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The Tone Zone

What is tone? Tone for us guitar guys is basically, the way a guitar signal sounds. A good tone can vary between music genres and be down to personal and individual taste. The tone journey Tone starts from your fingers or pick, and then travels thought the vibration of the strings over the guitar neck and body through the pickups. From the pickups it travels through the guitar electronics, down the guitar lead, into whatever gadgets you have processing the signal. Then the signal goes out your pedals then into the amps pre-amp section, then to the power amp through another cable and out of the speakers. After all that its then affected by the ambiance of the room you are in, then finally into your ears. That’s a long way to your ears isn’t it and many points where tone can altered. Purists try to keep the signals integrity in tact where other like to manipulate it considerably. The question So does tone come from the fingers and the way we play or is it in the strings we use? Is it in the type pf picks we use or the wood our guitars are made from? Does tone come from our amps, pedals or speakers? The answer to all those questions is, yes, tone definitely comes from all the above devices in varying degrees of effect. Plectrums and fingers Wait “Tone is all in your fingers” the purists say , or the way you hold your pick”, this is true , the angle and where you strike the strings affects tone. Plectrum shape can also make a huge difference, sharper picks sound a different tone to rounder picks because they attack the strings differently, also the material they are made from affects the tone they produce. Your finger can produce a twang for country or warmth in the fleshy parts . Strings String gauge can affect our tone; heavier gauge strings make thicker louder noise while thinner gauges are …yes! Thinner sounding. Different string material can make a little difference; steel is bright while nickel slightly warmer. Wood The wood your guitar is made from is a tone-shaping device, mahogany has a darker sound with more sustain and mid frequencies resonate from this wood. Hollow chambered bodies sound different to solid bodies. Necks that have fingerboards made from maple are brighter than rosewood necks also ebony is a dense bright wood.. Pickups Pickups make a big difference in tone; whether they are humbuckers or single coil, the wire and material, magnets types and quality plus output of pickups can vary the tone of a guitar. The neck pickup is a different tone to the bridge pickup and some pickup types are more mid ranged while some are darker, sharp or brighter than others. Amplicication Amp brands are voiced differently to each other and are a huge part of our tone, also I have found that speakers are a massive tone-shaping device and vary considerably. If you have ever heard the difference IR files (impulse response) make to a digital speaker simulator you’ll know speakers hold such a massive amount of the tone we hear. Pedals are a great way to shape tone, graphic equalisers are a superb tone shaping device as are overdrive and distortion pedals. Multi effects and amp simulation are huge recording tone devices in todays modern guitar world. Technique affects tone, for instance legato creates a different tone than picking. Muting or where you pick in relation to the bridge or neck affects the tone. There is of course a tone knob on your guitar that’s a good shaper to soften up the signal or brighten it. There are some cool tone pot mods like the BQmusic Vary-12 that has 12 switchable settings. Conclusion So a mix of all these devices can give us a unique tone, this is one of the things that separates guitarists from each other, imagine if we all used the same tone, how boring would that be?   Guitar addiction groups thoughts on tone Dominik McKoy - Its everything from your fingers down to the cab Jody Samuel Lynch - Everything is important, but others playing my setup have looked at me "this doesn't sound anything like you". the way one drives is a big part of the ride. Scott Gailor - A cross between my hands and my 82 MKIIB boogie Scottwork Stirling - I believe that most of what makes our tone is ourselves our fingers and style of playing - as Jody mentioned already just cause someone plays your gear won't make them sound like you - it's the individual that makes us individual ! Robert Hayter - I feel it's just a combination of wood, style, pickups, string gauge and amp, although my Keeley modded SD-1 definitely adds to my own tone so to speak! Jared Arnott -A big one is having everything work together. Pickups the complement the guitars natural timber. A amp the works with the guitar and playing style. A guitar that works well with what is being played. Effects