Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Guitar tone? Pickup Tone? Pedal Tone?Your tone?

So.. I was talking to a couple of cats in their late 20's a little while back and we were talking about how to get different tones from a guitar. One kid says, "How do you get that ACDC tone?" and the other piped up right away. "That's easy... just crank everything to 11 and rock!" Now.... I've been listening to ACDC since about 1977 and never has Malcolm or Angus tone struck me as over the top super distortion. Even on a tune like "I'm a rocker" or "Hells Bells" the tone is well defined and smooth and breaks up with the picking dynamics and aggression of attack. I made them listen to "Ride On" as homework.

One thing to think about is this. If your running a signal chain looks like this...
Squash-o-Matic compressor > Wonder Wah > 12 band EQ > Super Skull F#@%er Mega Distort Pedal > Flang-o-tron > Echo-
Zilla Analog Delay and then run all that into a 200W Mega Colossus Distortus Maximus amp with everything set to 20 you have sort of negated the subtle nuances of your expensive boutique hand made pickups or your vintage NOS tone caps. At some point the guitars effect on the tone starts to become a moot point if you don't keep it simple.

Now.... don't get me wrong. I'm not
hatin on stomp boxes. I have over 50 stomp boxes and I'm adding and swapping and modding new ones all the time. I've heard the guys that yell "If you need a stomp box your guitar or amp must suck!" But that just ain't so. It's one thing to get that 15 watt valve amp to sound good in your bed room. It's another matter all together to get it to sound good in a bar, or an out door stage or a warehouse. For those type of situations it can be handy to have a good EQ pedal or a distortion pedal with a good EQ built in. And the simple truth is that if you're going to try to sound like Warren Haynes you will need a Boss Metal Zone pedal. If you're trying to sound like Tom Morello you'll need a Digitech Whammy and if you're trying to sound like Michael Schenker you'll need a CryBaby.

You really have to decide what you want to do with your sound and build it from the ground up. Ever bit of your rig, from your finger tips to your speakers are going to play a part in you tone. How much? Well, that depends on your musical style. If your playing through 4 distortion boxes then I wouldn't worry too much about the tone cap you have on your

I ask you to think about these things when you are
considering a new set of expensive hand made pickups. It will help me direct you to the right pickup or perhaps even recommend not replacing your pickups at all.

Oh... and that ACDC tone? Try a well made guitar built in the Gibson or Gretch style with vintage spec pickups (ie, not hot) and run that into a good tube amp and set most of the knobs on about 5. Try it out and tweak the amp from there.

"If you know what I mean..."


Russ said...

You know you're dealing with a good, honest business when the owner suggests something that doesn't make them money. That's pretty respectable. Good job, Clint.

Booker J Wood said...

Great post there, Clint! True words were spoken !!

Searcy String said...

Thanks guys! I'm going to try to start covering a wider range of tone related topics here on the blog.