: the Gibson guitar + Marshall amp is a must for Classic Rock. If you can't afford a valve version, the new Marshall Code series offers a superb alternative, with credible modeling of classic valve stacks. Another popular choice is the very affordable Marshall MG30CFX, ideal for recording or small gigs. If not Marshall, then Orange Amps are the other perfect Classic Rock amps of choice.
- Wah pedal: Classic Rock peaked before fx pedals became popular when only a few were available. The most popular pedal was the Wah Wah, and you can't do without one! The Cry-baby Wah is the most popular and still one of the best.
- Fuzz pedal: your main distortion sound will be from your amp, but an extra fuzz is also a good idea, to boost guitar solos or for meaty riffs, such as Jimmy Page's guitar sound on "Whole Lotta Love". The Big Muff and the Fuzz Face are the most "classic" available, but a modern Boss FZ5 Fuzz also reproduces some vintage sounds.
- Tape echo: before analogue, never mind digital delays, there were tape delays which any classic rock bands used, from Led Zep to Kiss. They're too expensive now but, thankfully, a few pedals perfectly recreate the tape echo effect. The new Dunlop Echoplex delay offers a perfect recreation of the model used by Jimmy Page.
- Hammon Organ: the Hammond became so associated with classic rock that it's pretty much synonymous with "rock organ". Many modern keyboards deliver similar sounds, such as the Roland VR-09, Nord Keyboards and the Yamaha reface YC. If no one in your band plays keyboard, you can use one of the Electro-Harmonix Organ fx pedals are awesome, and turn any guitar into a vintage organ!
- Fender Stratocaster: though the Classic Rock era was dominated by Les Pauls, Strats were also widely used and are great for the style.
- Acrylic Drum-Kit: if your drummer wants to feel like a true John Bonham, then having an acrylic drum-kit is a must! A great deal of his powerful tone was due to this choice of kit.
Best Music Gear for Hard Rock & Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal requires a very particular sound. It's all about high-gain, heavily saturated distortion. For this reason, there are quite a few Heavy Metal fx pedals, which were specifically designed for the style. These pedals are very helpful for beginners who may not have a suitable amp for the genre, taking you to that sound more easily.
Talking about amps, most players of this style tend to avoid Fender, because they're too clean - simply not designed for this type of music! Or that was the case, anyway - the new Fender Bassbreakers are their most versatile valve amps yet, and do Metal really well. But if you prefer to stick to the tried and tested, go for Marshall, Mesa Boogie or Blackstar. The Blackstar ID:100TVP and Blackstar HT-Metal 100 are two amazing choices.
As for guitars, most Heavy Metal guitarists prefer a guitar that looks distinctively "heavy metal". Even though you'll see many players using Gibson or PRS, for a truly metal look you should go for an Ibanez, Dean or Schecter, for instance. Having said that, you can't go wrong with a Gibson SG, Explorer or Flying V!
Metal fans are spoiled for good signature gear, including: Tony Iommi guitars & amp, Brent Hinds guitar & pickups, Bill Kelliher Les Paul & pickups, Bjorn Gelotte Les Paul, Synyster Gates guitars, and Steve Vai Ibanez guitars, to name but a few of the best.
Best FX pedals for Metal:
- Heavy Metal distortion pedals, as mentioned before
- Digitech Whammy, for some mean picth-shifter effects
- Any Zakk Wylde fx pedal
- Electro Harmonix Pitch Fork Polyphonic Synth Pedal
- TC Electronic Mimiq Doubler, which replicates the popular doubling effect used on many Metal recordings.
- Ibanez Tubescreamer pedals, great overdrives - especially if you use more than one for extra dirtiness, a classic Heavy Metal trick.
Best Music Gear for Alternative & Indie Rock
This style of music can be cheap and cheerful, at least when it comes to guitars - it's better to get a good but affordable guitar and spend extra cash on lots of fx pedals! That's why the new Fender Offset series is pure "indie", whereas more expensive Gibson Les Pauls are not - though that doesn't mean Les Paul guitars are not suitable for indie: guitarists of many classic bands such as Blur, Oasis, Suede, and The Smiths have used a Les Paul, after all.
When it comes to effects, splashing a bit on a couple of Strymon pedals is always money well-spent! And distortion and fuzz fx pedals are a must. Here's some of the most popular gear used by indie and alternative bands:
- Fender Telecaster guitars: simple, punchy, effective.
- Jazzmaster & Jaguar guitars: thanks to acts such as Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and so many others, they've become synonymous with alt-rock.
- Electro-Harmonix Big Muff: the world's most popular fuzz pedal. Also one of the best and still very cool.
- Strymon Timeline Delay: the hottest delay pedal right now. Get extra indie kudos if you have one of them on your pedalboard...
- Ibanez Tube Screamer TS9: a great overdrive pedal, or go for the Tube Screamer Mini if you're on a budget.
- Chorus pedal: modulation pedals are used by many indie bands, and a good chorus is always welcome.
- Vox AC30: A great valve amp like this is perfect for indie, as used by any bands from Suede and The Libertines to The Vaccines, Peace, Wolf Alice and more! Read our blog
- Fender Hot Rod Series amps: popular range, used by many indie acts.
Best Music Gear for Singer-Songwriters
Since Ed Sheeran became one of the biggest names in music, we've seen a steady rise in the number of singer-songwriters out there! If you're also a solo artist, you need to make sure to be well-equipped, so as to make your set sound "fuller". That's why, like Sheeran, most solo performers these days opt to use a Looper pedal.
Things used to be simpler in the days when Bob Dylan led a new wave of folk singer-songwriters, in the 60's and 70's, when all you needed was a good acoustic guitar such as a Gibson J200 or a Martin D28. Today, it's more advisable to use an electro-acoustic model, which can be plugged straight into the PA, and there are a few more other cool stuff that can help you sound great when performing live:
- Boss Looper pedal: there are some great models out there, but the Boss pedals are still the most popular choice, as used by Ed Sheeran.
- Shure SM58: most venues will have one. It's the most widely used vocal mic, so you might want your own when practicing or in case you play a venue that doesn't have one. Also, easier to take your own mic if you want to plug it to a vocal effect...
- Boss VE20 Vocal Performer: a great fx pedal for singers, with reverb, delay and other great effects, including pitch correction and distortion.
- TC Helicon Voicelive Play Acoustic: another great vocal pedal which also allows you to plug your guitar to.
- TC Electronic BodyRez: makes your electro-acoustic guitar sound fuller and more natural.
Firestone Battle of the Bands 2016 Competition
No matter what style or genre of music you and your band play, everyone is welcome to enter Firestone's Battle of the Band 2016 competition, which is taking place on 25th November. To find out more about the BOTB competition and to enter, click here.