>

Discovering your own tone

Discussion in 'The Tone Zone' started by Maggot Brain, Jun 14, 2021.

  1. Maggot Brain

    Maggot Brain Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Messages:
    1,916
    Likes Received:
    4,139
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    I've finally come to a point where I am really discovering my own sound and style after 18 years of playing. I guess I've always had my own style and sound to a degree just by the fact I am myself... But I've become really aware of the details, nuances and what is unique to my playing and sound/tone. I wanted to discuss with other's the journey of finding yourself, discovering your technique and tone and maybe aspects of how one may get there.

    You often see discussions on forums, someone asking for tips to achieving a guitar hero's tone in which a number of replies will be "find your own tone", "don't tone chase!" and "don't try to sound like someone else, be original!". I can understand where these types of replies are coming from but I also think it's important that someone builds upon an established sound. It's very much the same way with techniques, learning from an established and proven technique in which to further develop yourself.

    I think most people will never 100% duplicate their hero's tone or technique but in the attempt can discover their own sound along the way. The reason someone wants to "tone chase" is because they like that tone right? So why not allow them to fallow that path and more than likely they will discover themselves along the way. It seems to me almost impossible to tell someone to just be 100% original especially if they have no foundation to build off of or to learn from. I think as we absorb all our different influences in both technique and tone then we can start piecing together our own identity as we learn more as to what makes things work.

    Hopefully that made sense.
     
  2. TXOldRedRocker

    TXOldRedRocker Elucidation Sufferer Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2020
    Messages:
    886
    Likes Received:
    2,490
    Location:
    Cypress, TX
    Makes perfect sense.
     
  3. WellBurnTheSky

    WellBurnTheSky Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    Messages:
    1,402
    Likes Received:
    3,261
    Location:
    South of France, Europe, Earth
    Very interesting discussion, and I agree with everything you said.

    For context, I've been playing guitar for 30 years (played classical violin for 10 years before that, I started very young) and gigging for 25 years, made a living playing covers for years including half a decade playing in a tribute band (I have played thousands of gigs, ranging from a few dozen people to a few thousands), so I'm no stranger to the whole "chasing tone" discussion. I've gotten decent at "ballparking" both the tones and playing style of a few well-known players (though there are many that are much better than me at this).

    One major thing is, as you described, we develop by imitation, both in our playing and our tone/gear choices. No one exists in a vacuum, and influences play a huge part in developing as a musician. And both style and sound are a function of what you play as much as a consequence of it. I'm a huge believer of the fact that tone is, at its root, shaped by 2 things: the way you play (mostly picking hand attack, but fretting hand articulation and vibrato as well), and the way you dial in your gear. Which in turn is a function of how you hear things (as a sound guy, my opinion is, you manipulate sound/sources to make it conform to the way you "want" things to sound).
    And the way you hear sounds is shaped by what influenced you, and what you consider sounds "good" and sounds "right".

    And this varies from individual to individual: not two people have listened to exactly the same things at the same time, experienced the same things, linked a particular piece of music to a particular experience that shaped their musical (or personal) identity. All of things that translate into the way 1) you play, 2) you dial in tones. Which to me is the main reason (and a massively misunderstood and misinterpreted one) for the whole "tone is in the fingers" argument. You can have two players play the exact same part on the exact same gear and they'll sound different, UNLESS they both consciously try to imitate a same style they've both studied. And even then, you'll hear subtle differences.

    Another thing is, studying a particular tone can be the key to understanding (and unlocking) a particular piece of gear or gear chain. Studying Hendrix will obviously give you a better understanding of the Fuzz Face and Univibe, studying The Edge will do the same for delays, Lukather or Landau or Huff for massive 80s rack tones, Gilmour for the Big Muff, and so on. It won't always translate to something you can use on a daily basis, but you'll come out of it with a better understanding of...something. Which never hurts. Maybe you'll incorporate it into your own style, contributing to further developing your identity as a player.

