Jump to content


Please note: You can easily log in to MPN using your Facebook account!

The "Mythical" Tone Question...


strangedogs

Recommended Posts

I get blasted in most forums for my comments on TONE - I'm posting these thoughts here as I feel most of ya'll are civilized and will listen to what you have to say.

 

I say TONE is in the fingers. It ain't the Amp or the Guitar for the most part - it's in the Fingers... It's the MAN. 90% is the MAN and the other 10% is what crap is plugged in to each other. I have owned expensive amps in my younger days and expensive guitars too - nowadays I play a LP Copy and a few old tube amps and a few SS amps too - I have a couple of pedals and a multi-effect pedal. Lately I'm using an old Roland 50-watt SS amp with a Zoom G2 pedal (metal right now). I do love my old tube amps and use a Tubescreamer with them or just straight amp when I want that "sound".

 

Owning a $3000 Boutique Amp isn't going to give you TONE - it'll give you NOISE. There's a big difference. I'd love another big Marshall or a Mesa but @ 55 it ain't gonna happen - I need the money for other things (2 grown daughters with worthless "men" and 4 grandchildren for instance).

 

I say it ain't the amp or the guitar it's the Man behind the fingers - Eric Clapton could take my rig and acheive "tone" - as well as most other GREAT guitarists. The average "audience" is dumb as far as "amps" and "guitars" go. They can't tell what the hell they're hearing if it's done right. (my giggin' days are long over). discuss....

"well fellas... there's 1 other thing yer gonna need to make it in Rock & Roll besides all them guitars and amps and drums and things. They call it A SONG..."
Link to comment
Share on other sites



  • Replies 30
  • Created
  • Last Reply

I don't think that you'll get a lot of argument here about that concept, so long as you realize that when you plug into a Divided By 13, THD, or other boutique amp and you hear the (what you call) noise, and it sounds so much better than any noise that you have heard from any other amps that you have played, that you might want to adopt it for your own sound. Same with guitars and effects.

 

I have been recording for a long, long time. When remixing (which I have done a lot, because of the superior sound of my room over most anybody's basement or garage studio) I can at times itentify the signal path a player used for various instruments, or the recordist used to capture or the speakers used to make the eq decisions. Not all the time, but often enough to surprise people. I can tell you that there is a definite difference in equipment and the quality of the sound that is presented, regardless of the style issue that you introduce under the heading of tone.

 

Clapton will always sound like Clapton, no matter if he is playing acoustic or electric, good quality instruments or junk. Hendrix will always sound like Hendrix. I'll always sound like me. But the sound that the audience hears is different when I play a THD UniValve with my given tube configuration than it is when I play the Roland Cube or the '52 Champion 600 or the '65 Vox Cambridge; and different depending upon which guitar I pick. To me, this is tone.

 

I bought a Zoom 707 and gave it away... the veil that it put on my sound was unbearable. You can go down the entire chain, from picks and strings through the entire recording chain and playback system.... every place that you bother to spend a little extra to make an improvement in the sound makes it easier to tell the difference in tone among a variety of instruments.

 

I can tell you this for sure... as long as the delivery system is MP3 to iPods and laptop speakers/plastic desktop speakers, it will not matter what guitar you play, what amp you use, or what mic/soundcard/etc that you use to capture it. These systems mask more than they reveal. I play and record and mix for people with similar interests to mine, and play and record as if the music will be played back on the best systems in the world, not the cheapest. These systems reveal all, in microscopic detail.

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

well said Bill. I'm sure I don't wanna go get a First Act amp & guitar from Wal-Mart. I have among my herd a small Fender Frontman 15R. I paid $40 for it. I can actually coax some good sounds out of it. In 1966 I got my first amp. Came from Wards. But I learned to MAKE IT sound pretty good...

 

Tone to me is BOSTON, THE BYRDS, STONES, etc. so I'm probably just getting "long in the tooth"... Somehow in those days they made recordings that still surpass modern day methods.

 

I'd love a nice "HIGH GAIN" stack but would it be me - no... As we age we discover we had the GAIN too high for a lot of years - ears are screwed up too. I sit and listen to more old blues now - old masters who made recordings with just crap stuff... Old Masters with junk equipment and Stella guitars who had the fingers and the songs.

