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Author Topic: 90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.  (Read 33483 times)

Offline Paul Marossy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« on: November 08, 2011, 10:35:56 AM »
I saw this statement by Blackie Pagano in a book about Fender amps. I agree with this 1000% and couldn't have said it better myself.

"The most common misconception about tone is that its primary source is hardware. Tone comes from the heart of the musician. These tools exist to communicate the the emotion of the musician, so what counts is what is in his heart, his intent and his artistic perspective. A musician has something to say."

All great guitarists will still sound like they do no matter what guitar they play, what amp they use or what guitar pedals they use. It kills me how many people fall into the trap of thinking that if they have so and so's exact guitars, amps and pedals that they will sound like them. That's boloney. And musical equipment manufacturers just eat it up. Anyway, I think that statement really sums it up very nicely.

Here are a few interesting articles to read:

The Psychology of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Feb/The_Psychology_of_Tone.aspx

The Science of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Mar/The_Science_of_Tone.aspx

The Cult of Tone:

http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2010/Apr/The_Cult_of_Tone.aspx[/quote]


Here is a good example from one of those articles:

"As part of his Alien Music Secrets course, virtuoso Steve Vai often talks about a day when Eddie Van Halen paid him a visit. EVH stood in Vai’s home studio, picked up Vai’s guitar, played it through Vai’s effects, through Vai’s amps, and out came the classic Van Halen tone."

These are two very different musicians with different setups, guitars, techniques and styles. They know how to get "their sound" with whatever they have at hand.

And another good point from the same article:

"“The tone thing is amazing because you can have one rig, have three different guitar players, and each guy can play the same exact thing and it’s going to sound different,” says L.A. Guns guitarist Stacey Blades. “It’s all in the hands.” Waara from Line 6 agrees. “Any guitar player will tell you, at the end of the day, it’s in your hands and you will sound like you will sound,” he says. The percentage of influence the hands wield is shockingly high.

Berklee College of Music professor Thaddeus Hogarth thinks the hands and the human element accounts for almost all of what we consider guitar tone. “Providing the instrumentation and the amplifiers are above a certain quality and in the general ballpark, I think it’s safe to say that we’re talking 90 perecent,” Hogarth says. In his classes and on his blog, The Quest for Good Guitar Tone, Hogarth argues that much of a guitar player’s tone is based upon the attack more so than the sustain. “If you take away the first second of the attack of a note played on any instrument, it is often very difficult to determine what that instrument is and certainly impossible to identify who played it,” he writes on the blog."


Here's an interesting statement I read in the Nov 2010 issue of Guitar Player Magazine:

Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden: "I don't think that the actual gear is all that important as a player. I think if you've got good equipment, it's really about your personality, because that's what they are going to hear. I was always searching for the Holy Grail tone through the years, but it just doesn't exist.

Now this guy has been playing for a long time, in a band that has sold 100,000,000 albums. I think that is a HUGE statement right there.

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline paint with fire

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2011, 11:25:52 AM »
I've said this once, and I'll say it again now, "tone" is in the hands inasmuch as I can play my Parker through a Bogner or a Steinberger through a Fender practice amp or a Les Paul through a Marshall and it's going to sound like ME. The differences in woods, fret composition, hardware, pickups, pots, caps, wiring, strings, picks, cables, amps, tubes, transistors, transformers, resistors, ic chips, pedals, speakers, microphones, mixing consoles, outboard gear, tape, converters....they make up only a small percentage of what tonal differentiation we perceive as players and listeners. As Hogarth said, each new component or change thereof is imparting a tiny fraction of a percentage to the overall package.

All that being said, a great Italian chef will still tinker with their marinara sauce recipe until the day they die.
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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Bill

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2011, 12:03:14 PM »
I need new hands :(

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A few Flys in my soup

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Albi

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2011, 09:49:08 PM »
Hahah I laughed at Bill's response :)
I agree with the above, there is a huge personal component in tone... much more than marketers want us to believe, in my opinion. Quoting Joe Satriani, "Tone is in your fingers, effects just do the coloring"

"if you play only the music you like, you're missing half of the fun"
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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline billy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2011, 08:36:05 AM »
never saw that Satch quote, pretty elegant way of saying it.

Would like to add that sometimes the coloration can be inspirational and in the best cases you get a little circular thing happening where one feeds the other.

Billy

[always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.  e. e. cummings]

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Paul Marossy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2011, 08:49:01 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by Albi

Hahah I laughed at Bill's response :)
I agree with the above, there is a huge personal component in tone... much more than marketers want us to believe, in my opinion. Quoting Joe Satriani, "Tone is in your fingers, effects just do the coloring"


I haven't heard that quote before, but it's true!

quote:
Originally posted by billy

Would like to add that sometimes the coloration can be inspirational and in the best cases you get a little circular thing happening where one feeds the other.


Yes, I have experienced that too.

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Albi

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2011, 08:14:21 PM »
that is one of my favourite "guitar quotes", along with the one in my signature. I found it in the transcript of a Q&A session hosted by a website (don't remember which one): someone was telling Joe how, despite having the same setup, he still couldn't replicate his tone. And Joe replied with this wise answer.
Billy what you say is true as well!

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"if you play only the music you like, you're missing half of the fun"
____________________________________________________
2010 Parker Fly Mojo Flame Green
"if you play only the music you like, you're missing half the fun"

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline bembamboo

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #7 on: November 11, 2011, 09:48:39 PM »
depends on how loud you play.

