Chasing our tails

aging_rocker

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I can appreciate the 'tone' of many players when I'm listening to them, but I don't try to reproduce any of those tones particularly.

I have a few of 'my' tones that I like to use, and they are now safely stored in my Katana.

If I had lots of time and money and inclination, I could probably disappear down a tone rabbit hole too, but nah, I have other stuff to do.

Good luck to those who seek their personal 'holy grail tone' - may you have fun chasing it. You may even find it ;)
 

JL_LI

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When you have a sound you more or less like, and just want to "improve" it? I think it's a rabbit hole with an express elevator.
It had been a rabbit hole with no bottom until I decided to let each guitar sing out in its best voice. That’s not to say I’m not always looking for an improvement but at least the elevator stops before it reaches the bottom.
 

Rocky058

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Chord theory is hard.
Buying amps and pedals is fun.

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Si G X

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I don't think about tone much, a few specific times I did.

When I've started/joined a new band, if we are going for a particular sound I might think about what I'm going to use to get there. I bought some fuzz pedals because an old band really wanted a similar sound to Mudhoney and a Marhsall (or the Laney I was using at the time) wasn't going to get there on it's own.

The other time that really stands out was when Rocket from the Crypt split/went on hiatus and John Reis (who'd always played a Les Paul in that band) started The Night Marchers and switched to a Telecaster. That was the first time I'd really thought about playing a Tele, it sounded so trashy and nasty compared to the Les Paul I was really drawn to it and seriously started thinking about getting one at that point.

I've never really been one to chase a 'better' tone, just one that suits the music I'm playing. ... these days I'm just playing at home 90% of the time so I never really think about it. If my band ever gets back to doing anything (we've lost all drive and momentum over the last couple of years) I may think about it again, I've actually bought a guitar and made a couple of pedals since we last practiced properly, so I have those to try out in the band context.

I rarely mess around changing pickups and stuff, for parts guitars I don't ever remember buying a pickup and not liking it, so things seem to stick quite easily and if it sounds different to my other guitars that's not a bad thing to me.
 

JL_LI

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Hold on here. Common sense, logical analysis, and careful reasoning are not compatible with chasing tone. ;)

Kidding aside, an excellent post!
I was never a professional musician. I was a bioengineer before the study of the discipline became formalized. Common sense, logical analysis, and careful reasoning are a way of life for me, even in retirement. It’s funny though that with all that common sense, analysis, and reasoning, I spent years chasing tone I had all along. Something those of us trained in the sciences understand is that our understanding is always incomplete. TDPRI is a great place to search for the missing pieces.
 

57joonya

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There’s nothing wrong with pedals or chasing tone. We’re almost groomed to think we need a bunch of pedals , when we see some rigs of touring musicians. I was personally impressed when I found some of the players tone that I admired the most , were guys not really using any pedals . Angus and Malcolm young- straight into a Marshall amp. Keith Richards - straight into a fender amp. Old Waylon Jennings material , guitar and amp. That’s not to say they don’t sometimes stray and use a pedal to achieve a certain sound . It’s all good , and tone is king
 

JL_LI

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I think part of the issue is playing covers. I think we want to be able to sound like Journey on one tune and Roy Nichols in the same set. Well, unless you have multiple rigs, that is kinda unrealistic.
I play for my own enjoyment, finger style, backing myself. I'm no songwriter so everything I play i a cover, but I have no illusion about sounding like the original. I play lead, rhythm, and bass on a single guitar but I can't make that sound like a band. My tone is clean and bright but not twangy, even covering country. I do as well with my SG as with my Telecaster because I'm not looking for a guitar specific sound. I sound like me no matter what I play. What's funny is that my playing improved when I stopped chasing some particular tone I had in mind for a song and let the guitar sing out.
 

Tonetele

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If your supply chain is slow in the US is slow what can you do.?My SDs are in the ountry and will be with me mid week and that's with Easter. Part of the reason I buy local s postage costs. If I build I order all parts as early as possible as I can guarantee two things; high postage costs, slow delivery.
 

viking

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Its a hobby , right ? I mean for most of us it is,, You could argue that one hunting rifle is enough , one set of golf clubs , one or or a few fishing rods should be enough.......
Then , some of us love to tinker with our stuff,,, I have no vision of anything with my guitars or amps ( or tone ) should interest anyone else IRL than me.
 

JohnnyThul

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Good tone for me is completely dependent on the social circumstances and my mood.

