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I'm tyring to reverse-engineer how this cover was done:

Around that time stamp we can see the player switch from clean (not totally clean) to hi-gain by toggling the pick=up selector. However, his picking/strumming continued in the same pick-up region.

I tried tinkering around with my set-up, which is simply:

  • Entry-level electric guitar (has pick-up selector and dials but no whammy)
  • Amp (Yamaha THR10II)

The result was, no matter how I switched my pickup selector or strummed on all the different pickup regions, I couldn't get a different sound. It was either full hi-gain or nothing. I'm a bit surprised because the procedure seems simple enough in theory. Not sure if there are hardware additions I will need (yet expression pedal seems over kill).

At first glance, I seem to have everything the guy in the video has but I can't seem to pull of a switch from normal to hi gain mid-song. So it's getting difficult for me to troubleshoot what I'm doing wrong and whether or not it's even possible (maybe he had something else off-camera).

Question

How can I switch to cleanish electric tone to hi-gain electric tone via the pickup selector?

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    Les Pauls have two vol. pots - one for each pup. He switches from rhythm to treble, thus neck to bridge. When there's some overdrive , the vol. pot acts more like a distortion control. so, with neck at lower 'volume', and bridge at higher 'volume', switching will make the distortion heavier.
    – Tim
    Nov 4 '21 at 8:20
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    btw, I wouldn't call that 'hi-gain'. It's more akin to a traditional 70's Marshall [plexi, JTM] than a 'modern' hi-gain, JCM etc. If you've got too much gain on the amp, then you'll find it harder to get the clean sound when you turn down.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 4 '21 at 9:11
  • @Tetsujin I see, learned a lot! Nov 5 '21 at 3:54
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Around time stamp 0:46 he steps on a gain/distortion/fuzz pedal with his left foot. Watch his leg under his fretting hand.

Then he plays single notes in the neck pickup with a higher gain sound than he had in the intro. Even though he’s got more gain, it still sounds kinda clean because he’s playing single notes and he’s on the neck pickup, which is more mellow. Also as others have noted, his neck pickup volume pot is probably set lower than his bridge pickup. One thing the pedal does is add compression and sustain to the sound, which you should be able to hear if you listen closely.

When he changes to the bridge pickup and starts playing chords, you can really hear the distortion pedal working, but if you watch and listen closely, he actually turns the pedal on around 0:46. Watch his leg around 1:30 to see him turn it off again to go back to clean.

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    I hadn't spotted that, but did wonder how he got the sustain on the front PU before switching for the chorus chords. The switch off at about 1:20 is much easier to spot [especially if you know you're looking for it ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 4 '21 at 11:48
  • This answer could be improved by more explicitly explaining the Les Paul switching between pickups with different volumes trick. I think it is getting lost amongst all the other description.
    – Dave
    Nov 4 '21 at 15:41
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    @Dave My downplaying of the pickup selection and guitar volume pot settings is intentional. To my ears, they aren’t very much responsible for the tonal change in the clip. Sounds to me like the neck volume is only slightly rolled off anyway. Nov 4 '21 at 21:05
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You can get (mostly) clean tones from a high-gain amp setting if you go into the amp with a very low-amplitude signal. To put it simply, the amp has a maximum signal level that it can handle cleanly; beyond that, it goes into saturation and distorts the sound - the amplitude (volume) doesn't increase anymore, but the tone changes to "crunchy" and then "hi-gain". The "gain" knob determines by how much the amp multiplies the input signal from the guitar; so you can compensate for a higher "gain" setting on your amp by turning down your guitar (putting aside stuff like a higher noise level for now).

Now here's the trick: the guy in the video is using a Les Paul, which has separate volume knobs for each pickup. Most likely he has one pickup cranked up all the way (for the distorted sound) and the other set quite low (for the cleans). Most guitars don't have that - their volume knob affects all pickups the same way. So, most likely the answer to your question is: you can't, at least with your guitar. What you'd need to do is turn down the volume as you go to the clean parts.

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  • @Tim: yes. I think we were writing simultaneously. Nov 4 '21 at 9:51
  • @Tim You wrote in comment box. It says "Use comments to ask for more information or suggest improvements. Avoid answering questions in comments." so I think adding an answer is fair game.
    – ojs
    Nov 4 '21 at 10:05
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    I don't believe this is what happens in the video. He is simply switching the amp channels, or stepping on a distortion pedal synchronously with switching pickups. For reference, this is a video showing Jimmy Page switching between clean and crunch tone using the technique you describe. youtube.com/watch?v=4gDsbOraiqg It results in large volume change, which we don't observe in the video posted by the OP. Nov 4 '21 at 14:43

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