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  1. #1
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    12.14.17 @ 12:39 PM
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    Default What makes good tone?

    Ok, I've been giving this quite a bit of thought lately. Many of us guitar players are notorious tinkerers, always chasing tone as Eddie says. Always looking for ways to sound better. I think I've come to understand that I will always sound like myself, I have my own signature sound that is inherent in my hands so I will always sound like me no matter what I play through. But I think my ongoing search for better tone now stems not from wanting to sound like Eddie, or whomever, but to sound the best that I can possibly be. When I was young I wanted to be Eddie, to sound exactly like him, but now I want to sound like myself, unique, and to achieve the best possible tone I can and to be in touch with my tone as much as possible. Make sense?

    So my question is this: What do you think contributes the most to good tone?

    Is it:

    1. The hands
    2. pickups
    3. the amp
    4. the tone wood of your axe
    5. the neck wood
    6. your pick
    7. your cables
    8. the cab
    9. the speakers
    10. electronics in the guitar
    11. tubes


    Which single one of these can you swap out that would have the most impact on your tone?

    I think there are so many factors involved in tone chasing that you can end up simply chasing your tail, circling back on yourself like a dude lost in the wilderness walking in circles...I swear I was here yesterday...wait a minute, I was! Fuck!

    Please share your experiences.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by vhin04 View Post
    So my question is this: What do you think contributes the most to good tone?

    Is it:

    1. The hands
    2. pickups
    3. the amp
    4. the tone wood of your axe
    5. the neck wood
    6. your pick
    7. your cables
    8. the cab
    9. the speakers
    10. electronics in the guitar
    11. tubes
    12. Two words: Five-ply binding!

    Marty DiBergi: "That's three words, Nigel."
    Nigel Tufnel: "But they're hyphenated, aren't they?"
    http://www.myspace.com/pennydreadfulnj

    “…and that’s when I learned that waterskiing and Quaaludes do not mix.”

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  3. #3
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    10.26.16 @ 03:37 PM
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    Quote Originally Posted by vhin04 View Post
    Is it:

    1. The hands
    2. pickups
    3. the amp
    4. the tone wood of your axe
    5. the neck wood
    6. your pick
    7. your cables
    8. the cab
    9. the speakers
    10. electronics in the guitar
    11. tubes


    Which single one of these can you swap out that would have the most impact on your tone?

    Please share your experiences.
    Alright, here is what I think... (may create a firestorm of opinions, but oh well )

    Assuming you play relatively like Ed does, good amount of gain, etc, Here are the things on your list that effect your tone LEAST (now, if you played thru a fender clean amp with a vintage tele, then this list would obviously be different.)

    1. The hands - You will always sound like you anyway, so it is not really important to help tweak your tone...

    5. the neck wood - yes, this can alter your tone. A maple fingerboard neck will sound brighter and punchier than a rosewood fingerboard neck, and so on, but the effect is much less prominent than body wood or pickups.

    6. your pick - This can effect tone a tiny bit (or a lot if you use a quarter to play). I'd just use what is comfortable for you to play, and tweak tone elsewhere.

    7. your cables - this is probably the least important of all things. Just make sure you have decent cables that don't buzz... (no need for $100 16 foot monster cables or anything like that....)

    10. electronics in the guitar - this can greatly effect your tone, but do you really ever use a tone knob? There are all kinds of pickup switching techniques, etc, but it's all about what you like to use. One thing I will note is that you SHOULD use high quality parts, solder, wire, etc, in your guitar. This can really improve your sound. Saving $3 by buying a cheap volume pot is NOT worth it.

    Everything else on the list is a big factor. If you have specific questions about it, post them so I (and others) can give you a less general response. There are plenty of tone freaks, chasers, and snobs around here (and I mean that in a good way )

  4. #4
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    12.15.17 @ 07:40 PM
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    It's an interesting and complicated question. It's a question that I've studied on quite a bit myself.

