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 playing style.

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 along).

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 pickups.

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 amp.

So these are some cheap and expensive ways to change your tone. Have fun and happy hunting!


Article written by: Jordan Warford
Editor for

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