Do You have a signature sound?


Luthier and Open Mic Host
Sep 30, 2022
We are blessed to have a few icons who you can tell it's them in a note or two , do you have a "signature " sound?
I've been working with an extremely talented young artist who keeps chasing others tone, and I keep stressing to fine HER sound.

i.e Jimi sounds like Jimi even on an acoustic ..

My lifelong time musician friends who I don't see often due to distance, always tell me when we meet up for a jam ... Dang Wolf .. you always sound just like you ... but better.

What are the elements of your tone?
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Pretty much this:

I also sound like me regardless of the amp or guitar. It doesn't really stem from how you play (strum your guitar, how you hold or position your guitar or even how you use your effects) but rather it us how you set your clean tone and how you go from there. The thought process of how you follow through with the following notes.
I seem to have a different approach than most guitar players. I have never tried to mimic or be any artist. That is in both playing style and tone. I find what I like and go with it. I was not a lick learner when I was learning. I learned the theory and used it how it sounded good to me. I am sure that there are influences in my playing due to all of the cover bands I have been in. I never tried to match the tones in the songs. I always use tones I like. I am not typically a note for note solo guy either. I will learn and use the iconic parts of songs but then do my thing in other parts. It is not that I can't play them note for note. When I have learned solos note for note, the more I play them the more of me bleeds into them and they are not note for note anymore.

I use a wide range of tones. I like playing clean to a light breakup tone. I also like using a medium gain tone. The older I get the less gain I have been using. I don't use a lot of ambient effects. I will use a touch of reverb most of the time and occasionally I will turn on a delay but that is not very often. I am not sure why I don't use it more. In a band context I just don't feel the need to turn it on for some reason. My tones are really based in and mostly clean, drive and reverb. I will use both single coils and humbuckers with this as well.
In my early years as a player, I used to practice with no amp. Because of this my picking became very articulate and I developed a light touch. My earliest lessons (less than 10 total) were from Criss Oliva of Savatage. Those lessons were ALL about developing tone. They weren't "lessons" per se, but more him showing me ways to become the best player I could be.

He was endorsing Laney at the time (AOR 50s and 100s), but spent a lot of time showing me his Marshall 2210. He also explained to me that the amp was not that important - he has some Peavey bass amp that he used with two Boss HM-2 pedals. We discussed how adding echo and reverb usually messed up your live sound because you ALWAYS have to compensate for the natural reverb in the venue.

He talked to me about wearing the guitar in a comfortable spot (he wore his rather high), I was encouraged to stand while I practice so that I could "figure out the best height, angle, and wrist technique that was best for me". We worked on developing "touch" and picking dynamics. However, a lot of it was about developing a unique tone through your gear and ergonomics.

It helped A LOT. I started a band shortly after, and while I was still a marginal player at BEST (we sounded a lot like Venom and Hellhammer, lol), his guidance helped me develop my touch and basic tone.

To that end, my "tone" is different. It's based on having high action, my use of Fender 358 pick with the the right tip of my right hand index finger instantly following the attack of the pick to add a subtle harmonic to the first note of everything I strike. At the amp, it is based on having a SPECIFIC vibration/resonance in the midrange that allows me to sustain notes without increasing the gain. As far as my gain levels, consider the style of music I play, my tone is very low gain - enough to give the perception of total saturation, but when dudes play my rig they are surprised by the lack of gain and the difficulty of playing with my string action/neck relief. Lo, I have been told more than once that my guitar needs a set-up!!!

OH!! My lessons with Criss were when Savatage was right when they were prepping for the "Hall of the Mountain King" album. It was a cool time to be a kid in the Tampa area with all the underground metal and camaraderie between the guys out doing it and us teenagers coming up. Nasty Savage were awesome dudes, the Death/Massacre guys were awesome (and really nice). The Tardy brother have always been cooler than cool. Anyway, it was a great time coming up because everyone was cool and helped each other out. When some of those bands would do the "flatbed in a cow pasture" gigs they'd always let us High School kids play too - early in the day of course, but it was a blast!!!!!

My favorite Savatage tune that I remember Criss playing the riff of (almost endlessly) while he worked it out:

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This Is A Great Thought/Conversation @Greywolf

I Would Say I Have My Own Sound. I Tend To Sound Like Me No Matter What I Am Playing On Or Through For The Most Part. I Can Explain Some Things And I Can't Explain Some Other Things. The Things I Can Explain Are The Gear And Tone Types, Etc. The Side I Can't Explain, But Know They Are There, Real And Make A Difference, Are The Touch, Feel, Soul, Confidence, Attack, Etc Of What The Player Does While Playing. How You Pick The String And Fret The Note. How You Mute Strings...How You May Slide Or Bend A Note (Or Not). All Of That Stuff Matters And Helps To Shape A Person's Tone And Ultimately, Their Own Signature Sound (Whatever It May Be Or Even If It Is Good Or Bad). All Of It Matters. All Of It Works Together. It Goes Beyond Just The Gear. The More Time I Spend In This World The More I See That.

