Level Up as a Guitarist: Uncover Your Signature Playing Style | Wes Singerman | Skillshare

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Level Up as a Guitarist: Uncover Your Signature Playing Style

teacher avatar Wes Singerman, Music Producer, Guitarist

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Getting Started


    • 3.

      Exploring Electric vs. Acoustic Guitars


    • 4.

      Choosing Your Pick


    • 5.

      Experimenting With Different Strings


    • 6.

      Playing with Pickups


    • 7.

      Adjusting Pickups and Tone Knob


    • 8.

      Strengthening Your Sound with Amps


    • 9.

      Testing Effects Pedals


    • 10.

      Discovering Guitar Accessories


    • 11.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Find the signature sound that strikes a chord with your inner musician! 

Guitarist and music producer, Wesley Singerman, has made a name for himself in the music industry with his versatile and creative beats. As an expert at transforming simple melodies and chords into rich, reimagined sounds, Wesley’s talent has brought him the opportunity to work with musical superstars like Travis Barker, Kehlani, Kendrick Lamar, and many others.  After years of fine-tuning his own sound, Wesley is ready to reveal how you can take your guitar skills to the next level by defining your signature playing style.

One of the things all major musicians have in common is a tone and style that makes them recognizable and distinctive. In this exclusive class, Wesley dives deep into the ways you can tweak your tone and playing style in order to create your own signature sound. From identifying the type of music that’ll work best for you to choosing the right equipment to achieve the sound you’re going for, Wesley will share all the ways you can sculpt your style on the guitar.  

With Wesley by your side, you’ll:

  • Discover the key differences between acoustic and electric guitars
  • Find the right size and shape pick for your playing style 
  • Unlock new sounds by changing your strings and adjusting your pickups
  • Adjust your sound with amplifiers
  • Experiment with tools like effect pedals, capos, ebows, and slides

Plus, you’ll get insider access to Wesley’s own experimentation and how he changes his own sound through these different guitar tools and techniques. 

Whether you’re looking to find your signature sound on the guitar for the first time or elevate the sound you’ve been working on for years, this exploration of guitar equipment will help you give your sound added flare and edge.

You don’t need to be an expert guitarist to take this class, but previous guitar playing experience and knowledge such as how to hold a guitar and basic strumming will be helpful. In this class, Wesley experiments with a variety of picks, guitars, amplifiers, effect pedals, capos, ebows, and slides. If you already have some of these tools, you can follow along with Wesley. If not, you can use this class to decide which guitar equipment and accessories you might want to use as you refine your sound. To continue your journey learning the guitar, explore Wesley’s full Guitar Learning Path.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Wes Singerman

Music Producer, Guitarist


Get ready to rock and roll with Wes Singerman. With a passion for music, Wesley has produced and written hits for some of the biggest names in the game, from Joji, Kehlani, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick Lamar to Ty Dolla $ign and more!! And that's not all – as a guitar player extraordinaire, Wesley can shred with the best of them!

But that's not all Wesley is famous for – he's also a seasoned voice actor, having lent his talents to iconic characters like Wilbur Robinson in Meet the Robinsons and Charlie Brown in several beloved specials. With his boundless energy and endless creativity, Wesley is a true force to be reckoned with. 


