Both humbucking and single-coil pickups have been used extensively on many classic rock recordings. Whichever one you choose is simply a matter of personal preference.
If you prefer a Slash or Jimmy Page type tone then you should opt for a Gibson Les Paul style guitar with humbuckers at he neck and bridge. Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix aficionados will inevitably prefer single-coil pickups.
Interestingly, Eddie Van Halen fitted a humbucking pickup to his Strat-style 'Frankenstein' guitar to get a tone somewhere in between.
Using both an overdrive and a distortion pedal gives flexibility between different tones and gain settings. The phaser at this slow setting gives a sound reminiscent of early Van Halen, though you could turn up the rate for a more Jimmy Page-style sound.
The chorus effect can give a more '80s rock flavour and appears on most rock guitarists’ pedalboards. Delay is also essential for '80s rock sounds. Our setting is around 300 miliseconds, but tweak it until it pleases your ear.
These settings are all based on a fairly clean amp. If you want to use the amp’s distortion channel, try hooking the delay and chorus pedals into the effects loop - some players prefer it.
Listen: Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love
Players like Freddie, Albert and BB King are most famously associated with Gibson style humbucking pickups, so this is what our settings lean towards. However, latter-day Eric Clapton and all of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s recordings were made using Fender type single-coil pickups.
To get the best out of these, try adding a little more bass at the amplifier and boost the drive a notch or two on the overdrive (also reducing the tone a little). The other settings are unchanged, unless you’re feeling experimental.
First up is an overdrive pedal, which adds thickness and sustain that you can tailor to your guitar with the tone knob (more for humbuckers, less for single-coils). Running the level slightly ‘hot’ adds a nice boost too.
Next comes the compressor. It’s generally best to run this after any distortion effects between your guitar and amp. With our suggested settings, it adds a nice ‘snap’ to the beginning of your phrases.
Thirdly, a chorus pedal is a nice simple way to add a more modern sounding rotary speaker/leslie effect loved by SRV and Clapton. For the finishing touch, a short ‘slapback’ delay adds a little ambience, especially on solos – some players prefer to leave this on subtly all the time.