Finding your Tone

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Wakester, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    We all have our own definition of what "tone" is and sounds like. And, we all have our own way of finding that perfect tone. I've bought pedals that come preprogrammed with someone else tone, and I've experimented with junk pedals and expensive guitars (and vice versa) to find that signature tone that is mine. It's taken a few years of trying, and even a break of 2 years without so much as a guitar pick in my house to figure out what my tone is. For what it's worth my tone comes from the combination of either my PRS SE CU24, with Ernie Ball Super Slinky Strings, or my Ovation Applause AB-24 RR, with just the right combination of Delay, Chorus and Distortion from a Donner Cruncher mini multi pedal, all through a Peavey Envoy 110 Transtube Amp.

    So, my question is two fold;

    1. What have you done to find your tone,

    b. Are we ever really done finding our tone, or are we constantly listening for and looking for that next best thing to strengthen, improve, deepen, brighten, or expand our tone?
     
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  2. markd21

    markd21 New Member

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    I have achieved my "tone" - enough so to the point where I sound like me through almost anything I play. Here's what it came down to:

    Gear

    I always hated speaker break-up. I always imagined my sound would be very 'clean' but driven. The first step to me achieving "my" tone was the discovery of EVM12L speakers. At that point, all my sound was coming straight from the amp with VERY little coloration from a speaker. EV does have a "sound" but it's complex to explain - let's just say that at 200 watt handling per speaker, it was hanging in there without over-coloring/shaping the sound. The next step was finding the frequencies that would allow me to sustain notes, but still have clear open chords. I found that with Rivera amps - specifically, the M/S series. The lead channel has the mid centered at 550hz. With dialing in the EQ, boosting the mids over the bass and treble, I was able to have a thick tone that sustained like a violin.

    The next step in that part of the journey was to find the balance between preamp and power amp drive. After many years of experimenting, it came down to utilizing an amp between 15 and 30 watts, with EL34 tubes. The Rivera allowed that configuration, so that was good.

    Another aspect of this was using a certain pick. My picking technique uses the tip of the pick with the inside corner of my right index finger. To achieve this, I use the Fender 358 pick. It's a small mandolin pick that I can move in my fingers while playing. That enables me to vary between my nail and the pick.

    Effects are minimal, but the ones I use are very specific. If I am using reverb - which as I get older it has become integral to my sound/tone - it HAS to be Fender Tube Reverb....a 6G15 reverb tank with an RCA 6K6 driver tube. I have managed to scale down and get acceptable results using the BOSS/Fender FRV-1 pedal when playing live (and loud). The FRV-1 won't vibrate on a loud stage like a 6G15 tank - once that tank starts vibrating you get a ton of "boings" and "splashes" in the wrong places, lol. What is essential to my sound is running the reverb IN FRONT of the amp - pre overdrive. The mix is VERY low, and the reverb is wet, but subtle.

    Another essential effect is my MXR Dyna Comp. That is first in the chain, and set up with the output almost cranked and the sensitivity barely on. It smooths my signal while slightly boosting it.

    Sometimes I'll have some delay in there if I am having a bad night. My delay is usually a Roland Space Echo (or since they released the pedal version, more often that one - it's more stable). I run the delay in the loop.

    As far as gear, that's it.

    Technique

    Once I began to slur notes and perfect my legato, those became essential to my tone. Those techniques combined my with my picking methods ended up with me having a very light touch when soloing. I tend to have a light touch anyway, but it lightens up a lot when I am playing lead. My vibrato is also essential to my tone. I utilize a wide vibrato, and when that is combined with my short phrasing, it makes for my sound/style - and oddly, my tone too.

    Am I done?

    Gear is gear - I know the formula I need now. At the moment, the guitars I choose to use are PRS. They seem to be the best tools at this phase in my life to help me express my musical ideas in the best way. Oddly though, over the years I have realized the guitar is the least important part of my "tone". I can play and sound like me on almost any guitar. What "hurts" me is if the frequencies I rely on aren't happening. If I have too much gain, I suffer. Too little, I suffer. All things must come together to create a vibration and frequency that allows me to have that proper gain vs. clarity - and it come from a midrange response, not a specific guitar, amp, or other piece of gear. It's weird.....

    So in that regard, YES, I am done. I have my tone. I have achieved that rare thing as a player that, for the most part no matter what I am using I sound like me. It's neat!!!
     
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  3. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    That is so cool that you have found your Tone, and can pretty much take it to any guitar you handle. Thank you for sharing, I'm sure there are some out there that are more protective of their signature sound to not give up as much information as you have.
     