See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: What do you think of when you imagine your favorite guitar tone? Think of all your favorite musicians and artists, one thing that they all have in common is a tone or a style that makes them unique and recognizable, something that allows them to stand out in the crowd. I'm Wes Singerman, I'm a music producer and a guitarist. My career has led me to work and play alongside artists such as Travis Barker, Gillian, Anderson Paak, Kendrick Lamar, Carly Rae Jepsen, and so many others. In today's class, we're going to be exploring all equipment for guitarist and discussing how they affect your tone. [MUSIC] We'll be starting with the differences between electric versus acoustic guitars and we'll go all the way into effects pedals and guitar accessories like slides and capos. This is my first class in a series of five where I will teach you the basics and some of the not so basics of scales, chords, songwriting, and even a little production. By the end of the class, you'll have a clear understanding of all the equipment choices we have to make as guitarist and then apply that to help create and sculpt your very own tone. Let's jump in. [MUSIC] 2. Getting Started: [MUSIC] Developing your tone as a musician is one of the most important things that we can do. Think of all your favorite musicians and artists, one thing that they all have in common is a tone or a style that makes them unique and recognizable, something that allows them to stand out in the crowd. While some of this is defined by things like knot choices, chord voicings, the use of rhythm, etc., for guitar especially, it's defined by our equipment choices. From the type of guitar and amplifier you use down to the peak that you hold in your hand, every small piece of equipment will make a difference in your tone. Knowing what type of equipment best suits the type of tone that you want is a crucial part of creating your own voice as a musician. Let's take a deep dive into the types of equipment so that we can create your voice. Let's go. 3. Exploring Electric vs. Acoustic Guitars: One of the biggest differences between guitars, and also one of the first choices that we tend to make when purchasing a guitar is electric versus acoustic. Both are played the same way but have drastically different sounds, and stylistically are approached in many different ways as well. Electric guitars comes in many shapes and sizes and are used in almost every genre of music. An electric guitar refers to a guitar that is usually thinner and made of solid pieces of wood. They're not very loud acoustically, so they require amplifiers to amplify the volume of the guitar. Electric guitars also have what are known as pickups, which are basically small pieces of equipment that act as microphones for our guitar strings. They capture the sound of the guitar, and then that sound gets sent through the guitar cable and into our amplifier where we can adjust the volume, crank it up, and make our neighbors super angry. Electric guitars tend to use thinner strings because they don't need to be heard acoustically. That also makes it easier for us to use certain techniques like bending strings, hammer-ons, pull-ups, and tapping. Electric guitars also tend to work best with effects, particularly distortion, fuzz, and overdrive, which tend to cause noise and feedback issues on an acoustic guitar. Because of this, electric guitars are the main guitars used for lead playing, epic solos. On the other hand, an acoustic guitar is a guitar that does not require electrical amplification. These guitars have a hollow sound chamber that naturally amplify the sound of the strings and require no extra equipment to be heard. Because of the sound chamber, acoustic tend to be larger in size and also use thicker strings to be able to vibrate strongly enough that it carries through the air. The harder tension from the thicker strings makes it a bit tougher on your hands, and also a little harder to use techniques like string bending, hammer-ons and pull-ups. But because of this, the acoustic guitar is used mainly as an accompanying instrument rather than a lead. The pure wood bodies generate warm, rich tones that sound incredible when paired with vocals or other acoustic instruments. Acoustic guitars have two main types, steel string and nylon string. As you can guess, the steel string acoustics uses steel strings to produce beautiful, shimmery tones, and it's perfect for folk, singer songwriter, Indie and rock music. Nylon string acoustics have slightly different body styles than steel string and tend to have wider necks that allow for each string to resonate a little more freely. Nylons have slightly darker tones, and they're the main guitars that are used in classical and world music styles such as bossa nova and flamenco. These days many steel string and nylon string acoustics also come with built-in pickups so that they can be used with amplifiers and recording equipment in the same way an electric guitar can. Both electric and acoustic guitars are extremely diverse and come in many forms. It's up to you and your ear to figure out which ones you like and how you want to use them. 