    My answer is that it's probably everything that you mentioned, to varying degrees. I'll try to address your list with my perceptions on each component of tone.

    1. The Hands: It is very interesting that certian guitar players tone can be recognized regardless of what rig they are playing. It is true, for instance, that Eddie would sound like Eddie whether he was playing through his rig, or a $200 Squire Strat through a First Act amplifier. I think the main elements that contribute to individualized tone from the hands are: -How thightly you fret the string-How you grip your neck-How you palm mute strings-Pick attack.

    2. Pickups: I believe that the pickups probably contribute the most greatly to tone. Although, as stated above, you will still sound like yourself, the pickups will determine what particular frequencies are dominant in your sound. Some pickups enhance the highs, some the mids and some the bass. From a purely technical point-of-view, that is the definition of tone, but I think we're talking about tone as more of a concept than in technical terms. I think you need to choose a pickup that highlights your particular playing mechanics as stated above. Some guys can coax pinch harmonics out of any guitar effortlessly, while others (like me) would need a pickup with an output and an frequency curve that would make it a little easier. For instance: Yesterday I played a Petrucci through a Dual Rectifier, and had a helluva time getting a second fret pinch harmonic on the B string. I played an Axis through the same amp with the same settings and nailed it every time. I'm not sure that the Axis pickup is any hotter than the Petrucci, but the Axis pickup works better with my playing mechanics.

    3. The Amp: This was a subject of frequent debate between me and the other guitar player in my band. His belief was that the most important element of tone was your amp, and I believed it was the guitar. No matter to what degree you believe your amp impacts your tone, there is no denying that every amp sounds different. As stated earlier, the very definition of tone would be the inter-relationship of audio frequencies with one another. The amplifier is the tool that gives you control over those frequencies through the amp's EQ section. Different amps will manipulate these frequencies in unique ways to achieve amplification. Once the actual electronics of the amp are done performing their Mojo on your tone, then it's up to the speakers and cabinet design to determine what you hear. There are just so many things in the amp that can change the original input signal, that you would have to say that it is extremely important. My view is that the amp is simply manipulating the input signal, and that is why I hold to my arguement that the guitar is the basis of good tone. If it's crap coming in, it will be crap coming out, no matter how good your amp is.

    4. The Tone Wood of your Axe: This is a discussion (arguement) that I had with Roger Crimm at Peavey a couple years back. It was his contention that the tone of a guitar had nothing to do with the type of wood, and that it was all in the electronics. I strongly believe that the tone of your guitar is heavily dependent on the type of wood. I have put the same pickup in different guitars, and the pickup has displayed different tonal characteristics depending on the guitar. The way that I explained it is that the vibration of the string is effected by the type of wood the guitar is made of, in that it effects how the string vibrates and sustains. This also calls into question what type of bridge and nut you have, because that will have a tremendous impact on how well the string vibration transfers to the wood and how the resonance transfers back to the string to impact the vibration.

    5. The neck wood: Just as important as the wood of the guitar body, and for the reasons stated in #4.

    6. Your Pick: I think this goes back to #1 and the playing mechanics arguement. How hard you hit the string with a particular type of pick, and at what angle you pick the string are all major contributers to your individual tone, which is a big part of your overall tone. The thing that I believe has a true impact on your actual tone more than the type of pick you use is where you use it. I beleive that where you pick along the vibrating legnth of the string has a great impact on actual tone. With your guitar unplugged, try picking an open G right by the bridged saddle, then pick it halfway between the neck heel and the bridge, then at the neck heel. You will hear a drastic difference in tone. By the bridge saddle will sound treble dominant, and the neck heel will sound more rich and open.

    7. Your Cables: I don't think it will contribute to tone at all. I do believe that it pays to use good cables to reduce noise and signal loss. I also believe that cables are better than wireless if you want to maintain a good quality input signal to your amp.

