ProGuitarShop

8 Tips for Finding Great Tone

August 6, 2013

By PGS Fitz

 

It’s an endless, Sisyphus-ian journey, the quest to find TONE. With the insane amount of gear available to us, guitarists can have a tendency to not see the forest for the trees, constantly swapping gear in and out as we look for the sound we hear in our heads. This week in the corner, we’re highlighting ways to tweak your tone that don’t involve dropping a bunch of Benjamins on new gear. Not that THAT isn’t a ton of fun, too.

 

HEAR

Might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to listen passively. Actively use your ears and brain to hear tones, how adjusting pots affects a sound, how combining pieces of equipment sounds, etc etc. When you listen to other people play, listen actively and curiously – sleuth out how they’re making the sounds they’re making. Having an engaged ear will help you hear, not just listen.

 

 

PICK(ING)

You have a lot of options when it comes to strumming. If you use a pick, take a cue from our own Andy and start playing with your fingers. Do you strum in the same spot all the time? Try picking close to the bridge for a sound with some bite or closer to the neck to round everything off.  Turn your pick around. Use a coin as a plectrum. Experiment with how you hit the strings and where. Speaking of strings…

 

 

STRINGS

Fresh strings are always a joy. It can be an expensive habit, but treat yourself and your guitar to fresh strings whenever you feel like it. I’ve almost always used 10s on my electric guitars, but once in a while I do something crazy and re-string one of them with a super light set (08s) or a much heavier set (12s). It always changes the way I play and winds up helping me work out aspects of my technique. If you usually use nickel strings, switch to steel or vice versa. Don’t be content to just use what you’ve always used.

 

TUNING

Along with experimenting with your string gauge/construction, playing with your tunings can free you from your habits and patterns and open up creativity in your playing and affect your technique. Switching a guitar into an open-tuning forces your brain and ear to work in ways they aren’t used to. Even tuning down to Eb can be enough of a change.

 

SIGNAL PATH

Double check your signal path. Is there anything happening in your signal chain that is preventing you from getting the sounds you want out of your rig? Check your leads and patch cables for shorts. Evaluate whether a buffer would be useful in your board. Are your effects placed in an order that maximizes their performance?

 

THE OTHER HAND

Don’t ignore your “right hand technique” (sorry, southpaws!) – we spend a lot of time working on our fretting fingers and it’s easy to forget about the digits on the other hand. Make sure to exercise your strumming hand’s fingers. As per above, maybe put the pick down once in a while and use your fingers.  Don’t forget: your strumming hand is also in charge of string muting, which is a critical skill to work on to avoid unwanted string noise. You can even go one step further and work on your JeffBeckian ability to manipulate your guitars pots while you’re strumming.

 

DYNAMICS

All loud all the time is not necessarily the greatest thing ever. Practice playing at different volumes, intensities, speeds, etc. Loud only has power when it is contrasted with quiet—and quiet becomes powerful when it is paired with loud. Don’t be afraid to take it down a notch when the moment calls for it.

 

THE GUITAR

Know your instrument inside and out. Your guitar likely has a tone knob. USE IT. If your guitar has multiple pickups, make sure to get to know your switching system and use it to its fullest. Keep on top of your guitar’s intonation. Your instrument is your partner in music; know it and take care of it for a long lasting affair!

*not my actual guitar, sadly...

 

 

As always, we want to know what you think—if anyone has great tips for honing in on tone, be sure to share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Pierre says:

    Back to the roots
    Simple but highly effective ways :-)

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:25 am
  2. brian says:

    There is often a contrast drawn between “hearing” and “listening.”  Seems you are describing them opposite of the typical usage?

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:26 am
  3. Chris Jackson says:

    You mean “Sisyphean,” right?

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:27 am
  4. Jeremy says:

    Another tip:

    Change pickups and tweak them.
    Changing their heights and tweaking the adjustable polepiece for maximum performance. I once raised some polepiece on my Bareknuckle humbucker and the sound totally changed. From muddy and dark to sharp and percussive!