4. Choosing Your Pick: In terms of equipment for guitarists, guitar picks are arguably the most important and sometimes most overlooked. A guitar pick or a plectrum is the center of your tone. It's responsible for striking the strings and creating your actual sound. Finding a pick that's comfortable and good for your style of playing is extremely important. Picks come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and thicknesses and are made from a variety of materials. Each material, whether it be plastic, wood, glass, stone, etc, has a drastically different sound and feel in your hands. Different thicknesses provide various levels of give on the pick which affects how strong or punchy your tone is versus how light or thin your tone is. I prefer to use thicker picks when I play electric to get a stronger tone, especially when I'm soloing. I use thinner pigs when I play acoustic to get a thin aerial sound for strumming. Thinner picks also give you more of that nice stringy sound that we love from acoustics. The shape of a pick also has a big impact on your playing style. Smaller pointer picks are better for playing fast single note lines, while larger, more blunt picks are better for strumming. I like to use my pointed pick when I'm doing single note lines and then thicker picks for when I'm doing strumming. There's a massive variety of picks available and I would absolutely recommend trying as many as you can, learning their sound and feel and utilizing them for different types of situations for your own playing. 5. Experimenting With Different Strings: [MUSIC] One thing that every guitar has is strings, six of them to be exact and what type of strings you use will have a large impact on not only your tone but the feel of your instrument. There are many types of strings available and the ones that come on your guitar might not always be the best strings for your sound or style. Strings are made with different types of materials, most commonly stainless steel, nickel, cobalt or copper or some combination of those, and come in varying thicknesses. The thickness of a guitar string is measured in gauges. The lower the gauge the thinner the strings and vice versa. Thinner strings have much less tension which makes it easier to bend and do things like hammer-ons and pull offs. This is the choice for many shredder guitarist who like to play fast. They also have a brighter, thinner tone but the main downside is they can break more easily and they don't have a whole lot of low end. Thicker strings have more low end and that increases the thicker that you go. They get stronger, heavier tones and are much better for alternate tunings, especially down tuning, for my metal heads, and although they have a slightly thicker tension on the neck, some people like me prefer this feeling tone. For electric guitars, 10 gauge is the middle point and the most common of the gauges. Gauges seven through nine are thinner and gauges 11 through 13 and up are thicker. There are 11 on this guitar. [MUSIC] When I first started playing, I didn't realize how much of an impact the thickness of a string would have on the way that my guitar felt under my hands. Once I found the right strings for my style, I unlocked a new level in my playing. I would encourage you to experiment with some different strings and find the ones that feel best to your hands. 6. Playing with Pickups: Let's dive into pickups. A guitar pickup is a device that takes the strings' vibrations from your picking and strumming and turns that into electrical signals that can be sent to amplifiers and recording devices. Some guitars have two pickups while others like this one have three pickups. There's a lot of science behind the way these guitar pickups are made and how they work, but the important thing to know is regarding their tone. Generally, pickups are divided into two categories, single coil pickups and dual coil, which are most commonly known as humbuckers. Single coil pickups are found most famously on Fender Stratocasters like this one, Telecasters, and can also be found on many other guitars. They have brighter 20-year tone like this. They're extremely responsive to a player's technique, and whether you're playing soft or you're rocking out single coil pickups will pick up all of the subtleties and nuances of your playing. Famous single cool tones include Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Now Rogers and so many others. Humbuckers are found most famously on Gibson Guitars, such as the Les Paul 335, SG, etc. But they can also be found on other guitars such as Paul Reed Smith, like this one. Ibanez, Jackson, and others. They tend to be louder and have much more bottom end than single-coil counterparts. The way pickups are constructed, made it so that the low hum that was commonly produced from the single quote pickups was no longer an issue, which is how the name humbuckers came to be. They're less responsive to dynamics, but they handle distortion tones extremely well. Humbuckers tend to be used in jazz and heavier rock and metal due to the darker, beefier tone that they get. Famous humbuckers users are Jimmy Page/Santana, as well as some of the great jazz guitarists like Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass. The best way to get to know the difference between single coil and humbucking pickups is to try them both. Try visiting your local music shop and test them out. Both single coils and humbuckers can be used in any genre of music and for any playing style, but it's up to your ears to decide what sounds best for your tone. 7. Adjusting Pickups and Tone Knob: [MUSIC] Now that we've talked a little bit about pickups, we should take a look at the pickup selector switch, which is also sometimes known as the toggle switch. As I mentioned in the last lesson, most guitars have at least two pickups, one by the neck and one by the bridge. Sometimes there are three pickups. In this case, it's right in the middle. The placement of these pickups on our guitar allows for each pickup to produce a different tone. The pickups that are closer to the neck have a much darker, deeper tone, whereas the pickups that are mounted near the bridge have a much brighter, more treble focus tone. Guitars with multiple pickups will have this pickup selector switch, that allows you to choose which pickups are being used and it changes the tone drastically. I'm going to demo using the five way pickup selector switch that I have on my guitar, but a three-way works the exact same way. When my pickup selector is all the way to the left, we're using only the neck pickup, which gives you the darkest most rich tone. As I move it one to the right, we're now using the neck pickup and the middle pickup together, which gives you a sparkier [MUSIC] funkier tone. When I'm in the middle, I'm using only the middle pickup, which gives you this nice mid-range beautiful tone cuts right right a mix. When I switch it one here, I have the middle pickup and the bridge pickup working at the same time, which again gives you this nice funky tone [MUSIC] When I move it all the way to the right, I'm only using the bridge pickup, which gives you the brightest most trebly tone. This one tends to sound the best with distortion and when you're soloing. Our guitars are also equipped with usually at least two knobs, one for volume and another for tone. In this case, my guitar has two tone knobs and a volume knob. The volume knob on electric guitar can of course, adjust the volume level of your instrument, but also, and more importantly, it can be used to help create new tones for yourself. When plugged into an amplifier and especially when running distortion or overdrive, turning down the volume knob will actually tame how aggressive the distortion sounds are. This method is how many blues and rock guitars with switch between soft chords to screaming solos without having to change their equipment. Let me turn on the distortion. When I turned the volume all the way up [MUSIC] now as I turn the volume down a little bit, we get a little less aggressive [MUSIC] and even more as I keep going down [MUSIC] Then we can turn it back up to get that [MUSIC] Now we looked at the volume knob. Let's take a look at the tone knob. The tone knob on our guitars can be looked at like a filter. The more we turn down the tone knob, the darker and less pronounced the tone of your guitar gets. Most guitar players tend to neglect this knob completely, but it's actually extremely useful and it's really fun to mess with. Adjusting your tone knob can help you blend in more with the band, or stand out more when it's your turn to shred. Many jazz guitarist such as Panathenaic, Wes Montgomery, and Pat Martino would turn their tone knobs down to get that nice, rich dark tone that they're known for. Here's my tone knob all the way up. As I start to turn it down, it gets a little darker until I can go almost too dark [MUSIC] But right around here, we get that nice sweet spot [MUSIC] Turning the tone knob down on a guitar that has distortion can create a whole new nice fuzzy character. Starting with my tone all the way up, sounds like this [MUSIC] As I start to turn it down, we get this darker [MUSIC] a little fuzzier tone. As you can see, by playing with your pickup selector switch, volume, and tone knob, you can unlock infinite possibilities without even using any other equipment. 8. Strengthening Your Sound with Amps: [MUSIC] Here the difference amplifiers are how we get our sound out into the world. An amplifier is a device that takes the normally weak signal of an electric guitar and it amplifies it. Not only does it amplify our sound, but it also has controls on it that allow us to adjust and shape our tone to get the exact sound that we want. There are many types of amplifiers and each one has its own unique tone and features. Most amps have a few basic controls, like volume, bass and treble, that allow for volume adjustment and also adjustment of your tone. Turning up the bass knob will boost the amount of low-end that's in the sound. Turning up the treble knob will allow you to boost the high-end. Some amplifiers also come with a mid knob, which allows you to boost the mid-range frequencies. Messing with these knobs can help you dial in that exact sound that you're looking to achieve. In some cases, amplifiers also have built-in effects, whether it'd be distortion, reverb or