    8. The Cab: I kind of addressed that when discussing the amp. A good quality cabinet will enhance the sound of a good speaker through the resonance of the cabinet. Tone would be effected more by the type of speaker than the type of cabinet.

    9. The Speakers: I had a 5150 Combo that I put Celestion Vintage 30s in, and it "mellowed out" some harsh highs that I didn't like, however it didn't change the tone of the amp much. I think that different speakers may "break-up" better than others to give you a smoother kind of distortion, but I'm not convinced that they have that great of an impact on overall tone.

    10. Electronics in the Guitar: I happen to agree with Eddie on this one. Go from the pickup to the volume pot to the jack. In my opinion, the only thing a tone knob can do is drain tone. Now, you can get different results depending on whether you use a 250k or 500k volume pot, but other than that, I don't belive it matters much as far as tone is concerned. Signal quality yes, tone no.

    11. Tubes: I subscribe to the theory that as long as a tube puts the right voltage on the right pin, it's going to sound good. A tube's job is to make a small voltage input into a big voltage output, thereby amplifying the signal. It's the same thing transistors do, except they don't handle heat as well, and performance suffers. Tubes, on the other hand, operate better when hot. In any other electronic circles it would be considered a highly in-efficient means of amplification, but for guitar amplifiers, it's just what the doctor ordered.
    There's really no magic happening in a tube. It's not like the signal from your guitar is entering the glass of the tube, rolling around in there and coming out to the speakers. It's just voltages.

    So now, onto your quest for your own tone.

    Here are my suggestions:

    A) Find a guitar that you are comfortable with. What I mean is one that FEELS comfortable in your hands. Don't get it because it's popular, or because it's what your favorite player uses, but get it becuse it feels the way you want it to.

    B) Choose a pickup that lends itself to your particular playing mechanics. Make sure that it does what you want it to do. If you have to fight it to get pinch harmonics, switch it.

    C) Select an amp that makes your guitar sound the way you want it to. Don't get something because it's the in thing, but because it sounds good. If a Peavey Classic 30 gives you the sound you want, don't feel bad because it's not a Bogner.

    D) Use an Overdrive Pedal. Don't make your amp do all the work. If you have a good guitar and pickups, your input signal should be good. An overdrive pedal will just be giving the input of your amp MORE of a good thing.

    E) Use a blindfold when adjusting your amp's settings. You may be suprised where your knobs end up when you let your ears tell you what sounds good.

    Good luck on your quest for YOUR tone.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  5. #5
    Eruption TheMightyCopenHalenII's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrjstudios View Post
    Alright, here is what I think... (may create a firestorm of opinions, but oh well )

    Assuming you play relatively like Ed does, good amount of gain, etc, Here are the things on your list that effect your tone LEAST (now, if you played thru a fender clean amp with a vintage tele, then this list would obviously be different.)

    1. The hands - You will always sound like you anyway, so it is not really important to help tweak your tone...

    At the same time, the most important and limiting factor...If you play like shit and can't manipulate dynamics and timbre your tone will also be shit

    5. the neck wood - yes, this can alter your tone. A maple fingerboard neck will sound brighter and punchier than a rosewood fingerboard neck, and so on, but the effect is much less prominent than body wood or pickups.

    Maple on what? Rosewood on what? There's so many possible combinations here that this opens up a whole new can of worms. Include body wood combinations, bridge type, scale length, etc...A certain neck may impart too much top end for your taste, or sound to muddy for your taste, etc.

    6. your pick - This can effect tone a tiny bit (or a lot if you use a quarter to play). I'd just use what is comfortable for you to play, and tweak tone elsewhere.

    Again, comes to dynamics and timing. Some guys can shred with a .60 pick, others like a 1.5...comes down to preference. This doesn't affect tone a "tiny bit" but a lot. Ditto on what using what's comfortable for you to play with. Where you pick, how hard you pick, and compensating dynamics for pick gauge with your playing style make a huge difference.

