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Chasing tone

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Chasing tone

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:12 pm
by BJG145
Here's another thing I'm picking up from these guitar magazines I keep reading. A lot of guitarists are passionate about tone (Eric Gales in the interview I'm reading at the moment). They're either trying to recapture someone else's tone (for instance Brian May got started by trying to emulate Rory Gallagher's tone, according to his greatest-ever interview, buying up Vox AC30s and Rangemaster treble boosters), or find some elusive new tone they have in mind.

I've not experienced that yet...I love guitars, I'm interested in technique, curious about pedals to some extent, but never really thought much about tone. Any thoughts on tone chasing...? What tone are you after?

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:21 pm
by Alba
Well, you've got 'sound' which comes from the hardware, and then tone which comes from the player ... imvho

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:49 pm
by Music Wolf
Alba wrote:Well, you've got 'sound' which comes from the hardware, and then tone which comes from the player ... imvho

At which point it's time to resurect this old chestnut (I can't remember who first posted it on here but thanks to who ever it was)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwEsjN6BEaE

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:22 am
by zenguitar
I think you can draw a distinction between having your tone and chasing your tone. The former is healthy, but the latter can be toxic.

In the mid 80's I went through a phase where I obsessed about getting 'my tone' to the point where I used a chinagraph pencil to mark where to set the knobs on my amp and FX pedals and made fixed length leather straps so each guitar always sat in exactly the same position.

At first it was re-assuring. But in the end it became a real burden, and it got to the point were I felt unable to play unless I had all of my gear and had it all 'dialled in' to the precise settings.

And it was incredibly liberating to set all the knobs to zero when I packed up after a practice or gig once I removed all those chinagraph pencil markings. I could just plug into any amp and use any FX pedal and just twiddle the knobs until it sounded good. That liberation was re-enforced once I trained as a guitar maker and started work as a guitar tech. I had to test every guitar I set-up and I had to use whatever amp was to hand in the shop. And I had to test it against the criteria the guitar's owner had set out, not what I would have preferred. for my needs.

Once you let go of chasing tone it is remarkably easy to get good (and even great tone) from whatever guitar, amp, and FX pedals are to hand. You just play, listen carefully, and twiddle the knobs until you get something that works.

Andy :beamup:

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 1:48 am
by Dynamic Mike
zenguitar wrote:In the mid 80's I went through a phase where I obsessed about getting 'my tone' to the point where I used a chinagraph pencil to mark where to set the knobs on my amp and FX pedals and made fixed length leather straps so each guitar always sat in exactly the same position.

Current multi-fx kind of do this automatically. However, you can use the same guitar through the same settings the following day & if you're not feeling inspired it won't sound the same. Most of your tone comes from what you put into it, not what you put it into.

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 2:07 am
by zenguitar
Dynamic Mike wrote:
zenguitar wrote:In the mid 80's I went through a phase where I obsessed about getting 'my tone' to the point where I used a chinagraph pencil to mark where to set the knobs on my amp and FX pedals and made fixed length leather straps so each guitar always sat in exactly the same position.

Current multi-fx kind of do this automatically. However, you can use the same guitar through the same settings the following day & if you're not feeling inspired it won't sound the same. Most of your tone comes from what you put into it, not what you put it into.

That was the point I was making ;)

Andy :beamup:

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 6:37 am
by ef37a
Andy, there is a guy ICBM, in another forum, amp tech and he says much the same as you have, you can get a good tone from almost any guitar/amp/pedal setup.

People post endlessly about "getting THAT tone but he says it is almost always possible to sound good be the amp 100W or 5 and even quite a few solid state amps can be made to sound very acceptable.

My son went through the 'tone seeking' phase in his late teens, trying to find the sound of 60s/70s guitars on records but as he has got older he has come to realize that the sound was the result of the whole recording 'process' and in any case, them out front can rarely tell!

Dave.

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 7:07 am
by adrian_k
I used to gig in country band with a stock noname Chinese Strat copy that cost £49.99 in a fire sale and a 25w solid state Fender amp that apparently is one of the worst they ever made and I got for free. But I used to get asked how I got such great tone, I think it was that the band overall sounded ‘right’ rather than anything I was doing. I mean I sounded fine, but i think the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

I also think playing dynamics have a lot to do with it.

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:03 am
by Sam Spoons
Audiences will fill in the gaps themselves (even the occasional local 'tone ranger' guitarist). I used to get complimented on my Santana lead sound and my Dire Straits lead sound, often they were exactly the same :D

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 9:28 am
by Dynamic Mike
zenguitar wrote:
That was the point I was making ;)

Andy :beamup:

I know, I was just confirming that 40 years later we're still making the same mistake.
:D

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 11:00 am
by CS70
I think chasing "tone" separately from learning songs is kinda odd. To me tone is simply a byproduct of what you do when you learn - try to play a song as it's heard on the record. Especially in your first years of learning the instrument.

Play it until it sounds like the record - and you're all set :D

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:43 pm
by adrian_k
I guess the problem comes when you are trying to write your own stuff - what do you want it to sound like?

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 12:54 pm
by blinddrew
Surely the answer there is 'whatever is right for the song?'
I mean, isn't that why we have all these different guitars, pedals, pickups and knobs? To make it all sound different?

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 3:55 pm
by BigRedX
With the advantage off age, I really don't get the idea of chasing someone else's tone/sound. I think what most people involved in the is process conveniently forget is that a great tone/sound is not just a product of a musician and their instrument/gear, but just as much to do with how well that sound fits into the overall arrangement of the music they are playing. Taken out of context the same sound can just as easily sound as terrible as it sounds good in the right musical context.

If you don't believe me just have a listen to some of the isolated instrument tracks that can be found on YouTube. Divorced from the rest of the music most sound at best odd, and many simply downright horrible. However once the rest of the arrangement is back in place it all makes musical and audio sense.

I have to admit that I went through a similar thing with synthesiser sounds in the early 80s. I'd hear some new electro-pop record with a great synth sound and spend hours trying to recreate it with my cheap synths, and even if I did get close, by the time I'd incorporated the sound into one of my own tunes it had undergone so much tweaking to make it fit with the other instruments that it bore little resemblance to the sound I'd started with.

Re: Chasing tone

PostPosted: Fri Jul 17, 2020 4:03 pm
by BJG145
blinddrew wrote:Surely the answer there is 'whatever is right for the song?'

...oh, it's much more complicated and expensive than that.

I'm just sitting in the sun reading a review of the new Sundragon Standard Edition. Apparently the story here is that for Led Zep's debut album, Jimmy Page used a Telecaster with a Supro Coronado amp that had fallen off the back of a van and been repaired, which changed it quite a lot. This led to the Sundragon Limited Edition amp, 50 hand-wired signed units with new old stock tubes rewired in exactly the same way that quickly sold out at $12K each. Not wishing to miss out on such a popular tone-chasing product, they've just released the "Standard Edition"; still not cheap at an RRP of nearly $4K.

"For this reviewer at least, the closest he's going to get in this lifetime to conjuring the sound and vibe of one of rock music's most important albums."

This is typical...people going to huge amounts of trouble and expense to recapture a particular tone.

I have to admit, I've never been happy with my guitar tone. It sounds terrible. Maybe I need one of these... :tongue: