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Author Topic: The Quest For Professional Tone  (Read 9457 times)

Offline Diad

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The Quest For Professional Tone
« on: July 31, 2007, 05:04:54 PM »
If you're primarily a clean (pop, jazz, country) guitar player, you probably don't have a lot of tone concerns with your Parker and amp of choice.  However, those of us into rock music find it essential to chase tone in the form of high gain, distortion and endless sustain.  I've done it for years and have thrown a lot of money at equipment in the process.

Sometimes you find help from other guitarists, sometimes you don't.  Guitarists are notorious for seeking to keep the secret of their acclaimed sound a secret.  For example, Josh Homme of QOTSA bristles like a child being asked to give up a toy when he's interviewd and asked about his gear.  Eddie Van Halen used to play with his back to the audience to keep his tapping technique secret and actually gave out misinformation about his gear in interviews.  A lot of guitarists arrogantly and smugly proclaim, "It's all in the technique, man.  Keep practicing."  Yeah, every idiot knows that you've got to know how to play to sound good.  But there's NO denying that good gear and proper setup can make an average guitarist sound much better, and encourage more practice.  Thus, all this discussion about amps, effects, settings, etc.

Here on Parker boards, most of us feel that we found a well-built, versatile guitar that meets our sound quest needs but many still aren't getting the sound they have in their heads ... especially the rockers.  So we post messages asking what amp to buy and get lots of well-meaning suggestions.  Then, we usually throw more money at the problem and still end up falling short.

The main issue for most hobbyists is getting that rockin', sustained, overdriven sound at home at volumes that don't have your apartment manager seeking to evict you or blowing the windows and roof off of your house.  That's KEY for me -- getting professional rock guitar sound at home, BUT without spending multiple thousands in the process (hey, it's just a hobby afterall!).  Once you've already thrown $1,500 into a guitar, many of us probably have other uses for $2k+ to plug it into.  I've played through expensive amps that sound good cranked at the guitar store, but sound like muffled shells when played at volumes under 2 or 3 at home.

The quest for professional tone at reasonable home volume has been expensive and frustrating for me.  Finally, though, more solid information is available on Internet web sites and in the form of online videos.  I'm sure equipment manufacturers hate this because now guitarists are going to get some good introductions to gear -- and much of them will be turned off by what their learn and hear.  The days are falling by the wayside when intimidated newbies purchase gear at the store or online without putting it through its proper paces to ensure they're getting what they think they're paying for.  Manufactures MUST now post good samples and videos on their own websites and other sites like YouTube.  The must also provide FULL DISCLOSURE as to what gear (boards, cables, racks, modifications, pickups, amps, guitars, et al) and settings they are using to produce all these cool sounding tones.  Guitarists now have more resources and are therefore more sophisticated than before.  Some manufacturers are getting the message and reacting quickly, many are not.  As far as I'm concerned, if they aren't jumping aboard then they have something to hide.  It's easy to make gear sound good on paper; it's a whole other game to prove it.

That all said, I'd like to direct some of you other home hobbyists on this frustrating tone quest to an informative website I found online:
http://amptone.com/truesecretofamptone.htm  Rather than the home page, I'm linking you to one specific section.  The entire site is devoted to how to obtain quality home guitar sound, but this page contains some very revealing info.  Frustratingly, it appears to me that professional rock home tone cannot be achieved by merely buying a good electric guitar and an expensive amplifier.  No, it seems that you need to buy an entire rack of other expensive stuff ... and that this is something the guitar dealers don't want amateurs to know in order to not discourage them from taking up the hobby and blowing wads of cash.

I'd like this thread to be devoted to those of you home hobbyists who somehow really are getting inspiring, overdriven rock sustain at home that at least closely resembles the tones of bands like Tool, Deftones, Van Halen, Metallica, Pink Floyd, QOTSA, and other rock super bands.  Is it possible or is the webmaster at amptone.com correct that you'll never be satisfied unless you invest in a couple power dampeners, EQ racks, etc.?  Share your experience and be honest about how you're achieving it.  We all have different standards of what guitar sounds we find satisfying (I'm pretty demanding) so posting videos somewhere like YouTube, with full and honest disclosure as to what gear you're using.  Help us brothas out.

Hey, I may be overly optimistic, but it's worth a try.
"D minor is the saddest of all keys." Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

The Quest For Professional Tone

Offline rt0412

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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2007, 06:07:34 PM »
The problem is, the tone you get from your guitar and amp/speaker at home will sound different outside of the house (say, a small club, an auditorium, a recording studio, outdoors, etc). So, how are you going to emulate those environments? I think your best bet, if you don't want to spend a lot of money, is to get a good modeler and neutral sounding amp/speaker combination (or powered speaker). If you have such a setup, it might be that some of the modeler's factory presets will be good enough or a good starting point. Also, a modeling guitar might come in handy. You might not get the exact sound of what you're emulating but you can probably get close enough.

Otherwise, you'll find yourself accumulating several amplifiers and cabs and guitars and other stuff as time goes by because there's no way a single guitar/amp/speaker combination will be able to do everything you want.

Rolly
« Last Edit: July 31, 2007, 06:15:09 PM by rt0412 »
 

The Quest For Professional Tone

Offline Paul Marossy

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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2007, 06:22:12 PM »
I think the point that the author of that page is trying to make is that you you use that set up he recommends, you can get the sound you want at any volume level. That's kind of what I do with my pedal board as it is setup. At least, that is my interpretation of that article... [8D]

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« Last Edit: July 31, 2007, 06:23:13 PM by Paul Marossy »

The Quest For Professional Tone

Offline cy2989

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« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2007, 06:58:16 PM »
Diad,

Let me just say one word...Guitar Rig2.  Ok I guess that is two words but it software made by Native Instruments and it is amazing.  I play through a set of KRK Rokit 6 speakers and I can make any sound from clean to bluezy to metal tones and all in between.  I works great with my '98 Deluxe, and my Cedar Bronze.  Check into it and please email me if you have more questions about it.  Peace.




The Quest For Professional Tone

Offline Diad

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« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2007, 10:09:18 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by cy2989

Diad,
Let me just say one word...Guitar Rig2.  Ok I guess that is two words but it software made by Native Instruments and it is amazing.  I play through a set of KRK Rokit 6 speakers and I can make any sound from clean to bluezy to metal tones and all in between.  I works great with my '98 Deluxe, and my Cedar Bronze.  Check into it and please email me if you have more questions about it.  Peace.



Cy:  The guitar into my computer option is one that I haven't given enough consideration, so thanks for that suggestion.  Afterall, I guess that's really all a digital modelling amp and board do.  I have a feeling that's what a lot of guys on YouTube are doing to get those nice tones.  So, are you saying that you midi (or through use of a 1/4" jack to USB converter) your guitar to your computer and that you're using studio quality monitor speakers to amplify your sound that's been digitized with this software?  Does a computer have enough juice to power speakers or do you use some kind of converter?  This sounds like it would really open up the tone world without a lot of technical and cost issues associated with multiple effects pedals and finnicky tube amps.
"D minor is the saddest of all keys." Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

The Quest For Professional Tone

Offline uburoibob

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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2007, 10:46:54 PM »
OK. Here are the keys to ultimate professional tone I've heard over the years. Mark Peters used a Guild SG Style guitar and an Ampeg VT-22 and had the best rock sound I've ever heard. I tried that rig, and it didn't even sound close for me. I played Eddie Van Halen's guitar through his rig and I sounded horrible on it. I bought a Boogie in 1976 and it, with my Les Paul Custom, gave me the ultimate over the top, distorted, saturated, responsive rock tone. But, while the amp was cool, I'd finally learned to coax great sound out of whatever I was playing through.

So, to answer your question with what you have already termed "smug" and "arrogant" it's at least half in your playing, but I'd give it closer to 90% in your playing. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until you know I am not smug and arrogant... LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE GUITAR PLAYER ON A SOLID BODY GUITAR THAT'S NOT PLUGGED IN - THEY SOUND LIKE THEMSELVES. No kidding.

Everyone thinks the gear is gonna make them play better/sound better. But at best you are gonna get a 10% bump from the gear. I'd concentrate on technique (he said smugly and arrogantly)

Bob

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« Last Edit: July 31, 2007, 10:48:07 PM by uburoibob »
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Offline bno

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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2007, 11:19:37 PM »
I think Bob's right on the money.  You need to have solid loud attack on your picking, clean fretting of the notes and be able to sustain without the amp.  Once you have really mastered getting a dynamic, clean sound unplugged, your amplified tone will come to life.  Most solid body guitarists simply don't play loud enough and rely on the amp to do the work - you have to get the string really moving in the magentic field and the sustain happening organically within the instrument before your amp has enough input to work with.

I'm serious, you have to be able to play loud without the amp.  Really loud.  It's not easy.  There.  I've just given away the big secret.  It's not the amp or effects.  It's the playing technique.