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline bembamboo

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #8 on: November 11, 2011, 10:10:47 PM »
ok, i'll bite a little.  Not so sure i agree.  of course, have seen this adage many times.... But....  For example, i tried an sg with p90s at guitar exchange last year, dry into a badcat head with el84s and a bogner one 12 cab.  slowly dialed it up and lo and behold i sounded like bonnie raitt, who uses badcats with strats quite often.  i think its the amp that creates tone.  i cant always tell the difference between a strat, tele or an sg or les paul.  and i have gigged with them all for many years.

the exchange people were complete jerks until they heard me play.  thats austin.

of course if you disguise the input sound with multiple effects, which i often do, stereo upon stereo ect,...maybe then the fingers produce the.... whatever.  


90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline lucgravely

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2011, 08:01:24 AM »
I guess the misconception in all these "tone" threads would be the definition of "tone".

According to http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tone;

8. Music.
a. a musical sound of definite pitch, consisting of several relatively simple constituents called partial tones, the lowest of which is called the fundamental tone and the others harmonics or overtones.
b. an interval equivalent to two semitones; a whole tone; a whole step.
c. any of the nine melodies or tunes to which Gregorian plainsong psalms are sung.

So kind of like a tremolo versus a vibrato, I think our "tone" talk is clouded by the fact that we have traditionally over the years used the wrong word to describe someones personality and sound in the guitar kingdom over the decades.

So I think we all argue tone is this (gear), and tone is that (fingers). But really we are trying to talk about two different things; someone's guitar sound and someone's personality/voice. How do we differentiate the two at this point with our verbiage? I don't have the answer.

Luc Gravely
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« Last Edit: November 14, 2011, 08:03:38 AM by lucgravely »
Luc Gravely
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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Paul Marossy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2011, 10:07:53 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by lucgravely

So I think we all argue tone is this (gear), and tone is that (fingers). But really we are trying to talk about two different things; someone's guitar sound and someone's personality/voice. How do we differentiate the two at this point with our verbiage? I don't have the answer.


I see it as a package deal. The electric guitar is not like a piano where all you do is play a note via a key that activates a hammer on a string - that's more or less the same every time you play it. The electric guitar is a very dynamic instrument. You can vary the tone/sound of the guitar simply by controlling your right hand technique. Yes, the amp is a big contributer to the sound, but without YOU in the driver seat playing with emotion, naunces and intensity it's all a moot point. It's all in how you use your tools.

It cracks me up how many people chase their tails for years trying to copy someone else's sound. They will buy the same guitars, amps, pedals as their guitar heroes and yet they never will sound like them even thought they have the same stuff. Online forums are loaded with questions asking "how do I get so and so's tone"? It's not just a simple equation of get the same equipment and voila! you will sound just like them. It doesn't happen because the missing element is that part which is "in the fingers". Their technique, and what is coming from their heart and being translated via their instrument. The amp, pedals and guitar are only tools by which the musician expresses himself. To me it's about finding the right combo that allows you to express yourself in the way that you want to. And once you have found "your sound", you can get it with almost anything that you have in your hands because you know how to get that sound - it's what you gravitate to regardless of what you have in your hands. What makes me sad is how so many people are trying to sound like someone else instead of finding their own voice.

Anyway, to me it's the equivalent of a singer with a very dynamic range that uses variances in the "tone" of their voice. I know people want to strip it down to an open E on a guitar is 82.41Hz period and everything is in your equipment, but to me there is far more going on than that when I hear someone's "tone". "Tone" is more than just some note at some specific frequency, there's more to it than that.

If anything, I would say that people confuse "timbre" and "tone". Timbre is "the combination of qualities of a sound that distinguishes it from other sounds of the same pitch and volume." That is how we know the sound of a cello when we hear one. That is what gives certain guitar players their sound, it's in their technique. That's in the hands.


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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline lucgravely

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2011, 01:34:58 PM »
gear and fingers are a package deal yes. but by definition "tone" is the wrong word. If it was the correct word to use there wouldn't be as much confusion.

Luc Gravely
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Luc Gravely
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A few pedals...

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline Paul Marossy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2011, 01:59:25 PM »
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tone

Tone = "vocal or musical sound of a specific quality <spoke in low tones> <masculine tones>; especially : musical sound with respect to timbre and manner of expression".

Notice "timbre" and "manner of expression" is used. I will never agree that "tone" is just some audible frequency only. When talking about a musical instrument, there's more to it than that.

That's OK. We can agree to disagree on this. [;)]

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline lucgravely

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2011, 03:50:11 PM »
Come on, don't you want to start a war over the word "tone'?? Come on Paul let's duke it out!! LOL OK OK, next subject. How about them 49ers?? LOL

Luc Gravely
Parker Fly Mojo Single Cut
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A few pedals...
Luc Gravely
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1966 Fender BandMaster
A few pedals...

90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.

Offline billy

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90% of guitar "tone" IS in the hands.
« Reply #14 on: November 15, 2011, 11:52:11 AM »
I find it hard not to go back to the piano reference.

For example, you can hear Lang Lang and Oscar Peterson, but I would say despite the seemingly limited mechanics of sounding a note on the piano, each has a distinctive tone.

That said, many (probably most) listeners do not have the "ear" to distinguish between various pianists based on "tone" or "phrasing" or their "sound."

Its easy to buy in to the marketing and hype surrounding gear, especially when you're just starting out.  And to be sure, gear  absolutely colors the sound and tone.  Much easier/dramatic to stomp on a pedal in the early years than to finesse a picked or bent string.

However as your ear (and head!) develops, you will find that it has much less of an influence than you would imagine. And magic happens when you can finally combine the finesse with the gear.

Call it what you want but for myself I just wish I had more time to play and listen...!
Billy

[always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question.  e. e. cummings]