"well fellas... there's 1 other thing yer gonna need to make it in Rock & Roll besides all them guitars and amps and drums and things. They call it A SONG..."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the beginning, the lack of tone is in the fingers....it doesn't really matter much what equipment you have because you can't get the tone out of it anyway. As you develop your technique and are able to squeeze from the equipment everything it is capable of producing, THEN it begins to matter what equipment you are using. It may be that Clapton could take your rig and make it sound good....but then again, he can take HIS rig and make it sound fantastic.

 

A lot of the tone is in the equipment.

"And so I definitely, when I have a daughter, I have a lot of good advice for her."

~Paris Hilton

 

BWAAAHAAAHAAHAAA!!!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tone, as it's commonly used to describe guitar sounds, is a 50/50 proposition between the player and his or her gear.

 

As Bill said, a player with a recognizable style will sound pretty much the same on anything that's playable, but I see their role as drawing out the tonal potential of the gear they're playing.

 

And even beyond mp3's, the way much of the music industry output is mixed obscures what's best about gear with the potential for great tone played by wonderful players. I still feel you should play the best gear you can afford to maximize your abilities. On the other hand, if you're really bad it will act as a microscope. Sometimes you can hide behind poor quality gear because the edges are softened. (Or obliterated. ;) )

 

In the end I still lean toward quantifying the players contribution to overall tone as something other than "tone". It's the style and technical competence affecting the potential of the gear played. Otherwise, the tone is that potential of the gear and style is the players influence.

 

That's my .02.. YMMV.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tone does come from your fingers but to project that tone well, it's helpful to have good, reliable gear.

 

I don't believe one has to spend a ton of cash but don't get a Chinese plywood guitar and a cheap solid state amp and tell me you're going to put out some good tone with them. I wouldn't believe you.

 

Besides, the need for decent gear goes beyond just getting good tone. Reliability becomes an issue too especially if you're actually using the stuff in a band and gigging frequently.

 

Ok... Eric Clapton would sound like Eric Clapton on anything but how long would his stuff last touring all over the world if it were crap? Not long I would think.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree with most of what you've written, strangedogs.

 

Too many guitarists seem to think of their rig as something that has a sound of its own, when the reality is that it sits there silently (or with a slight hiss) until a musician starts playing through it...

 

One's picking-hand approach is vital to the sounds created. I can cover a huge spectrum of "tones" without ever touching a switch or knob.

 

That said, there is the question of using a rig that's appropriate for one's style. Discussions on this topic usually devolve quickly into exchanges of "Oh, yeah? Try playing death metal on a Twin Reverb!" and the like.

 

I don't know many guitarists that can play comfortably on any rig that you put in their hands - most gravitate toward a rig that's appropriate to their stylistic comfort zone. I certainly do. On the other hand, now that I understand the kind of gear that works best for me, I can play well through a wide variety of rigs that fit my parameters. For a while after I had first discovered the kind of rig that works for me I thought there was something unique about *that particular* rig. I've since learned that I can dial in a lot of different rigs to get the sound and feel that I want.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There are lots of great amps and guitars to pick fromthrough a very WIDE range of prices. :thu:

And with blindfolds onmost people would have a hard time knowing what guitar and amp they were playingunless you went to some very extreme/specific sounding rigs.

 

IMO...the subtle differences in tone & play quality are often perceived only by the player.

And when you are playing a $3k boutique amp...while it may actually be a better built amp than a $99 one...the perceived "quality" of its sound will vary from player to player.

There are no guarantees that a particular boutique rig will satisfy everyone's tone tastes.

 

Plus...I am convinced that within the context of most recorded & live music...many subtle tone differences are not noticed at all by the average audience.

What they really DO notice is the *style* of playing (though were calling it tone)and that is all coming from the playernot the guitar or the amp.

 

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would agree that the overall tone is in your hands, but yes of course what amp/pickups/cab are also variables in how good what you can produce with your hands sounds to the listener.

 

Notice I didn't mention the guitar? Why? Because that is the weakest link in the chain when discussing electric guitars and tone. I mean if you are using an incredible custom guitar worth thousands but it has crap pickups it will sound like a crap guitar.

 

If you have an average run of the mill Dean or G&L Tribute with good pickups, it will sound good. As I have stated before, for proof of this just listen to Van Halen I. I know he used a Les Paul on some tracks but he also used a $250 crap guitar that he built himself--with a good pickup.

