Lets go over tone from a non-gear standpoint. Strictly playing.

Papanate

Member
Messages
19,820
How interesting - I've been ruminating on this very thing. The conclusion I've
reached this week is that while some of the tone is in the hand and pick (particularly
with people like Billy Gibbons and Brian May) - I think tone is achieved via the background
or surrounding mix on a record or the band in a live situations.

It's the rare guitarist that attracts people when they solo or with minimum accompaniment.
EVH did it for 1.42 on Eruption - Julian Bream did it on his 1961 recording at Carnegie Hall etc..
But IMO no one would of listened to EVH solos if there wasn't a great song in the first place - and Julian Bream
was playing to a classical crowd that barely knew what tone meant. And take The Edge (Dave Evans) -
he really doesn't have a 'tone' as much as he has a 'echo sound' - and when matched with the
rest of the U2 and the songs - he sounds fantastic.

So maybe we change the focus to the 'Tone Is In The Song With The Right Gear'?
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
11,335
I think relaxation of the picking hand has a lot to do with it. I find I get a better, juicier sound if I pick lighter and let the amp handle the volume. That also gives me more "headroom" to dig in when I need to. My problem is that I find it really hard to pick light and fast. That's the barrier I've been trying to break to improve my playing.

I've made the same discovery, the trick for me is I have a really heavy hand when playing rhythm guitar, so it's a case of playing harder when the rhythm part is supposed to be quiet, and playing lightly but for a lead part that's supposed to be much louder. I've been aware of this for awhile but just now coming to grips with how to deal with it.
 
M

Member 995

Tone production is a big deal to me. A lot of it lives in the picking hand. Rest strokes, working with the physics of the string/guitar, damping, etc.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
37,172
Tone production is a big deal to me. A lot of it lives in the picking hand. Rest strokes, working with the physics of the string/guitar, damping, etc.
Anything you can do with or to the string has potential to affect its reaction thus harmonic content and 'tone.'
I do not see any way of affecting that with the fret hand, outside of the obvious and usual.
I have read of those who attribute tone to the bone of the finger.
I don't know how that works.
Stevel does not seem to hear it. He is convinced that a boneless appendage would work as well as a boned one.:dunno
It may be up there with PIO caps, fossilized nuts, and directional cables i.e. those that think they can hear it DO hear something:bow the rest of us do not.
 
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15,738
I can easily get less desirable (to me) tones with the fretting hand - by just holding down the string on the fret instead of somewhere between the frets. ;).

Also, when playing two consecutive notes in descending pitch on the same string, there is a difference in tone between pulling off from the higher one the lower one, vs hammering on the lower one after releasing the higher one.
 

MikeVB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,047
You always here tone is in the fingers and there is a lot of truth to this. Id like for us to discuss not necessarily what is best (although feel free to discuss what works best for you), but just all the different ways to squeeze different tones from your fingers.

i think some things like the attack on the strings and the way in which you hold the pick or playing with nails vs. skin has been discussed to death, but dont hesitate to discuss this either for players reading the thread that may be new to this.

I want to dig deeper in the touch on the left hand. I often times see some of my favorite players that will kind of sway their finger left to right in a fret while holding a note. they aren't bending the pitch (maybe a hair) but it seems to add a little sustain and clarity. Ive tried this with my playing and cant seem to get anything useful from it. Maybe some of you know what i can do to improve on this.

Im also curious on string damping for rhythm while playing melodies on the strings not being dampened. Does anyone have any good advice or tutorials for this. Mark Knopfler does this a lot.
Watch Jack Pearson talk about sustaining notes in this video.

 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,562
Julian Bream did it on his 1961 recording at Carnegie Hall etc..
But IMO no one would of listened to EVH solos if there wasn't a great song in the first place - and Julian Bream
was playing to a classical crowd that barely knew what tone meant.

OK, I don't mean to split hairs, but I guess I'm going to. I think I have everything Julian Bream recorded and I can't find a 1961 live at Carnegie Hall recording. I don't think he recorded anything at all in the states until 1963, and that was at Wellesley in MA

In the case that I missed this one, I can guarantee you his audience knew all about tone, especially for someone like Bream who was championed for his creative and expressive use of tone color. "Tone production" is something every classical musician works on for hours every day. And that's exactly what they call it, tone production. On guitar it consists of careful right and left hand placement and doing repeated drills like scales and such very slowly with the quality of sound being the sole focus. Tone is so important, in fact, you're not even a minor contender in the classical world without it.