    Try it lads, there are a lots of tutorials on the net and you do not risk anything by tweaking their heigths! You will be surprise how it can affect your tone.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:29 am
  5. Mehedee says:

    few tips I would like to share:

    *learn to play clean and SLOW from the get-go.  I will help any guitar player in the long run.

    *Instead of buying too many pedals, buy few GREAT pedals and spend some time to bring out the best.

    *Always play in a good amp.  Save money, buy a good amp and you won’t be diappointed.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:32 am
  6. matthew conte says:

    being as i am the best guitarist on planet earth,what i have to say is way more important than anyone else.my thoughts are to buy lots of effects from pro guitar shop.who cares about money…the more the better.and buy lots of guitars too.and play at least 5 to 6 hours a day so you get real awesome.and if you see a guy playing somthing cool and it sounds good ,ask him to show you what hes doing….....duh!  this is not rocket science here.oh yeah..dont ever steal a guys gear.this is the worst self inflicted MOJO damage that is possible.its not cool and just plain wrong.music is great every thing is groovy baby.just buy your gear from proguitarshop.com..dag nabit!!..hey does that get me a free awesome pgs t shirt ?

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:34 am
  7. joe morris says:

    When I was young I had 2 mentors, Chet Atkins and Alvin Lee. Both of these guitarists plugged straight from guitar to amp. though Chet did some thing for his use of stereo so his top 3 EAD could be run through one channel or amp. and the bottom 3 GBE thrue another. Alvin always plugged in and set the amp knobs and went to play but both of these guys had a multitude of tones and I always admired that so I have always played with no pedals though I have tried them with out ever using them on stage and for the past 40 years I have had no use for those noise makers. My point is learn to play your guitar and your amp. There are 1000’s of tones available to you and if your amp has multi channels just set up different tones on the channels and use the foot switch to change when you want to. The guitar is such an amazing instrument on it’s own I never understood why people take the beautiful sound of the guitar and rip it up with all those electronic devises.I love the sound of a guitar natural or a little overdrive on the amp for some loud gritty sound. The point is I love guitar sound and tones. Best wishes to all of you guys who play…......Joe.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:45 am
  8. Stu Mannix says:

    As an established guitarist from the UK, who has travelled the world for the past 25 yrs, playing guitar in many live bands, I feel the need to comment on your published advise….
    In my teaching of many, many pupils in the art of playing guitar, I have tried to deliver an ‘all encompassing’ approach to the whole world of guitar playing. You guys have, over my months of my subscription, helped me quantify/crystallise what I have been trying to get across. Please keep the advise flowing! Great work. It works with my pupils. They are finally getting that it’s not just ‘buying gear’ that changes/improves things.
    I thank you!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 6:47 am
  9. Igor says:

    I’m impressed! Great little piece about TONE, without all the “tonewood” and “magical amp settings” and “$500 magic cables” crap! You’ve actually mentioned the right stuff that REALLY affects your tone, and a different pick changes it more than a superduper space-shielded cable. Nice work!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:08 am
  10. José Ricardo says:

    This section is very complex, I think:
    SIGNAL PATH - ” . . . Evaluate whether a buffer would be useful in your board. Are your effects placed in an order . . . “
    I would highly appreciatte that you could give us the gift of a post going deeper on this subject.
    Many thanks !!!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:13 am
  11. Kidmag says:

    Spend your money on a good tube amp first.  It’ll make just about any decently intonated guitar sound good.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:21 am
  12. David Bastow says:

    I have finally found a guitar that “fits” me.  The neck is right, the controls are simple, the guitar stays in tune all the way up the neck.  Find a guitar that is a true joy to play.  It took me 40 years.  I have spent a lot of $$$, but I sold everything else after I found the guitar that fits me.  I did it for less than $1500, so in the long run I recovered all my money.