    I had such a "gotcha" moment recently with fuzzes. Tried fuzzes for decades, never could find any tone I felt I could use with them. But I'm also a massive John Norum fan, and Europe did a bunch of "lockdown" videos, including one where Norum was using a fuzz on Rock The Night, which originally is pure "boosted Marshall" territory. But it sounded amazing, and got me thinking. Then revisit fuzzes. Then I stumbled on some Gilmour stuff (he's one of the main reasons why I started playing guitar) and realized these tones can't really be attained with fuzzes, and at the same time aren't your usual chaotic unruly fuzz, because of the way he uses them. Pretty interesting rabbit hole to dive in. Will I be using these tones anytime soon ? You never know. But either way, I've learnt something and my playing (and more importantly, my knowledge) has grown as a result. And it makes me want to dig even further into this.

    So...yeah.
     
  4. Maggot Brain

    Maggot Brain Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2011
    Messages:
    1,916
    Likes Received:
    4,139
    Location:
    Seattle, Washington
    Love your response, it touches on almost every aspect of the perception on this subject.

    We learn by copying, it's in our core instincts as all humans learn by what they see and what they are told. Anyone with a child will quickly realize how true this is and that it is integral to our learning and understanding. In aspects of say... art... it gives us a baseline in which we can reference from, that we can jump off and pave our own path.

    I think just as you say, we all hear things differently, just as we see things differently or taste differently etc etc... What may sound like a perfect recreation of a specific tone to one person may sound off to another and because we all hear thing uniquely that when we copy something we automatically start putting in our own influences.

    I realized more than ever that sound/tone is majority in the hands... Maybe not EQ tone but in a sense the overall sound... I don't know how to explain this and I imagine some would just say technique but I think it's more than just that because you can listen to live recordings of Hendrix on his JTM45/100, Sunn, or JMP amps and it ALWAYS sounds like him, it really blew me away after listening to numerous recordings of Jimi playing Sunn amps... It really demonstrated to me the most important ingredient to the "tone" is the player... I know many will disagree or become technical but I will firmly believe 85% of tone is technique.

    Fascinating stuff...
     
  5. FracStrat

    FracStrat Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2020
    Messages:
    815
    Likes Received:
    2,420
    Location:
    Water Side of WA State
    I just want to know why it is that Eggs come in flimsy styrofoam cartons while Batteries come in a plastic sleeve that requires a Chain Saw to open
     
  6. WellBurnTheSky

    WellBurnTheSky Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    Messages:
    1,402
    Likes Received:
    3,261
    Location:
    South of France, Europe, Earth
    Yes absolutely ! It all exists within a reference frame, and this frame is built by all you've experienced up to that point and how you've processed it. I don't think there's any artist that is entirely free on influences. All you can hope for is transcend them, but that's another story...

    The fascinating thing with sound in particular is, it's intangible. And there's a bunch of physiological factors that make each individual's hearing different, but also we perceive things differently depending on several factors, so your hearing can be altered quite significantly during the course of the day. Plus, as much as we can train ourselves to memorize melodic, harmonic and rhythmic content, our "tonal" (in the sense of "timbral") memory is very rudimentary and pretty short-term, much more than our visual memory.
    And also, our auditory perception and the way the brain interprets it can be manipulated (there's a whole branch of acoustics called "psycho-acoustics" that deals with all these phenomena).
    As far as I know it has to do with neural paths, but there's a bunch of studies about it I read when I was in audio school.
    Again, super interesting stuff that gives a lot of perspective on what sound is and what our relationship to it is.
    I don't know much about the mechanisms of smell and taste (apart from the fact that they're linked) but I guess it's similar.

    Again, I have a feeling a lot of the tone is shaped by picking dynamics and technique, which is a very personal part of our playing. And also, when approaching gear, you tend to instinctively dial it in to sound a certain way, so as to get it closer to your idea of what sounds good and what works for you as a player (the "feel" part of the interaction with gear).

    Oh yes it is ! And what's even more fascinating is, it's endless, and each time you make a step towards understanding some aspect of it, it opens new perspectives that make you feel like you actually don't know much about it after all...

    I have two theories: either manufacturers have a quite perverse sense of humor; or they feel like keeping your eggs intact or putting a battery in your remote control is something that has to be deserved, not handed it to you.
     
