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Guitar Tone: a different flavoured sandwich?

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Guitar Tone: a different flavoured sandwich?

I love the fact that everyone’s creative and it’s amazing we have the ability to create art, music, literature, technology and much more. However, what we create is completely subjective; what’s aesthetically appealing to me could be the worst thing my peers have ever laid their eyes on.

…tone is subjective and I’m guessing for many guitarists, their guitar playing identity is associated with their chosen amp/guitar combination…

Ibanez Jem

Ibanez Jem - Love it or hate it?

Take the Ibanez Jem for example – it may sound and play good, but personally, I think the guitar was made from the ugly stick, let alone being beaten by it. However, a good friend of mine (sorry John) is saving his hard earned cash to get his mits on one of the 20th Anniversary models. Mmmm….

Guitar tone is just as subjective. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing UK blues guitarist Scott McKeon playing live. When he graced the stage and opened up with a stunning blues chord progression, I remember literally being blown sideways by the guitar tone coming from his early 60’s sunburst Strat and Fender amp(s) – to my ears, it’s arguably the finest guitar tone I’ve ever heard in a “live” environment.

Interestingly though, I’ve another friend who almost throws up at the sound of a Strat plugged into a Fender amp. He’s strictly a Gibson man and loves to play his Les Paul Standard through the rawness of a very loud, yet beautifully overdriven Marshall.

I’m very fortunate to own a few guitars (Gibson SG, Duesenberg Starplayer TV and a Fender Stratocaster) all of which offer different tonal palettes. I’ve never really been the kind of guitarist who strictly sticks to one particular guitar model – I like to change things around (usually depending on my mood). If I’ve had a particularly lousy day at work and I need to let off some steam, the SG seems to provide the ultimate stress relief where as my Strat lends itself brilliantly to when I’m feeling in a creative or learning mood.

I’m aware that some readers of Guitar Jar may only own one guitar, or like UK guitarist Austyn Brown, you may be fortunate to own an arsenal of guitars. Either way, having a choice of guitars at my disposal left me pondering about the importance of tone.

Is guitar tone the the identity of the guitarist? For example, is SRV known just for his Strat tone and Slash for his Les Paul/Marshall combination? Or does the identity of a guitarist lie their fingers, technique and style, regardless of what guitar/amp combination they choose to use?

I’m undecided; some days I’m completely in love with the rawness of my Gibson SG bridge pickup pushing my Marshall Vintage/Modern. Yet on different days, I’m 100% Strat, where nothing is going to make me budge from pickup positions 2 and 4.

Guitar tone is subjective and I’m guessing for many guitarists, their guitar playing identity is associated with their chosen amp/guitar combination.

A wise woman once said, the secret to a successful relationship is to try and approach each day like a different flavoured sandwich; ensuring each day in your relationship is different to the previous, otherwise things will get very boring, very quickly. That’s all very well in a “post-modern, women are from Venus, yadda yadda yadda” kind of way, but does the same theory apply in our quest for the ultimate guitar tone?

Should we embrace the concept of approaching guitar tone as a “different flavoured sandwich”; using different amp and guitar combinations regularly to stop the rot from creeping in or should we be focussed on nailing an individual guitar/amp tone that firmly establishes our guitarist sonic identity?

Do you stick to one amp/guitar combination or do you like to experiment with an array of different guitars/amps?

Please share your thoughts about guitar tone and guitarists identity by adding your comments below.

In the mean time, check out UK blues guitarist Scott Mckeon jamming out…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rSR9aeQvxE

Photo of the sandwich courtesy of SweetOnVeg

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

3 Comments

  • I’m going to wade with my personal opinion on this one 😀

    For me, guitar tone is a big deal. I spend as much time playing as I do searching and tweaking my sound for ‘the sound in my head’. I buy and sell a lot of gear to accomplish this.

    I don’t like the idea of having a ‘signature tone’ or anything like that, as I think different tones suit different songs/song types. Like Slash for example. Has had the same sound for years, but he makes the same kind of music too.

    Guitar tone can some times dictate the way I play, as some guitars do things better than others, so I play to their strengths.

    I also constantly play with which pickup I’m using, volume, tone, distortion, fuzz or just plain clean.

    So my sound will change with the mood of the song, the genre I am playing and the tone of other guitarists in the band (or if it is just me).

    When it comes down to it, no matter what guitar, amp, pedals etc… you are using you’ll sound like the same guitar player because it’s your fingers that make you sound different from someone else. So maybe not a different sandwich, just sometimes with mayo or sometimes with mustard 😉 (or any condiment you may want to insert into that metaphor)

  • Like it – bring on the opinion – There are so many variables, surely the sky is the limit …

    I agree with the previous writer to the extent that tone is about the personality coming through and The kit forms the basis of the general direction from where you are coming from… and of course the final part of a sound / track that takes it right to the point!

    I tend to fall onto a tone and try to hold it down – guessing that’s just the level i’m at!

    There must be other acoustic players out there who also stand facing the corner of a room while trying to get that tone right?? – anyone?!? Cheers, Eric

  • I think it’s a great point, but I also think there is too much emphasis on equipment dictating your sound, your tone comes from you, the way you hit the strings determines your tone. I love having great gear, and try to tinker, but at the end of the day, I use the same rig, I just try to maximize the gear I have to reach new heights. I do switch guitars, and thats for the different tonal variety. Here’s a video of me playing an Epiphone, I think I get a killer tone, but I also think it’s the same killer tone on a Gibson or a Brian Moore custom. http://www.youtube.com/user/misterreality#p/u/4/AcI3p_yybRU

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