    The part about getting a good amp is every bit as important.  You will play more and enjoy it better.  You will probably never find “your” sound without good primary tools.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:27 am
  13. Paul Mandaca says:

    Nice post! I’ve learned by messing with my guitars to regulate the pickups’s height, it’s very useful to find a great tone too.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:35 am
  14. Keith Rudd says:

    I agree with the comments about tube amps. They are just simply superior. And as for guitars, if you ‘love it’, buy it. If you don’t ‘love it’. Leave it in the shop. Don’t buy a guitar thinking that it’ll grow on you. It won’t.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:42 am
  15. Theron Kaye says:

    I think you meant
    Sisyphean…

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:46 am
  16. Scott Grove says:

    As one person mentioned, it was nice that there was no mention of TONE WOODS (Thanks you)....but comments are somewhat getting TUBE AMP heavy.  No need for tubes for great sounds.  Go try the Fractal Audio stuff to blow the tube amp myths clear out of the water.  Use WHATEVER amp works for you.  TUBES are not BETTER, only different.  I would never use another tube amp personally.  But, everybody is different, so to push the Tube Amps on people is defeating the point of the article.  Cheers.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:56 am
  17. Theron Kaye says:

    Lots of good info & I know you’ve covered it before, but a rehash of “Are your effects placed in an order that maximizes their performance?” would be welcomed by many, although I have mine in a “classic” pattern it would be interesting to hear more of your and others’ take on the subject.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 7:59 am
  18. James Healey says:

    Dynamic range has been a great asset to my style and my learning curve. Use all of the technique mentioned above and change up often, including speed, volume and add new technique.
    I like artists like Vicki Genfan , vickigenfan.com/‎
    She exemplifies this philosophy better than many guitarists, especially using different non-standard tuning, harmonics, percussive technique and more.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:02 am
  19. Jeff says:

    As always, great info and advice.  After years of chasing the “perfect” tone, I have one piece of advice of my own (not that I’ve found it but I’m close!):

    Be true to yourself.  YOU know what sounds good and what sounds marginal, be honest with yourself if it really doesn’t sound that great.  YOU know what that tone in your head sounds like.  There will always be critics but be true to what you like and want from your tone.  Half the fun is the pursuit and experimentation to find it and when you find it, it is a sense of satisfaction that can’t be described.

    I will add that in my experience you can make a $200 guitar sound great through a $1500 amp but it’s difficult to make a $1500 guitar sound as good through a $200 amp.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:06 am
  20. fat eddie says:

    Get the best amp you possibly can . go into debt if you must . most guitar players go about this all wrong . they save / borrow / wheel and deal to get that custom shop guitar only to get home and plug into their same old amp and discover their $5k Murphy aged L/P RI sounds just like their Epi L/P std . if you take that same $5k , buy a PRS , 65 ,Two Rock , Soldano , Carr , Victoria , Mesa Boogie , Top Hat , Dr.Z , Kendrick , etc for <$3k , go home and grab your Epi and be AMAZED . and then take the $2k you have left in your pocket back to the bank .

    y’all can thank me later .

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:10 am
  21. David says:

    Please, give us a ******** break with this tedious valve nonsense. Listen to just two players with fabulous tone - Seasick Steve & RL Burnside. One used a Roland Cube (cause it was cheap and convenient) the other used whatever he had to hand. I read that Burnside sometimes turned up to gigs with no amp and no guitar and just used the house gear. This whole guitar-cable-amp shtick is so overdone. Yes some guitarists do just that and achieve great sounds but, honestly, Silver Machine without the phaser, Hendrix without the fuzz and wah wah? 70’s funk without the wah wah? 80’s hair-bands without compressor pedals, metal distortion and Tube Screamers, post-rock without tremolo pedals, Grunge without ten kinds of distortion linked together. It really beggars belief that this tired old attitude still gets dragged out by holier-than-thou tone-fundamentalists who’d probably be stoning Boss Stereo Chorus users for blasphemy and whipping multi-effects dilettantes within an inch of their lives.
    One final thing…
    “Spend your money on a good tube amp first. “??? Someone said to me a long time ago “better to buy a decent camera and a big box of film than to buy an expensive camera and a few rolls of film with what’s left over. In my humble opinion, all the tips above are a 100 times more useful (and more effective) than “get a good tube amp”.
    listening, experimenting with picking techniques, (not entirely convinced by the new strings thing, to be honest. Each to his own), tuning (and playing other instruments such as keyboard, singing, violin, wind or percussion), the other hand techniques, and dynamics will help you become a 100 times better musician than a ******* valve amp can ever hope to do. Valve amps are a placebo. A nice-to-have if you can afford it but, in the end, making music is more important.
    One last thing, I read about a record producer who fed the guitar players with whatever amp set up they wanted through the monitors just to stop them whinging and send their signal to the recording console as he wanted it. He said the records sounded great and everyone was happy but if the guitarists had heard what he was mixing, they would have cried.
    Stand in front of a great band playing a great show and listen. No one will be able to tell whether it was valve, transistor, hybrid, or modelling. Get real. Make music.
    Have fun. Get your head out of your arse.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:26 am
  22. CBJ says:

    Sorry, but #1 is to properly set up pick up height (assuming it’s an electric).
    Too close and you forgo sustain (magnetic pull)  get wolf tones, too far and you lack energy and ‘snap’. Finding YOUR ‘sweet spot’ is the single most important thing one can do in order to get ‘tone’.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 8:35 am
  23. Leif says:

    Most important thing in getting tone is how you play it.  Look at B.B. King, SRV, Jeff Beck, Alvin Lee, I could go on…
    Each great guitarist plays every note like they mean it, don’t hide behind an effect, a guitar or an amplifier.  Play each and every note, chord, thump, muted strike like your life depends on it.

    That’s where tone comes from.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:17 am
  24. TB Young says:

    Use a capo on your axe once in awhile,it changes your strumming tone,you might like it ?I have an old steel stile capo for my old classic Fender 62 Jazzmaster ,had to put a piece of neoprine gas line on where the old surgical tube used to be ! The new capo’s aren’t strong enough !

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:50 am
  25. David Bastow says:

    After re-reading this several times, I finally get it.  To me, Stu Mannix has the best comment.

    My point could have been better explained like this:  a well known Grammy Award winner bought his “go to” guitar in ‘79.  I just recently found mine.  Perhaps now I can find my tone by utilizing the “8 tips” because I’m not going to be making equipment changes all the time.

    Good comments all.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:54 am
  26. Michelle Rose says:

    Try taking EVERYTHING out of your signal path and going straight in: no FXs, nothing. Crank the amp to ten and use the guitar’s volume and tone pots to find a sound that works, even if it’s not perfect. THEN add FX pedals one by one.

    Rock was designed to be intended to be played LOUD. The amp does the work, the guitar controls the amp and the player controls the guitar. Effects pedals are just that: EFFECTS. If you can’t get the crunch or the sustain needed without kicking on a pedal, then the amp/guitar combination is wrong for you or you’re playing too damn quietly. A good player MUST be able to control the signal at ALL levels.

    That said, I love FX pedals. They’re fun and I can’t always play at 10 because I live in an apartment complex. But live…? Kick it, hard. Leave the pedals off unless a different kind of tonal state is required. I’ve watched players with pedals that showed “on” lights clear across their boards for the whole night, meaning everything is on and the original signal is continuously buried under layers of processing. Not especially organic, huh?

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:58 am
  27. CBJ says:

    There is an entire world of difference between ‘style’ and ‘tone’. Those of you who insist that tone is this intangible and semi-spiritual gift from the gods are using that to hide your failings and short comings.
    Also, claiming that ‘tone’ can only be achieved when one eschews all effects and mainlines their guitar into the amp are discounting and dismissing legions of great guitar players. One could just as well be a classical guitarist claiming that the only way to get ‘tone’ is to deny electronics.
    Then there is the camp that claims one must be passionately involved with playing each note as if it were an existential struggle between good and evil?
    Many great musicians were total drunks and addicts and played half in a coma some even picked up guitar for nothing more spiritual than to get laid.
    A fan of the Ramones may be in search of a specific tone that is much different than the tone that a Chet Atkins fan may desire. Both are in fact and indeed ‘tones’ and require various equipment and set up choices. To discount this is to discount physics.
    BB King would still be a great guitarist playing a Strat but he would in no way sound the same as playing Lucille anymore than Steve Stevens would sound the same playing a Maccaferri into a Selmer amp.