 

I am convinced most people couldn't REALLY tell what guitar is on a track. They may know whether it is employing a humbucker, a single coil or p 90. That doesn't mean ANY guitar will sound good with good pickups. I just think you can take a fairly inexpensive guitar and throw some nice pickups in it and it will sound great through a great amp/cab. In fact I know this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, to a degree. My tone changed mightily when I went from a Peavey Studio Pro 40 to a Boogie. And, my Hamer Special FM's tone is a lot different from my Highway One Strat's. And while I really like the tone of my Variax/POD XT Live set-up, there are big differences between the way it sounds and the way my other guitars sound through my Boogie, and that's with me playing them.

 

So I think 10% is a bit low. Maybe it's gear 40 to hands/fingers 60, but the stuff you use is going to shape your playing and thereby your tone to a great extent.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think I am more into what Yeti said. Tone is in the fingers but at some point to get great tone you need gear matched to your concept of tone. That brings up a third ingredient, your brain (and ears). You have to be able to concieve and recognise a good tone in your head to be able to achieve it with your fingers, and then search out the gear that helps you get that tone.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tone to me is BOSTON, THE BYRDS, STONES, etc.

 

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but the tone of each of those bands had a LOT to do with the equipment. Tom Scholtz, for example, was THE anal microprocessor-phobic geek of the 70s who defined a sound with the gear he tinkered with. I know less about the specifics of the others, but a 12 string was pretty important to Roger McGuinn...

 

Anyway, I think if you changed "tone" to "style" or someones 'sonic identity' (just made that up...), I'd agree with everything you said about it being in the fingers, strangedogs. My Tele will always have a different tone from my Les Paul and while my style of playing doesn't change, the tone does, by leaps and bounds.

Ross

 

www.deeppocketband.com

www.epitunes.com/Artists/Deep-Pocket

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is an invalid thing to say %90 tone is in teh fingers etc etc...

 

They are 2 COMPLETELY different things.

 

Natural Tone=Produced by technique

 

Electronic Tone=Produced by equipment

 

Some people use good equipment, plus compression etc to aid the fact they dont have strong "natural tone". (will still sound weak to a musician, but in the mix will probably be fine for the usual ears)

 

Some people have great "natural tone" and make the best they can from the crap they are using. (It will not do the player justice)

 

Some poeple have great "natural tone" and great equipment which produces great "electronic tone" and end up with what I like to call "Uber Tone" (*drool* I wish)

 

And so on and so on and so on

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tom Scholtz, for example, was THE anal microprocessor-phobic geek of the 70s who defined a sound with the gear he tinkered with. ...

 

Side issue to this thread but... Not exactly. The Boston sound was created using a Marshall stack and a gold top Les Paul with Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups, and some studio effects. (chorus and like that). Oh yaeh, and Brads phenominal voice. That was the key to success at the time... a great guitarist and a unique voice. The only thing I remember from the first two tours that was interesting in the setup was the AC box that the amps each were pluged into, and I believe that this was a Variac... it was popular at the time to try to starve the tubes to achive more distortion, but I'm not certain that this was what the Boston amps were plugged into or not... it is just too many years/drugs ago to totaly trust my memory.

 

Tom Scholtz did come up with the Power Soak, an attenuator; and thr Rockman line of battery powered analog processors that brought that super-distorted Boston sound to everybody. His company developed several patents, but I don't recall any popular microprocessor devices.

 

 

Bill

"I believe that entertainment can aspire to be art, and can become art, but if you set out to make art you're an idiot."

 

Steve Martin

 

Show business: we're all here because we're not all there.

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yeah - somewhere at the end of the 70's (maybe early 80's) I bought a Scholtz PowerSoak. Made living-room practicing with a Marshall 100-watter actually acceptable...
"well fellas... there's 1 other thing yer gonna need to make it in Rock & Roll besides all them guitars and amps and drums and things. They call it A SONG..."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The gear are just the tools for a musician. Obviously there are

differences in these tools that produce differences in tone.

The "tone in hands" is most obvious in an unplugged acoustic.

I remember a somewhat musically limited friend of mine handing me his beat up plywood acoustic and I produced some decent sounds to his astonishment. "hey it never sounds like that when I play it" Well that's because I've been playing over 20 years!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When talking about the fingers vs. equipment thing, are most of you basing your arguments on playing live with a band or just in your home or studio?

 

There's a big difference here. At home... who gives a crap what your tone sounds like with others. You're not jamming with others. In the studio, there's so many gizmos and tricks you can do to make crappy equipment sound decent.

 

Live though... it's totally different.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So basically, what we all agree on is that you need to play well. And if you can do that, then good gear doesn't hurt, right?

