Chasing our tails

Call Me Al

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Yes, but…. That small little gap at the end of the spectrum can be the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. I found it. Read post #1. It’s in the strings.
That’s great! It’s just that in my personal journey I wasn’t noticing the nuances at the end of the spectrum; and the experimenting started to feel like a distraction.
 

JL_LI

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That’s great! It’s just that in my personal journey I wasn’t noticing the nuances at the end of the spectrum; and the experimenting started to feel like a distraction.
I play at home for my own enjoyment in my retirement. In real life, I was a bioengineer specializing in laser imaging systems. I approach tone scientifically. Yes, through a series of experiments, but as in science, each new result gives me new insight and suggests the next experiment. And as in science, I've gone back and repeated experiments after adjusting certain parameters. The last result with the nickel strings with the wound G has evened the timbre when I play finger style. I've tried different equalization and I'm finally pretty close to where I want to be. I have two guitars to go. I'll restring my CS '69 Strat next week and the week after that I'll take out my Gretsch Anniversary again. That one may do fine with a plain G.

I've used math as an engineer where there isn't a single discrete solution but rather a best fit solution found iteratively. Chasing tone is exactly like that. And another iteration or two may suggest a parameter that can still be better optimized.

I quote, "I wasn’t noticing the nuances at the end of the spectrum; and the experimenting started to feel like a distraction."

The nuances only appear as you close in on the optimal solution. They appear larger when you look at them with the chaff gone. It's not distracting at all to bring intellectual discipline to bear on a problem. It's quite satisfying.
 

jays0n

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I used to just fiddle with my eq pedal till I sounded like I wanted to sound, but just for me. I then like to noodle with modulation and reverb sometimes so I have a few pedals like that, and a distortion for when I want to play with grit. But not chasing any certain tone.

Recently, however, I got a nice Champ. Since I got that, I have pretty much just plugged straight in to that and am happy. It just sounds how I want to sound. Did I maybe just catch my tail?
 

Digital Larry

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The nuances only appear as you close in on the optimal solution. They appear larger when you look at them with the chaff gone. It's not distracting at all to bring intellectual discipline to bear on a problem. It's quite satisfying.
It sounds appealing. I've just calculated that at my current rate of self discovery, I might converge on the optimal solution in 573.2 years. +/- 10%.
 

Back at it

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GUILTY I’m definitely guilty of all of the above, searching for that last bit of whatever it was

but after 60 odd years of futzing about buying this or that, because I hardly ever get rid of anything I found most of my tone at home

i have all sorts of stuff and even still get distracted by something new and shiny …..

but no debt, and now in full retirement maybe I can get more time practicing also no guilt pbfffft ;)
 

Ronzo

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Slight digression: chasing tone with no context is, IMO, pointless - unless you are a solo performer.

One thing I learned by auditioning MIDI tracks for the MIDIband I ran with two partners in the ‘80s and early ‘90s was that many tones/patches that sounded good when soloed either didn’t sound good or made the overall mix muddy and unclear. I realized when I worked with the lead guitarist to preselect patches for different songs (and for solos within those songs) that sounds that sounded really good when soloed would disappear in the mix or, worse, would sound terrible depending upon what the other tracks’ tones were.

Re-amping his clean tracks and then sending them through either/and his ADA MIDI-controlled preamp and his Alesis Quadraverb GT allowed us to eliminate unusable sounds pretty quickly. Playing it all through the PA system at a variety of gig volumes told us what worked in a full band environment and what didn’t. Since we ran everything from the sequencer that wasn’t played live with it, we were able to use MIDI program changes to select the appropriate sound for him, no matter what the song or genre. And he rarely, if ever, had to hit a footswitch. That was the beauty of MIDI program control - just play, and the sequencer would turn on and off what you needed, at the proper time.

Once done, it was done. We learned not to constantly chase “the best” sound. Since we played covers exclusively, the original song served as a good model. Find the authentic sound, in the entire mix, and STOP. There we’re a lot of tricks we learned (primarily from EQ and Recording magazines of the time) to add interest to the mix.

