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Guitarists in Three-Piece Bands: A Tone Theory

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by GoldDeluxe5E3, Sep 26, 2019.

  1. GoldDeluxe5E3

    GoldDeluxe5E3 Tele-Afflicted

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    Here's a Theory for my TDPri Colleagues:

    Electric guitarists in three piece bands (e.g. Hendrix, Trower, May, Page, Vaughn, Gibbons, Van Halen, etc.) tend to be recognized more frequently for having "great tone".

    Why?

    Because they were able to fill up the guitar frequency spectrum in the music without competition from a rhythm guitar in the same spectrum. As a result, they were able to develop the qualities and nuances of their tone, and listeners were able to focus on their playing. The resulting axiom is that guitarists playing the instrument alone can develop tone and technique to a higher degree.

    What do you folks say to that?
     
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  2. vgallagher

    vgallagher Tele-Meister

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    Yep. I hate playing with another guitarist. Very few have any concept of leaving space.
     
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  3. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    It is hard to find a guitar partner that knows how to leave space and you know how to also. But, hmmm.. I don't know that has much to do with tone. Most those mentioned are playing very loud volume in front of a Marshall stack, or similar, ... which may have something to do with it!! They are playing so loud that often picking is an option... which makes for great/fast playing. I saw Hendrix 2.. 3 I guess , times. None of those times would I say he had great tone, but there was so much noise from the crowd and from his feedback etc that it was hard to tell. Often his tone was quite bright and jangly as opposed to full and robust. But there were those moments when it was very toneful. Back in the day Page seemed to have reliably great tone live.

    Great tone in a band mix, in a smaller venue than a coliseum, is harder and more impressive to me than in front of a stack of marshalls..
     
  4. Uncle Daddy

    Uncle Daddy Tele-Afflicted

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    All great rhythm guitarists first.
     
  5. maxvintage

    maxvintage Poster Extraordinaire

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    I like trios in just about all musical contexts. Easier to hear yourself, less padding, the different instrument's roles stand out
     
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  6. Ian T

    Ian T Tele-Afflicted

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    There is also the modern bass tone to blame for this. Bassists didn't have 500-700 watt rigs; they played through guitar amps for a lot of that stuff. They also played flatwounds. The bass frequency was much narrower and didn't get in the way so much.

    I personally hate the modern bass tone so many players use with their Aguilar/Mark Bass cabs with tweeters, fresh roundwounds, and all of the highs they dial in. All those frequencies are unnecessary and get in the way of the guitar tone.
     
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  7. radiocaster

    radiocaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    I don't see what this has to do with a 3 piece band, 4 piece bands can also have only one guitarist and no keyboardist, and the singer can also be the bassist or drummer in a 3 piece band.
     
  8. Toast

    Toast Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm just speculating here because I'm not in a band and I've only played in a band a handful of times. However, I think one benefit of not playing in a trio is that a guitarist learns more about arranging music. In other words, playing with another guitar player forces one to figure out how to blend the guitars a la George and John.
     
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  9. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Doctor of Teleocity

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    The band I recently left was two guitars, bass and drums. Not the only reason I quit, but the other guitarist lacked the musical sense of how two guitars SHOULD play together.....and I "think" I do. When he was doing lead stuff, I would lay WAY BACK, and try to give him space, and not step all over what he was doing. But when I was doing leads, he was ALL OVER THE PLACE, to the point that I wasn't really being heard.....plus he wanted to play "volume wars" to exert his dominance. This was just one of many issues that I got fed up with, so I gracefully bowed out. They've been pestering me to come back, but I know nothing will change. (I left two or three years ago, and relented to go back, but it was always the same)
    I think I've learned my lesson.....leopards really don't change their spots.
     
  10. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    You could be somewhat jaded because there is less going on to capture your attention. There are plenty of examples of "great tone" with larger bands and orchestras.
     
  11. Boxla

    Boxla Tele-Meister

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    I agree with loud guitar amps. Here's a few more for me Sublime, Nirvana, most Bob Mould crews (Sugar, Husker Du solo etc.), Pepper, Police, Rush etc. they all crank those amps up and the sound simply fills a room. Of course you have several 4 piece bands where it's the same set up, bass, drums, 1 guitar such as Tool.
    I don't necessarily know if they are changing their tone because it's only one guitar or have good tone because of it. In fact I don't think it has anything to do with it. The bass takes up frequencies and keys take up other frequencies regardless the guitar should sit right in the middle in their own range. I also agree wholeheartedly that all those guitars mentioned so far are incredible rhythm players first.
    I typically prefer one guitar bands. A big exception would be the Dead. For a crash course on how to perfectly blend a lead guitar with a rhythm one look no further than Bob Weir and Jerry Garcia. They were so great together that they easily changed roles throughout shows and Bob would play lead lines while Jerry held down the rhythm. Bob figured out how in the hell one compliments a Jerry Garcia.
     
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  12. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    What about Two Piece bands?
    So much less drama than three and four piece bands.

    Bass with octave pedal



     
  13. mexicanyella

    mexicanyella Friend of Leo's

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    I think the trio setting can help all the tone, plus incidental twangs and boings, of an electric guitar to come across better.

    Which is good in the hands of a confident player with his/her ears turned on. And with the right audience, getting off on the twang and boing sonic warts, as intimacy rather than imperfection.

    But examples of complimentary multi-guitar interplay abound...how many people heard an Eagles hit without realizing they were hearing a bunch of carefully crafted discrete parts? Watch the “Hell Freezes Over” video.

    My most current band experience is playing bass in a loud rock trio, and it’s been fun to have the space to be a bit melodic on the bass and play with a loud, old-school dirty rock P-bass-with-flats tone. But there’s a lot of room above my frequencies for crunchy guitar to exist in, and it works.