 

Right...and if you can play well...then the gear shouldnt make or break you either. :thu:

 

And yeah...live and recording do have different requirements and different expectations.

Of course it's important to have good tone when you play live...but, chances are in most bars/clubs only YOU are hearing the tone as it should be...'cuz you are setting it using YOUR ears. If the bar/club starts to fill up or if it has lousy acoustics (most do)...then at every position in the bar/club the tone and balance is different...

Like I said...all those subtle tone differences are usually perceived mostly by the player standing in front of his amp.

 

On the other hand, with a recording...the tone you get is the exact same tone everyone will hear every time the play your recording. So it's never about some haphazard tone selection in the studioand it takes some knowledge and experience to use all the studio tricks & techniques to dial in the right tones and to have them preserved forever within the context of the whole mix.

 

Yeahlive and recording do have different requirements.

Liveevery note you play passes by onceand its gone. So tone is important, and it better be right for that as-it-happens situationthough once its gone, its gone.

Recordingwhile you can go back and get it rightonce its set, its there forever, and it will be heard over and over that same way every time it is played back by the audienceso it better be right too.

 

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's it. Play well, get good gear... If you can afford it

that's sig worthy :thu:

"well fellas... there's 1 other thing yer gonna need to make it in Rock & Roll besides all them guitars and amps and drums and things. They call it A SONG..."
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it is an invalid thing to say %90 tone is in teh fingers etc etc...

 

They are 2 COMPLETELY different things.

 

Natural Tone=Produced by technique

 

Electronic Tone=Produced by equipment

 

Some people use good equipment, plus compression etc to aid the fact they dont have strong "natural tone". (will still sound weak to a musician, but in the mix will probably be fine for the usual ears)

 

Some people have great "natural tone" and make the best they can from the crap they are using. (It will not do the player justice)

 

Some poeple have great "natural tone" and great equipment which produces great "electronic tone" and end up with what I like to call "Uber Tone" (*drool* I wish)

 

And so on and so on and so on

 

I believe we're talking about the same thing but I take exception at your use of the phrase, "natural tone". It is technique, not tone.

 

And this is the crux; Play heavy metal on an acoustic. You can play the notes. You can play the phrasing. But you cannot play heavy metal on acoustic. Why? Because the distortion is an integral part of the tone that defines heavy metal and which can only be created by your playing that gear.

 

Tone is inherent to gear, whether you're talking electronic or acoustic instruments, processing and amplification.

 

Technique describes the players ability to elicit certain sounds from that gear.

 

Otherwise, the gear settings provide a framework for potential tones that can be produced and technique is how you draw out those timbres.

 

This is why this conversation is so frustrating. Tone and technique are two different, but complimentary aspects of the overall sound a player and his/her gear produce.

 

The only way "tone" can be "in your hands" at all is if you're producing sounds by hitting, strumming or otherwise making sounds with your hands as the sound engine. Talk all you want about your hands as the source of tone for a hand-clap. But tone is not in your hands when playing any instrument unless the sound waves are emanating from your hands.

 

I feel like Kelsey Grammer in the SNL sketch about "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" where he can't adequately explain why that phrase doesn't make any sense. Auuuuggghhhhh!!!

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

IEEE Standard No.151, Standard Definitions of Terms for Audio and Electroacoustics:

 

The term or word "Tone" does not exist as a reliable description or definition with regard to its application within the field.

 

It is and shall remain a wannabe benchmark to be argued over till the end of time. Tone is what you dream it to be.

 

 

I still think guitars are like shoes, but louder.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, tone has a specific definition, but as your post aptly points out, it has everything to do with music and nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of sound despite decades of erroneously marked, "tone" controls.

 

A tone is a particular note or describes the distance of two notes on in western scales (as in western civilization, not cowboy music. ;) ) The distance of one note is called a half-tone.

 

By those definitions, a "tone" control ought to change the pitch of a signal. ;)

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everything affects everything. Everything is connected.

 

No strings = no vibration

rubber band = rubber band sound

D'Addario XL .10's sound different than Fender 50XL Flatwounds

 

Fingers are different

 

Finger nails are different

 

Different picks give you different sounds

 

Your guitar with my cable and his amp is different than my guitar with his cable and your amp.

 

Two amps of the same model can sound different

 

Two different model amps can sound very similar

 

Bottom line:

The combination of everything, including the air pressure of the air we play in, contributes some small or large part to the overall sound.

Yum, Yum! Eat em up!
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...