Are You Practicing Or Tone Chasing?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by Dirty Dave, Feb 24, 2020.

  1. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 6, 2014
    It depends if there is a major gig or event coming up with new a lot of material to learn.

    i usually get really practice focussed a week or two before anything big and new if there is a lot to learn and will I set up the home studio for lots of practicing and repetition... making / finding backing tracks, or recording the parts to practice over.

    Rest of the time I play.., I am tweaking my sound and enjoying the gear to deliver the stuff I know and play a lot. I will also practice improvisations and ideas on different chord sequences using my looper... usually an hour or two every day.

    Occasionally an idea will spawn a recording.

    Sometimes my messing about will be theory focussed and developmental and sometimes its just about finding the mood/sound I have in my head.

    I don't need to practice for my regular gigs and I also find if I don't play the old tunes for a week, I play them better at gigs.... must be a long term vs short term memory thing.
    GLee94, Telecaster88 and Dirty Dave like this.
  2. Larmo63

    Larmo63 Friend of Leo's

    Feb 1, 2018
    Timbuktu, Earth
    This thread reminds me that I should practice and play, not fool around with settings, pedals, and tones.
  3. TelenTubes

    TelenTubes Tele-Holic

    Oct 17, 2018
    Waco, Texas
    I practice - mostly learning a bunch of country songs now and I'll sit and play the same song 50 times until I get it down. And I'll sit for a bit and try to figure out why things work in that particular song. But, I do pick up a specific guitar and monkey with the amp to get a sound that's passable for the song I'm learning. Only have a reverb pedal and a compressor to monkey with, so it's not terribly complicated to set up.

    So a bit of both. But once I get it close enough for home practice, I'm playing!
  4. ClashCityTele

    ClashCityTele Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 7, 2018
    Washington, UK
    I often play my electrics unplugged so I'm practising not tone chasing.
    I really must get an acoustic :rolleyes:.
  5. zimbo

    zimbo Friend of Leo's

    Jan 15, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    The thing is, if Clapton were to walk in and pick up your guitar with the worst tone he'd still sound pretty amazing. You'd be playing that guitar weeks afterwards trying to figure how he got it to sound like that.
  6. Askwhy

    Askwhy Tele-Meister

    Dec 18, 2019
    Both. Never quite understood why people think they are mutually exclusive other than virtue signaling. ;)
    Bluego1, mkdaws32, stevemc and 2 others like this.
  7. Dirty Dave

    Dirty Dave TDPRI Member

    Jun 3, 2019
    Bucks, UK
    Love this.
    Totally agree with you @zimbo
    BrazHog and stormsedge like this.
  8. unixfish

    unixfish Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Apr 20, 2013
    Northeast Ohio, USA
    I practice unplugged most of the time. Practice is a loose term - I more pick up a guitar, rip a few licks, put it back down, and get back to work.

    When I do plug in, I choose the patch I want (Mustang III). Once I start playing with one sound, anything I switch to sounds wrong. I guess that sound just gets in my head.

    I have not found "that tone" yet, but I don't usually go searching for it either. I just start to play, maybe make a quick adjustment, and that's it.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  9. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

    Feb 24, 2007
    New Orleans, LA + in the
    Nah, they don't care if you practice - not most of them.

    I really dislike this type of audience. But they pay to be there, normally, so you have to cope with them --- or put audiences behind you.


    I chase a song that could be there. And sometimes it is there. If my tone isn't right, I'll quit before I get to that song (or potential song).
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  10. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Oct 11, 2017
    After I learn the song, it becomes yet another platform for chasing tone.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  11. Maroonandwhite

    Maroonandwhite Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

    Dec 8, 2019
    Moscow, TN
    My remedy for practicing has been to crank the amp (Katana) but turn it away from me and/or stand just outside the room so I don’t lose my hearing. I’ve yet to find a really bad tone when the speaker is really moving. For me, playing at low volume never yields a good tone that will translate to a live sound.
    If you can’t reconcile that in your own head then just crank it up!
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  12. That Cal Webway

    That Cal Webway Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Nov 16, 2012
    I'm practicing.

    On my Stratocaster I will put it in my least favorite position, the middle one, to force me to focus on the music.

    the middle one is the least favored on a telecaster, and I'll go off and do it on that and practicing when I want to focus just on the music.

    for me that means the actual printed music whether tablature, and sometimes too printed music though I am a slow reader
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  13. Steerforth

    Steerforth Tele-Afflicted

    May 17, 2009
    Use tone chasing as a reward. If you put in three solid days of quality practice, reward yourself by indulging in a day of tone chasing the fourth day.

    You have to have some fun, too.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  14. darkwaters

    darkwaters Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 14, 2012
    Well, tone is part of the equation isn't it ?

    Even when I'm playing acoustic I'm aware of my tone. How I'm playing a passage. Hardly. Softly. Picking closer to the neck. Closer to the bridge. Caressing the strings when I think a particular passage is especially beautiful (Bach !). Do I need new strings ? Am I using the right pick? Should I hybrid pick this? Would this sound better on nylon or steel string? Etc.

    Things get a lot more complicated with electric, but the concerns are still all there. Once you have the mechanics of a particular passage down, then, I think, it's time to dig deeper and make it your own. Tone and playing style are integral to that.

    If you need a pedal board that looks like the cockpit of a Stealth Fighter, then, hey, go for it. Me, I'm just not that bright so I like to keep things relatively simple, but, yes, tone is important.

