The quest for that perfect guitar tone!
There are as many different tones
for your guitar out there as there are socks. The trick is trying to find the one that
suits you and your playing style best.
In this lesson we are going to take
you on a journey through guitars, amps, picks, and fingers until you are satisfied with
how your guitar sounds or at least know how it could sound on different equipment. So
let's jump right into it!
Tip #1: The brand you choose
to play affects how your music is going to sound. The most popular guitar may not be for
you, simply because you may be playing a style that that guitar is not suited for.
For example, people who play Fender
guitars usually love its brighter, more twangy tone. On the other hand people who play a
Gibson usually like its darker, meatier tone.
I recommend that you take a look at
the music you want to play. Do you want to play rock & role, jazz, blues, alternative
or country? For every guitar manufacturer there will be a new tone, and some are a lot
better than others. I recommend that you go to your local music store and play different
guitars to get a feel for different models and brands and see which ones match your
Tip #2: A guitar's sound is
all channelled through its pickups. You can dramatically change the tone of your guitar by
spending about $100 to get new pickups!
There are so many choices on the
market today and we're going to show you the two most popular type of pickups.
The first is the single-coil
pickups. These were the first guitar pickups ever made (used by Fender). They have
that brighter, twangier sound that we talked about earlier. Distortion pedals can be used
on these to make them sound tougher but this type of pickup s not meant for rock. Modern,
high-quality, single-coil pickups have virtually no 'hum' or 'buzz'. A list of guitars
that have single-coil pickups would include a long list of Fenders, Gibson Les Paul
Special, Les Paul T.V, Les Paul Jr., and Danelectros. That's being very general because
there are even more great guitar manufactures who carry guitars with single-coil pickups.
The second most popular type of
pickup is the Humbucking pickup. These pickups consist of two single coil pickups that
are wired together. They were invented to get rid of the annoying 'hum' or 'buzz' that
older single coil pickups would have (before higher qualities single-coil pickups cam
They have more output (make the
guitar louder) and have a darker, more melt in your mouth( warm) sound than single coil
pickups. These pickups are ideal for rock because of the beefy tone and how well they
sound both clean and under distortion. Gibson is world famous for making guitars with
these pickups, along with some new musicman models.
Many guitar manufactures are now
integrating both humbucking and single-coil pickups into one guitar to make the best of
both worlds. Fender has a recent model that does this with a push of a button! There are
many pickup manufacturers out there that would take a while to list out.
The best way to learn about them is
to decide what kind of sound your want from your pickup and look for a single coil or
Humbucking Pickup. Seymour Duncan is a very popular and economical dealer of good quality
Tip #3: What do you spend too
much time tuning, breaking and replacing on your guitar? You've guessed it... strings!
The gauge (thickness) of strings you
choose to use can greatly affect the type of tone that you get. The higher the number the
heavier the string gauge. Heavier strings will normally give you a very rich, meaty tone.
Lighter strings can be quite twangy
and affective for jazz because of their easy bending abilities. Some musicians won't use
light guitar string because they "buzz" off the frets too much. This won't
happen if you have your guitar set up properly or don't play too hard.
If you're a rocker, it's normally
recommended to get a heavier gauge. The reasons are both for tone and to save you money
from buying your local music store out of strings!
However, it's always a tradeoff and
nobody uses the same strings for every style of music. Stevie Ray Vaughan used .013's! Not
many people could do that, but he added some serious meat to his tone by doing this. Eddie
Van Halen uses .009's and he still gets a very big, meaty sound!
Tip #4: Picks are a
guitarists best friend. They can also add a different variety of tone to your playing.
This is one often overlooked piece of equipment. There are more picks to choose from than
guitars and guitarists alike.
This is because we keep loosing them
(it's the life of a musician). Harder picks will give you a beautiful crisp tone. I have
also on many occasions done some strumming with them to great affect (not recommended in
all scenarios because you can break your strings if you don't strum properly with them).
The medium picks are great for
acoustics and as a backup for lead guitarists. Lighter gauge are good for rhythm
guitarists. Don't go to light because you will get a very sloppy sound coming out of your
So these are some cheap and
expensive ways to change your tone. Have fun and happy hunting!