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The Myth Of Tone "All In The Fingers"


Tone Taster

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In regards to Electric Guitar (not acoustic), the statement regarding a guitarist's tone being "all in the fingers" has no concrete, measurable preponderance of evidence as does the position that one's tone is rooted in these main variables:

 

1. Neck(wood type) Finish (laquer or synthetic)

2.Pickup selection

3. Amplification

4.Speaker configuration

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I don't know why anyone would say an electric guitar player's tone is all in the fingers. Of course his tone is governed by a host of other instrument/effect/amp/cabinet considerations.

 

But it is true and measurable (albeit unneccesary to measure) that given the same rig and settings, two different musicians can sound very different, just as two musicians on the same acoustic guitar can sound very different, tonally. In that way, some tone emanates from the musician's fingers.

 

But so what?

 

A great musician will sound great on pretty much any instrument (though better on quality equipment) and a mediocre musician will sound mediocre no matter what gear he/she plays.

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

 

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Okay, I keep using this example, and although it incorporates opinion, I believe that there is substantial weight to it:

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Marshall Days

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Peavey Days

 

I believe his playing was much better when he went through the Marshall due to the better tone and being more psyched as a result

 

His solos and rhythm parts after the Marshall era, in my NON-humble opinion, just lacked the luster of "eighty Fo & Be-Fo"

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Originally posted by Caputo:

Okay, I keep using this example, and although it incorporates opinion, I believe that there is substantial weight to it:

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Marshall Days

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Peavey Days

 

I believe his playing was much better when he went through the Marshall due to the better tone and being more psyched as a result

 

His solos and rhythm parts after the Marshall era, in my NON-humble opinion, just lacked the luster of "eighty Fo & Be-Fo"

Do you really believe that EVH settled for something he did not want? "Better tone" is such a subjective concept that it's almost a useless pair of words. "The tone I prefer, IMHO" would seem to be a better descriptor to me, IMHO. :-)

 

I believe that once you get to the level of skill and success that EVH reached, you can pretty much decide for yourself what "tone" you want. EVH made a change you don't like. Oh well.

 

I'm not an EVH fan in either generation. That style of music just never worked for me.

 

What is obvious to me, in any case, is that it IS EVH playing, regardless of the Marshall/PEavey period. That's speaks more to me about his musicianship, than the "tone", or lack thereof.

 

Peace,

 

Paul

Peace,

 

Paul

 

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Well here's another theory and Its someting that I have always believed. Yes there is an important element of tone that comes from the hands..and its not necessarly the hand on the neck!!! I believe I can alter my tone with how I attack and where I hold the pick. I can alter attack and semi mute or full mute at high volumes. I can attack and mute release immediately and alter my tone and sustain. the picking hand is the important hand if the fretting hand is capable of controlable and sustainable vibrato both east west and north south versions. On another persons set up I can get very close to my setup without touching his rig at all, because of HOW is attack and release.
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Okay, I keep using this example, and although it incorporates opinion, I believe that there is substantial weight to it:

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Marshall Days

 

Eddie Van Halen in his Peavey Days

 

I believe his playing was much better when he went through the Marshall due to the better tone and being more psyched as a result

 

His solos and rhythm parts after the Marshall era, in my NON-humble opinion, just lacked the luster of "eighty Fo & Be-Fo"

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now that he is free from Peavey is he going to play some reworked Fender amp? His last endorsement deal was the Charvel guitars. Charvel is part of fender.

if he had thought for a moment he could have went to Marshall and ironed out a deal. they probably wouldn't have cared what he used for a guitar. but seeing he is "with" Fender i think it would be more difficult endorsing another brand of amp.

but this is only speculation. i have no idea what deal he has/had with Fender in regards to the Carvel guitars.

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Originally posted by Caputo:

1. Neck(wood type) Finish (laquer or synthetic)

2.Pickup selection

3. Amplification

4.Speaker configuration

I think I'd add these too:

 

5. String gague

6. Type of strings

6. Condition of strings

7. Size & thickness of pick

8. Angle of attack

9. Location of attack relative to bridge/neck

 

 

Paul

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First a lot of Ed's old Marshalls were stolen

Second people move on grow up[some don't]

Third I like his Peavey tone,chords or solos that

were thought to be stolen from a Soldano.

Back in the day 1978 his live tone was nothing like the first album[studio tricks]people just

don't forgive Ed for not having that first album

tone and 20yr old coke induced playing.JMHO

The story of life is quicker then the blink of an eye, the story of love is hello, goodbye.
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Tastiest guitars around!

 

Sorry, Caputo, but I just don't buy it.

 

Here's a guy who's a millionaire. He can play whatever guitar and amp he wants, but he likes to have guitar companies working on new stuff for him, so he continues to endorse a product so long as there's something new in it for him. That's supposition, but I think it's accurate.

