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refining my tone


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Hi everyone,


I've been playing for about 18 years, after a few years of mainly focusing on electronic music and not playing much guitar I'm getting back into it. I actually had to sell all my gear about a year ago due to financial problems, and was stuck with a piece of crap guitar and fx unit to play through so I've basically had to start from scratch in rebuilding my sound. Since I was pretty young when I started playing I never really got into understanding gear, I usually just got what was recommended to me and it worked out.


I recently bought an Ibanez sz320MH and a Line 6 Flextone 3. I'm really into older thrash and some newer metal and hardcore, but I also play a lot of funk, classic rock, and other stuff. Right now I'm mostly using my setup to record direct. I'm really not happy with my tone for heavier music and I'm trying to find what will impact it the most without completely changing gear. I mostly use the triple rec settings on the Flextone and play with the bridge pickup (the stock Ibanez pickups) and the sound doesn't have the sustain I am looking for. It's difficult to describe, the attack sounds okay but notes very quickly turn into this low end mush and die out pretty quickly. Anyone with experience with any of this gear know where I should start? I understand I'm not going to get exactly what I want with digital modelling technology, so please don't tell me to get a tube amp!

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How old are your strings and what type and guage are they? Maybe that's the problem?


I would recommend either stainless steel or nickel-wound steel strings with a something like a .046 or .048 on the low E.


Also make sure the neck PU isn't set too close to the strings - that's a common cause for string damping.


The flextone has a compressor right? Have you used that? Does it have a noise gate like the POD? Turn THAT off!


Hope this helps.

"You never can vouch for your own consciousness." - Norman Mailer
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If you think your tone isn't sustaining enough, then try picking a low-gain setting, enough gain to get the guitar sounding smooth and creamy, but not enough to play metal. Crank your volume, because I've found this does a lot more for sustain than increasing gain. Increasing gain just adjusts the preamp volume. All you end up with then is an overly hissy and shrill tone that doesn't sing. If you want real sustain and sweet, creamy distortion, lower the gain, up the volume.


Having said all that, let's get back to you. Nintey-percent of your tone is in your hands and mind. This is why first-year players will never do as good of an instrumental rendition of "Baa-baa Black Sheep" as someone who has been playing 10 years. Tone takes a long time to build, and I'm still working on mine. The key is to find a tone you like, which it sounds like you already have, and emulate it with your hands and mind, not with your amp. I can get a low-gain (for metal anyway) setting to do a damn good Metallica tone, no matter what anyone else will try to tell me, and this is using digital technology or a regular amp.


To work best with modeling technology, just remember what I already said that volume is superior to gain, and after that, mess around A LOT! It took me about 2 years to form a wonderful metal tone on my Yamaha DG Stomp. It's not to say I didn't have a good sound preset already, but it jus wasn't doing it for me after awhile. So I completely canned all my settings, and after much research and tinkering, came up with a whole fleet of amps in one box. Right now I've got what I created that sounds like the following amps:


Marshall JCM800 2203

Marshall 1959 Super Lead Plexi

Marshall JCM2000 DSL100

Fender 1965 Twin Reverb

Fender Deluxe Reverb

Chorused Twin Reverb

Fender 1959 Bassman

Fender Hot Rod Deville Lead

Fender Hot Rod Deville Clean

Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Lead

Mesa Boogie Mark IIC+

Mesa Boogie Dual Recto Crunch

Modern Warm Clean

Chorused Warm Clean

Phased Warm Clean

Ultimate Clean

Natural Overdrive

Beautiful Lead (the last three settings being tones I would desire in the perfect Revolead amp)

Matchless DC-30

Matchless DC-30 Chorused

Matchless DC-30 Phased

Leslie Rotary Cabinet


WolfZan/Guitarzan - PM me if you want any of these settings.

Shut up and play.
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I'm not familiar with all the settings on the Line 6, but generally speaking, if you have two drive settings, they are interactive and affect your sustain.


-Dig into the settings, and for a "metal" sound you will probably find one drive level way up towards ten, and the other down low.

-Reverse the settings - you will now have a cleaner sound, but probably with more sustain.

-Start adding back the to drive setting you initially lowered, which should add distortion.

-Adjust the master volume to compensate for the level you added at the first drive level.


This has worked for me to find an appropriate tone on almost any two stage pre-amp device.

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Originally posted by WolfZan:

you must have done some serious tweaking and research to dial all those settings. i bow to you revo.

I can't guarantee they sound exactly like those amps, but it's as close as I could come to with my ears. I just listened to the right guys, visited my neighbor who at one point owned what seemed like every Fender amp under the sun, used websites online, and sat on my ass a long time.
Shut up and play.
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It's not so much regular sustain that the sound is lacking, it's more that the highs and mids don't sustain, they seem to die out quickly. The actual length of the sustain is okay, but it's all low end. I have been messing with my gear today and I think it's mostly the sound of the guitar.


I did notice that the angle of my pick against the stings makes a big difference in the tone. I can remember getting really great sounds out of any setup when I was younger, and wondering why I can't get them recently. I think as my technique has become better and I've learned to control my picking hand more so the pick is flat against the strings it has actually changed my tone for the worse. It's something I'm going to have to check into more....

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if it is the guitar its probably from the pickups being adjusted to close or maybe to far away. some pickups go overboard in the frequencies they accent.

there seems to be a trend in makers to push the lows , i don't care for that. a pickup should cover all the tonal spectrum and allow the player to dial his curve at the amp.

try some different setups in pickup height. the treble side should be closer than the bass side. but don't go too close or the pickups will choke the strings. and super low action will not sustain as good as higher settings. maybe your high strings are dieing from hitting the frets. just because there is no buzzing doesn't mean the strings are going to sustain as well as they should.

here is a good link with info on setting up your guitar.


tone workshop

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maybe your high strings are dieing from hitting the frets. just because there is no buzzing doesn't mean the strings are going to sustain as well as they should.
I wondered if one of the frets were killing the sustain, that's sort of what it sounds like. I couldn't see anywhere that was actually hitting but there were a couple spots were close enough that the string vibration probably could have been affected. I raised that action a little and it didn't help, maybe I need a few truss rod turns....


Thanks for the link, I'll check it out, and I'll try lowering my pickups.

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