    Most of you are so narrow minded it’s no wonder that music has seemingly lost it’s spontaneous originality . . . you are all so busy trying to recreate someone else’s sound and clutching your groin in frustration and blaming it on some nebulous spiritual epiphany.

    The secret to good ‘tone’?
    Find the sound you like and DO IT!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 10:57 am
  28. Patrick says:

    Great article, and all great points made.

    Does anyone know what the guitar is that Andy is playing in that photo above?  Its gorge.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 11:22 am
  29. blaine says:

    just when you think you know it all - you think you understand your playing and tone - along comes Andy blowin away my cobwebs.  Great article from a great player - much of the equip videos I find myself watching Andy play - unusual and magical techniques..  I am alwasy amazed by his playing.

    Then last week I was watching a rig rundown of Vince Gil by at Premier Guitar and I was humbled. Vince is such an amazing guitarist and he tells a story about using the tone control on a rear tele pcikup to smooth it out and take away the shrill. He then demo’s it and wham bam - it all makes sense. I pull out my tele and he’s right on - I ask myself why had I never done this - why do I ingore the tone knobs? 
    Thank you Andy - thank you VInce - today I am a better player and have control of my tone!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm
  30. Skipittybip says:

    Maybe you meant Janis-ian?

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm
  31. Abbacus says:

    Roll the stone, Sisyphus, roll the stone!

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 12:49 pm
  32. Edward Bowles says:

    If you want to work on tone, play acoustic. If you can get it all to come out of your fingers acoustically, it will flow effortlessly through your entire signal chain.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm
  33. Tom says:

    While I too prefer the sound and feel of a GOOD tube amp (and FTR I love pedals too), it is not a magic bullet to great tone.  You put crap into a tube amp and it will still sound like crap.  Practice with your electric guitar unplugged.  What does it sound like? Good tone STARTS there.  If I’m trying a new guitar, I won’t plug it in until I’m satisfied that it feels and sounds right under my fingers, un-amplified.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 2:17 pm
  34. Charles says:

    I feel that the two more important and larger slices of the sonic pie <when playing electric> are your pickups and your speaker/s. IMHO, the right pickup/s and speaker/s can make ALL the difference. I’ve been amazed by the degree to which this informs things. Big shifts in things by changing these. A much less expensive element that also VERY definitely effects your tone is the pick that you use. What material it’s made from, it’s thickness, it’s bevel (speed or standard,) it’s tip shape and it’s thickness all play a role.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 5:00 pm
  35. terrance says:

    play play play

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:42 pm
  36. JB says:

    Yesterday I was rehearsing with my band and turn my set I realized I had forgotten something very important to use my effects and then I had to plug my guitar straight into the amp and I found it most. It was a wonderful experience. Thanks for the tips.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:53 pm
  37. Bob Martin says:

    Use most of the cues above and learn how to get the tone before you ever plug in. Find that same tone on every unplugged guitar you play. Master it. Embrace it, cuz this is YOUR tone. Nobody else will be able to get it. Now, plug in and adjust your mechanical and electrical devices to support YOUR tone.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 9:57 pm
  38. CBJ says:

    The right pick ups and the right amp?
    According to who?
    Who is the final arbiter of what is ‘good’, ‘right’, ‘correct’ and ‘proper’.
    The number one secret to finding ‘tone’ is to understand that there is no secret, no ‘rules’ and no one correct way.
    For cryin’ out loud Ray Davies would slice his speaker with a razor to get his sound.
    I really think that most of you are so full of yourselves and this attempt to make ‘makin’ music’ into the arcane spiritual secret quest that only the true initiated and unsullied may attain.
    It really is absurd that so many of you attempt to play rock when you are saddled by all of these rules.

