Find it weird to meet guitarists that don't think about tone?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by StompBoxBlues, Feb 27, 2006.


  1. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

    Messages:
    18,587
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2005
    Location:
    under the stars
    This just blows me away sometime. I guess when I was 18 (back in '74) and starting out in my band, well...even then I had a simplified tone thought process. I mean, I used the volume only as volume (not gain control) but I did switch pickups depending, and even used the tone control. My amp...I just adjusted til it sounded good, and I had the three basics trebly, bassy, and middy.

    After a while I even thought in my own terms like "bubbly", "sparkly", "crunchy" (even before hearing someone else call it that), etc.

    But not nearly as aware as I am now. Sometimes I wish I was a little less aware of it actually as it is a sort of never-ending quest. Some times really happy with the tone, but wondering if I can get even better tone!

    I can tend to forget that tone isn't everything, though it can spur you on to play better when you hear exactly what you want to hear coming out of your guitar.

    But then, yeah often these are more beginners but not always, you meet a guitarist that is almost obtuse about "tone".

    In fact, the rythm guitarist in our band is not very tone conscious. Yet, he has come up and complimented me on my tone sometimes. Still...I see that usually he never touches volume/tone/pickup selector on his guitar all night, and I never see him tweak amp EQ controls. His sound is not terrible, sometimes it is really good, but we play a song where he needs a real dirty OD sound, and he has a helluva time getting it.

    I have tried to show him a little about it, I don't know if he just thinks it is "too much fuss" or I maybe am throwing too much at him at a time, showing how with an OD pedal if you bring down the guitar vol you can smooth it out, or pointing out how sometimes the amount of verb on his amp washes out his playing and makes the mix muddy...not accusatory, just information. But he seems to nod and then promptly forget it.

    Recently talked with another younger gutiarist who is a big SRV fan, yet...not all that tone-conscious.

    I have to actively try to remember that not all guitarists are all that interested in tone. Especially since I hang out here with all you tone-dogs :)

    Ever run into someone like that and get taken aback?
     
  2. dividedsky

    dividedsky Member

    Messages:
    4,140
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Location:
    The Acoustic Guitar Forum
    Yeah, I know a couple people with killer rigs and a horrible sound. Some of them in person, some of them online. I know some of this boils down to opinion but I'm definitely not the only one that feels this way about the people I have in mind. And no, no one I'm thinking of is on this site.:)
     
  3. tedjac

    tedjac Guest

    I've also run across those that seem to feel that if you are too tone conscious you must not be a "real" player. I find that when the tone I love is comiing out of my amp and is being created by my fingers, that I am inspired to play more, try new things... and even take steps to learn more about playing and technique. I do know that I wouldn't enjoy the players that I do enjoy if they weren't making a sound that I "resonated" with.

    Ted
     
  4. dividedsky

    dividedsky Member

    Messages:
    4,140
    Joined:
    Oct 13, 2005
    Location:
    The Acoustic Guitar Forum
    I'd rather listen to a guy that has decent chops and great tone than a really great player with less than stellar tone.
     
  5. Craise

    Craise Member

    Messages:
    1,254
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Wow??! Really?? See now I think the total opposite. I'll take the great player and "so called" less than stellar tone.
     
  6. scottywompas

    scottywompas Member

    Messages:
    1,595
    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Location:
    Sunny California
    I actually like meeting guys that are just into the playing. I dig the gear and I want to sound good but we don't play because we have $4000.00 guitars and a stack of boutique amps, we play because it is a creative outlet. I loved playing back when all I had was an Arbor flying V and a yamaha SS amp. I love playing now that I have some good gear. I think of the gear as a tool to do the playing. A good mechanic can still knows how to fix your car whether he's got the top of the line tools or the off the shelf stuff from Kmart.

    My .02

    :JAM Scott
     
  7. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

    Messages:
    18,587
    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2005
    Location:
    under the stars
    Hey...no one said it had to be expensive to be good tone. You can have a buzzy cheapo guitar through a nast amp, and pick the right style and chops can make it be a great tone. Interplay is another thing...sometimes two guitars playing as one, sounding similar, sometimes a really bassy (overly bassy...but on purpose) sound along with a biting guitar on top, if they play the right things can be great tone.

    Maybe I'm full of it...but when I meant about being tone-obtuse, is not about getting SRV tone, but about using tone as a tool, and getting tone that "fits" what you are playing...or if you haven't got equipment that can adjust so well, playing what then sounds good on what you have.

    I mean...if a guy that loved blues got a metal sound, that's bad tone even if it would be perfect for metal, because in blues it stresses something else...and it goes the other way...can you imagine some of the metal riffs on some jazz hollow body guitar?

    I just mean folks that seem unaware that tone is a component of their sound and chops. Tone aware means you adjust it as you can. Even if you can't achieve what you want exactly with what you have, you can come a long ways by trying to get good tone.

    Tone plays even on where you play on the strings. I play sometimes right at the bridge, with my bridge PU selected, when I want THAT nasty little tone in a song. "Bad" tone in the right way is completely valid, I just mean guitarists that plug in, no adjustments and that's what they got.
     
  8. pacomc79

    pacomc79 Member

    Messages:
    1,519
    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2005
    Location:
    Atlanta, Ga

    I like taking the player with decent chops and less than stellar tone, and trying to find them the perfect combination of components within the budget to take them over the top, giving them the tone to match thier playing.
     
  9. that_brianm_guy

    that_brianm_guy Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    933
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2002
    Location:
    baltimore, md
    I whole-heartedly agree. Listening to, say, Neal Schon, my reaction is usually "back off the delay", and listening to Roy Buchanan it's "turn down the treble".

    Killer players both, but not something I can listen to for long.

    And I know lots of folks love Robben Ford's tone, but I have a real hard time listening to anything of off "Talk to Your Daughter" - I want to wipe that processed sheen right off the tracks.

    Live is a whole 'nuther can o' worms....
     
  10. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

    Messages:
    13,080
    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2002
    Location:
    Scotland
    I've come across that too, and I think it's totally wrong.

    I think that a 'great player' who doesn't know or think about tone is a bad musician. There's more to being a musician than playing the notes - fitting in with the sound of the band and producing a good part in the arrangement is at least as important IMO.

    I'd also far rather hear an average or competent player with great tone than a 'great player' with bad tone.

    To me it's all about the final music that the audience hears - not about the guitar playing - and bad tone can seriously detract from that no matter how good the player's technique (I've heard playing like this, as I'm sure most of us have). 'Good' and 'bad' tone is also context-dependent, as has already been said.

    On the other hand a competent player that knows his own abilities - and their limits - but knows how to get a good tone in the context, can still produce good music.

    (In case you hadn't guessed, that's what I aspire to.)

    It's also not about the cost of the gear, it's knowing how to choose it and use it. A lot of cheap gear does sound worse than a lot of expensive gear, but a good player can usually get a usable tone out of most things - which is what I think is really meant by 'tone is in the hands' - it isn't, it's still in the gear really, but some players are more able to make any gear work for them than others.
     
  11. Nathan

    Nathan Member

    Messages:
    681
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2005
    Happens to me all the time! I intially think "this dude knows jack about gear/tone" but then I always pay attention to how they play. I'm not the best player int he world for sure, and yet I have contented myself to focus on the gear because my chops have always been mediocre. It got to where I thought I knew a fair amount about (boutique) gear until I finally got out of my bedroom. Now I know that I don't know much about gear in spite of the countless dollars spent or hours experimenting. And my chops are still so-so.

    What am I getting at? I would never have thought so much about gear if it were not for the Internet that allows us to believe we're something we're not! :p

    But whatever, I don't regret anything and I chalk it up to experience. And as for judging others' tone vs. playing:

    If the dude can play circles around me, it doesn't matter how bad his tone is -he deserves my respect! But if his tone is bad enough, I won't pay to listen to him :BOUNCE or buy his CD that's for sure.
     
  12. Jimmydeez

    Jimmydeez Member

    Messages:
    3,480
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2002
    Location:
    Havertown, PA (outside philly)
    I to see this all the time. My band plays at a big club in the suburbs of philly that gets all of the best cover bands in the area.

    We usually like to play originals and the owner likes us so we usually open for the bigger cover bands for about an hour. Most of the guitar player are alot better then me technically. I have yet to meet one with better tone. In fact most of them have such a scooped mesa or marshall tone that you can't hear them in the mix. I always wonder what they are listening to at rehersal.
     
  13. gitpicker

    gitpicker Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,466
    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Location:
    Indianapolis
    Great thread! I played for 15 years in a band with another guitar player who used his effects ALL THE TIME. Matters got even worse when he bought a Johnson Amp - talk about a totally soaking, dripping wet tone! The point is, I almost never used effects in that band. I believe that the only thing worse than an over-processed guitar tone is TWO over-processed guitars playing at the same time. To make matters even worse, the other guitar player did not have a personality that accepted constructive critisism without copping an attitude. In the end, I just tried to keep my tone clean and fat and concentrated on melding with the drummer and bass player. I always felt the band sounded 100% better when the other guy was playing leads, just because the rhytm section behind him was much tighter. When I took a lead, I always had to fight my way through the slush...

    Now I am playing in a band where I am the only guitarist, and I have the sonic space to be more creative with my tone, and I am having a blast with my GAS! My experience with my old band has made me acutely aware of tone and how effects can affect the way a guitar sits in the mix. What sounds great at home is often lost in a live situation. I spend alot of time analyzing the tone guitarists used on the cover tunes we do, and do my best to make my tone as authentic as possible, paying attention to not only tone, but also to style. I belive this helps to make me a better all-around player, and makes whatever band I am jamming with sound better.

    In the end, I think tone hounds such as ourselves maximize our musical potential. Just consider how much extra practice time you get in every time a new pedal arrives! Attention to detail is a valuable tool in whatever task you undertake, and playing guitar is no exception.

    My experience has been that, with very few exceptions, the better the player, the better the tone.
     
  14. Craise

    Craise Member

    Messages:
    1,254
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    How about this for a 3rd side? ;) I'll take a great song over great playing and great tone. IE: Eric Johnson, great player and great tone..crap songs.....IMHO! I'll take Roy Buchanan's 1st LP over EJ's Tones LP anyday. YMMV :)
     
  15. drolling

    drolling Member

    Messages:
    6,100
    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2005
    HAH! Great thread - I didn't use the tone or volume controls on my electric for the first 10 years of playing!

    It was only when I finally got my first *good* guitar (tele) and started trying to emulate those fancy swells & wah effects, that I realized how much power I'd been ignoring right underneath my fingertips.

    I've since flipped the control plate on the tele and now constantly ride the pots - not for tricks, but for more subtle dynamics (ie; lead vs rhythm tones).

    But one of my favorite all time guitarists, Danny Gatton, had a tone that just seemed to get shriller and shriller as years went by. I've heard rumors that he was losing the high end off his hearing, but I think those Barden pickups had something to do with it as well- The only Barden loaded tele I ever got the chance to play sounded like breaking glass & nails on a chalkboard, in my hands, anyway.

    On the other hand, Bill Kirchen gets warm, round, meaty tones from a tele w/a very similar setup (vintage bridge + Bardens).

    I've heard tapes of my early recordings (70s) cheap humbucker-loaded guitar, SS amp & two effects, distortion/flange, both maxed. YIKES!! But at the time, everybody thought it sounded great:NUTS. Go figure...

    Ironically, now that I've got tons of high-end effects sitting between some excellent guitars & point-to-point tube amps, my favorite tone comes from plugging that old tele straight into a blackface fender.

    Reminds me of the time I saw Leo Kotke (also early 70s) and he had mag. pickups on his 6 & 12 string guitars, but using A PHASER SET ON STUN FOR THE ENTIRE CONCERT!

    I had a great seat in the side balcony of the small theatre, and I had to restrain myself from screaming "Turn that fu%^ing thing OFF!!!" after every tune, but he never did. Maybe he just got the pedal that day, but the effect sure didn't serve the music, and I'm positive I wasn't the only one who left feeling bewildered and dissappointed. This was not exactly like Dylan 'going electric'...

    I've come to realize, as most of us have, that good tone production starts in the fingers and/or the picks. For the past year or two, I've immersed myself in the music of Django Reinhardt, and got a funny looking long scale archtop that's got jacked up action and super-light silver-plated strings.

    Been trying to incorporate the 'rest-stroke' into my playing technique, and have been using picks that are close to 3mm (!) in thickness. I've had to 'un-learn' a lot of stuff & it's a constant struggle..

    Whenever I get real discouraged (like, every day) it sure is nice to pick up a strat and knock out some blues with a thick, greasy tone, or grab the Jazzmaster and tremolo pick some surf with the reverb tank set to 10...:RoCkIn
     
  16. Cary Chilton

    Cary Chilton Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,476
    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2005
    Location:
    Canada
    People who don't care about tone are people who haven't recorded anything or had many live gigs and found they sounded quiet or different. THey just plain never paid attention or do not have enough experience. Some musicians, I call almost visual artists, because they FOCUS most of their time watching their hands/fingers and technique instead of plain listening. Music is a visual thing for them, wow " look how fast he is".... who cares about looking : that crap is for the fans, shouldn't be wannabe musicians. Others just say that they don't care about tone because they know they use many effects, multieffect racks etc, and like them and the convenience of using them. They know their tone seriously compressed, probably use EMG's high pups to make it EVEN easier to fret the guitar, don't want to admit that care about tone, because they are happy playing little as little physical effort as possible, IMO.
     
  17. Nomadgtr

    Nomadgtr Member

    Messages:
    413
    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2005
    Location:
    Monument, CO
    I love this thread!
    For me it's really a balance of several things that makes for a memorable musician with tone being one of those cornerstones. If one is paying attention to the sounds in their head then you'll eventually start paying attention to tone. Chops or mastery of the instrument is important too but really only to convey what you're trying to say with your music. Everything else is pointless flash IMHO. I admire guitar pyrotechnics for a few minutes then I get bored if they aren't saying something with their music. The third piece to this is songwriting, again with the end objective to convey your musical vision whatever that be. I for one always look for musicians with a unique and memorable style and if you look back at all of our influences as the gray-haired or follically challenged guitarists we are many if not all of our heroes had/have some sort of balance in these areas. They have a clearly recognizable musical voice that speaks to who they are. To me tone is one of the key elements to achieving that. But that's just me! Miles once said "we spend a lifetime trying to sound like ourselves."
     
  18. ABKB

    ABKB Member

    Messages:
    3,167
    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2005
    Location:
    Chicago
    Agreed that it's a very interesting thread. Most of the guys I have run into do care about tone and work at it. But, there's always one or two that pop up. Once saw a Slash wannabe (complete with the hat!) who was not a bad player, but he was plugged into a solid state old (some of the newer tube ones are good, but the old SS ones :eek:) Peavey. Uggg, I could have farted a set better than he sounded. Had to leave after a while it was so bad. Seems like whenever I run into really bad tone, there is always a SS amp somewhere nearby. So I would much much much rather listen to a decent player with good tone than a great one with bad tone. Somebody recently posted a link to a vid of George Lynch playing along with a BT. And MAN the delay was overwhelming. And this is coming from a guy who likes to leave his delay on a lot! But I always keep the level way down. Anyway, I couldnt make out any real phrases ol George was playing, and GL usually has very nice tone. But I couldnt listen to that vid. Just saw his fingers moving followed by whoooosh in my ears.
     
  19. KRosser

    KRosser Member

    Messages:
    14,074
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2004
    Location:
    Pasadena, CA
    In my experience, most musicians, no matter what instrument, think about tone. Also in my experience, most musicians consider tone to be just one part of a much larger equation.
     
  20. ericb

    ericb Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    8,014
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    VT
    This is a neat thread topic as I run into this every week. 1st off , do you consider a guy who plays guitar in a band, gets paid for that, and regularly gigs a musician? IF SO , I have to agree with probably that 'most' musicians think of it as you state, but I sure know of a lot who don't. I should clarify. They think of it in their head, but have no idea what it means when dialing in amps and fx. AND don't really care. If they happen upon that amp/fx situation that IS THEM , then they stick with it, and don't lurk on forums and get GAS etc!!!

    I know guys /musicians /guitarists in a lot of categories.

    1) Guys like me, who really LOVE GEAR, know how to use it, know what we want, and are p/t musicians. I consider myself a musician although I haven't formally studied. I played classical piano for 7 years as a kid and now guitar for 31 years. I get paid for it, am asked to give lessons,etc so I think I'm a musician . Anyway I love playing guitar and performing.

    2) Guys who don't care AT ALL about their gear and they're ok musicians

    3) Guys who don't care about their gear and they're spectacular musicians

    4) Guys who care about their gear a LOT , but never have been in a band, and never will be

    5) Guys who will sound almost the same given any gear at all. I fall into this category ,BUT it's only because I'll dial them in similarly . I much prefer to have gear I really like tho!

    6) Guys who care about gear a lot, but who can never afford anything , or blow their money on other things so they can't buy good gear. They still make a buck playing music though and have talent

    There's a lot more categories of guitarists I know and run into in my weekly gigging travels, or soundman travels , or open mic travels, or going to see bands travels, but they run the gamut for sure, and definitely include guys who don't care about tone 1 bit and even if they did, have no clue how to dial something in

    INHERENT in my observations is my belief , that 1 man's great tone does NOT have to be another guy's. I love many tones, and the tones for Lynard Sknynard and for Robert Fripp and Splatt and NIN surely don't need to match to be good!

    ERIC
     

Share This Page