Digital Modeling Guitars: How They Work

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 26, 2022

Always the latest guitar gear & tricks?

Subscribe to THE newsletter for aspiring guitarists

We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy

hi there I love creating free content full of tips for my readers, you. I don't accept paid sponsorships, my opinion is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something you like through one of my links, I could earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more

Digital modeling guitars are electric guitars that use samples of real instruments and modeling technologies to create digital versions of traditional guitar sounds. These digital instruments are highly customizable, allowing you to replicate the tone of a specific amplifier, change the pickup configuration and even create unique sounds unlike any electric guitar on the market today.

One of the key benefits of a digital modeling guitar is its versatility; you can choose from an array of different pickups and effects that can be used for different music genres or styles. Whether you want to achieve classic rock tones or more experimental soundscapes, these instruments can be tailored specifically to your needs.

In this guide, we’ll look at how digital modeling guitars work and what they are capable of. We will discuss different types of pickups and effects, as well as how to find the right instrument for your needs. By the end, you should have a better understanding of what makes these guitars stand out from their analog counterparts:

  • Different types of pickups and effects
  • How to find the right instrument for your needs
  • What makes digital modeling guitars stand out from their analog counterparts
What is a digital modeling guitar

What is a Digital Modeling Guitar?

Digital modeling guitars are modern instruments that utilize cutting-edge technology to create an incredibly realistic sound. With these guitars, you can recreate classic sounds no matter what type of music you are playing. They are also incredibly versatile as you can customize the sound however you like.

Let’s take a closer look at digital modeling guitars and how they work.

Overview of Components

A digital modeling guitar is an electronic instrument that, with the help of software, replicates the sound of a variety of different physical instruments. This type of guitar uses digital signal processing (DSP) to convert incoming audio signals into digital information that can be stored in memory. The guitar is then able to create output signals from the stored information that simulate different types of physical instruments.

Unlike traditional music synthesizers, digital modeling guitars are built to work like a regular electric guitar. Instead of having individual keys or pads for each tone or note, this type of instrument uses strings with pickups and bridges in place for electric guitars. Additionally, the hardware used on a digital modeling guitar typically includes three main components: pickups, a sound processor and amplification/effects.

  • Pickups – Pickups are responsible for converting string vibrations into electrical signals which capture the essential characteristics of actual acoustic instrument sounds during play. On many electric guitars, pickups come in single-coil and humbucker configurations which each offer distinct tonal nuances. Common pickup types used on digital modeling guitars include piezo elements and microphones.
  • Sound Processor – Each internal sound processor has its own set of algorithms which shape the incoming signal into something that more closely resembles an acoustic tone once amplified through an external Audio Interface unit. Many processors also feature dozens of onboard effects as well as additional control parameters to customize playing styles even further.
  • Amplification/Effects – Most models feature dedicated amplifiers and effects processors such as distortion pedals or graphic equalizers (EQ), allowing performers to fine-tune their tone before sending it out loud through a speaker cabinet or monitor system. While some may prefer to go straight into recording interfaces for home production purposes only, most modern units come equipped with plenty enough onboard features for live performance scenarios too.

Types of Digital Modeling Guitars

When shopping for a digital modeling guitar, there are a few basic types available:

  • Hybrid Digital Modeling Guitars: These guitars combine the best of both analog and digital technology. The traditional pickups (for analog sound) are augmented by the electronic components that allow it to model different tones and chorus effects. This type of guitar provides a more expansive range of sounds than the basic electric guitar.
  • Multiprocessor Digital Modeling Guitars: These guitars have their own built-in computer processors which enable them to store hundreds of various sound banks and dozens upon dozens of different effects (such as reverb, Chorus, Flanger). They also come with proprietary software that is used to customize each facets of your playing experience – from levels and frequencies to sustain.
  • Customizable Digital Modeling Guitars: These guitars come with a wide selection of distinctive hardware switches which allow you access new tones and sounds while using your own custom built digital modeler. Most models also come with an amp simulator too – meaning you can switch between ‘clean’ amplifiers or dirty amp emulation devices like fuzz boxes or overdrive boosters without having to bring separate equipment around town when gigging.
  • DIY Digital Modeling Guitar Kits: If you’re looking into the world of digital modeling guitars but don’t want ready-made options then DIY kits may be perfect for you. Several reputable companies offer custom designed models that consist off parts and components that you can use to put together your own personalized build – be it one-of-kind in terms of color design or loaded with several bells & whistles from hundreds of possibilities in sound bank list, FX loop, effects routing etc..

How Does a Digital Modeling Guitar Work?

Digital modeling guitars are a type of electric guitar that uses digital technology to replicate the sound of other guitars, as well as provide additional sound effects and parameters. Digital modeling guitars are the latest innovation in electric guitar technology, and they have become increasingly popular in recent years.

In this article, we will discuss how a digital modeling guitar works and what makes it different from a traditional electric guitar.


Digital modeling guitars use magnetic pickups in order to capture a guitar’s sound. These pickups are located at points along the fretboard and will detect the vibrations created by the strings when strummed. The pickups are connected to circuitry within the guitar that transforms these vibrations into digital signals.

Once these signals are converted, a processor amplifies them and sends them to an external source, typically an amplifier or audio interface. This allows for multiple sound options and effects to be applied including distortion, delay, chorus, and more. By utilizing digital technology, the guitarist is able to replicate various tones without changing any components of their instrument like they would have had to in times past.

Digital Signal Processing

Digital modeling guitars use digital signal processing technology, also known as DSP, to accurately recreate different types of electric and acoustic guitar tones. This is done by analyzing the incoming sound from the guitar pickups and outputting a digital approximation that is then processed to produce a variety of classic, vintage, or modern guitar tones. The digital models are created using a combination of hardware components and software algorithms.