And while it's true Bream played the finest instruments available, without the technique to pull the sound out of them, those instruments don't give it up...at all.
 
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KRosser

Member
Messages
14,562
Do you want to find out how much of your tone is in your fingers? Play clean and dry (no reverb, no gain effects) on a flat EQ, preferably solid state amp.

For the sake of argument, I'll bite...

At the school where I teach, that exactly describes the practice amps in the practice rooms.

Based on this experiment, I could safely say all of my tone is in my fingers
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,562
You always here tone is in the fingers and there is a lot of truth to this. Id like for us to discuss not necessarily what is best (although feel free to discuss what works best for you), but just all the different ways to squeeze different tones from your fingers.

i think some things like the attack on the strings and the way in which you hold the pick or playing with nails vs. skin has been discussed to death, but dont hesitate to discuss this either for players reading the thread that may be new to this.

I want to dig deeper in the touch on the left hand. I often times see some of my favorite players that will kind of sway their finger left to right in a fret while holding a note. they aren't bending the pitch (maybe a hair) but it seems to add a little sustain and clarity. Ive tried this with my playing and cant seem to get anything useful from it. Maybe some of you know what i can do to improve on this.

Im also curious on string damping for rhythm while playing melodies on the strings not being dampened. Does anyone have any good advice or tutorials for this. Mark Knopfler does this a lot.

Yes, absolutely, as I've said above I believe you can learn a lot about the tone you make from careful attention to hand placement and movements and how they affect the sound, especially the right hand, and making a study of how your sound comes from both your interaction with your guitar, your amp, and everything in between.

I believe the Knopfler thing you're describing is better accessed by playing fingerstyle with the right hand - it certainly opens up some more detailed muting options
 
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m_b

Member
Messages
202
That side to side vibrato is called cello vibrato.

Julian Lage is a great example of "tone is in the fingers" imo.
He is so stripped down gear wise. Tonal variation comes from where he attacks the string along its length. Pick/fingers, and dynamics, his sense of dynamics (playing a note loud or quiet), and the almost story like phrasing, like a soundtrack to a cartoon, very whimsical.

Ok, some of you disagree, I can feel it, you say his tone is his guitar and amp, I say it's a happy marriage. Julian knows how to make a ragged little amp sing like it never had before. The guy down the street would give up on it asap, get that Bad Cat or Princeton, but Julian makes it sound wonderful. The guy just has the touch.
His articles on technique for Premier Guitar were fascinating to me. Not always 100% clear, but those things are difficult to put in words. The best is to try and get the "feel" of what he's talking about (for instance the Olympic Diver metaphor) by oneself. Lage paid very close attention to the place where sound/tone production begins - the interaction between pick and string; as a result, he sounds great. Those articles combined with Troy Grady's material have immensely helpful to me. As to the left hand, I think it matters too for tone. Unnecessary tension is going to affect the tone. It matters too for timing and how notes end. Some players like Jimmy Raney do a lot of subtle little things to the notes with their left hand other than vibrato that are part of "tone".
 

ivers

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,553
As to the left hand, I think it matters too for tone. Unnecessary tension is going to affect the tone.

This is my experience as well. Maybe it's not easy to detect when trying out one note with hard vs light tension, but in a line of several notes I think the difference can be hears and contribute to some of what we can call «tone», and that can be mis-attributed to gear, causing all sorts of frustrated searching for the right piece of gear to capture the nuances that make the guitar idols sound great.
 

Papanate

Member
Messages
19,820
OK, I don't mean to split hairs, but I guess I'm going to. I can guarantee you his audience knew all about tone,

You missed my point - in referencing Julian Bream I was pointing out that
the music is what drew people in - not his tone. And while I think you are
correct that out of all guitarist - a player like Julian Bream could say the the tone
is in the Fingers without the least bit of irony - you are ignoring that
it was the environments and equipment he recorded with that contributed
the most to his 'tone'.

And Bream unlike some of his peers embraced tape editing to produce the
best recorded performances.

Using a live performance audience as reference point - I can say with
confidence that they didn't know guitar tone at all - what they knew was
the recorded 'tone' - which is considerably different than Bream playing
live without amplification - IMO they were not as aware as you might paint them.

