Do you want to know how to get a creamy tone like Steve Vai’s, Eric Clapton tone, and many other famous guitar players? But first, we really need to establish the definition of a creamy tone as many guitar players have different opinions in this one.
A creamy tone as many guitar players agreed, is a slightly overdriven guitar tone but not distorted and is often achieved using a boutique overdrive pedal or even with a tube amp distortion.
The most basic setting for having a creamy guitar tone is to simply find the right balance between your guitar’s volume knob and the gain knob on a good tube amp, and you can already create all the cream you can handle.
Achieving the creamy tone is really all about balance. Too much overdrive or distortion would really lose the purpose of having a creamy guitar tone.
Can all guitar amplifiers produce a creamy tone?
Honestly, it would be very tough for other types of guitar amplifiers other than tube amps to replicate the creamy guitar tones used by professional guitar players.
Solid-state guitar amplifiers do not really have the warmth that a creamy tone needs. Solid-state amplifiers also use transistors and not tubes, which is why they usually have more clean headroom. Guitar pedals can help achieve a creamy tone using a solid-state guitar amplifier, but there is still a slight difference that professional guitar players can notice.
There are also modeling guitar amplifiers with built-in effects created to replicate the creamy guitar tone. Although modeling guitars have significantly improved throughout the years in copying tube amplifier tones, it has not really reached the point yet that modeling amplifiers can be used to replace the tube amplifiers.
Modeling guitar amplifiers have great tones that are replicated from tube amplifiers, but it does not have the warmth that a tube amplifier can produce yet. The creamy tone depends on the warmth, which is why it is really difficult to acquire a creamy tone like those from professional guitar players by using a modeling guitar amplifier.
For hybrid guitar amplifiers, even though they use tubes on their input stage, it will still be tough to produce the needed warm tone from a tube amplifier for creating a creamy tone.
The best type of amplifier to use in creating a creamy guitar tone is the tube amplifier. Because of the fact that it is a thermionic device and is able to reproduce more noise than solid state amplifiers, they produce a very warm tone that is missing with the other types of amplifiers.
With great guitar players like Eric Clapton, Slash, Eric Johnson, and many more are known for their creamy guitar tones; it would be impossible to see them using any type of amplifier other than the tube. Tube amplifiers are really great for their warmth which is needed to have an excellent creamy guitar tone.
Can I use any type of guitar to produce a creamy tone?
In general, you can use any type of electric guitar to imitate the so-called creamy guitar tone, but there is a possibility that you will not be able to replicate the perfect creamy guitar tones produced by professional guitar players.
Guitars that are using single coil pickups like Stratocasters are known for their clean and bright tone, they can also be used to create a creamy guitar tone. With the right set of pedals like overdrives, you can tweak its sound to create the warm and fat sound needed to get a creamy tone from your guitar.
A great example for a guitar player who uses a Stratocaster that plays with a creamy guitar tone is no other than one of the greatest ever to play the guitar, the late Jimi Hendrix.
Guitars that use humbucker pickups like Gibson Les Pauls and SGs are known for their darker and beefier tone, which is very different from single coil’s bright and clean sound. Even without overdrive or distortion pedals, they can produce a creamy guitar tone by plugging it directly into a tube amplifier.
With just the right amount of volume and setting of the built-in guitar tone, humbuckers can produce a warm and fat tone that is needed to create a creamy guitar tone. You can also use guitar pedals like overdrive or distortion if you are unsure how to tweak the built-in guitar tone knob to produce a creamy guitar tone.
One of the best examples of great guitar players who are using a guitar with humbucker pickups that has a creamy guitar tone is Slash, the lead guitarist of the band Guns N’ Roses.
Even with guitars that have a humbucker-single coil pickup combination with the appropriate pedals, you can still get a creamy guitar tone. In this setup, it would still be the best option if you are going to use a tube amplifier. Although you can have the beefier tone from the humbucker, this type of guitar is still made to produce a brighter tone, which is why you need a tube amplifier to compensate for its warmth.
Steve Vai has one of the creamiest guitar tones in the music industry. He also uses a combination of two humbuckers and a single-coil pickup in his electric guitar. He also uses an overdrive pedal and a tube amplifier to achieve his signature creamy tone.
Are guitar pedals needed to get a creamy guitar tone?
In some instances, guitar pedals are sometimes needed to get a creamy tone. When you are using single-coil pickups, it is highly recommended to use pedals to create a creamy guitar tone because this type of pickup only has bright and clean tones, which is why you need your pedals to compensate using darker tones to have a warm and fat tone resulting in a creamy tone.
So, how to get a creamy tone using pedals? You would need either an overdrive or distortion guitar pedal to have a better creamy tone. A little compression pedal will also help.
For overdrive pedals, many guitar players use the Ibanez TubeScreamer to create a creamy tone, while others also use a Boss BluesDriver. These pedals make a lovely warm tone, which is needed to get a creamy tone. You can also use other overdrive pedals that have a fuzzy effect.
One of the best and oldest pedals for distortion pedals that are still available in the market is the Boss DS-1. It is an excellent pedal for creating a creamy tone, but the knobs must be toned down, as, after all, this is still a distortion pedal. You can also use other distortion pedals, but you must consider avoiding those that really produce very bright tones.
What is the best setup to get a creamy tone?
Having a great setup of musical equipment is one of the ways on how to get a creamy tone, the perfect creamy guitar tone.
Using a guitar with humbucker pickups, a tube guitar amplifier, and an overdrive pedal is a great example of a setup that can produce the perfect cream tone that many would want to listen to. This will always be my go-to setup if I have to create a creamy guitar tone.
Overall, just a little bit of tweak in the overdrive pedal and amplifier’s gain, a little tweak with the volume, just trying to find the right balance of a warm and fat sound, and were good to go with your creamy tone.