On Effects Bay I try not to go negative, but some times I need to go there. This time it’s more of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) though. A couple of days ago a friend sent me this Reverb.com video with the title – “How To Sound Like The Cure on Guitar”. Me being a heavy Cure fan of course I was interested, but was immediately shocked to see and listen how bad this is. There are a lot of similar style videos out there that gets you in the ballpark of a band or artist, but these guys fell short on this, both in tone and technique.
I wanted to write this post in case you wanted to learn how to play The Cure songs and address my issues with this video.
First, let’s check out the video:
The first thing that is not correct is the choice in pedals. I understand that the video’s point is to showcase a variety of pedals. But if you’re after The Cure sound, you only should be using Boss pedals. Both Robert Smith and Simon Gallup use Boss, and they’ve been using Boss for years.
I was involved with a Cure tribute a few years ago, and I went deep.. I mean real deep in figuring out Robert Smith. I remember getting a Boss BF-2 Flanger (BF-3 will get you close, but not all the way there) and a delay, and I was working on the classic song – A Forest but was having trouble getting the sweep and delay just right. I was close but something wasn’t right. I discovered an article that talked about Robert setting his knobs to 12 o’clock.. and bam, I was right where I needed to be. When I work on Cure stuff, my knobs are not perfectly 12 o’clock high, I vary slightly to taste.
The video starts with Lullaby with a Boss AC-2 Acoustic simulator. First off, if you’re going to play a Cure song that requires an acoustic – a) don’t play it or b) get an acoustic guitar. The Acoustic Simulator has some ‘acoustic string’ properties, but in general – might be the worst sounding pedal on the planet.
The video got it right on the instruments though. Typically, getting a Fender Jazzmaster and a Fender Bass VI will get you half way there. But other guitars will work. Robert Smith has played a variety of six strings and now plays Schecters (Ultra Cure and Ultra Cure VI).
The song that about lost my mind was Pictures of You. The Disintegration era stuff is some of my favorite with lots of Bass VI melodies and good chorus effects. There could be some flanger as this video uses, but I feel like it’s all about the Chorus. And where is the delay? Now, when searching for ‘tab’ and what-not, Robert Smith is very, very, very misunderstood by other guitarists, and this player falls in the same trap. Robert likes to play those melody lines in a linear fashion (one string) and NOT play them in the “box” as traditional guitar players like to. An ‘E’ is not an ‘E’… if you’re going for the Robert tone, you need to find the right note on the right string. Spend time looking at live videos.. tons of them out there, and you can see how he basically plays the B string only for that song (with a few exception of the E string) – where this player in the small clip plays the B, G, D and A strings. Wrong. You can see some good angles from Robert here.
I think when working on replicating artists like Robert, the notes in the melody line needs to be solid. The videos version of Just Like Heaven, the effects/tone are pretty close, the notes/phrasing is wrong. I’m worried that it will get a lot of players on the wrong track if they stumble on this video first in their quest on figuring out one of these particular tunes.
Anyway, I’m done with the old man “get off my lawn” rant now. Let me know what you think by commenting below.