The Smiths are definitely one of the more integral bands to come out of the United Kingdom, particularly during the 1980s. To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of the band but their song “How Soon Is Now?” is undeniable.
Anybody who’s familiar with the track knows what I’m talking about. The tremolo rhythm guitar part and accompanying slide riff is inimitable. Getting the tremolo sound for the guitar part isn’t hard either.
Generally speaking, to get the tremolo sound heard on the rhythm guitar in the song “How Soon Is Now?,” you’ll want to set the rate to 1/16 notes in 95 BPM, or 2/3 of the way to maximum on your tremolo pedal, set the wave-form to square-wave and the depth to maximum.
And that’s pretty much the gist of how you would get the tremolo sound for the primary rhythm guitar in “How Soon Is Now?” The song has a standard chord progression but due to the tremolo rhythm section, as well as the slide lead guitar part, it comes across as totally unique. More on this below.
|Punkademic’s [Beginner to Advanced] Music Theory Course|
Use the coupon code: “producersociety”
The Guitar Tremolo Setting for “How Soon Is Now?”
On most tremolo pedals, there are three primary parameters and they are the rate, the depth, and the wave-form.
Some boutique tremolo pedals will have additional settings, but most only have three. This is also the case for the BOSS TR-2 tremolo pedal (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds) which I believe the UT300 is based on.
The nice thing about this is that it makes the pedal less confusing and much easier to use. If you’re anything like me, the more settings there are, the more cumbersome the effect gets. There can be too many options.
Let’s briefly talk about each setting and how it’s set up for The Smiths’ classic song. You can have a listen to the official song and check out the accompanying music video in the YouTube video below:
On your tremolo pedal, the rate should be set so the volume oscillates up and down at 1/16 notes approximately, in 95 BPM. Some sources online say “How Soon Is Now” is 190 BPM, but that’s way too fast.
The song is much closer to 95 BPM, and the rhythm guitar part sounds like it’s in 1/16 notes. You can hear what 1/16 notes at 95 BPM sounds like in this YouTube video here.
For the depth, you could probably set it to 90% to 100%, but I prefer to just set it at 100%. In this YouTube video, the guy playing “How Soon Is Now” agrees and states that it’s at around 91%.
Ultimately, this is one of those parameters where it doesn’t have to be 100% correct. As long as you’re at least close, it’ll sound pretty good, unlike with the rate which pretty much has to be exactly right.
Similar to the depth, the wave-form is probably the 3rd most important in terms of the final tremolo product. I’ve set the wave-form to square-wave, which is the maximum on the Behringer UT300.
As I explained in my guide to the tremolo setting on “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” most tremolo pedals have 2 different wave-form settings. The first is linear or triangular-wave, and the next is square-wave.
A square-wave form has more peaks and valleys, so to speak, or in other words, the volume cuts in and out in a more abrupt fashion, as if someone is turning down and then turning up the volume really fast.
Where to Put The Tremolo In Your Signal Chain
I originally used this image that I got from Wikimedia Commons in my piece on how to get the “Like A Stone” tremolo setting, but it’s a great demonstration for how I would set up the tremolo on “How Soon Is Now?” as well.
The reason being that a tremolo pedal is basically like a volume pedal. And it should be placed where other volume pedals, pitch effects, and wah pedals sit – at the start of your signal chain.
You’ll find your tremolo tone will have a much cleaner sound if it’s closest to your guitar, and before any other effects like distortion, overdrive, modulation, and time-based effects.
That said, you could get away with putting tremolo after your dynamics processing effects including things like EQ and compression. I wouldn’t want to put the tremolo after distortion and overdrive though.
What Gear Do You Need For The “How Soon Is Now?” Guitar Tone?
Because of how legendary the song is, The Smiths, including Morissey and Johnny Marr have shared a lot of the recording process as well as the gear they used to create “How Soon Is Now?”
You’ll discover on the Wikipedia page for the song that they used an Epiphone Casino, a bunch of Fender Twin Reverbs, and then a harmonizer set to 3rds for the slide guitar part.
According to Guitar World, one guitar was harmonized up a 3rd and the other was harmonized down a third, and then they mixed these two together in the studio to create the sound.
However, in the Wikipedia piece from above, Marr states that he doesn’t remember precisely how they got the slide guitar part on the album.
But they get it down pretty well when they play it live. You can check out a live performance from Johnny in this video here.
1) Tremolo Pedal – Behringer UT300
There are some more tried and true tremolo pedals on the market including the BOSS TR-2. The TR-2 is also a staple, and people like Tom Morello also use it.
You can see what they look like in the image of Morello’s pedalboard near the start of the article.
2) Epiphone Casino
According to the Wikipedia article that I shared earlier, Johnny Marr used an Epiphone Casino for the recording of “How Soon Is Now.” The Casino is a pretty popular guitar and even The Beatles used it during their early years.
But truth be told, it’s not like you need this guitar to get the “How Soon Is Now?” guitar sound. I’m just mentioning it to you in the case that you want to get as close as possible. The next thing we’ll talk about is the amplifier.
3) Fender Twin Reverb
Similar to the style of guitar, the amplifier you’d like to use isn’t the most important thing, but if you do want to get as close as you can, Johnny used a bunch of Fender Twin Reverbs on the album.
The last thing we’ll talk about is the harmonizer which was used on the slide guitar part that I’ve mentioned a couple times.
4) Harmonizer in 3rds (Slide Part)
This tutorial isn’t about achieving the harmonizer slide part that’s layered over the primary tremolo guitar riff.
But I think it’s worth mentioning that a Droptune Whammy Pedal is a good way to achieve the harmonization sound and a whole host of other effects. You can also use this pedal to get every other sound a là Tom Morello and others.
The Whammy Pedal wasn’t created until the late 1980s and the iteration of it that we’ve all come to recognize today wasn’t used until the early 1990s.
Safe to say that The Smiths didn’t use this exact pedal when they recorded the song in 1985.
If you have a look at any performance of “How Soon Is Now?” whether it’s by The Smiths themselves, just Johnny Marr, or a fan that’s covering the song, almost everyone uses a capo on the 2nd fret.
You could probably figure out a way to play “How Soon Is Now?” by just using different chord voicings.
However, the song is played with a capo on the 2nd fret. Personally, I like the spider capos a lot because they’re pretty versatile (my guide).
Other Articles You May Be Interested In
- What Are The Tremolo Settings for Pink Floyd’s “Money?”
- Vibrato vs Chorus – What’s the Difference? [ANSWERED]
- What’s the Tremolo Setting for “Gimme Shelter?” [EASY]
- How to Use A Tremolo Pedal [A Step-By-Step Guide]
- How to Use A Vibrato Pedal [An Illustrated Tutorial]
1) Behringer UT300 Tremolo Pedal (on Thomann)
2) BOSS TR-2 (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds)
3) DigiTech Whammy DT (on Amazon/Thomann/zZounds)
4) Standard Capo (on Amazon)