The Search for Tone

One of the most frustrating things about being a guitar player, working with a guitar player or living with a guitar player is the constant search for the "holy grail"...TONE. It not only drives us crazy as guitar players but effects everyone else we draw into our vortex. Don't mention the "T" word.

If you are just starting out on the journey as a guitar player or you have been playing a while and are sucked into the search there will be some things here that will be of interest and may help. For the non players, the suffering band mates, singers, parents and partners this might give you a little understanding.

This is it, the grail...

It's great, you've finally found it, all your tone dreams have been answered.

This feeling unfortunately only lasts a very short time, very short. The times I've heard a player say that this is the amp, guitar or pedal, the one they've always been looking for only to be using something entirely different a few months later is almost laughable.

One player I know, a really good player has been through 10 to 20 odd amps, countless guitars and who knows how many overdrive pedals over the last 8 or so years I've known him and he doesn't sound any better than when I first heard him.

I think part of the process of purchasing new gear is to convince yourself that you've made the right choice and then to try and convince anybody else who will listen. Self deception is a very interesting tool or perhaps the tool is the person deceiving themselves in the first place.

It's in the fingers stupid...

I know, I know you've heard it before but the facts are that it really is. When you try to emulate your favourite players  you can get as close as possible, copying their licks, using the same gear. You might get close but you will never completely nail it.

I remember Mark Goldenberg, a great guitar player in his own right telling the story of how he was touring with the legendary Peter Frampton and had the opportunity to play his gear at a sound check. Frampton's guitar, amps, racks of gear...disappointed he said, "I still sounded like me".

There is no grail...

Sorry to burst your bubble but there is no "holy grail" of sound. There are some great guitars, great amps and great pedals out their and everyone will add themselves and the tone will be different, not good, not bad just different.

Different days, different moods, different stages, different rooms, different weather conditions, these things all add or subtract from your sound.

What you can do...

Get yourself a nice guitar. Learn to play it, take time to develop your craft and your sound. Experiment, play around with different things, buy and sell, it's all part of the learning process; this never stops. Read up, check out reviews of gear, check out the shops, the online stores.

A good mate of mine Shane Diiorio has a great YouTube channel, "In the Blues"  and website "Guitar Pedal Demos" where he reviews a lot of gear with some help from Doctor Ric, it's really informative and can be great starting point.

Dream of your fantasy guitar. I remember every time I went into the city I used to go and check out this guitar through the window of Clements Music. I saved up for a couple of years and was eventually able to buy it, lucky for me it was still there. I was meant to have it I reckon.

Dream and be obsessed by your instrument, I think this is a reasonably healthy obsession if there is such a thing. It's just the obsession with the mythical tone that's not...it can never be reached. You will make life impossible for yourself let alone anyone else you have to work with.

Enjoy playing music and enjoy playing it with and for others. Enjoy playing it for yourself.

4 replies
  1. richard cooke
    richard cooke says:

    How about some pics from your gigs :)) just a thought to make it a little more interesting.
    or a vid (someone may iphone it)

    Reply
    • Ross
      Ross says:

      Always an interesting debate Trevor. I’m not sure it confirms anything really, there are some that seem to have a gift but many of us mere mortals can get there, where ever there is with a bit of work and some inspiration. The point I was making is that the tone you produce first and foremost comes from you and not the instrument.

      Reply

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