No you don't need buckets of boutique gear.  A good low wattage tube amp, a decent overdrive/distortion pedal and the ability to play loud without the amplifier.  Not that you play loud all the time (dynamics and variety) but you have to have the ability to really push the string.  This is why a lot of well know players prefer heavier gauge strings - because they can really beat on them.
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Offline Paul Marossy

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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2007, 11:37:38 PM »
quote:
Everyone thinks the gear is gonna make them play better/sound better. But at best you are gonna get a 10% bump from the gear. I'd concentrate on technique (he said smugly and arrogantly)


Alas! You must not have seen this line of pedals yet:
http://www.angelfire.com/yt3/redtele/
With these fine pedals, you can play like any one of your guitar heroes! The "Talent Boost" is great! I have two of them!! [:D]



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Offline Diad

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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2007, 12:17:23 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by uburoibob


Everyone thinks the gear is gonna make them play better/sound better. But at best you are gonna get a 10% bump from the gear. I'd concentrate on technique (he said smugly and arrogantly)

Bob



So I take it you play a Squier Bullet through a Line 6 Spider 2 and sound like Steve Vai?  There's a reason the world's best guitarists own the best gear like $50K rigs consisting of vintage guitars, boutique amps, and mega racks -- and it ain't to get volume. (he replied smugly and sarcastically)
"D minor is the saddest of all keys." Nigel Tufnel, Spinal Tap

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Online mmmmgtr

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« Reply #9 on: August 01, 2007, 06:32:49 AM »
I think there is a delicate balance. I TOTALLY agree that your tone
comes from your playing (technique, feeling, etc...). The means by
which you transfer it to others (guitar/amp/effect/etc...) will
modulate the perception by others of your tone by some small amount.
(I can't tell you how many times I used someone else's rig and I
get comments like, "it still sounds like YOU")


There is also that mojo that you get by having certain equipment that
makes you FEEL better about your tone and translates into improvement
in your tone. This is regardless of whether or not the tone is
actually better or not, if you feel better about it, you're going to
play better, resulting in better tone. This is the part of "gear"
providing inspiration. I think we've all had those nights where
nothing sounds right. You're using the exact same equipment, but it
just isn't working. That lack of inspiration will lead to un-inspired
playing that has a negative effect on your tone.

This inspiration doesn't have to come from a $50K rig. It can, and
often does, but I've heard some pretty crappy sounding expensive
rigs. That's that balance thing coming into play again. I have good
technique and feel, I have equipment that inspires me, I know how to
use it, and so on, and so on...

Take a look at all the hype the $99 Zoom A2 has generated in another
thread on this board. Those folks seem pretty inspired to me and the
results I've heard sound pretty good.

Then, of course, there is the tax man. We all need write-offs...

[8D]

quote:
Originally posted by Diad

quote:
Originally posted by uburoibob


Everyone thinks the gear is gonna make them play better/sound better. But at best you are gonna get a 10% bump from the gear. I'd concentrate on technique (he said smugly and arrogantly)

Bob



So I take it you play a Squier Bullet through a Line 6 Spider 2 and sound like Steve Vai?  There's a reason the world's best guitarists own the best gear like $50K rigs consisting of vintage guitars, boutique amps, and mega racks -- and it ain't to get volume. (he replied smugly and sarcastically)

 

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Offline Paul Marossy

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« Reply #10 on: August 01, 2007, 06:38:25 AM »
quote:
I think Bob's right on the money. You need to have solid loud attack on your picking, clean fretting of the notes and be able to sustain without the amp. Once you have really mastered getting a dynamic, clean sound unplugged, your amplified tone will come to life. Most solid body guitarists simply don't play loud enough and rely on the amp to do the work - you have to get the string really moving in the magentic field and the sustain happening organically within the instrument before your amp has enough input to work with.

I'm serious, you have to be able to play loud without the amp. Really loud. It's not easy. There. I've just given away the big secret. It's not the amp or effects. It's the playing technique.

No you don't need buckets of boutique gear. A good low wattage tube amp, a decent overdrive/distortion pedal and the ability to play loud without the amplifier. Not that you play loud all the time (dynamics and variety) but you have to have the ability to really push the string. This is why a lot of well know players prefer heavier gauge strings - because they can really beat on them.


 
quote:
OK. Here are the keys to ultimate professional tone I've heard over the years. Mark Peters used a Guild SG Style guitar and an Ampeg VT-22 and had the best rock sound I've ever heard. I tried that rig, and it didn't even sound close for me. I played Eddie Van Halen's guitar through his rig and I sounded horrible on it. I bought a Boogie in 1976 and it, with my Les Paul Custom, gave me the ultimate over the top, distorted, saturated, responsive rock tone. But, while the amp was cool, I'd finally learned to coax great sound out of whatever I was playing through.

So, to answer your question with what you have already termed "smug" and "arrogant" it's at least half in your playing, but I'd give it closer to 90% in your playing. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until you know I am not smug and arrogant... LISTEN TO YOUR FAVORITE GUITAR PLAYER ON A SOLID BODY GUITAR THAT'S NOT PLUGGED IN - THEY SOUND LIKE THEMSELVES. No kidding.

Everyone thinks the gear is gonna make them play better/sound better. But at best you are gonna get a 10% bump from the gear. I'd concentrate on technique (he said smugly and arrogantly)



I just saw a very similar (heated) discussion on another forum. Half of the people that responded said it was 90% in your fingers, and the other half said it was more like 50/50.

I think either is probably correct, depending on who you are referring to. For myself, I rely on the sustain from my equipment so much, that I can't do the same stuff on an unplugged electric that I would normally do, at least in terms of lead playing and legato type stuff. For, strumming chords and what not, I agree. Sometimes I just sit on my couch and practice unplugged, if it's quiet enough (kids can be pretty noisy).

It's really a many faceted thing, you can't really pin it on just one component.

 
quote:
So I take it you play a Squier Bullet through a Line 6 Spider 2 and sound like Steve Vai? There's a reason the world's best guitarists own the best gear like $50K rigs consisting of vintage guitars, boutique amps, and mega racks -- and it ain't to get volume. (he replied smugly and sarcastically)


Yeah, and people like Steve Vai get stuff thrown at them, every manufacturer wants him to use their product. I doubt the bigshots like him had to pay very much for anything that they have when they were full bore in their careers, except for maybe vintage guitars. I agree, you can't do "Alien Water Kiss" with an unplugged electric guitar. [;)]

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« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 06:45:25 AM by Paul Marossy »

The Quest For Professional Tone

jwrooker

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« Reply #11 on: August 01, 2007, 06:50:58 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by Diad
So I take it you play a Squier Bullet through a Line 6 Spider 2 and sound like Steve Vai?  There's a reason the world's best guitarists own the best gear like $50K rigs consisting of vintage guitars, boutique amps, and mega racks -- and it ain't to get volume. (he replied smugly and sarcastically)



Here is where you are wrong.  I've had a lot of email communication with you over your Vox AD30VT and I still don't think you get it.  Steve Vai plays what he does because he can.  He pays nothing for those Ibanez guitars and Carvin amp stacks because they bear his name.  Steve Vai would be unmistakably Steve Vai on a Squier and a Blues, Jr.  Equipment manufacturers don't want you to know this, but it is in the fingers and mind of the player, not the gear.

Ever hear Robin Trower?  In the 70's Robin was playing Squier Strats because he didn't like the USA Strats.  Robin is a tone monster.  I've heard him with two Marshall stacks making thunder and I've heard him on smaller rigs and he sounds the same.  It's in the player.

Young players never understand this..work on your technique..get the chops.  If you think you suck on the gear you have, you will still suck on your dream setup, only more people will hear how bad you suck.  
I know, I've been playing 45 years and I still suck.  




John
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Offline cy2989

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« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2007, 07:13:20 AM »
Diad,

The reason I'm recommending GR2, is because it gives you the opportunity to play with a lot of gear, in the software realm, that you would normally not have access to because of cost contraints, or even space.  Is it as good as the real gear?  I don't know, some say it is.  Personally I don't use much distortion and so the amps aren't that interesting to me.  The effects in GR2 are very high quality and sound amazing.  I don't play professionally but for my home studio it's a great product.

And BTW, you don't need midi.  GR2 is all audio so you just need an interface to your computer or if you buy the Rig Kontrol with the software there is a built in interface.  The Rig Kontrol allows you to switch presets, turn effects on and off, etc.

« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 07:18:20 AM by cy2989 »

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Offline rt0412

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« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2007, 08:58:33 AM »
I think i'm going to get the GR2 (software only) just for the heck of it. Considering though that it cost $300 with the Rig Kontrol, it might be better to just buy a Zoom G9.2tt or a Vox Tonelab LE or a Pod XT Live for $400. This modelers can interface with the PC for editing parameters but doesn't need one for playing live.

Rolly
 

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Offline cy2989

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« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2007, 09:26:50 AM »
Yes Rolly, if you are going to use it live I'm not sure I would recommend GR2.  The added complexity of a computer isn't something I would want to deal with in a live situation.  In the home studio I can tweak and reboot as necessary.  I know many people use computers in live performances though.