Back in October 2018, Guitcon took over the Warwick factory in Markneu-kirchen, Germany. The annual event, now in its second year, brought together some of YouTube’s most engaging guitar-and bass-wielding creatives to test new gear and hang in a creative space. With so many “YouTube guitarists” in one place at one time, we seized the opportunity to learn about their respective channels and ask them about their tone (and more). Just search for their names on YouTube to track ’em down. Enjoy!
WHO ARE YOU? I make vlogs and I like educational videos about music — what it means, and what it means to be a musician.
TONE TIP: If you’re a bass player, roll down the lows a little bit; do a low cut around 30-40Hz. [Use] a lot of low-mids, and turn down the treble a bit. That gives you a nice, fat bass tone.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Do it all the time, and don’t expect success immediately. If you expect to do well just because you’ve uploaded a cool video, don’t. It’s all about the process. You have to do it for a long period of time. I started my channel in February 2006, so I’ve been doing it for 12 years and it wasn’t until very recently that I started to get the success I now have.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “What is the slowest music humanly possible?” Adam says, “I like memes, musical science and neuroscience.” He continues. “I also like really hilariously slow doom metal. This video combines all of those.”
DAVID AND MANUEL, GERMAN MUSIC REVIEWS
WHO ARE YOU? We do very short videos, five or six minutes each, with a dumb storyline each time to introduce the gear we’re reviewing. So, dumb jokes, great sound and lots of gear!
TONE TIP: Practice before you play. That’s the best tip you can get. If you can play it, it will sound good, even on a cheap guitar.
KEY TO SUCCESS: We’re very new in the YouTube game, so we’re not in the position to tell people to do this and do that. We made it with a few jokes and good tone. Maybe that’s the secret. We make a big effort for a small video that has production quality; that’s our thing. Do that and it will probably work.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “Ibanez Iron Label 2018 RGIX-DLB Review (Studio Quality).” What could be better than a condensed yet detailed review of the Ibanez Iron Label 2018 RGIX-DLB — in space?
MICHELLE, GUITAR GODDESS
WHO ARE YOU? I felt like there was not enough representation in the guitar community for females, so I chose my channel name to appeal to female players. I teach beginner and intermediate guitar. I had no intention of teaching guitar, actually. I started by uploading covers, and people asked me to make tutorials of what I was playing. That’s how I got my start.
TONE TIP: I’m primarily an acoustic player, so I’d say it’s finding a guitar you love. I have a Breedlove with a bright, warm honey sound and I love it.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “Shape of You - Ed Sheeran // Guitar Tutorial (Chords + Picking).” Michelle provides an accessible version of this Sheeran tune that’s easy to learn and sounds remarkable. It’s also a fine example of how the YouTube community provides inclusive content for every level of player.
WHO ARE YOU? I review gear. Pedals, amps, stuff like that. My videos are pretty simple. I do a little intro and then it’s a closeup on the controls so you can see what’s going on when you change things. I’m not in the videos. It was done that way originally because I was doing a closeup on a pedal. People went kinda bonkers and decided it was Jack Black shooting these demos. God knows why — the voice, I guess? It snowballed.
TONE TIP: People talk about their tone getting sucked up by their pedals and stuff. Well, don’t get your tone until that’s all plugged in. Plug in whatever you’re going to be using. Now go to your amplifier and get the sound you want.
KEY TO ONLINE SUCCESS: The thing I did was just content, content, content. A had a hundred demos posted in the first year. I just kept going, kept doing it, so that whatever people were looking for, I had a demo of it.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “Headrush Pedalboard demo through full-range speakers (Quilter Amp).” This video gives you a taste of what to expect from Gearmanndude’s work: it’s thorough and joyful!
WHO ARE YOU? I do anything and everything guitar-and music-related — tutorials, my own music and reviews. I do a thing I like to call “Mike 2,” where there’s two of me playing the same guitar, but with a different amp or something, in split screen. Lots of guitar antics and crazy vlog stuff.
TONE TIP: Practice and playing. No secret pedal or lead will make you the next X, Y or Z. It’s down to you. Of course, you can have stuff to enhance you. Regarding gear, don’t play with too much gain. It compresses your tone and makes it saggy. The less gain, the better. Going without gain highlights your mistakes, but that’s where the practice comes in.
KEY TO SUCCESS: For me it’s being myself. There’s not a facade; you either like it or you don’t. I think consistency is a big thing, too. You want to treat it as being like a TV show; I try and do at least one, ideally two a week. People like that because they know when to tune in.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “It’s a Hendrix thing.” This is the first in a series of videos where Mike riffs on the sound of an iconic player. It’s hard to just watch one, so maybe make yourself some popcorn before you sit down with this one.
WHO ARE YOU? I’m a modern percussive fingerstyle guitarist. My channel is about my music. I run an online guitar academy as well, and some of my lessons are on my YouTube channel, but mainly I’m there as an artist.
TONE TIP: If you play unplugged, it’s important that you have good, fresh strings. A lot of guitarists have strings on for one or two years, and then they sound kind of dull, so that’s really important. A good setup with high action is also very important. If you do hammer-ons and pull-offs it’s easier to play and sounds better. I also need a microphone in my guitar to capture the percussive sounds I use.
KEY TO SUCCESS: It’s really important that you do something that sticks out, because the way to grow your channel is by having people share stuff and watch for a long time. Try to create content that keeps people watching your videos. If you do this, YouTube will keep on recommending your videos. That’s where the real views come from.