even more. With these effects come added controls on the amplifier to help adjust how these effects are behaving. Just like guitars and the materials that they're made from contribute to the tone, amplifiers also have their own tone that is created from a combination of the parts and circuitry used, as well as the type of speaker. Fender amplifiers like this one, are renowned for their clean tones and their lush spring reverbs whereas amps like Marshall are known for their huge edgy distortion tones that react extremely well with a guitar players volume knob control. Amps come in many sizes and how loud they can get is determined by how many watts the amp is. Choose an app that has enough power for what you need [MUSIC] 9. Testing Effects Pedals: [MUSIC] It should be clear by now that there's a ton of ways we can alter our tone and sound to create our own signature style or to imitate our heroes. But if that wasn't enough for you, we have the endless possibility of effects pedals. We use effects pedals to take our sound above and beyond what just guitars and amplifiers can do by themselves. Pedals typically have one specific job that they're made to do. But in some cases there are multi effect pedals that have two or more functions that you can usually adjust and combine at your discretion. There are thousands of pedals out there. Choosing what's right for you is mainly about knowing what that pedal does. There are some basic categories of pedals that you should know about. Distortion, which includes overdrive and fuzz. [MUSIC] We have reverb, [MUSIC] there's delay, [MUSIC] there's a harmonizer, EQ, looper pedals, and the largest category, which is modulation effects. Modulation includes phaser, flanger, chorus, filter, wah, rotary, tremolo, and vibrato. Chaining these pedals together allows you to combine these effects to create even deeper tones for your guitar. [MUSIC] There's a lot of pedals out there, and each one has its own take on the effect that its designed for. The chorus pedal that I have has a different tone than a chorus made by a different company. It's important to experiment to find what effects suit your ears the best. When chaining multiple effects together, the standard order of effects is harmonizer effects first, so that they can receive the pure clean tone of your guitar. Then distortions, modulation effects, delay, and reverb last. But there's no wrong way to order them. Every different combination will yield all new results for your tone. 10. Discovering Guitar Accessories: [MUSIC] As if all that we've learned in the previous lessons wasn't enough, there are even more accessories that have been created for guitar players to help us. One of the most common guitar accessories that we see is a capo. A capo is a small device that we can attach to the guitar neck to quickly and easily change the key, otherwise known as transposition. By applying the capo to a certain thread, we shorten the playable area of the guitar neck. Then we can play all of our standard open chords, but in a new key. [MUSIC] Another fairly common tool that we have is called the slide. Slides were originally created using glass bottlenecks that were fashioned to fit on a single finger, typically our third finger or our pinky finger. These days, slides are made from all kinds of material and each one has a different tone. Mine is made out of glass. Typically, these are used almost exclusively for blues guitarist and it's sound as almost instantly recognizable in that genre. But the glidy, dreamy sound of a slide can have many other uses. Especially when combined with effects pedals, a slide can turn into almost an entirely new instrument. I've added a little distortion, chorus, delay, and reverb. Here's what the slide sounds like now. [MUSIC] Another very common accessory that we find in guitars is the whammy bar, otherwise known as the tremolo bar. This is a bar that we hold in our right hand that allows us to shake or wiggle the sound a little bit [MUSIC] We can take it to more extremes by really hammering it down [MUSIC] But typically we just like that nice vibrato. [MUSIC] A less common accessory for the guitar, but something that's very unique and cool is called an EBow. Now this is an electronic device that allows us to play the guitar without actually having to pick. We just hold it above the strings and it just will start [MUSIC] As you can see, because we're not picking, sounds like a violin [MUSIC] Now none of these accessories are actually necessary, but as you build your arsenal as a guitar player, they can give you an added flare and an edge. Have fun and rock out. 11. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] Congratulations. You've made it to the end. There are so many factors that go into sculpting your tone on the guitar. The more familiar you can get with each of these pieces, the deeper you can go with creating your own signature sound. For your class assignment, identify what kind of music you want to play, and then make a list of equipment you think you'll need and submit your list to the project gallery. The possibilities are endless. So the most important thing is to use your ears and have fun. I know I do. [MUSIC]