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Do we overthink tone?

Austin_Taunt

Don’t tell my wife I’m buying another guitar
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,093
I was in the living room a few days ago with my rehearsal rig prepping for the band resuming(so happy to be returning to normal!!). I was dialing in separate overdrives for different guitars. I use an Anderson t style and a PRS 513. After about 45min I asked my wife what she thought. She told me it sounds great but she honestly can’t hear the difference. Got me thinking that perhaps I overthink versatility and nuances of my gear that the general audience just doesn’t hear. I believe it inspires my playing way more than anything and anyone else really doesn’t notice.

I get inspiration does translate to performance which the audience does experience first hand without knowing. I probably could play 90s country on a Les Paul and the majority of people wouldn’t know any better. Let’s face it, us cover band guitarist are just there to support the singers bc that is what the crowd is listening to. I know I’m wasting my time(and money) dialing in correct tones with the right type of guitars and a $4k pedalboard and an expensive amp. It’s obviously over the top for the job but I do enjoy the chase. Anyone else ever think this?

*Edit*

A ton of great post that is on page 9 already!! When I made this post I didn’t even think that I had a deal to go buy a Les Paul Classic a couple hours later. It needed pickups bc original owner put cheap and stupid hot pickups in it that are completely unusable. I spent an entire day going back and forth with a buddy over three sets of pickups and which ones would fit me best(ordered Suhr Thornbuckers). Then bc the pickup covers are raw nickel ive been reading on which company makes the best bridge to swap so my hardware matches.

So I’ve answered my own question: I bought a guitar bc I thought a Les Paul would sound good on 15 of our songs when I have a Humbucker equipped guitar already that normal people can’t differentiate from my tele. Then I agonize over pickups and hardware and which will give me the “best” tone for what I want this guitar to do. Luckily I came to my senses and got Thornbuckers bc they were the cheapest and the $$$ I saved over the other ones I wanted will pay for the cheaper hardware upgrade Bc I’m just doing it to match. Man...that’s a lot of overthinking on a guitar I probably won’t have a year or two from now lol.
 
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Stig Ø

Member
Messages
818
Most people wouldn’t hear it if you soloed in the wrong key. All the nerdiness we indulge in are just that - indulgence. That said, I’m all for the pointless obsession over all the stuff nobody else thinks matters. I’m doing this for my own enjoyment. If others like it, that’s fine. If others don’t, that’s fine, too.
 

stevenymets

Member
Messages
525
LOL! Of course, it’s the gear page. I bet if you asked the majority of the pros out there, the real grinders who are playing ALL the time, touring constantly and making a real living from their abilities to PLAY their instrument, they would probably laugh at the obsessive nature of tone junkies. Many of these guys are traveling around using leased back lines, dealing with venues that throw a bunch of different variables at them at each show which affects their sound, and just the normal travails of putting on something that is as inherently inconsistent as human’s performing live, and they would say that their best tone isn’t achievable the vast majority of the time. They just power through with their playing and performance.

On the other hand, for a person like me who doesn’t pay as much attention to my gear and doesn’t have a great ability to achieve the perfect tone I hear in my head, you tone obsessives are a godsend, as what I have learned from you all has been invaluable.
 

bbtr

Member
Messages
333
LOL! Of course, it’s the gear page. I bet if you asked the majority of the pros out there, the real grinders who are playing ALL the time, touring constantly and making a real living from their abilities to PLAY their instrument, they would probably laugh at the obsessive nature of tone junkies. Many of these guys are traveling around using leased back lines, dealing with venues that throw a bunch of different variables at them at each show which affects their sound, and just the normal travails of putting on something that is as inherently inconsistent as human’s performing live, and they would say that their best tone isn’t achievable the vast majority of the time. They just power through with their playing and performance.
And most of them are half-deaf after years of live shows. Can't hear above a certain frequency (7-8 kHz), have a huge volume drop, and constant tinnitus.