The hardware allows for precise adjustment of various parameters such as pickup type, amplifier type, and effects with the touch of a button. The software provides an array of digitally modeled guitar sounds that can be programmed with various settings in order to achieve different sonic textures.

The sound produced by a digital modeling guitar is far more consistent compared to traditional guitars because it can maintain its exact setup across multiple performances or recordings. This makes it an ideal choice for any musician who needs to deliver consistent tones in both live and studio settings. For example, when recording multiple parts in the studio, you can ensure that each part will have the same qualities no matter what how many times you record it or when you play it back; this gives digital modeling guitars a distinct advantage over traditional instruments where subtle inconsistencies are easily heard between takes.

Digital Amplifier

Digital modeling guitars use a digital electronics platform to replicate the sounds of classic electric and acoustic guitar amplifiers. A digital modeling guitar takes advantage of computer software and sampling technology to create a wide range of models that produce different tones for different instruments.

A guitar’s typical construction involves an amplifier and a speaker. The amplifier processes the sound wave from the guitar’s pickups and then sends it out through the speaker to be heard by the audience. When using a digital modeling guitar, instead of sound waves passing through an amp, they are directed straight into a computer-based software platform called the modeling engine. The engine is specifically designed to receive signals from first-generation pickups via cables connected directly into the instrument. The software then processes those signals according to its programming, adding effects or coloration as required, before sending them back out as careful reproductions of vintage amps, preamps, cabinets, microphones, acoustic spaces or even more modern sounds that have been developed in production studios around the world.

Digital modeling guitars offer players extremely accurate recreations of real amplified sounds from classic electric and acoustic guitars without any physical equipment other than their instrument itself. This means that you don’t need to carry around extra amplifiers or set up any other equipment when you want to perform – simply plug in your digital modeling guitar and you’re ready for action!

Benefits of Digital Modeling Guitars

Digital modeling guitars are quickly becoming the new standard for guitarists of all levels. They offer the combination of superior sound quality, customizability, and affordability when compared to traditional acoustic or electric guitars. But what are the real benefits of digital modeling guitars? Let’s dive in and examine some of the features that make them a great option for musicians.

Increased Versatility

Digital modeling guitars offer an unprecedented level of versatility and sound quality when compared to traditional electric guitars. Digital logic circuitry and powerful processors enable the guitar to mimic the sound of a wide range of different guitar models and effects, allowing the player to select their favorite sounds with just the flick of a switch or two.

In addition, digital modeling guitars are capable of reproducing subtle nuances in gain, frequency response, tone controls, attack and decay that are difficult to achieve on standard electric guitars. This makes them ideal for players who want to switch between singing leads over a clean background verse or unleash heavy distorted rhythms.

Digital modeling guitars also come with built-in auditioning capabilities that allow the user to directly hear what the instrument is capable of producing without having to plug in additional equipment or use headphones. Many digital guitar models now come with software programs enabling easy programming of variations like alternate tunings and phrasing options for improved creativity.

Finally, digital modeling guitars provide increased freedom in terms of recording methods – capturing excellent recordings without having a studio full of outboard gear or engineer present allows artists greater musical freedom. In addition, not needing cables for pedal boards provides better mobility during live performances as well as complementing stage setups for bands who prefer minimalistic sets on stage.

Improved Playability

Digital modeling guitars provide improved playability compared to acoustic guitars in several ways. First, digital modeling guitars can be adjusted for all playing styles and the strings are available in different tensions. This makes it easier for guitarists to adjust the playability of the guitar according to their particular style of playing and make movements easier when needed.

Second, digital modeling guitars typically come with fretless neck options, allowing for smoother runs and string bends. Finally, many models are equipped with onboard features that allow players to adjust their sound as they play through different effects or levels of overdrive/distortion. This gives guitarists more control over their sound while they practice or perform live.

Overall, digital modeling guitars offer an enhanced level of playing experience that can be tailored to individual players’ preferences:

  • Adjustable for all playing styles and different tensions
  • Fretless neck options for smoother runs and string bends
  • Onboard features for sound adjustment while playing

Enhanced Tone

The enhanced tone produced by digital modeling guitars is a significant benefit of using this type of instrument. These guitars use digital signal processing technology to capture the sound of natural-sounding instruments and then replicate it digitally, allowing users to tailor their tone to their exact specifications. Players are able to customize their sound more definitively than ever before – from the attack and resonance of a strummed chord to the nuances of an individual note. This makes digital modeling guitars especially well-suited for genre- or artist-specific sounds.

In addition, these instruments offer a wide selection of built-in effects, making it possible to layer overdrive or chorus, for example, with clean or distorted tones – increasing texture and complexity even further. Digital modeling also gives players access to vintage sounds which can be recreated with extraordinary accuracy thanks to sophisticated parameters that adjust gain, treble boost and compression levels.

Other areas where these instruments shine include when playing live as no additional setup is required between songs; users simply choose their desired presets on the fly.


Digital modeling guitars have revolutionized the world of electric guitar playing. Not only do they bring out the nuances of different tones with greater accuracy and fidelity, but there is an almost unimaginable range of sounds at the touch of a single button. Regardless of your playing style or genre, digital modeling guitars can make it easier to find the sound you are seeking or create one that doesn’t exist.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for a practice guitar or a professional looking for studio flexibility or onstage versatility, digital modeling guitars offer something for almost everyone. With practice, you can use them to craft and recreate any tone imaginable!

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

Microphone gain vs volume Subscribe