How to get Neo-Soul Guitar Tone

How to get Neo-Soul Guitar Tone

Searching for that warm and smooth Neo-Soul guitar tone? Yeah… You’re definitely not the first one to fall in love with that magnificent soundscape.

It is modern and sophisticated yet so groovy and ass-shaking! Neo-Soul is, by far, one of the better things we share on earth!

Check out our new NEO-SOUL GUITAR YouTube channel!

Being a good Neo-Soul guitarist is not so easy, this genre is the newborn of Jazz, Hip-Hop, R&B, Blues, and Soul.

It incorporates sophisticated chord progression with colorful changes and you have to be a skillful musician in order to keep up.

The musical approach in this genre can be described as laid back, jazzy and, in a way, a live-playing attempt to copy a “sampled” sound, like a cut-up guitar track, pasted in a new way.

Equipment is also an important component in your neo-soul guitar soundscape. Some guitars and guitar pedals are much more common in this genre but you can definitely get the Neo-Soul signature with a cheap electric guitar if you’re a talented and creative player.

We divide the Neo-Soul guitar tone into 2 sections:

1. Musical Practice

2. Equipment

Let’s Get Started…

studying guitar player

The Neo-Soul Guitarist Musical Skills

Harmony

In the Neo-Soul harmonic soundscape, you can often stumble upon different harmonizing techniques. All of these techniques come from Jazz, and if you really want to step up your musical game, you should be able to play at least a few Bebop tunes.

You don’t have to be a proper Bebop player but “going through” this genre will upgrade your playing in the most substantial way.

A few articles we recommend you'd check out:

Harmonic Function

The Harmonic Minor

The Melodic Minor

Modal-Interchange (SOON)

The Tritone Substitute

Melody Analysis

Chords

guitar chords drawing

Neo-Soul guitar players play mainly rhythm! That means that you gotta know your chords! 7th chords, with tensions, all of their inversions AND be able to smoothly run through them.

How do you get there? Well… in small steps, let’s build a training program together:

 1. Make sure you control the major scale in every root (12 total).

2. Start working on a few common chord progressions and incorporate tensions into these chords. Make sure you can improvise and use inversions on these chord progressions.

3. After mastering the major scale, start working the same method on the Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor as well.

Melody

The melodic style of the Neo-Soul genre is very special, it combines rapping with soulful grooves while the melodic instruments play jazzy vamps, lines, and grooves.

Guitar solos are less common in Neo-Soul but they do exist and the soloing style in this genre is completely free. It can vary from screaming distorted pentatonic solos to smooth Bebop-like phrasing, it really depends on the musical preferences of the artists.

Whatever kind of guitarist you are, in Neo-Soul, you always have to be an educated musician in order to really shine!

Good sense of time

vintage metronome

The Neo-Soul genre is based on grooves, beats, and funky booty-moving songs. You got to have a great sense of time if you wanna keep it in the groove!

As a guitar player, your right hand is your “timer”, keep in mind that playing complex chords and voicing is useless if you can’t hit on time.

How to work on musical timing

Let’s divide this subject into 2 sections: exercises and playing music, both are very important.

When doing exercises, you’re in a “clean environment” you can hear exactly if you missed the click and you can stop whenever you like and try again. 

Important: when practicing exercises it is much better to practice with a click rather than a beat of any kind because a beat sound (live or samples) is more “scattered” which means that you won’t be able to spot imperfections as well as with a click.

When playing groovy music, it is not the time for counting and trying to anticipate the beat, that never works! This is the time to feel the rhythm and relay on your inner beat count and groove. Make sure you know to feel the beat as well as counting it.

Sound

Shiny guitar

Up until now, we’ve talked about the sound that comes out of your fingers. Now we are going to talk about the equipment!

Like every other musical genre, the Neo-Soul got its own characteristic “weapons”, some guitars, and definitely more popular than others among Neo-Soul players and you can find many guitar players use specific pedals when playing Neo-Soul.

Guitars

Check out the FULL "Neo-Soul Guitars" Article

electric guitar

When talking about guitars, it’s never really about specific models… It’s always about the pickup choices! The most commonly used guitar pickups in Neo-Soul are the Humbucker and the single coil

These two pickups are quite different, the Humbucker is “fatter” and carries more resistance while the Single Coil Pickup is thinner and brighter. Both are excellent choices for Neo-Soul and each pickup will inspire you in a different way.

Stratocaster players will often master the whammy bar of their Strat, it is very common in this genre.

Here is a list of GREAT guitar models for Neo-Soul!

🎸 Fender Stratocaster
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🎸 Gibson Les Paul
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🎸 Gibson SG
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🎸 Gibson ES-335
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🎸 PRS CE 24
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Notice: The P-90 (guitar pickup) guitars are less common in Neo-Soul. These models usually carry more mid-range and can sound “compressed”, a thing which apparently doesn’t resonate with the Neo-Soul sound.

As we all know guitars can get quite pricey...

Don’t you worry, we have a great solution for you!

The electric guitar sound is mostly affected by the guitar pickups, just think about it, guitar pickups are electromagnetic, which means that the signal coming out of your guitar is completely electronic. 

Your guitar signal isn’t affected by how old your it is, what kind of wood it's made of, or any of that! That’s just a myth among guitar players… These things mainly affect your general playing feeling which is super important but you have to know that nothing more!