The lessons I learned working on that have stayed with me to this day. Learning to mix and project a proper soundstage turned out to be more valuable, and led me to find both guitar and bass tones appropriate to a song or songs intuitively.
 

old soul

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I plug in my guitar and play. I might turn the amp knobs but I’m not trying to find a specific tone, I’m just playing with the knobs because I own the amp so I might as well mess with everything. I play for my own amusement and I’m easy to please. If I was in a band I’d probably take things more seriously. But I’m not so I don’t.
Twiddling knobs keeps the dust out of 'em!
If you were in a gigging band asking about tone, a lot of replies would be 'nobody in the audience knows if you're playing through a tube amp or solid state, anyways' 😅
 

Happy Enchilada

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Kudos to JL_LI! Finally a substantive discussion on "tone," that thing so many spend so much energy on as guitar players. It is indeed a highly subjective thing, but it has certain aspects that determine its final outcome.

PICKUPS have so much to do with tone. And certain styles favor certain ones, such as hot humbuckers for headbanger stuff, crisp single-coils for chicken pickin', P90s and PAFs for blues, etc. Within those categories, there are a rainbow of choices that most players spend years and a fortune chasing. Let's leave it at that.

CAPACITORS are an often-overlooked and easily modified (and cheap) way to alter tone. I find certain ones work with certain pickups, such as .033s with single coils and P90s. Here again, it's all about what you hear and what you want to hear.

POTS are more than just ways to control volume and frequencies. 250Ks work for me for single coils and P90s, and some players like 500s with P90s. Pretty much everyone uses 500s with humbuckers. So not so much here.

STRINGS can make a heck of a difference. Previous poster said he found his mojo with a wound G, which I have yet to try. I was hooked on 10s for my electrics forever, until a friend suggested 9.5s, and that was a game changer for me. Rev. Billy likes 7s. Like my good wife has often said, there's a lid for every pot.

AMPS are a place lots of players spend really big bucks and lots of energy looking for tone. Many are devoted to tubes, and some of us go with solid state instead because on a Saturday night in the third set at Skeeter's Roadhouse, nobody but you will ever know or care whether you're running tubes or circuits. Same goes for the following Sunday in church. You, however, will notice the difference at loadout ...

STOMPBOXES are a whole 'nother world of tone choices. There are entire forums devoted to this, and rightfully so. Some players spend more than my first car cost on pedals and untold hours on developing pedal boards and worrying about signal chains. Others use multi-effects devices like my ancient but still viable POD XT. Again, a personal choice to get where you want to go. After all these years, I just run a ModTone Dirty Duo that offers me a choice of a Tube Screamer-like sound and a more aggressive rock OD. Not much use for tremelo, weird delays, etc., but some people use that stuff, so it's there for them.

PICKS are something most players don't even THINK about, but they make quite a difference. I went on a "voyage of discovery" in the land of plectra, and found that there are a half dozen different ones that produce different sounds and feelings for different guitars, different styles, and different strings. This is arguably the cheapest and simplest way to figure out your tone, but so many players just use the same old Fender Mediums or whatever for years.

Good luck with your tone quest - and remember: After all is said and done, tone is in your fingers (and that crusty 9Volt in your OD pedal and your strap). Enjoy! 🌵
 

SuprHtr

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I've found I can almost always find the tone I like with a Boss Katana, if I fiddle with the knobs enough. The main thing I've learned is to try stuff regardless of whether it makes sense intuitively. I own a pedal (!) and have a Monoprice tube amp, because I wanted to see what it was like, but, honestly, I could turn the Katana into a giant rabbit hole if I spent more time with the laptop connected. I'm learning that the knobs really are enough.
 

Electric Warrior

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I chase feel. I'm just a hobbiest. I have a couple amps - a 67 Vibrolux Reverb and an Ampeg Super Echo Twin - and a couple pedals - a Timmy Anniversary and a really good Tonebender knockoff. It feels like the pinnacle to me. I can get great sounds all day long unless the guitar is total dog.

What really matters to me is how something feels in my hand, the finish, the vibration, the profile and how it fills the hand, the string spacing, the weight balance, all that stuff. So there's always something new to experience, to say I've tried. I like that. I love the variety.
 