    7. your cables - this is probably the least important of all things. Just make sure you have decent cables that don't buzz... (no need for $100 16 foot monster cables or anything like that....)

    look here: http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/03/a...ter-cable-and/

    You can do google searches on this same subject, and I agree with Vhino, very over emphasized in the gear chain...on the other hand, Comfort gear can be well worth the money - i.e. if you are Eric Johnson and battery x costs twice as much as battery b for your pedals and it makes you feel better this will impart confidence to your playing

    10. electronics in the guitar - this can greatly effect your tone, but do you really ever use a tone knob? There are all kinds of pickup switching techniques, etc, but it's all about what you like to use. One thing I will note is that you SHOULD use high quality parts, solder, wire, etc, in your guitar. This can really improve your sound. Saving $3 by buying a cheap volume pot is NOT worth it.

    Agree for the most part, in that player X on an Yngwie Malmsteen Sig Strat will still sound like shit if they can't play like shit while Yngwie on a Squier Affinity will fuck your shit up

    Everything else on the list is a big factor. If you have specific questions about it, post them so I (and others) can give you a less general response. There are plenty of tone freaks, chasers, and snobs around here (and I mean that in a good way )
    AMP - Choice as in what amp you choose is a huge factor. More important is your ability to dial in a good tone - if this can't be achieve, fuck it.

    I thought I'd mention another one: Strings

    I think this one is along the same lines as cables: If you don't have the more important factors nailed, strings won't make a shit of difference...Unless, you're playing an acoustic where I don't feel it's good to compromise on good strings
    FUCK THE DUMB SHIT!!!!

  6. #6
    Forum Frontman fudd's Avatar
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    Ive been playing guitar fro 21 years or since I was 8. I have the first guitar I ever bought, a 1984 Kramer Focus 3000 because I have never played A guitar that feels like that until recently. She isn't expensive and noone endorsed them but I will die with that guitar, she is my baby. All my other guitars all have different traits that when I play I only use once or twice. Point is, go for what you know and fuck everyone else. I have a friend who swears by an Ibanez rg175, its cheap but he LOVES it. The biggest change I have made and my "tone" has changed is my head, I've had a Soldano SLO-100 that my parents got for me as a graduation present and about 2 years ago I got a 5150II. The 5150II blows it away and my tone has more balls now. Other than that I haven't changed a thing except an effect or 2 but that doesn't count.

  7. #7
    On Fire Warmoth's Avatar
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    12.20.12 @ 08:26 AM
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    Getting good tone really starts with the ears and being able to analyze your sound with an unbiased opinion. Many players think they have great tone but never really listen to how they sound or are in denial about it. HAHA.

    Getting good tone takes time, patience, practice and experience.

    Your gear can greatly impact the quality of your tone as well as how quickly you can develop a good tone in your musical journey.

    I personally think that there is no single answer to great tone. So I wont bother to type any lengthy response because I would be typing forever and probably bore everyone to death!

    I will say this ... listen to all the great players out there. Many of these guys have developed their style around their sound. From my personal experience, when you start to play at an early age, you typically have bad or cheap gear. You learn to work within the parameters of the gear you have and make the most of it. For the truly ingenious (and fortunate) musicians out there, many have developed a style and sound based around where they first started and built on it from there. Tone is not that complicated. It is a mix of how you approach and play the instrument. It's listening to your sound and playing around and within what you hear coming from your amp ... making tweaks along the way. Over time, you improve your skill and technique (also purchasing the gear you know will assist you in reaching the tone you are seeking!)

    Just my .02 cents
    As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot.
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  8. #8
    Baluchitherium mistere's Avatar
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    07.11.09 @ 03:27 AM
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    It's funny. A lot of the guys at Rock City play through exactly the same rig -
    except the guitar - and they all sound different. There are three drummers
    who all play the same kit but you know who's playing when you're walking
    up because their individual sounds are uniquely different. Your gear choices
    will affect it up to a point, but my working theory is it's largely in your head
    and hands.

 

 

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