    The number one secret is to find your secret and stop listening to people who have secrets that they want to share (yes, including this one). You’re only feeding their ego.
    Now, shut up and play yer guitar.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm
  39. randy hogan says:

    Try raising your action a little more than your used to. It can clean up buzzes & make string bending / vibrato easier.

    posted on August 7, 2013 at 2:23 am
  40. randy hogan says:

    Try raising your action a little more than you’re used to. It can clean up buzzes & help make string bending / vibrato easier.

    posted on August 7, 2013 at 2:27 am
  41. Mojave Johnson says:

    BATTERIES!!!!!  Choosing the right battery and MAKING SURE IT HAD A FULL CHARGE are just as important as any of the other points in this article!!!!

    Now, electronically, a battery shouldn’t have any noise, since it’s direct current (DC), but I’ve found that different battery brands and models react differently with the equipment they’re loaded into.  If you have a well trained ear and know what you’re listening for, you can hear the noise different batteries produce when combined with your gear.  I can almost always tell what brand battery a guitar player is using when I hear just the guitar.  I’ve found that the regular Duracell Coppertop 9V batteries are the quietest when used in guitar equipment (pedals, as well as in instruments with on-board active electronics).  Everready and Energizer are the noisiest.

    Before any gig (or rehearsal, if you’re REALLY a tone freak, like me), use a digital multi-meter to check the charges on your batteries - ALL your batteries.  A Duracell gives the best life above 8.7V.  It’s not that the battery is dead at that point.  On the contrary, it still has plenty of usable life, but once the charge drops below 8.7V the device it’s loaded into will start to work differently, since it’s not getting the power it’s designed to work with.

    Strings!!!!  Yes, I know the article mentioned strings, but it didn’t mention string construction or life.  There are 4 types of string construction for electric guitar, and at least 5 types for acoustic.

    For electric guitars you have:

    solid nickel
    nickel-plated steel
    solid steel
    coated steel (like DR)

    For acoustic you have:
    nylon (obviously, only for classical guitars)
    “silk and steel”
    steel with bronze wrap
    steel with brass wrap
    coated strings (like DR)

    The materials a string is made of determines its sonic properties.  Basically, the harder the materials, the brighter the sound.  Steel is the hardest, so a solid steel string would give you the brightest sound.  That helps liven up a guitar that would otherwise sound muddy.  Nickel is the softest material (for electric), and a solid nickel string would have a softer, rounder tone, which could help tame a guitar with too much high-end brightness.

    There are also 4 types of string constructions.  Most of us use a regular round-wound string.  Its construction gives us the brightest sound.  Of course, the jazz guys are familiar with flat-wound strings.  This construction method provides a fat, mellow sound.  Then there’s the half-round, or “ground-wound” string.  This construction method provides a tone that’s brighter than a flat-wound, but mellower than a round-wound string.  The last construction method is the “coated string”, like the ones DR and a few other companies make.  These strings sound similar to the half-wound strings, but are more consistent through their life.  (To be honest, they sound like old strings to me.)

    Again, if you have a good ear and know what you’re listening for, you can hear when a string loses its “newness”.  I usually play with a coin as a pick, and although this does wear out a string more quickly, it’s not that much of a difference in string life.  I love new strings because they have a certain brilliance and presence.  I can hear, at right about 3 hours and 45 minutes (give or take no more than 10 minutes), when my strings lose their “newness”.  It’s not that the strings are worn out, they still have plenty of usable life, but they lose that “new string sound”.

    posted on August 7, 2013 at 3:46 am
  42. Chris says:

    I need to know what guitar andy is playing up top!
    Looks like a Maton maybe??

    posted on August 7, 2013 at 9:51 am
  43. CBJ says:

    So, I find the sound of new strings to be abrasive and like the ‘warmth’ of tuning down a whole tone while using bamboo strikers (ala Tony Levin but on guitar) and using an old transistor radio jury rigged as an amplifier (or even better an old Teisco).
    Just seems to me like there is a ton of ego stroking going on here suggesting that ‘tone’ is this or that thing.
    I must ask, what is the definition of ‘tone’? Can it be measured and quantified? Is there an agreement on what tone even is? From a listening perspective what does it matter if the end purchaser is down loading an MP3 file that you used a sovtek tube or a JJ or a Ruby tube?
    Is the listener using reference grade equipment? What is the humidity level?
    Get real . . . it’s NOT Objective. Tone is OPINION. If you like it than PLAY it.

