Chasing Tone: Finding Your Sound

Chasing Tone: Finding Your Sound

The one thing every musician has troubles with is getting the right tone for them. Guitarists, drummers, and bassists find that it’s not the easiest concept to explain either. The reason for this is because tone is very subjective thing.

In order to probably analyze tone you need to get one thing straight, there is no such thing as bad tone, there’s just different tone! We each have one set of ears that can hear mostly similar frequencies as everyone else, but they do vary slightly. So some people may hear frequencies others don’t – one other reason for why tone is so subjective is the player. Everyone has his or her own style of playing.

There’s many processors that get really close to popular tones, however they never sound the same as when we hear our favourite musician play – why is that? When people claim that they play like a certain artist, it’s more that they’re getting close to the style of playing, but reality is that tone can’t be replicated easily because we all play slightly differently.

Think about this, all the amp brands that exist now a days, Marshall, Orange, Vox, Fender, Traynor, Mesa and so many more, we’re all designed with the following mental thought:

“No amp can do ____, I’m going to design an amp that can do that.”

Over time, people wanted different tones out of amps, that’s why each amp sounds different. Once again, just because you don’t like one particular amp brand it does not mean it is a bad amp, it is just different! That can’t be stressed out enough, because once you are looking at buying any sort of gear (amp, guitar, stomp boxes), you will find yourself looking at over 1,000 different models.

So how do you choose?

First off, find the right guitar. A guitar that feels comfortable should be the first thing to look for and then try to see the differences between guitars. After you find the right guitar for you, look for an amp. Most famous guitarists such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, or Yngwie Malmsteen recommend that you choose a guitar that can translate your technique, meaning one that “flows with your playing” and that “feels right”. Then you look for an amp that can translate the sound that you’re playing into the sound that you have in your head. So when choosing an amp, try to find the amp that best suits what you hear inside your head. Once again, imagine that all these amps had no label on them; no price tag and they all looked the same. Keep in mind, there’s nothing wrong with switching guitars or amps to get different tones. You don’t need to set yourself on one particular brand. Switching it up every now and then can really help appreciate the other brands and understand why they became popular. It’s also lots of fun!

When it comes to gear, price and popularity shouldn’t concern you. Of course if you cannot afford something, you should aim for something else, but the point is that cheaper doesn’t always mean worse and also just because a lot of guitarists use a particular brand, it does not mean that it will be the right thing for you. It’s all personal preference. Plus, that would be ridiculous because there would be nothing unique if everyone sounded the same. In it’s subjectivity, tone can be the most beautiful and interesting part in music, never limit yourself and explore!

Here’s a quick video on Eddie Van Halen’s experience in getting the right tone for him. As you can see, he influenced so many famous players, however they still don’t play the same gear that he does. Interesting…

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