But that also goes for most music aficionados IMO - tone is an elusive
sound that is radically influenced by the venue, the humidity, microphones,
the sound system, and the FOH engineer who is making audio choices
independent of the guitarist producing the original tone.
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,562
You missed my point - in referencing Julian Bream I was pointing out that
the music is what drew people in - not his tone. And while I think you are
correct that out of all guitarist - a player like Julian Bream could say the the tone
is in the Fingers without the least bit of irony - you are ignoring that
it was the environments and equipment he recorded with that contributed
the most to his 'tone'.

I'm not ignoring it at all, I'm negating it completely. The environment and equipment produce no "tone" at all prior to Bream putting in the work he did.

And there's a lot of things that draw people in to any given artist...Bream was very popular among rock, pop, and jazz guitarists in the 1970's that knew nothing about classical guitar literature and interpretation. But his sound (or more accurately, maybe, sounds) was one of those things that was part and parcel of everything he did. You can't really separate the music and the tone, each is the delivery system for the other in a player like that.

And those same rooms and instruments sounded like Williams, Segovia, Ghiglia, respectively, when they played them.

And Bream unlike some of his peers embraced tape editing to produce the
best recorded performances.

Sure, there's a few very awkward edits on those RCA recordings, but that's not really relevant re: his sound, per se

Using a live performance audience as reference point - I can say with
confidence that they didn't know guitar tone at all - what they knew was
the recorded 'tone' - which is considerably different than Bream playing
live without amplification - IMO they were not as aware as you might paint them.

Why can you say that with confidence? You don't think anyone in those audiences had ever heard, let alone played, live classical guitar before?

My personal experience was that Bream's recorded tone and live tone were pretty instantly identifiable as the same thing. I think any recording engineer worth his or her salt, especially back in those days, is not going to try to "give" a classical player like Bream a sound of their own vision. They're going to try to accurately capture what's already happening in the room, between the fingers and the instrument, which is what the player controls.

But that also goes for most music aficionados IMO - tone is an elusive
sound that is radically influenced by the venue, the humidity, microphones,
the sound system, and the FOH engineer who is making audio choices
independent of the guitarist producing the original tone.

I don't know, I have the gut feeling that trying to generalize for all music aficionados to make a point is shaky ground

I'm curious, are you familiar with the "$100 Guitar Project"? Basically, a beater $100 pawn shop guitar was shipped to, and recorded by, dozens of guitarists and listening to it you couldn't get a better testament to the player being the difference in the sound.

My own experience is that I've played Segovia's Ramirez, Kenny Burrell's L-5, Frank Zappa's Strat and David Torn's Teuffel Tesla and all that comes out is variations on the way I sound.
 
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Papanate

Member
Messages
19,820
I'm not ignoring it at all, I'm negating it completely. The environment and equipment
produce no "tone" at all prior to Bream putting in the work he did.

What does that even mean? I am not addressing what kind of player Bream was - nor am I
addressing whether his recorded tone doesn't include his technique. But it's very naive to
think that a recording - no matter how pure you want to be - doesn't influence the 'sound'.
In particular with Bream - he mentioned more than once that recordings tended to articulate
the sounds certain aspects of his right hand over what was naturally present.

You can't really separate the music and the tone, each is the delivery system for the other in a player like that.

We are arguing the same point. That's the baseline of what I am saying about any guitarist.
It's the music that draws people in - the tone is a subset - the recording techniques are a subset,
the environment is a subset etc...Music is the major shareholder so to speak - tone is not.

Sure, there's a few very awkward edits on those RCA recordings, but that's not really
relevant re: his sound, per se

You are missing the point - I wasn't speaking to the quality of a the recordings or edits - just that
any time you edit you are altering the playing - which in itself influences the 'sound' of a recording.
Segovia was famous for not allowing edits - he would replay the entire piece usually. There is a marked
difference between replaying and editing. And before you go off on editing again - Bream was a
fine player and was totally capable of performing his music. I am only addressing what the
editing process does to the over all 'sound; of a recording.


My personal experience was that Bream's recorded tone and live tone were pretty instantly identifiable as the same thing.