  4. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    As an add on to my original post, I should state that I most likely am not done finding my tone. I like what I have for now, but may want to add an element at some point. Right now I'm not sure what that is, but I will know it when I hear it.
     
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  5. Steve's addiction

    Steve's addiction New Member

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    I'm satisfied right now but not sure I'm done. I think sometimes when I get to that tone I like its just because I'm tired of fighting it and just settle. I think we'll all know when we get it
     
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  6. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Man, finding tone... 15+years, more money than I should even consider adding up, for the sake of my sanity! I like your guys' thoughts on this though - you know what you like. One thing I've learned is to not waste time on gear that just won't give me what I want, you guys sound like you've done the same, especially Mark. I'll give something a fair shake, but if it's clear that I just can't get what I want after that, I've learned to get over it, return or sell the gear, and move on. I've had some amps and pedals that I just fought with forever and, while I mostly liked them, they couldn't fully give me what I wanted - for a while it was fear of not being able to find something better, but with the wide range of gear available, I've learned not to worry as much about letting something go.

    For me, the sound is a full bodied tone, has to have a little top end grind but not harsh, and low end punch, and fairly evenly centered mids. Don't care for tubescreamers very much, in general, although certainly useful at times, but a Tumnus as a boost or alone has been making me very happy lately. Likewise, I've been back and forth, and back, and forth again on V30's and their mid character. I've found that they're application dependent - depends on the amp pushing them, as well as using them for leads vs rhythm, and even just the feel of the song. I recently recorded 2 songs with V30's in my 2x12, and I think that was a good choice - the songs had a fair amount of lead work, and the rhythm parts had lots of movement in the midrange, which the V30's brought out nicely. But, when it comes to a chest thumping rhythm tone, the V30's are a little squishy on the bottom and short on top end bite. I should mention, this is all through my PRS Custom 50 - the amp has a character that enhances the characteristics of a V30 and at times can almost make it too much of a good thing. The other speakers I use are Eminence OEM, I estimate they sound something like a Lead 80 or G12T75, although that's just going by how I've heard those latter speakers described, not because I've actually used them. They have a little more top end bite, bottom end content, and that bottom is punchier. I would like to try a set of Celestion V Type speakers in it as well, by description they sound like a more modern take on a V30, with a little "less of that good thing" vibe. Lately I would say speakers have been my main point of uncertainty - they can make such a huge difference because they're the last thing in the chain, EVERYTHING goes through them.

    Dirt boxes (the ones I've tried) have gotten better by leaps and bounds in probably the last 3 years. I've been through a lot and had always been tweaking them to get a missing something to come out, until I got a Bogner Wessex, Friedman Dirty Shirley, and Wampler Dracarys. They all do a different thing, but they do it well, EQ is right for matching my amps, and the gain structure pleases me. The nice thing about the Friedman is that the mid knob and treble/presence are focused on frequencies that I can use to get that V30 EQ curve, without actually having to use the V30's all the time. I also plan to grab the new dual BE-OD, with the mid control, I liked everything about the BE-OD except the missing mid content and it having excess gain, and the new dual addresses both areas, and I think it's gonna be awesome.

    I like Fender style reverb - I'm not picky about where it comes from, but I like it bright and springy. The spring setting on the new MXR reverb is my go-to, so I can get it out of any amp, but I also have a TC reverb and the "Spring Fever" toneprint by Robben Ford is excellent too. Stacked delay, like Andy Timmons does - he used to use a pair of DMM units set to different times, he uses something else now but the idea is the same. Not big on modulation, just have never gotten that into it. I should dabble more, but I'm afraid to rely on effects to make my playing interesting.

    Guitars, again application dependent. I've not had many I didn't like after I discovered their strengths, tweaked them with different strings, pickups, wiring - some need more than others, but I like having a range of character.

    Technique - I'm a straightforward player. I'm not going to find an obscure modal lick, just hit you with something melodic, meaningful, emotional, and not fitting too many notes in. This isn't really tone related, but my approach is not to do everything, just do what I do well. I've learned that no one wants to hear a "meh" rendition of an awesome riff, but they'll appreciate something that's done well, even if it's less complex.
     
  7. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    I love listening to the melodic solos. Especially those of Rothery, Gilmour, and a few others in the prog rock genre. I like to think my tone is useable for that type of playing. Thank you for your contribution, it is very interesting to read.
     
