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Jesus Joshua 24:15 Home  »  Forum Home  »  Music Discussions  »  Guitar Discussions  »  Lesson #1: Tone



Guitar Weenie

740 Posts

Posted - 14 Sep 2005 :  09:44:38 Show Profile
Welcome to the first of what I hope to be a weekly installment of my opinions regarding all things guitar. It is my hope that I will stir some discussion about our beloved instrument. I am quite sure that there WILL be those of differing opinions than I, but that's okay...I relish the chance to be informed as well as inform. To inaugurate this column, I would like to begin with the issue of "tone", that ever elusive, yet quite definitive aspect of guitar playing.

"Tone" as I, and many others, define it is a personal sound,as distinct as your own voice. It may be imitated, but never REALLY copied.And although it can be enhanced with gear and gadgets, tone is really a product of the three "H's"; Head, heart, and hands. All musicians, regardless of intrument, have some kind of tone. If you were to talk to my drummer, Bobby, he would tell you the same thing. He always has said, "I can make music on anything...Give me a couple of boxes and sticks, and I will still jam." And no matter what set of drums he plays, I can always tell that it is him.

I have been asked several times recently about how I get my sound. Altough I could talk about gear(and I LOVE to talk about gear), I always show people my hands. I tell them,"Here is where most of my tone comes from." Your hands is where your "voice" comes through.How you fret your instrument, what position on the fingerboard you prefer, your note choices and phrasings, and even your technique, however little or much you possess, affects your tone.

There is a famous story that Edward Van Halen used to tell of the bands first tour, opening for the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent. Ted would stand in the wings while Eddie was dazzling everybody with his performance, command of the instrument, and the now infamous "brown sound", confounded as to how the "boy wonder" was getting that sound. Ted goes to Ed's guitar tech at sound check and asks if he can plug into Ed's rig. Ed's tech told him he could, but that it would still sound like Ted. And of course, it still sounded like Ted Nugent. Ted's tone was unique to him, no matter what rig he plugged into.

I had a similar experience recently, when we served as the headline band at a church fair. The guitar player for the other band asked if he could use my rig, partly because I was already set up, had limited stage space, and he didn't want to have to set his own up. I must admit, for a few short seconds, I was a little aprehensive about someone else using MY sound before I got to use it. But, it didn't make practical sense to say no to him. So I said sure and plugged him in.Well, when his band performed, even though he got a GREAT sound (it WAS a Marshall, after all) I thought to myself, "Man, that doesn't sound like me at all." And when I got up to play, it was still awesome sounding, but it wasn't the same. Like I said, it's all in the hands.

I will not say that gear doesn't play a crucial role in the developement of your sound. It IS important to mine. But in truth,if you are good, you should be able to play well with any rig, because music comes from the heart and hands. The rest is just icing on the cake. To be brutally honest, I'm probably too reliant on my gear...I like a certain guitar sound, and I play better when I have it. But I must be honest , I have been put in some strange musical situations, where my piece of gear wasn't available, or impractical for the musical situation, or my gear broke down and I had to improvise.Those kind of situations really do guage what kind of musician you REALLY are.

Well, I hope this stirs the pot( or a hornets nest!)Barring any questions, my next "sermon" will be about gear.And in the future,I will start getting into some more technique and musical ideas. Till then, let me have it!

"C'mon Dave, Gimme a break!"

Absent-minded Webmaster

621 Posts

Posted - 09 Oct 2005 :  21:40:21 Show Profile
I know this is an older topic, but on to other older topics: for those of you who didn't know, I was at the Rolling Stones concert yesterday. They played up at Duke University (and it will be released on DVD in Dec).

The reason I bring this up here is because of a comment that my step-father made to me during the concert. I forget exactly which song they were playing, but I noticed it had a bit of a twang to it. Rex explained to me that for a period of time the Stones travled with a country group; and that travel time had had an influence on the music they wrote during that time. I had never known that, but after it was explained to me it made perfect sense.

Getting more to tone and style, I also noticed that when they played some of the songs of their newest CD the songs were very recognizably "The Rolling Stones". It had the same tone, pace, and 'lyrical content' .

I bring all this up because I noticed that your tone is inextricably mixed with your influences - whatever influences you may be under. I noticed it with the Stones as I mentioned above, and I notice it with other bands too.

Just a happy observation I stumbled on. Enjoy.

There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.
- Will Rogers
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Guitar Weenie

740 Posts

Posted - 10 Oct 2005 :  03:26:10 Show Profile
Interesting observation, Anon, and one that is not without merit. However, I think that, though your tone can be "colored" or, more apropriately, synthesized with your influences, it can never truly be masked. When I speak of tone, I refer to that unknown quality that makes your sound identifiable, despite the style you play.Even despite the specific notes you play. You speak of the Stones, and there's a great example of what I am talking about;Keith Richards will always sound like Keith Richards, no matter what amp, guitar,band, or style he is playing.It is his signature, singular and defining. His tone might be camouflaged, but not changed.

"C'mon Dave, Gimme a break!"

Edited by - AXEMAN2415 on 10 Oct 2005 03:28:07
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