  7. Deftone

    Deftone Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2021
    Messages:
    368
    Likes Received:
    974
    Location:
    Auburn, CA
    SRV. Clearly influenced by Hendrix but developed his own unique style and tone.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  8. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    6,913
    Likes Received:
    6,992
    Location:
    Tone Mountain
    The only addition I'll contribute is that sometimes people tone chase because they're in a Club Band, or Cover band or do side-fill work, or Artist support ex. on tours, or do session work where they need to hit a pre-established tone target of the producer, or the artist, or the song they're covering etc.
     
  9. zachman

    zachman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    6,913
    Likes Received:
    6,992
    Location:
    Tone Mountain
    Yup... The 'gotcha' moment touches on the Engineering facet (Knowing what to utilize to achieve a target, and How to use the selected gear...)

    Experience adds understanding the 'Why' to make the particular gear selections and how to route the signal to achieve the target, as well as how to 'Set' the gear), is a separate Art and facet to Proficiency on the instrument, Songwriting Proficiency, Entertaining a crowd, Engineering the Gear to achieve the target, or Being a good Producer--

    The Differentiation between Science, and Technical side and Art/the Expressive Creative side and the facets within each, which make up music and all are in harmony together... Not in competition to find their own sound/style etc... standing apart from the Technical, imo.

    I see the best guys as being able to fulfill all the Roles in what I see as Separate Distinct Arts each with their own facets and specialties, in and of themselves: Proficiency on their instrument, Great Writer, Engineer, Entertainer, Producer-- All separate facets of the Art known as Making Music and distinguishes it from the Facets and Specialties of playing instruments, Engineering tracks (Selecting, Routing, and Programming/Setting gear, Choosing Mics, Mic Preamps etc...)


    The Ocean is Deep
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  10. junk notes

    junk notes Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2018
    Messages:
    2,602
    Likes Received:
    2,821
    Dogs Are Barking solos are a favorite! YJM should of gone over to John's house more often when they were kids.. As good as YJM is in his bluesy stuff, Norum sounds a bit more tasty and can almost out-Yngwie YJM. :agreed:
     
    Maggot Brain and WellBurnTheSky like this.
  11. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2019
    Messages:
    4,234
    Likes Received:
    6,376
    I could say I'm not a good enough player to have my own tone, but I do have my own tonal preferences.

    I absolutely hate the sound of single coil pickups in an overdriven amp. At least if the guitar is in my hands. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool humbucker guy, end of story.

    I like the overdrive tonality to be harmonically rich but not too trebly. Like your typical 80s hair band metal tone but with the treble and presence rolled off some.
     
  12. WellBurnTheSky

    WellBurnTheSky Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2019
    Messages:
    1,402
    Likes Received:
    3,261
    Location:
    South of France, Europe, Earth
    I've been that way for a long time, but diving back into Norum, YJM, Blackmore, early 80s Gary Moore, Gilmour and a few more, I'm very much into Strat/Marshall tones these days (more on that -hopefully- soon btw). Takes quite some finesse to make the Strat bridge pickup work in a rock/metal context, but it can be a brilliant tone.

    Wow, pretty deep cut (but a great one) ! But yeah great song, and his playing is on point, as often. One of my favorites of his is his cover of (Gary Moore's version of) Free's Wishing Well off the '97 Face It Live record. Monster Strat/Marshall tones, and that playing, damn...
    As much as I love YJM's stuff (especially his early stuff, Alcatrazz and first three solo albums), Norum was just as relentless in the early days (though more in a Gary Moore vein) and has matured differently. His tones these days are out of this world (pun intended)... He also is a much better singer.
     
  13. Marshall50w

    Marshall50w Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2010
    Messages:
    289
    Likes Received:
    491
    Location:
    Manchester, England
    Suggest that we should allow all our various guitar player influences to shape our tone & note choice. When we need to add rhythm/lead guitar parts to tracks it helps me to ask myself, 'how would X guitarist play this' ? You won't sound like that guitarist because you sound like you. I then try to get the 'best' most appropriate guitar sound for the particular track.
     