    BTW, I’ve put nylon strings on a non classical guitar with good result.
    As to the battery clap trap . . . some people like the sound of a sagging battery, that’s why some power supplies have an adjustment for that.
    Tone is like art. . . it is in the eye (ear) of the beholder.
    Some of the best sounding tunes are because someone BROKE THE RULES.
    Light gauge strings? Guitarists used banjo strings and got rid of the wound G.
    Distortion? Used to be frowned on . . . until someone cut up their speaker with a razor.
    Wah Wah? That was developed for the steel guitar.
    Music isn’t dead . . . free thinking musicians are.

    posted on August 7, 2013 at 10:59 am
  44. SP says:

    The fewer junk between your fingers and the speakers, the better.

    posted on August 8, 2013 at 12:30 am
  45. Wassilij says:

    interesting - reading this article made me remember many things - thanks for posting

    posted on August 8, 2013 at 1:43 am
  46. GuitarJamMan says:

    I’ve been playing for 30 years and nothing sounds better than a tube preamp. the least amount of electronics in the signal path of the pickups the better

    posted on August 8, 2013 at 8:45 am
  47. Johnnyice says:

    First off, two things, one, I’ve been playing for 44 years, two, CBJ, is probably the only one who gets it. I’ve played through tube amps &solid; state. I’ve had tube amps that sounded great and ones that didn’t. Same for solid state. The search for tone never ends because as a musician you are changing and growing. Nothing is a constant, there for, you can never quench your toneal thrust! With the knowledge that I’ve acquired over the years is that everything from the matrials used in the instrument to the speakers that your sound comes out of and everything in between plays a roll, right down the the pick you use. To say any one thing is the magic end all solution is selling yourself short. As most of you have said though is true. You know what’s inside your head. The problem is getting it from your head to the listener. And that my friends is the nature of the beast. It can be frustrating at times but fun too! It’s a constant work in progress.

    posted on August 11, 2013 at 11:38 pm
  48. CBJ says:

    Thanks, Johnnyice,
    I was beginning to think I was holding a lantern looking for an honest man.
    Let’s face it, by all accounts and by listening to bands such as Creed, Nickleback Three Doors Down and such likeThe White Stripes and The Black Keys really have ‘poor’ tone and yet (IMO) have so much more interesting content.
    So many ‘guitarists’ seem to be purchasing various pieces of equipment in hopes of embracing the ‘Grunge’ sound or the ‘Post Punk’ sound etc. I can’t be the only one who notices that they (the original purveyors of such sounds) bought such equipment so cheep because NO ONE WANTED IT and now such equipment is beyond the ability of average musicians to afford and new ‘boutique shops’ are charging insane amounts for Bumble Bee caps and NOS tubes inserted in direct clones of effects made by companies that were considered cheap when they first came out.
    This is only more mystifying by those who spend thousands of dollars trying to replicate the sound of blues guitarists who used Stellas and Silvertone amps (which also are sadly currently over priced) and agonize over getting each and every note and nuance exactly copied and in such search have as much passion as cold oatmeal.

    posted on August 12, 2013 at 3:32 am
  49. Stephen H says:

    Expanding on the “picking” suggestion in the article - buying a big handful of plectrums of different thickness/material/size is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to change your tone.

    I got a selection box of random picks as a present last year and it’s been quite a revelation how much difference in sound I can get between plastic, wood and metal plectrums, especially on my acoustic. Previously it had been a bit too bright and zingy with the medium plastic picks I was using but switching to a wooden pick has given it a much warmer tone (it’s surprisingly easy to strum with too despite the extra thickness).

     

    posted on August 13, 2013 at 7:48 am
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