Thursday, February 7, 2008

Don't wait!

And it's Thursday. This week sure has been flying!

Two stories caught my eye on the news today. There might be water on Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons. Surprising! The second - researchers think that quite possibly, over time, spouses actually get more annoying. Shocking! (They said if you find your spouse annoying now, the future is bleak.) Ha ha! Life sure is funny sometimes.

But on to things of six strings and trains of thought.

Don't wait to work on your tone!

I labored under a misconception for years. I mistakenly thought that I would concentrate on getting a great tone after "I could play good." Put in the context of a Chef, this statement quickly reveals it's absurdity.

"I'll make the dish taste good once I can chop the ingredients really fast."


Start working on your tone today. Not only does it live in your amp settings and stompboxes, but it's also an integral part of how you approach the guitar. Think about this: How do different piano players have different tone? It's their touch and feel.

We could break tone into two categories:

The expensive, and the cheap.

The first category is your amps, guitars, and effects.

Dialing in a good sound is a skill that should be practiced. One of my teachers and colleagues, Mr. Mike Stacey, opened my eyes to the magic of fiddling with gear. I had just finished trying out a few amps, and was complaining that they sounded too shrill with my humbucker equipped axe. Mike walks out with a telecaster, and gets the most beautiful, full sound out of the exact same amp. The difference? A bit of fiddling on Mike's part. Start dialing your sound today.

The second category, the cheap one, is a bit more subtle. It's how you actually play the notes. An interesting experiment to try is this: Using an amp set to a clean tone (preferably a tube amp), start playing one note very softly. Gradually increase the picking attack until the note gives up (doesn't get any louder.) You might notice that the note starts as a whisper, blooms around mid-intensity, and then starts to compress under heavy picking. Being aware of the effects of picking dynamics on tonal quality is a quantum leap, indeed. Playing in these zones adds another dimension to your sound. Want to make your lines sound warm and big? Play in that mid zone. How about biting and wailing, a la "Texas Flood?" Experiment with the heavy picking.

The bottom line? Start paying attention today. Your sound is your sound, no matter how fast or slow you play. Make sure it sounds good.

(And for you gearheads, check out the stuff at musician's friend! Some nice stuff, fo' sho'!)


Anonymous said...

Personally, I find good tone extremely motivating. When my guitar sounds good, it actually feels like I can play better (:

Anonymous said...

Great topic. Good sound is indeed its own reward. I use that theory when practicing scales too. Its much more fun to rearrange the scales into something you can groove to.


Anonymous said...

I like what you said. I was one of the guys that would just play and figured I'd get my tone later, when I could play well. I finally just sat down and tried to get the tone out of my guitar and the pickups I put in... took time but it's so worth it. I don't think you're ever really done working on a tone either though, I just saved one that I liked to a patch bank in my effects pedal and copy it to the next if I want to change it. I love tone.