What you can do if you want a low-budget proper guitar is to get a cheap guitar that feels good in your hands and just upgrade it with GOOD guitar pickups (you can always take them out, sell them or move them to your next guitar).

 

Low Budget Guitars:

Squier Stratocaster CHECK PRICE
Epiphone Les Paul
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Epiphone SG
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PRS SE CHECK PRICE

* adding locking tuners is highly recommended, especially on an Epiphone or Gibson!

plus sign

Boutique Guitar Pickups:

Single Coil Boutique Pickups (Stratocaster) CHECK PRICE
Humbuckers (ES-335, LP, SG and PRS)
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equal sign

thinking about guitars

A great choice for Neo-Soul guitar players is the HSS Stratocaster, it enjoys both worlds!

The sparkling highs of a single coil with the round body and warmth of a Humbucker (not to mention that you have a whammy bar!).

Guitar Pedals

Check out the "Neo-Soul Guitar Pedals" and "Neo-Soul Amplifiers" full articles!

Guitar pedals

Okay fellas, let’s talk about guitar pedals! There are a few “traditional” sounds that go well in Neo-Soul.

The concept is always groovy and smooth and the EQ range concentrates mainly on the edges with more sparkly highs and bigger and fatter lows. 

Reverb & Delay

The Reverb and Delay pedals are very “basic” components in the mainstream guitar sound and you’ll find yourself using them very often, most times in a very subtle way. In Neo-Soul, you will use these two pedals almost all the time, most of the time in a very subtle way just to “wet” your sound a little. 

You can also get very creative with these pedals, especially when stacked and creating beautiful and spacy sounds. These dreamy soundscapes go very well in Neo-Soul music.

Reverb Pedals

These 4 reverb pedals are among the most versatile reverb pedals you can find out there, which is crucial for recordings! Each one of these just sounds AMAZING and worth every dollar.

 

Strymon BlueSky Walrus Audio slö Source Audio Ventris Dual Reverb Matthews Effects Astronomer V2 Celestial
Strymon BluSky Reverb pedal Walrus Audio Slö Multi Texture Reverb source audio Ventris dual reverb pedal Matthews Effects the astronomer reverb


Delay Pedals

The Delay is also crucial in your pedalboard! These 3 Delay pedals offer more than just a digital delay and will help you be creative when designing your sound.

 

Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy Strymon TimeLine Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay
Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Boy Strymon Timeline Delay Pedal Electro Harmonix Canyon Delay Pedal

Envelope Filter

Check out the FULL Envelope Filter Article RIGHT HERE  

Wait… What is an envelope filter? 

An envelope filter is a guitar pedal that filters parts of the signal coming out of your guitar in various ways. The traditional and simple envelope filter opens and closes an EQ filter according to the dynamics of your playing. The more sophisticated envelope filter has various modes of filtering and you can get very creative with them. Every Neo-Soul pedalboard needs one of these!

Here are our top 3 Envelope Filter pedals:

Electro Harmonix Q-Tron Plus
Subdecay Prometheus DLX
Fender 'Pour Over'
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In this video, you can really hear what the Prometheus DLX can do!

It can be groovy on one hand but also dreamy and spacey on the other, definitely, a MUST HAVE pedal in every guitarist's pedalboard.

CHECK PRICE RIGHT HERE

Octaver (and Harmonisers)

Check out the FULL "Octaver" Article RIGHT HERE  

What is an Octaver? The Octaver is a guitar pedal that doubles your guitar signal and adds an upper or/and lower octave(s) to your sound. A harmonizer pedal could double your signal with a chosen musical interval.

The Neo-Soul genre features deep grooves, with super low bass ranges and your guitar needs to have this extra dimension. The Octaver can be used in two main ways, doubling with an upper or the lower octave(s).

Both of these modes can be useful in Neo-Soul, sometimes you will decorate the track with beautiful highs, and sometimes you will have to dive down with the groove.

With a Whammy you could really mimic these gangster-Hip-Hop high-frequency musical parts (like in Baduism Live or 2001 by Dr.Dre).

 

Digitech Whammy DT Electro Harmonix POG2 TC Electronic Sub'N'Up
Digitech Whammy DT Electro Harmonix POG2 TC Electronic Sub'N'Up
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In this video, you can check out a simpler version of the Octaver, the Micro POG from Electro Harmonix.

This pedal is super funky! Powerful on one hand but can also be dreamy and spacey on the other, definitely, a MUST HAVE pedal in every guitarist's pedalboard.

CHECK PRICE RIGHT HERE

Wah Pedal

Check out the FULL "Wah Pedal" Article RIGHT HERE

The Wah pedal is a classic one! It hasn't been changed since its invention because this simple and artistic design is just perfect as it is. It enables you to manually control (with your feet) the EQ filter of your signal. It is very expressive and highly useful in Neo-Soul in many ways. 

 Cry Baby (GCB95F)
Cry Baby 
(GCB95)
Vox Wah Wah
Dunlop Cry Baby pedal Amazon
Dunlop Cry Baby pedal Amazon
Vox Wah Wah pedal Amazon
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In this video, you can check out my Cry Baby GCB95F demo.

This pedal is the most IMPORTANT pedal for Neo-Soul guitar players... It's super groovy and will be an essential piece of your pedalboard wether you're playing Neo-Soul, Funk, or Metal.

CHECK PRICE RIGHT HERE


That's all for now fellas!

If you just love Neo-Soul music be sure to check out the other Neo-Soul articles on our website!

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