 

I don't think he'd endorse garbage and I now sincerely doubt he has any brand loyalty. More power to him, if companies are willing to pay him to advertise their wares. I wish they were lining up at my door. I wouldn't ever push sub-standard gear for any amount of money, but I can think of hundreds of products I'd gladly endorse.

 

Too bad few people, if anyone, would care what I endorse. ;)

 

I can't speak to his current sound. I haven't paid attention to Van Halen since the end of the Van Hagar days. He sounded great then, but definitely different than in the early days. (A sound I also love.)

 

One other point. To say Eddie Van Halen's sound is a Marshall sound is a bit misleading. Ever since the days before Van Halen was a signed act Eddie has brought his amps to electronics gurus for major tweaks. There isn't a stock Marshall that sounds like the Brown Sound of the late 1970's.

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

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

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Yes it's easy to over-simplfy the elusiveness of tone. Elwood made a very good point on right-hand technique that I would like to expound upon.

 

The tone changes depending on where and how you stike the strings. Dampening the strings with varying degrees of pressure is an important technique for me. I find it will cut down on un wanted string noise, but also helps control dynamic or string loudness.

 

I spend alot of time finding the perfect spot for plucking the string with the proper techinique.

 

How many different techniques do you have:

 

--snapping the string between my thumb and fore-finger.

--flicking the string close to where it is fretted.

--pulling the string gently and releasing

--plucking the string with my pinky (gives a slightly different tone)

 

I haven't quite figured out tapping yet, but it's cool sounding when other guys do it.

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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

Ever since the days before Van Halen was a signed act Eddie has brought his amps to electronics gurus for major tweaks.

"Major Tweaks". That's either an oxymoron, or one of the military leaders responsible for the "military intelligence", (another oxymoron), used to justify the war in Iraq. (tongue now out of cheek.)

 

Peace,

 

Paul

Peace,

 

Paul

 

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Well, it's not like Ed's tone changed for the first time when he went to Peavey. To me, the first subtle change was on 1984. The tone was a little more brite than usual. Even to a greater degree, on 5150, his tone became nearly brittle when he added the chorus effect.

Ed had always stated that he used the same amp - the Marshall plexi - on every album through Carnal Knowledge. Contrary to common belief, it was not modded at all. Just the variac. He gives credit to engineer Donn Landee for making his guitar sound the way it did in the studio.

 

I think Eddie just got older, wanted something new and different. Maybe lost some fire, too.

Everybody knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact. - Homer Simpson
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Originally posted by ellwood:

I believe I can alter my tone with how I attack and where I hold the pick. I can alter attack and semi mute or full mute at high volumes. I can attack and mute release immediately and alter my tone and sustain. the picking hand is the important hand if the fretting hand is capable of controlable and sustainable vibrato both east west and north south versions. On another persons set up I can get very close to my setup without touching his rig at all, because of HOW is attack and release.

I agree with you ellwood.

 

Much of my "sound" comes from my right hand work. And a lot of that has to do with the pick and picking...and after you pick them, how you control the strings with the palm and fingers of your right hand.

 

Of course...the left hand is doing it's own thing too...bending...vibrato...glissando...

 

While the amp/guitar combination will add to the overall color...I find that much of your signature sound comes from your hands.

 

You guys are using the word "tone"...but I think this discussion is more about your signature soundand where it comes from.

Tone can imply mostly equalization...high-mid-low...even if you say that someone had a "chunky" tone...that mostly ties in to EQ.

 

But yeah...IMO...once you develop your sound with your fingers/hands...you CAN pretty much take it to any guitar/amp combo...and it should shine through, unless you really do some radical settings on the guitar/amp.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

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

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Originally posted by Pappadopalus:

 

How many different techniques do you have:

 

--snapping the string between my thumb and fore-finger.

--flicking the string close to where it is fretted.

--pulling the string gently and releasing

--plucking the string with my pinky (gives a slightly different tone)

 

Don't forget playing with your teeth. I find that whatever I had for dinner is somehow reflected through my guitar's tone. If I have jalapenos, watch out!
Everybody knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It's a scientific fact. - Homer Simpson
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Not an oxymoron at all.

 

From Dictionary.com:

 

tweak (twēk) pronunciation

tr.v., tweaked, tweak·ing, tweaks.

 

1. To pinch, pluck, or twist sharply.

2. To adjust; fine-tune.

3. To make fun of; tease.

See #2 above. "Major tweak", referring to several adjustments that significantly improved his amps.

