Take the 2-minute tour ×
Musical Practice & Performance Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for musicians, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

How do electric guitarists go about finding their preferred tone? There are so many different variables you can manipulate: guitar body, strings, pickups, pickup height, picks, effects, amps, microphone arrangement, etc., etc., etc. And what's more, each change can be difficult (resoldering), costly (buying new equipment), time-consuming (finding and testing equipment, bringing it home, setting it up), subtle, and dependent on all the other equipment you have!

(I admit I'm asking more out of curiosity. I use modeling software and I can't imagine how I would go about experimenting in real life without tons of time and money to burn!)

share
1  
There's no standard way to experiment, that's why it's experimenting :P. –  Matthew Read Mar 30 '12 at 2:33
    
comments disabled on deleted / locked posts

locked by Matthew Read Dec 11 '12 at 22:12

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

closed as not constructive by American Luke, Matthew Read Mar 30 '12 at 2:33

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

1 Answer

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Basically, we use the vast amount of recorded guitar music as a guide. We listen to the guitarists who have come before us and use their tones to help us to make educated guesses as to how to achieve the tones we want. A lot of the times, certain gear is closely identified with certain players and certain sounds. Here are some examples of pieces of gear and players closely associated with them (this is, obviously, very non-comprehensive; if you feel I've made an egregious omission, leave a comment):

  • Fender Stratocaster (or Strat-like guitars): Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Richie Blackmore, David Gilmore, Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughn
  • Gibson Les Paul: Jimmy Page, Slash, Billy Gibbons, Ace Frehley
  • Fender Telecaster: Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen
  • Marshall Amps: Hendrix, Slash, Angus Young

I could go on and on associating gear and players, but my point is, if I want a sound approximating that of, say, Slash, then I don't go looking to buy a Strat. I go buy a Les Paul and a Marshall JCM-800, and I'm 95% of the way there.

Even if I don't want Slash's tone exactly, I know what a Les Paul sounds like. I've heard dozens of players playing Les Pauls, and I've spent enough time in guitar stores just fiddling around on them, so if I pick up a Les Paul, I pretty much know what kinds of sounds I'm going to be able to get. And that works in reverse, too: if I have a particular sound in mind, I can guess with reasonable accuracy what kinds of guitars (and amps, and pedals, etc.) will be capable of producing that sound.

But look: for most of us, most of the time, if we get 95% of the way towards the tone we're looking for, that's good enough. Some players obsess over every last subtlety of tone: Eric Johnson, famously, claims he can tell the difference between the brands of batteries he uses in his effects pedals---but then he's got the time and the money to worry about such things. For me, I'm going to be playing in a club with bad acoustics, through an aging sound system with a house sound engineer who may or may not care about my tone, in front of a crowd who I hope is getting good and drunk. The circumstances of the environment completely wash out any subtle details in my tone. And so instead of focusing on getting exactly the right combination of gear and settings, I spend my time focusing on the quality of my performance.

share
    
Very helpful, thanks! –  Archagon Mar 30 '12 at 3:01
    
I gave you +1 for the last half of your last paragraph... –  awe Mar 30 '12 at 11:42
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.