Did you ever hear him in person without amplification or microphones? That's the tone he produces.
And I wouldn't disagree that Bream was very consistent from show to show and recording to recording
at least in terms of his sound.

But I still say the minute a microphone is used - and then speakers - and then a venue large enough to require
amplification is used - you are no longer hearing just the tone. You are hearing his tone within
an environment that contains many sound altering elements - sometimes those elements enhance
and other times they mask things. It's just a byproduct of the real world. And again it doesn't
mean that the end product sounds bad or good - it just means it's different.
 

brad347

Member
Messages
1,260
The thing is, a lot of what gets attributed to "tone" is actually something else-- something much harder to describe. I guess you could call it "impact." It has to do with clarity of intent on the part of the player, I think, and the sureness and confidence and openness and all these other things. Yes, it impacts the tone, but it goes beyond tone. You'll often hear horn players refer to a player's "sound" rather than their "tone." And I prefer to use this word myself, because it encompasses SO MUCH MORE than just the timbre. It's the ability to have a note-- one single note, even-- contain a whole world of emotional richness and complexity such that it can strike right at the core of a listener's being.

Most people would hear that and say "that person has great tone," but in reality it's SO MUCH MORE than "tone."
 

202dy

Member
Messages
441
Ask a classical player. Or a bass player. It's all about the plucking hand.

There is probably nothing we can do with the fretting hand to affect tone except make a mistake stopping the string at the given fret. This is where the guitar is like the piano. Press and play. It is the other hand that makes the difference in tone. Very un-piano.

Vibrato is a wavering in pitch. It may sound like it affects tone but it doesn't.
 

Jon

Member
Messages
1,594
In essence, unless a finger is improperly placed, a finger on the fretboard acts no different than a capo.

Why is it that notes held down by a capo tend to sound brighter than those held down by a finger though? e.g. a G barre chord at the third fret will sound different to an 'open E shape' played with a capo on the third fret.
 

RLD

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,803
What is there to argue about?
Anyone who has spent years playing an instrument knows that the players touch, feel, whatever you want to call it, is indeed part of the overall sound.
 

Clifford-D

Member
Messages
17,045
You missed my point - in referencing Julian Bream I was pointing out that
the music is what drew people in - not his tone. And while I think you are
correct that out of all guitarist - a player like Julian Bream could say the the tone
is in the Fingers without the least bit of irony - you are ignoring that
it was the environments and equipment he recorded with that contributed
the most to his 'tone'.

And Bream unlike some of his peers embraced tape editing to produce the
best recorded performances.

Using a live performance audience as reference point - I can say with
confidence that they didn't know guitar tone at all - what they knew was
the recorded 'tone' - which is considerably different than Bream playing
live without amplification - IMO they were not as aware as you might paint them.

But that also goes for most music aficionados IMO - tone is an elusive
sound that is radically influenced by the venue, the humidity, microphones,
the sound system, and the FOH engineer who is making audio choices
independent of the guitarist producing the original tone.
Nothing will make a bad performance sound better. No gear will bring out dynamics, or warmth of plucking around the soundhole, or the tone differences between nail vs flesh.

I could care less about all the fancy acoustic halls and engineers. I would enjoy even more to have watched Bream play in the caboose of a train up close.

Why did Lage choose a ratty little Champ to record Arclight? 99.99% of players would have used a bigger better amp. Good old boy cool hand Luke claimed he could eat 50 eggs, and he did.
Julian is doing the same thing, he's claiming he could make a ratty Champ sound like a million buck, beautiful amp with depth and a variety of colors hidden to the 99.99% of us.

I hear a lot of people saying they want a Champ now. The thinking being you would be one step closer to Julian's tone.
Ain't gonna happen, for the 99.99% of us that Champ will always sound like a ratty little Fender amp more suited for practice than performance. I can imagine a month after buying it and the person finally getting the realization that they don't sound anything like Julian, a hard pill to swallow but reality is good. I myself don't go down gear rabbit holes. I was like that before Julian was born. I'm not saying that I didn't go through, and am still going through GAS, it's a fascinating world. But it's always me and my sound that goes through this gear. NONE of it will get me to sound like Julian.

This "tone is in the fingers" could be revised to "the players tone is their sonic fingerprint". One of the hardest things to do I believe is trying to mask our sonic fingerprint. I just think "why?", actually, it doesn't even cross my mind.
 
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