Your Spirit...Soul...Attitude...Confidence, Etc. All Contribute A Great Deal To Your Overall Tone. This Is Coming For A Thrash Metal Player Primarily, Not A Blues Player.
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I dunno about any of this. I've never tried to copy anyone else's tone. If you asked me before today if I have a tone and always sound like me, I'd have answered, "Yes, it's probably identifiable as me."

Then in response to this thread I decided to listen to three tracks I did that I could find easily on the internet. They all sound different, I think. Even the amps and guitars sound different, and you can hear the differences.

These are all original tracks, written by yours truly, and I wasn't trying to copy anyone's tone. In fact, no one told me what to play, or what gear to use.

Here's a track where I played two guitars through the same amp (DG30), same day, same tune, same settings; the first is a Soapbar 594, the second is a humbucker 594. To me, these two guitars obviously sound different, and have different tones, even though my phrasing and style are the exact same.

Here's another track I've posted before; this one's on Motor Trend's website. Again, different guitar (Artist V) and HXDA.

Sound like the previous one? I don't think so, but see if you agree (the track switches from orchestral to rock about 40 seconds in):

Yet another track I did. This one's HXDA, and a different guitar (PS 20th) from the other two. The effects are a little different. I don't think I sound much like I did in the first track (In addition to the rhythm part, there's a solo at 2:00 or so, and again, it's nothing like the other tracks):

So if you want my opinion...

The idea that one always has the same tone is a load of doo-doo, unless one always plays very similar guitars, styles and amps - which a lot of so-called guitar heroes do (same bands, same styles, replicate the initial success, etc.).

However, there is a certain phrasing and feel I can identify as my style.

Bottom line:

I bought different amps and guitars because I sound different on them. That was the whole point! I don't buy this stuff to hang on a wall as decor, losers! ;)

Do I always have the same tone?

I don't think so. Certainly not on these recordings, all done by me in my own studio, and probably using the same mic.

Do I always sound like the same player? Maybe. Depends.
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Love it folks .. see this forum ain't dead.!!!!

I think a more accurate question is do you have identifiable Phrasing, etc.
I have a large collection because they all have different personalities , each one makes me play a bit differently .

I've heard Carlos and others say many times .. Don't try to copy me , there's only one me ... be the one You .
Love it folks .. see this forum ain't dead.!!!!
I mean, it's the same small, tiny handful of people. I don't think that counts but I do really appreciate the effort to make new threads to bump activity. A little lottle is better than nothing.
I think a more accurate question is do you have identifiable Phrasing, etc.
I have a large collection because they all have different personalities , each one makes me play a bit differently .
Yeah, like Les said, pickups and amp speakers (EQ) is going to cause some differences abd variety. However there are habits and "go-to's" for every player. We have different guitarists at my church, if you heard me and each of them play side by side with the same guitar and same exact pedal settings, amp settings, etc. There's not doubt you could tell each of us sound uniquely different.
I've heard Carlos and others say many times .. Don't try to copy me , there's only one me ... be the one You .
I got his signature pedal recently and while it nailed his tone, I uploaded a video with the settings I would use it as. I was already in a conversation with the guy who built it/designed it in close relation to Carlos. I sent him a video, he said he didn’t think anyone would ever use it like that!!
As I learned on my own, my journey was bumpy!
I started left-handed guitar and some time later I changed to right-hander, my idols were Jimi Hendrix, Steve Ray, Steve Vai.. so I think I've been influenced but since the beginning I'm 99% on my Compositions so I have my own style of playing!
I don't that I have a specific tone, sort of along the lines of what Les is talking about. I've recorded random noodling in the past, even played a solo on a low budget EP back in early 90's. Then listened to that years or in the case of the EP, decades later. I really don't recognize any of it as me. I think that EP track, I would have to listen to it a few times, and figure out what I actually played. It's nothing like anything I've done in various bands over the decades. There were some recordings of those days, but who knows where they went.

I'm a very moody player, my playing is heavily influenced by my state of mind at that time (I've also written lyrics that I found years later and thought "My god, where was my head when that came out?!"). I'm sure there's probably a few things I've held onto and repeated over the years, but the actual tone would differ based on the gear used at a specific time. Maybe that is "my tone" - whatever fits the moment that's within my abilities with the gear on hand.
We worked on developing "touch" and picking dynamics. However, a lot of it was about developing a unique tone through your gear and ergonomics.

It helped A LOT.

My favorite Savatage tune that I remember Criss playing the riff of (almost endlessly) while he worked it out:
I bet it did. That is something none of the teachers I had ever taught me and it took me forever to learn.

On topic: My tone is always "evolving" because I have never found anything I love. Not much variance anymore though. It is always a combo of gain, reverb, and a little slapback. So maybe I am getting closer. Doesn't seem to matter much because I always sound the same anyway.

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I'm like JasonE. I really have no desire to sound like my heroes. I don't even like to do cover songs. I finally realized tone is mostly influenced by my hands because even if I play someone else's guitar and amp setup, I still sound like me. But I admit I'm still searching for that perfect tone although I tend to sit on a setting longer than I used to.