Published On: Mon, Jun 15th, 2009

Arctic Monkeys | want to sound like | Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Learn how The Arctic Monkeys guitarists ALex Turner and Jamie Cook get the sounds and what kit was used on the debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’

The Sound
Such is the impact of the Arctic Monkey‘s brand of Sheffield-fried indie rock even High Court Judges are familiar with tunes such as ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’. Frontman Alex Turner and fellow guitarist Jamie Cook’s combine military strumming precision along with superior melody lines that would make musical ancestors such as The Jam’s Paul Weller and The Who’s Pete Townshend proud.

The Gear
Alex played a Fender Strat through an Orange AD30 with two Pro Co Rat pedals for company. Jamie Cook plumped for a ’62 reissue Fender Tele into a Hiwatt Custom 50W 2×12″ combo, his pedal collection comprising three different types of distortion; Electro-Harmonix Big Muff a T.Rex Dr Swamp and a MXR M-104.

In The Studio
‘Whatever People Say I Am…’ was recorded in just over two weeks at The Chapel Studio in Lincolnshire. Producer Jim Abbiss (Editors, Kasabian) agreed with the band that a gritty and punchy sound, and the studio was chosen because it had the best live room – you’ll be surprised just how different guitars can sound in rooms that can be a similar size and layout. The band were recorded together in one room, and for the guitars two mics were placed just off-centre from the amp speakers; a Shure SM57 mic provided the warmth, a Royer 121 mic was used for brightness. Instead of doing overdubs the band did several takes of each songs, and the best bits were edited together using Pro Tools software.

On The Stage
If you’ve been to an Arctic Monkeys gig, you’ll know it’s a singalong extravaganza. Now their well-documented Myspace presence no doubt helped, but the band also did was give out free demos at gigs – people always join in more when they know the words. Also, if you look at early performances you’ll notice how Alex and Jamie barely look at the audience or camera. If you’re the shy type pick a spot faraway and stare at it while playing; people will think you’re wrapped up in the music rather than scared witless.

The Technique
You’ll have to get your short, sharp strumming in order to emulate Alex and Jamie – heavy on the downstrokes, but knowing when to throw a tasty upstroke into the mix (they’ll come in particularly handy when it comes to chord changes). Another trick to staccato playing is to take your fretting fingers off the neck straight after hitting the chord, choking the chords so they don’t ring out. Most of the chords the band used on the record are pretty basic, but on songs such as ‘When The Sun Goes Down‘ Alex and Jamie throw in a couple of 7th chords to freshen things up. (a dominant 7th and major 7th, to be precise) If you don’t know too many chords, you can still try the Monkeys trick of moving a chord shape up and down the neck.

Best Trick
Keep your guitar playing simple when the singer’s trying to tell a lyrical story. When there’s nowt going on vocally, hit ’em with your best ideas to keep the adrenalin pumping.



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