    Used to play electric guitar in support of an acoustic guitarist and had to think about dynamics and leaving space a lot. But it was a different kind of fun, helped along by a bassist and drummer who agreed on the “support the acoustic”
    mission.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2019
  14. bowman

    bowman Friend of Leo's

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    I spent a lot of time in two different 4-piece, 2-guitar bands, and enjoyed it for the most part. For one thing, the lead players in both bands were true virtuosos, and that was a pleasure to hear on a nightly basis. I learned a lot from those guys, and they were very patient with me. For the last several years (8? 10? I'm not sure), I've been the guitarist in a 3-piece band, and I don't think my tone has changed a lot. My playing certainly has - as addressed above, the space available for me to play in is all mine, and that has allowed me to do things I would never even consider before. And the interesting thing is that I still don't play much lead guitar, per se. I play a sort of lead-rhythm style that developed organically, over thousands of hours playing with the same drummer and bassist. More stuff going on than straight rhythm, for sure, but far less busy than a lead player is. And a big part of it - the biggest part actually - is that the 2 guys in the band with me now are the same 2 guys that were in the other bands - the three of us have played together for well over 30 years. So in my case, whatever kind of tone I have is mostly due to the rhythm section, not the lack of another guitar.
     
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  15. GoldDeluxe5E3

    GoldDeluxe5E3 Tele-Afflicted

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    OK, I'll play.

    What about one-piece bands?
     
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  16. beyer160

    beyer160 Friend of Leo's

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    Or maybe the guitars are getting in the way of the bass?

     
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  17. Mike Simpson

    Mike Simpson Doctor of Teleocity

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    To me most trios either sound thin and hollow or they are too loud or overplaying trying to compensate for a missing band member or two. Not that there are not some great sounding trios but most of them seem to be fronted by a guitar show off. I get that money split 3 ways is better pay per gig. In a trio the bass and drums need to be solid and carry the rhythm guitar or keyboard part of the soundscape. You can't have the bass and drums playing where you can't tell where the song has gone. I get tired of listening to one single lead instrument over and over after a while regardless of how good they are.
     
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  18. wulfenganck

    wulfenganck Tele-Afflicted

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    Hmm, I'm sort of biased....of course it's easier to delve into the tone of your choice, when there are less instruments around to fill up the space.
    But then, to be honest, most 3-piece-bands, well...how to say it without starting a s...storm.... tend to be centered entirely around a guitar-virtuoso and, frankly, I find that rather boring. Nobody cares for noodling in a great tone, except that small crowd with crossed arms and "I'm not impressed"-faces.
    People like to move around, dance and sing along a song, but rarely moan in awe about some guy yanking off. Most guitarplayers could use some training in rhythmguitar: timing, playing in the pocket, acompanying the lead melody (be it a singer or whatever lead instrument).
     
  19. Musekatcher

    Musekatcher Friend of Leo's

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    I don't know how experimental or speculative we want this discussion to be, but I carry several theories about good tone that are related to interference/cancelling/amplifying and frequencies.

    An example I observed last week: I was at a practice, working on a new piece. We stopped to listen to the original cover, and when playing with the cover, I experienced bad tone from my amp. However, that tone was fine when playing without the original coming thru the PA, and the cover sounded fine when I wasn't playing. The simultaneous original coming thru the PA was somehow combining with, or interfering with the sound coming from my amp, and the result appeared to be bad tone from my amp. It sounded like bad distortion, something we'd associated with a cheap SS amp or something. I've experienced the same thing with a group when playing with keys, another guitar, and other instruments that were competing for the same sonic space. You can have good tone from two sources, but combined simultaneously, something destructive can happen, and creates some perceived undesirable distortion or undesirable tone.

    Another example, is when bi-amping or using a subwoofer. If you have overlap, where your mains go down to say 60 Hz, and your sub is active from 30 to 80 hz, you have overlap from 60-80 Hz. If you don't cut one or the other, they will multiply unnaturally. You can also have phasing issues in that overlap as well. I've experienced that as perceived distortion. Most subs will have a crossover, or will take and process the signal to the mains to reduce the levels in this overlap, and have a sweepable crossover to correct it.

    Just ideas to explain why a three piece may sound more pleasing and flattering than a four or five piece.
     
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  20. Crawldaddy

    Crawldaddy Tele-Holic

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    I kind of understand the OP's point about how with a less dense mix, a guitarist can have their tone better delivered. However, the argument loses its support when you think about guys like John Petrucci, John Mayer, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Clapton (post Cream) etc. all of whom have very good, solid tones that are easy to pick out in the mix.

    I like to think that a good sound engineer will help you sound good regardless. Of course it helps to have band mates who aren't stamping all over others.

    I've been on different sides of the playground; I am a guitarist first and foremost, but I've served my time being a singer as well as bass player in different bands. I'd like to think that my collective experience has shaped to become more empathetic to the other musicians in a band setting, and that's enabled me to do the following:

    1. Identify where I need to place my instrument in a band setting in terms of frequency and tone.
    2. Check my ego at the door; I err on the side of being not loud enough, and then someone tells me 'dude turn it up'.
    3. Communicate better with people in the band.

    As of right now, I play in a soul/funk band, working with a very present bass player (she is loud and slaps a good bass), a solid drummer who thankfully knows how to control his volume, a 3-piece horn section and a singer. Yup, 7-piece band. I've learnt how to find that pocket around the bass player and the horns which can get very loud. Most people will just turn up the volume and see how it goes, but I know if I really dial in my EQ, I can still cut through when the time comes.
     
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