WHAT TO WATCH: Tobias is good enough that his work has won him an endorsement from Ibanez, and you don’t have to listen to very much of his music to see why. His song “Still Awake” has all the elements that have made him an online success: masterful percussive playing woven around more traditional fingerstyle, extraordinary use of harmonics, ambidextrous hammer-ons with the picking hand handling the bass — and even a note bend on a harmonic using the top E tuning peg.
STEVE, SAMURAI GUITARIST
WHO ARE YOU? I do a wide range of stuff. Lessons, talking about music, trying out the weirdest gear I can find. One time I played five guitars at the same time, and one time I did a time lapse. Over the course of 30 minutes I played “Here Comes the Sun” extremely slowly, then I sped it up so that the sun came up in the background while the song played.
TONE TIP: I believe tone is in the fingers. Make sure your fingers are correctly placed on the fretboard and your pick is doing what you want it to. How you play makes up 95 percent of what you do. The 5 percent comes from getting good gear. So spend 95 percent of your effort on learning to play and 5 percent on the rest.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Do it for fun and hopefully an audience will come to you. The thing about success is that you have to define what it means to you. Come up with something that brings you happiness, and if your definition is having fun on YouTube, it’s very easy to do that.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “The 5 Weirdest Guitar Pedals.” Steve indulges his penchant for the weird and wonderful with a review of the five strangest guitar pedals he could find.
WHO ARE YOU? I do videos on all elements of music, from composition and music theory to song analysis to jazz improvisation. Pretty much anything you can think of about the music business.
TONE TIP: It’s a combination of two things. It’s having a great instrument, and the rest comes from the fingers.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Keep uploading, and make sure it’s content people are interested in. People click on things that interest them. That’s the one thing to keep in mind. That doesn’t change how I make my videos, though. I make videos about things I want to talk about.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “What Makes This Song Great? Ep. 3 Steely Dan.” Rick’s super power is insight and analysis, and that’s most apparent in his series of “What Makes This Song Great?” videos. In this edition he takes on Steely Dan, chord by chord.
JASSY J, JJ’S ONE GIRL BAND
WHO ARE YOU? My channel name’s a bit misleading, since I just play guitar covers, and now some original stuff since I’ve been playing with my new band, Over-sends, since December 2017.
TONE TIP: You have to rely on the influences you’re listening to. You can just tell when you’re playing to a song what sounds wrong. I think mids are really important to a guitar’s tone. You have to be careful of gain. It’s clipping and it also gets dirt in your tone. If you practice with high gain or distortion, you don’t hear your mistakes. I rely on a tone that’s real and doesn’t hide what I play.
KEY TO SUCCESS: So many people nowadays are playing a role to make people think they’re interesting. What I always do is be myself, and it works. Everyone at GuitCon is a great personality because they’re not playing a role, they’re being themselves.
WHAT TO WATCH: Jassy absolutely kills it on every bone-crunching note of Metallica’s “The Four Horsemen.” We assume there’s some fairly heavy cooling equipment off camera, because nothing bursts into flames. Search for “METALLICA - The Four Horsemen [GUITAR COVER] with SOLO 4K | Jassy J.”
WHO ARE YOU? I’m a bass player and I make videos that allow me to play bass while having fun. They also feature some of my other passions, like video games, various genres of music and effect pedals.
TONE TIP: I get a DI signal I’m pleased with, then I re-amp or re-pedal it, putting it from my audio interface back out through a pedal board or a bass amp. Since I already have the DI signal I can tweak it for days — or months — until I’m happy. It’s not set in stone from the get-go.
KEY TO SUCCESS: For people with a busier schedule or trying to build slowly, shoot the type of videos you might think of as “viral.” It’s difficult to categorize videos as “viral” vs “good.” They can be one in the same. I try to use search engine optimization — videos that mix your content with something else popular. For example, my most popular video was a Super Mario Brothers cover. That was a recipe for success.
WHAT TO WATCH: Search for “Super Mario Bass Guitar 2!!!!! (Clean Bass Sound).” Nathan perfectly evokes the sound of Super Mario — even the jumps and fireballs. This was originally done using synth effects to replicate the sound of the game with total accuracy, but we prefer this version with its sweet, clean bass sound.
WILL AND CHRIS, BASSIC GEAR REVIEW
WHO ARE YOU? Bassic Gear Review was an idea we had a few years ago where we review pedals, amps and basses — but it’s 100 percent bass. One of our things is that the pedals we review aren’t all designed for bass. We’ve done the Boss DS-1, we did the Metal Muff at one point. We’ll do any pedal you throw at us.
TOP TONE TIP: A lot of people say tone is in the fingers, and that’s true for the most part, but you can adjust your amp, your bass, your pedals or whatever to get what you want out of them. We have a friend who’s got a real light touch but is always striving for a bright, heavy tone. There’s plenty of things he can do — get a bright amp, coated strings, certain picks. So the most important thing is that you find a style that’s comfortable for you. From there, tweak to your heart’s content.
KEY TO SUCCESS: Know yourself. Get a solid idea of what it is that you’re passionate about. When you’re finished producing a video, you should want to watch that video. Sometimes certain artists in music try to hit a market hard with a certain genre. Their popularity skyrockets overnight, and by the next night it’s gone again. When you see the artists that have 40-year careers, they started with nothing and had a very slow build. The best way to achieve that kind of success is to be doing it for yourself.
WHAT TO WATCH: The great thing about BGR’s reviews is you get to see everything the review product does while listening to some fine bass playing. Here they do their thing with the KHDK Unicorn Blood, using it to put the crunch in some groovy rock riffs and even some glorious doom at the end. Search for “KHDK Unicorn Blood Bass Demo.”