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

 

Soundclick

fntstcsnd

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Originally posted by pauldil:

Originally posted by Caputo:

1. Neck(wood type) Finish (laquer or synthetic)

2.Pickup selection

3. Amplification

4.Speaker configuration

I think I'd add these too:

 

5. String gague

6. Type of strings

6. Condition of strings

7. Size & thickness of pick

8. Angle of attack

9. Location of attack relative to bridge/neck

 

 

Paul

Awesome positions, guys.

 

My original position that those were the MAJOR components affecting tone.

 

I believe there are thousands of more details, however I will reinforce my opinion that those 4 are the real deal while other factors outside of those 4 are inferior.

 

Does cocaine affect hearing?

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The source of the tone is your hands on those guitar strings. The more stuff you put in the signal path between your strings and your speaker, the more likely you are to lose the integrity of that source. So, I think in some cases a lot of tone is from the fingers and in others it's from the pedals, crappy amp, etc.
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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

But it is true and measurable (albeit unneccesary to measure) that given the same rig and settings, two different musicians can sound very different, just as two musicians on the same acoustic guitar can sound very different, tonally. In that way, some tone emanates from the musician's fingers.

Originally posted by fantasticsound:

A great musician will sound great on pretty much any instrument (though better on quality equipment) and a mediocre musician will sound mediocre no matter what gear he/she plays.

When people say that "tone is all in the fingers", they are usually trying to make the second arguement ... not the first.
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I'd agree that the personality and soulfulness (or lack thereof) come through the fingers, not to mention a great deal of tonal coloring from the right hand of a good player, whose mostly unconcious tendencies can give him or her a signature sound.

 

The guitar and amp sound can really light a fire or squelch a fire under a player though, and what you ate doesn't just affect your sound when playing with the teeth.....finger foods also greatly affect tone after a meal when playing with conventional technique.

 

For instance I get an extremely "South of the border" sound after a heaping helping of Nachos, and a positively fruity tone after consuming grapes.

 

I'd hate to see what C.C. DeVille was eating.

Just a pinch between the geek and chum

 

 

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I remember reading a blurb on Bill Lawrence's web site about how after playing a set a young player asked him how he was switching between pickup configurations so quickly while he played, esp. since this guy never saw him reaching for the switch. Bill explained to him that he had never thrown the switch, but that it was all in the way he picked. Now obviously pickups make a difference or he wouldn't be selling them.

(This BL: http://www.billlawrence.com/)

 

To not say the fingers have a great deal to do with it is like saying Tiger or Phil Mickelson play the way they do solely because of their clubs.

Raise your children and spoil your grandchildren. Spoil your children and raise your grandchildren.
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Your premise does not explain why Hendrix, Trower, Clapton, or any other guitarist that you can name sounds the same (meaning not EXACTLY the same, but idetifiable) on any guitar. (Santana, for example.... SG style Les Paul, PRS with humbuckers, PRS with P-90s, it is still identifiably Santana.)

 

As to EVH, how many players can you name that changed over the course of a couple of albums, and by album three you just didn't like what they were doing so much anymore? Happens to me all the time. Slash comes to mind... in the early G'N'R days, with the Marshall and the counterfit Les Paul 'burst, he rocked. Now, he uses Bogner and piles of pedals, and he just doesn't fire me up like he used to.

 

Oh, and let us add one more thing... you'll see people like Miles talking about touch and responsiveness... something that I thought was BS until I moved into the low end range of the boutique amp/effects market, and then I camne to appreciate what they were talking about. I didn't have it with any of my vontage Fender, Marshall, Vox, etc amps; even though I have a bunch of clasic vintage guitars. I didn't get it through my RP-6 or my RP-200, or my old analog pedals. But when I moved to the THD and Fulltone and Reverend, suddenly I "Got" it. Touch and responsiveness plays a part in the equation, too.

 

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.

 

 

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I have met players where the tone was in their hands. Of course I know your point Cap about amps and mics etc.., but I do think some guys have a gift of playing the guitar so every note counts huge. I know 1 guys like this and he blows my mind even playing the simplest stuff just cuz of the way he plays it. Of course he woudl be limited through a Peavey decade circa 1985.

 

As for Eddie, I agree. His tone and playing was never as pure and real as everything before Sammy joined. I grew to hate some aspects of his playing after that. Like that shobiz lick that became the focal point of every solo. The one that ends Hot for Teacher, sigh you know what I am talking about..

 

But of course I realize he has a life and family. Who am I to judge him. He is EVH!!! for godsakes.

 

His Marshall tone was more complex and unique. It left more room for him to interpret and express himself. More ground connection..

 

But Ted Templeman was huge too. I am a small man judging EVH. I know what I like though and I stand by my comments. EVH has incredible technique. I know alot of shredders would beg to differ but I think anyone who questions this doesn't understand technique. It is more than playing fast, it is how you play it and your note sensibility. Fast scales or patterns fall short of accomplishing musically what EVH.

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