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  8. bluefade

    bluefade New Member

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    Your tone is like you...ever changing ...today you like it...tomorrow it’s gone...the journey to capture it is as important as the tone itself...ever elusive...yeah‼️
     
  9. AP515

    AP515 Mostly Normal

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    I'm like my tone. Been the same for a few years now and I like it every time I plug in. No complicated recipe... Good guitar, good amp. That's it.

    PRS (Custom 50, H, or SE50) or Mesa Lonestar and any one of my PRSi. The choice of guitar and amp settings along with picking attack do just about all the change in tone I need. But what do I know, I'm a hack. ;)
     
  10. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    Very true, and probably why we spend so much money on amps and pedals and strings. And the other bits and pieces we accumulate.
     
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  11. Huggy B

    Huggy B It's just a snack.

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    A- Doing away with effects as much as possible, going sans pedals when I can.

    B - It's a never ending journey.
     
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  12. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    I do like the minimalist approach, I had even tried the Boss Cube combo amp direction, and there just wasn't what I needed built in. Wound up buying the Digitech RP255 and BP355 and was just so overwhelmed that I couldn't make up my mind how I wanted me to sound. I dumped everything for two years and now I only have the 2 guitars one mini multi and a decent amp.
     
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  13. andy474x

    andy474x Knows the Drill

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    Option paralysis, menu diving, etc. are real things and they can get in the way of creativity! I like your approach. Sometimes you just have to focus on doing/playing, and less on gear.
     
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  14. Audie

    Audie New Member

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    My tone is a PRS guitar, 25' or 50' cable, and a Mesa Boogie Kingsnake. Sometimes effects, sometimes not.
     
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  15. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk alberngruppenführer

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    I've checked under my seat cushions, under my chair. Turned my acoustics upside-down and shaken them. Retraced my steps all the way back to the guitar shop. I have no idea what I did with it. If anyone hears it, please...oh, there it is, never mind.
     
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  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Tone is a feedback loop. Your brain wants to hear something, tells the hands what to do, then evaluates the result, modifies the instruction to the hands, etc., ad infinitum, to hear what it wants to hear.

    If the brain isn’t happy with the result of telling the hands what to do with the instruments the hands played, it instructs the hands to reach for the wallet.

    The brain, having new gear to evaluate, then repeats the original instructions to the hands, hoping for a better result. Generally this is repeated until, in theory, the brain is happy.

    But that’s where reality intrudes, because brains being what they are, the brain is never truly happy. That’s because the brain tells the eyeballs and ears to watch and listen to YouTube videos demoing too many new possibilities for the hands to try out for the brain to ever be satisfied.

    The brain also tells the eyeballs to read gear magazines.

    The brain can’t un-see or un-hear these videos or magazines. So it tells itself that things could stand some improvement. Thus the brain once again instructs the hands to pull out the wallet.

    My brain has been picking my wallet clean for many years. My brain knows that it’s going to hear tone it likes with lots of combinations of gear, but it likes to experiment with gear.

    Objectively, my brain knows that there is no perfect outcome. Despite this knowledge, it is an emotional, irrational beastie, and it seems determined to ignore what it knows, search endlessly for the holy grail, and press on regardless.

    So it has told me to kick back and enjoy the ride. I’ve taken its advice. :)
     
  17. Wakester

    Wakester Class Clown

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    If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, then by your statement, we are all insane and using our rigs as therapy. I like that definition. :)
     
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  18. veinbuster

    veinbuster Coming of age

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    I have a late night tone that is pretty consistent. Lazy blues through my Mark III. I can be using just about any humbuckers guitar and the essence of the sound is pretty much the same. I’m probably going to be playing mostly between the 5th and 15th fret where I like the resonance of the package.

    Daytime varies a lot more depending on what I am doing. I’m more likely to be trying new things to see what else I might like to make part of the package that is me.

    But the late night stuff is the real me.
     
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  19. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I qualify!

    Me, too. That’s when the synthesizers go to work.
     
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  20. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    Hahaha. Totally get it. I rifled through a half dozen high end amp heads a few years back. I started noticing how I dialed them in to be similar. I said "sh!t, I pretty much sound the same through all of them!" - especially in the band mix. There are some exceptions of course, but I find that with a lot of what I try out. Yet I still manage to "need" all these new things to enhance my tone! :confused::D I'm getting weird about tubes right now. Nobody's gonna hear that sh!t!

    Tastes change over time as well. The way I play has evolved, I'd imagine my tone has too. What I consider my core tone is still in the same ballpark but I manipulate that with my hands way more than I did 15 years ago.
     
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