How did they get this guitar sound?

Hi folks,

I’m a huge fan of Los Lobos, and in particular one of their two main leaders, David Hidalgo. Great voice and a great guitarist. There’s a tune off their 2006 release The Town and The City called The Road to Gila Bend where Hidalgo’s guitar is treated in way I would like to understand. Here’s the tune:

The effect is most noticeable during the solo in the middle of the song (around 2:30) and during the outro. Really good example is at 4:10. It sounds maybe as if it’s got some radical compression on it, such that the attack of each individual note is muted but then comes up in volume – I know it’s a poor description, not exactly sure how to describe it.

Anyone recognize how this might be done? Thanks!

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Huh!!! That’s crazy.

The first thing that comes to my mind is a reverse delay. That would account for the bizarre attack characteristics of the elongated notes. A lot of fuzz pedal there too, but that one’s obvious :wink:

Mmm, sounds like simple backwards recording to me. It’s kind of hard to tell because it’s rather subtle, but the signature is there. You know, like back in the day when they’d reverse the tape and “mismeedat watreemoss sorelama” when turned back the right way turned out to be “Satan will steal your soul”, or similar platitudes. :laughing:

Obviously, you just record something, then flip the tape around backwards and play it and record it to some other track. Or in DAWland these days, you can choose “Reverse” on a digital clip and voilà!

I learned this well when I had recorded Metallica’s “Blackened” to tape off the radio. I had always wondered how they made the intro guitar do that weird sound, but I didn’t connect it with how Jimi Hendrix (probably Eddie Kramer) did it. When I just happened to be recording some tracks on the other side of the tape and serendipitously heard the Metallica guitar intro solo the ‘right way’, it sounded like a normal solo.

So here’s some backwards guitar for comparison, albeit more sustained. Listen to the first 30 seconds (intro):

I’ve heard plenty of backwards guitar, and this really does not sound like reversed to me. I’ve also just watched a couple of live versions of this tune, and he plays the same notes (mostly-- not a carbon copy of the studio solo) the same way, just doesn’t have that effect on top of the distortion. So I definitely don’t think that’s it.

And I may have found the answer… googled up “how does David Hidalgo get that sound on Road to Gila Bend”, and found an interview with him at where he says: “For gain, I bring a Pigtronix Aria Disnortion, a Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone compressor, and an Ibanez Turbo Tube Screamer.” Googled up that compressor, and right there in the description it says: “Able to produce distortion, reverse effects during volume swells, in addition to compression & sustain, the Pigtronix Philosophers’ Tone is a lot of pedal in a small package.”

“Reverse effects during volume swells” would sure seem to be it…

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Makes sense. So it’s reverse guitar, kind of … but it’s “tricky”. Segue to …

To me it just sounds like fuzz and overdrive boxes running in series. When the note is struck it clips really hard [saturating] bringing the volume down. Then after the initial attack it rises back up giving it a slight swell.

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I think so too - the Proco Rat is another pedal that can do this, though more often on low notes. Play loud enough and the attack sags right down then the note swells up afterward.

The way to find out if it’s reversed: Reverse the song and listen. Does it sound like a normal guitar?

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