There are days, I struggle with certain frequencies and am not happy at all, thinking about buying a new amp . But then there are days, where I just love to make music and do not think about "stuff", and then everything sounds perfect and I can play above my level.

Same on gigs. If the backline looks not really cool that could turn you off, thinking, you will get a bad sound, because, it is bad stuff. But if the house is packed and all people around you are just nice and coool and friendly and make you feel like home, then the tone is always perfect :)

But 98% of the time I am looking for the better amp/pedal to achieve the same sound, I have had for years. But maybe with cooler looks :)
 

tomasz

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What reminded me recently of what is important, is a recorded live stream of Jacob Collier, having fun making music. I'd highly recommend that:



What is striking, is how quickly he moves with ideas, how he assembles and creates soundscapes, changes, progressions... how much fun he has creating music. Now, you may wonder, what it has to do with chasing sound.. and that is also what struck me as an exactly the answer. Forget tweaking sound indefinitely, focus on the music. I personally ditched chasing sound.
 

M1dnightrider

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IMO there is two separate things that are often considered the same when describing this stuff. Which is to say, I personally distinguish touch and tone. Take a player like Duane Allman. Didn’t live long, but left a lot of recordings across a few years span with a constantly evolving sound reflective of what he was into and using at the time. But you listen to that stuff, and you can always tell him in it, subtleties and nuance of expression, habits like slight over bending etc. Dude was always changing gear, experimenting, etc. and you can hear the differences at different points in that span but it still always sounded like Duane. Clapton and a lot of other plays did the same thing multiple times in their career but retained their individual voice across those changes.

I’ve spent a lot of time and money figuring what exact tools I need to get a sound reflective of the one I want to hear in a certain context at a certain time. What I consider as important as the sound itself, is the response of the gear I’m using to picking dynamics, rolling off tone and volume, etc. That is something I think is overlooked in a lot of, say, pickup comparisons showing a cheaper option vs the highest stuff. You can probably dial in a very similar tone between the two assuming they are similar to begin with, but in most cases, the cheap options are very often inferior in how dynamic they are, especially in certain designs like paf style humbuckers.

The nickel strings thing is one of few things though, that like you, I found and was satisfied with from then on out. Also, there are now a couple guitars I own and a few amps where I have tweaked them to the extent that I know exactly what to expect from them and it’s exactly what I want. The thing is for me, I’m mercurial when it comes to what I really WANT to hear or play on a given day. There are days or weeks when I can only get the sounds I want out of a strat, then the next day it’s the Gibsons, same deal with blackface to plexi to tweed. I really cannot express myself at my peak ability level unless I feel good about the sound I’m getting, and I’m not getting frustrated with it.

Kind of rambled on here, but I’ll conclude with saying this. Much of the basis for the tone I have always wanted was found in a certain era using certain gear and once I finally went and bought the original stuff or a good reproduction I was satisfied, eg. a sunface fuzz, or a couple vintage greenbacks and cerwin Vegas I lucked out on finding. I have never felt like my (often obsessive) efforts and experimenting was time wasted, because it was so rewarding to figure that **** out, but I always tempered that with a side of myself that was equally obsessive about making the guitar speak the way I heard it, which is a lifelong effort, with touch and technique. A good player can make ****ty equipment sound good, but they can do far more with the stuff that allows them to sound their best. Personally, I’ve known a fair few musicians and there have been ones that didn’t care enough about gear and had substantial talent diminished by lazy efforts in crafting their sound, and also dudes who were lazy about practicing and all too happy to spend money on a million pedals only to never really spend enough time with one of them to learn how to get the most out of them.

IMO, it’s all about balance, and where you are personally on your journey as a musician and (hopefully) an artist
 
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3fngrs

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As usual, I have my preferences, but a Les Paul and a Marshall will give a lot of mileage. Throw in a stomp box or two and I'm fine. Anymore than that and I spend most of my time twisting knobs instead of playing. ADHD, you know.
 

Digital Larry

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I've been giving my ASAT Special Tribute a lot of play time recently. I really like that one. I flip between the different sounds, preferring neck and middle, but bridge has its place as well. Having played mostly acoustic over the years I think middle position gets closest.

I also discovered the tone knob. I knew it was there but did you realize you can make your guitar less bright by turning it down? 🤪

I'm pretty easy to please tone wise, I mostly am playing clean. I'm not sure I'd even know how to put together a hard rock track.
 




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