    So is practice ! :)
    Dirty Dave and Telecaster88 like this.
  15. Jimmy Dean

    Jimmy Dean Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 2, 2009
    Portland, OR, houseboat
    I spend most of my practice time actually practicing. Just over a year ago I spent most of my time performing tonal wankery. What changed? I started taking jazz guitar lessons, sold all of my pedals except for a Flint & bought a nice Ibanez jazz box. I have found a tone that I really love & am running with it.
    Dirty Dave and Telecaster88 like this.
  16. Telecaster88

    Telecaster88 Tele-Holic

    May 9, 2019
    Midwest USA
    Back when I played in bands I took pride in just plugging into my amp and going. It wasn't about "tones," it was about songs. Then for health reasons I had to quit music for about 25 years. When I got back into playing, the world had changed. The internet provided a million options, ideas, opinions. I started gear hunting, bought my very first pedals, four different amps and went from three guitars (My Tele, my backup Duo-Sonic II, and my acoustic) to ten guitars. I admit it was something of a midlife crisis, combined with a rekindling of my illness-repressed love of playing.

    Now, I'm about to record again for the first time since '95... And I'm probably gonna bring just one or two guitars and my little Vox practice amp. The other stuff is fun, but guitar and amp is all I need.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  17. Flaneur

    Flaneur Friend of Leo's

    May 24, 2010
    I know the sounds I like and I have the gear which puts me in the ballpark. I like to play songs in different ways and before I can ask others to indulge me, I sometimes need to work out, on my own, if my idea will work. Saves lots of wasted rehearsal time.
    So it's practice, solo rehearsal, experimentation, song writing, re-arrangement. I usually do all or any of those things with the tone coming out of my amp, the first few seconds after I switch it on.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  18. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

    Mar 2, 2010
    My life has never been about those who insist nothing really matters so there's no reason to strive for excellence.
    I was fortunate to pick up the electric guitar when most of the used gear available was what's now considered holy grail stuff.
    In '75 the guitar shop I went to regularly had a whole middle of the floor packed with Tweed Fender amps in all sizes.
    Nobody played them when I was there though, and with no internet or gear periodicals I had no clue what grandpas old suitcases held for tone potential.

    My first electric was a partscaster I made with a '65 Mustang neck and an oak body I carved up and loaded with the only pickups sold in the store: Dimarzio Super Distortion and X2N.
    Shortly thereafter I picked up a BF Bandmaster head (every bar band had a BF Fender head in the lineup) with a 2x12 cab and a DOD 250 pedal.

    I now don't like HBs and don't like BF era amps, but then the toanz were truly awesome within the limits of what I knew and was capable of. I still love the DOD250 and consider it a holy grail pedal, but have not come around to liking HBs, though I keep trying.

    My technique and my sound are inseparable, but that includes my sound unplugged, since I craft the basics of my sound with my hands and my chosen guitar assembly.

    What has probably helped me most is the smartphone video camera which allows me to review what seems awesome but may not be on playback. I generally play pretty fast and if not playing clean I often use a very gainy saturated sound that sits on the edge of clarity and note separation. Playback allows me to tell where notes lose their distinction, when the bottom end gets to mushy and indistinct, when the high end is either too cutting or too soft.

    Mids are often discussed as if an on or off thing, but exactly how much mids makes a sound full and audible vs muddy, nasal, or over bearing is a fairly specific recipe. I love mids but for example a TS into my middy Brutish amps sound harsh and nasal.
    Of course mids is a wide range of frequencies and we often mean low mids when we say "mids", where for example the mids knob on a Marshall adds frequencies up closer to the treble range.

    The thing with all of this sculpting and crafting of our sound is it doesn't happen listening to youtube gear demos.
    I find I treat individual strings as individuals when picking for target tones, so I'll mute more on the low strings, sometimes picking closer to the bridge, to clean up and reduce boomy bass; while muting less and if necessary picking closer to the neck on high strings if they need fattening in a phrase.

    Like many of us eventually discover, I can make most pedals sound pretty much the same in a comparison recording.
    But within that sameness there are problems that one will have and another will solve.

    So my tone chasing continues to solve problems I try to eliminate, and those problems exist in the combo of my gear and technique.
    My technique will not make your gear sound like you make it sound.
    My gear solves my technique's idiosyncrasies and suits my musical destinations.

    My chosen gear must also allow my technique to produce a wide range of sounds with the gear at one setting.
    So I do not use my complicated gear setup as a crutch for getting a range of sounds. Single pickup guitars too.
    Instead I choose gear that responds in the range of ways that fits best with my technique, the music I'm playing, and the whole signal chain.
    Then I listen to recordings of the results compared to other gear I'm familiar with.

    No great musician doesn't care about their sound or their gear, even if we may think they don't care because we see them with a Squier or other low end product.
    Beginners and everyone in between might as well get with the idea that our sound has value.
    Dirty Dave and Wildcard_35 like this.
  19. Wildcard_35

    Wildcard_35 Tele-Meister

    Feb 3, 2012
    Austin, Texas
    Depends on if I have a gig coming up. If I do, I work on the songs I am having trouble with and try to get them perfect, or as close as I can. If I don't, I'll knob-d!ck around with the Fender Twin setting on my little Fender mustang modeling amp and pretend to be Dick Dale or one of those Venture guys, warbling chords on the whammy bar on my strat, playing whatever stupid licks come out. It's great fun! I wouldn't call it tone-chasing, though, since that sound is most decidedly already there.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
  20. Chunkocaster

    Chunkocaster Poster Extraordinaire

    Aug 10, 2018
    In space with Ziggy
    I practice and learn songs mostly but I do get sidetracked a lot. Mostly due to needing to sell some guitars and gear to cover bills and then wanting to replace some of it with cheaper but not inferior partscasters I then have to assemble or amps I then have to build cabs for or tweak.
    Dirty Dave likes this.
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