that colour the base tone from the guitar and amp, and playing style. Everything is connected. We usually dont get to choose the room, so adjusting the eq and adding ambient effects can help a lot. David Gibbinson - Your voice, or tone is in your fingers. Everything else adds to the overall sonic fingerprint, but like salt and pepper on a meal, the seasoning is not the main ingredient by any stretch. I think the nuances are played up by the industry for obvious reasons, but a great player can get great articulation and tone from the most basic of set ups. Don't get me wrong, the nuances ARE there, but, in my humble opinion, too much emphasis is put on the gear. Using a cooking analogy again, a great chef can make a decent meal from anything but the worst ingredients. So after a certain point, the gear being used takes a firm second place to the person using it. The first time I played through a tube amp after years as a youngster saturating my sound with effects and whatnot, I realised just how shite my touch was. Work on your voice and your accuracy, your touch and feel and good sounds will result. Wayne Youngson -The dampening setting on my marshal has been great for getting the tone I want. Kyle Polhemus- It is absolutely in the fingers. Tone is the product of your technique and the way you hit your notes. People go out and buy $25k rigs, best guitars, best amps, axe fx, vintage tubes, whatever- and they sound horrendous. Then you've got a guy like SRV or Jimi Hendrix who no matter what amp and guitar they plugged into, you would know it was them. SRV with a fender practice amp and squire would beat most of the people who's think tone is all in the equipment. David Gibbinson - In fairness though, SRV could have got a good tone out of a rubber band..... Joe Foley- I’ve heard guys make my gear sound incredible. I've heard guys make my rig sound like crap. I have also made it do both. In none of these cases did I adjust anything. LOL Lathan Hites- It really is in the hands. But if I had to pick a piece of gear, it'll always start with a great tube amp. William Hahs - My hands palming playing with different picks finger picking plectum and fingers or fingerpicks and my tone knob but the most important is your ears that's where good tone shaping starts Joe Smith - Fingers..hands..body..Joe baren pickups..echoplex preamp..mesa boogie Art Floresca - I think it has to do more with ur ears- we all make adjustments based on what we hear. Everone hears things differently... John TekDeth - Art tube preamp. excellent 60-75 dollar unit that gives a great tube sound for direct line in or to a solid state amp in the signal chain. combined with my modded metal zone it turns my randall g2 and crate powerblock into viable amps Dave Kimball -I think it's my ears.....I've been playing almost 30 years and I don't really fully understand what is meant by a certain wood producing a "warmer" tone.....I think I know what I like and even the 2 identical guitars can often sound different I use ernie ball strings and peavey amps I use a crybaby wah pedal this is the base line for my electric set ups I usually play a les paul studio but I also have a Jay Turser LP that sounds awesome as well and then it's a process of trying different peddles and different settings. Bill Shaw - It's all in the guitar neck , pickup and picking hand 60 percent and fretting hand 40 percent Jack Anthony Phillip - Most players wouldn't know good tone if it bit them on the ass ! When people hear me play they always compliment me on my sound. It's great but I rather it was my playing that stood out. Lol David Gibbinson - The "Tonewood" aspect is definitely played on by the industry. That much is certain. Leo's first solid body prototypes were made from pine. Apparently, though, they had some problems with wood worm. One story goes, that Leo had access to a bunch of free wood that was being cleared by the Tennessee valley authority. Alder and Ash came to be used for economic reasons, plus, they were stable and easy to work. Leo had no regard for wood and sound, as apparently, he didn't feel it mattered. It's now become an institution that is the foundation of the industry. So many vested interests in perpetuating the myth. You want your wood to have good resonance, but as far as how the sound is shaped to produce "Tone".? Tonewood is a bit of a fallacy. Look at the guitars made form other stuff, they sound just as decent through the same rig, with the same pickups. If you can glorify what is basically a reasonably cheap raw material in order for it to garner some mystical property in the eyes of the consumer, you can keep you costs down, but still justify charging a premium, as the materials used are perceived as special
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