  14. Sapient

    Sapient   Silver Supporting Member Platinum Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2020
    Messages:
    3,149
    Likes Received:
    6,095
    Location:
    Yes
    I've never understood fellows that tried to get or copy another guy's sound. I would hate that for myself, anyway. To me it was always the art off painting your own blank canvas. Who wants to carry around and display someone else's art?

    In that regard I've always been my own guy that never really ga ga'd anyone past RR when I was getting started.

    Another thing is when people have their "own" sound they may not even realize it. I don't think they "construct" it. Instead, they put the dials where they like, add the effects they like (if they even want them), and dial in what they think sounds kick ass to them. Say like George Lynch who used bass cabs/speakers - I don't think he was saying "You know, if I used that bass cab I might sound a little different and more like myself". I think he just said "THAT might sound kick ass.".

    Point is, dial in what sounds good to you, ...and only you.

    :2c:
     
    TheCount0212, scozz, Derek S and 2 others like this.
  15. StrummerJoe

    StrummerJoe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2021
    Messages:
    942
    Likes Received:
    2,117
    SRV could NAIL Albert King note for note and tone.
     
  16. StrummerJoe

    StrummerJoe Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2021
    Messages:
    942
    Likes Received:
    2,117
    I think most of us started by imitating our heroes. Perfectly natural. EVH spent a lot of time mimicking Clapton, Clapton spent a lot of time mimicking Freddie, Albert, and BB King, BB started by mimicking T-Bone Walker, etc...

    At some point though most of us tend to move away from imitation in search of something all our own.

    I've always been amazed by folks who can nail other people's tones & licks because I've never been able to.

    That used to bug me, but I've seen it as more of a blessing for a good while now.

    It's fun to chase other people's tones, but for me it's more fun to embrace who you are.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  17. 351

    351 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2021
    Messages:
    85
    Likes Received:
    47
    Imagine if you'd never heard any guitar being played, no cd's, no radio nothing.
    Then, imagine you were passed a guitar and for some magical reason, you could play it.

    what tone would you be chasing at that point?
     
  18. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2019
    Messages:
    4,234
    Likes Received:
    6,376
    I realized that there is consistency to certain tones I like. I figured this out by dialling in my preferred rip-your-face-off tone into my rig via adjusting the (digital) sliders on my Alesis DEQ-230 digital EQ using one of the user programmable presets. I then went to another user programmable preset, reset it to flat line, and then went about dialing in the same sound by ear alone. And then I went back and forth between the two presets and they were the SAME curve within 1 dB in every one of all 31 bands.

    At that point I realized, yes, I know what I like. Enough to replicate it strictly by ear.
     
  19. V-man

    V-man Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2009
    Messages:
    4,100
    Likes Received:
    2,813
    One’s own tone is sort of a loaded issue for me. Name a band/player whose seminal album delivered “that” tone and see how faithful that player remained to that tone 3-4 albums later. Some exist like AC/DC and Ramones, but it is a minority share.



    My tone is my EQ (ears). With a plexi I like this boost and that dirt. When I play a 2203 I like these others. Fuzz and modulation brings an entirely different chapter.

    Still there is something to it. I remember having a roommate back in the day who was playing some metal in the other room. It was muffled but it sounded amazing. Who was this thrash band? I yelled, “hey what are you listening to over there?!”

    he opens his door and I immediately recognize it as me. Talk about conceited! I was in love w my own tone
     
  20. AlvisX

    AlvisX Garage Guerrilla Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 31, 2011
    Messages:
    5,412
    Likes Received:
    11,615
    Location:
    I-55 Corridor
    The lucky thing for me is that I stopped playing electric guitar for a good few years when I was about 20-21. So by the time I came back to it , it was just a different thing . There was still a "tone quest" goin on , but I was definitely not tryin to sound like whoever . I'd also become an electronics tech in the meantime .I got a little understanding of tuning amps and how they work. Tried all kinds of flavor of the month amps , in the end ,it was (now classic) Marshalls and tweed style amps that would give me what I want . The ones that make every guitar sound like it's supposed to sound . I guess the bottom line is just having somethin you can stand to listen to ........and hopefully th people you're playin for can stand it too
     

Share This Page