Cyberi4n

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I’m chasing a sound and a feeling that inspires me to play that next note. Over the course of my guitar-playing endeavour I’ve been in various bands; Rock, Heavy Metal, Thrash/Death Metal, Indie, Trance-Rock, Nu-Metal, Alternative Metal, Metalcore, Rock, Blues Rock, Southern Rock. In the last four years alone I’ve gone from gigging in a metalcore band through ti Rock, Blues Rock and now Southern Rock.

I’ve always enjoyed pushing my gear to the limits of what I can do with it, and trying out new gear. I discovered the nuances of the volume and tone knobs a couple of years ago which opened up a whole new tonal palette for me (usually with Metal it’s Bridge pup and everything on 10). I’ve learnt that what sounds good at low volume sucks at high volume, what sounds great in a bedroom is lost with a full band, and how the louder you go the less gain you actually need.

It’s been a great journey, and I doubt I’ll ever stop tweaking and fiddling. But it all boils down to this. If my sound puts a smile on my face, I guess I’m doing alright.
 

Alex_C

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I play for the joy of it. Chasing tone is fun. I'm pretty happy with the sounds I have found but I'm sure at some point I'll seek a new sound or new effect. The only thing I recommend, buy used when possible.
 

Chiogtr4x

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Right on! If you have an audience that gets it, your tone is automatically 200% better.

I did say ( in earlier post) that 'my tone is together...', which I think it is.

It's very uncomplicated, almost laughable, but it took a long time ( lot of trial and error with gear, many years, to figure that out!) to get that way- simplify ( the old fart music I play just doesn't need much)

Funny, how when you get busy with gigs, all the gear obsession goes out the window ( as by now, you've figured it out) and you just grab something! ( like whatever guitar doesn't have dead strings, Ha!)
 

Happy Enchilada

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Funny, how when you get busy with gigs, all the gear obsession goes out the window ( as by now, you've figured it out) and you just grab something! ( like whatever guitar doesn't have dead strings, Ha!)
^^^^And the folks in the audience have NO IDEA whether you are running tubes or circuits, whether you have a 3-barrel bridge or a modern one, whether your paintjob is nitro or poly ... All they care is does it sound good, and can you dance to it. Sorta like when they had those gum-chewing teenyboppers rate records on "American Bandstand."

Or as Mike Tyson so famously said (not exact quote), "Everybody has a plan until you get hit in the mouth." That's the joy of performing - and of getting old and being thankful to just BE THERE and able to hit most of the notes. And the simpler your rig is, the better.
 

mexicanyella

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Slight digression: chasing tone with no context is, IMO, pointless - unless you are a solo performer.

One thing I learned by auditioning MIDI tracks for the MIDIband I ran with two partners in the ‘80s and early ‘90s was that many tones/patches that sounded good when soloed either didn’t sound good or made the overall mix muddy and unclear. I realized when I worked with the lead guitarist to preselect patches for different songs (and for solos within those songs) that sounds that sounded really good when soloed would disappear in the mix or, worse, would sound terrible depending upon what the other tracks’ tones were.

Re-amping his clean tracks and then sending them through either/and his ADA MIDI-controlled preamp and his Alesis Quadraverb GT allowed us to eliminate unusable sounds pretty quickly. Playing it all through the PA system at a variety of gig volumes told us what worked in a full band environment and what didn’t. Since we ran everything from the sequencer that wasn’t played live with it, we were able to use MIDI program changes to select the appropriate sound for him, no matter what the song or genre. And he rarely, if ever, had to hit a footswitch. That was the beauty of MIDI program control - just play, and the sequencer would turn on and off what you needed, at the proper time.

Once done, it was done. We learned not to constantly chase “the best” sound. Since we played covers exclusively, the original song served as a good model. Find the authentic sound, in the entire mix, and STOP. There we’re a lot of tricks we learned (primarily from EQ and Recording magazines of the time) to add interest to the mix.

The lessons I learned working on that have stayed with me to this day. Learning to mix and project a proper soundstage turned out to be more valuable, and led me to find both guitar and bass tones appropriate to a song or songs intuitively.

Fantastic post, Ronzo. Even if, like me, one’s MIDI experience is slim to none, this post contains a lot of helpful food for thought about listening to sounds in a context rather than as individual sounds.
 




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