Also, live shows are not - and can not be - the standard for 'tone'. As you say, lots of imperfections.

'Tone' is for the studio.
 

dazco

Member
Messages
14,804
I always have a hard time with the old "but the audience can't tell" argument. IMO it has nothing to do with gear. They wouldn't hear anything differently no matter WHAT gear you use, even gear that to you is so bad it's hard to play. Does that mean you should just buy a $100 rig and save a fortune since THE AUDIENCE CAN'T TELL? Maybe it's just me, but to me the right gear inspires me to play better, makes it so i'm not tweaking my amp every 2 minutes, lets me concentrate on playing music rather then thinking about why my sound isn't responding to my playing the way i need, et etc. Thats what great gear is for.

Who cares what the audience thinks? As long as they like the band thats all that matters as far as they go, but this is NOT about them. I'll tell you what they DO notice tho...when your playing is killer vs when you struggle just to keep from sounding like crap. And guess what can influence that greatly. So indirectly your gear does matter to them. But if you play great with a crappy sound they will only hear the playing. But hey, if you CAN play your best with crap gear, go foir it. I'm not that gifted and if my sound doesn't resond they way i need it throws me off big time. In short, great gear is mainly to get you those things that are not audible like dynamics/touch response. W/O that the best players will have problems. Maybe you won't HEAR them but he will feel them and not be happy about it.
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
895
When almost everybody hears something and it sounds good to them, it sound good to them. There's a wide range of things that sound good depending on the application for audiences. Guitar (and bass) players obsessing over their sound to the detriment of their performance/band is where I draw the line.

Sit at home and go crazy all you want, just don't be screwing with knobs constantly through practice/rehearsal/shows, and don't have an emotional breakdown at a show because your "tone was bad"/sound tech blame. I personally want to put the minimum amount of effort possible to setting stuff, then leave it and forget it. I have other things I need to spend my time on, like playing songs.

I've been taking vocal lessons for a while now and the same thing applies: people can tell what is a "good" voice (which is a much harder thing to achieve than a good guitar sound). A lot more people have experience with vocals, but without training they couldn't really hear the actual differences in a "good" voice and something that isn't to them, much less tell you how to achieve that.
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
895
I always have a hard time with the old "but the audience can't tell" argument. IMO it has nothing to do with gear. They wouldn't hear anything differently no matter WHAT gear you use, even gear that to you is so bad it's hard to play. Does that mean you should just buy a $100 rig and save a fortune since THE AUDIENCE CAN'T TELL? Maybe it's just me, but to me the right gear inspires me to play better, makes it so i'm not tweaking my amp every 2 minutes, lets me concentrate on playing music rather then thinking about why my sound isn't responding to my playing the way i need, et etc. Thats what great gear is for.

Who cares what the audience thinks? As long as they like the band thats all that matters as far as they go, but this is NOT about them. I'll tell you what they DO notice tho...when your playing is killer vs when you struggle just to keep from sounding like crap. And guess what can influence that greatly. So indirectly your gear does matter to them. But if you play great with a crappy sound they will only hear the playing. But hey, if you CAN play your best with crap gear, go foir it. I'm not that gifted and if my sound doesn't resond they way i need it throws me off big time. In short, great gear is mainly to get you those things that are not audible like dynamics/touch response. W/O that the best players will have problems. Maybe you won't HEAR them but he will feel them and not be happy about it.
I think this is personality. Both the other guitar players I play with in two different bands will lose their minds if they can't get things to sound exactly how they want right at that moment (and it changes). Or at least that's what they are focusing on. I sometimes think with them it might just be acting out/trying to cope with performance anxiety.

I'm on the other end from where you are. I do care about the audience and not me. I hear my guitar through an IEM (typically no amp/monitor support), and I'm good with it. I put some time in to know it sounds as good out of the PA as it would if it was a correctly mic'ed amp. My focus is 100% on us playing well, stage presence, and the mix. But I also don't view myself as a "guitar player", so maybe I don't really fit.
 




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