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July 19
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Music, Books (mostly non-fiction), Music, Travel, Music, Wildlife-Nature, Music, Computers, Did I mention music?

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  1. Great Tone? What is it? Does it matter?

    31 January 2017 - 08:12 AM

    I borrowed my response to a post on the Gibson board, and expanded it here. Comments are welcome:

    What is great tone?

    1) There is no such thing as great tone, just different tones. What is good and bad is totally subjective.

    2) Great tone in ad-speak is just something to get you to buy something (and we want to buy music toys)

    3) My guitar tone depends on the song I'm playing. I might want clean, neck P90 for one song, compressed and fuzzy bridge humbucker for another. I have P-Rail pickups and I use them in all 4 configurations, I have many different settings on my amp/sim/fx box, and I twiddle the tone knob on my guitar. --- My sax tone depends on how I shape my mouth, the mouthpiece I've chosen, throat growl, overblow/underblow, breath support (or lack of) and so on.

    The audience doesn't care about your tone nearly as much as they care about what you are playing and how you are playing it. If you are conveying your expression to them, that's all that matters.

    After all:

    1) They listen to low bit-rate mp3s on lo-fi earbuds. Before that there was a string of low-fidelity, tone robbing formats like cassettes, 8 tracks, 45rpm records and so on.

    2) If they cared about tone singers like Dr. John, Stevie Nicks, John Lennon and so many others wouldn't have ever had a hit record. But these people expressed themselves in a way that affected millions of listeners.

    3) Who has good tone on the guitar anyway: Hendrix? Pass? Slash? Burrell? Santana? Les Paul? Wylde? May? Gale? Hall? Clapton? Page? Beck? BB King? Albert King? EVH? SRV? May? Young? Richards? Satriani? Guy? Lifeson? Garcia? Malmsteen? Hammett? Walsh? Petrucci? Howe? Prince? Moore? Dimebag? Berry? -- and on which guitar? Which amp? Which FX? Which Song? Jimmy Page got more out of an el-cheapo Danelectro than I can get out of my Parker with Duncan P-Rails.

    4) How about sax? Coltrane? Getz? Lovano? Hamilton? Prez? Turrentine? Rollins? Gordon? Shorter? Hawkins? Webster? Brecker? Redmond? Zoot? Stitt? Parker? Desmond? Bostic? Cannonball? Woods? Cole? Dulfer? and so on. Charlie Parker got more out of a Grafton Plastic sax than most of us can get out of a Selmer Mark VI.

    IMO if the tone is 'in the ballpark' for the genre of music you are playing, it's great tone. Now what matters most are the notes you choose to play, the dynamics you play each note, the subtle timing that you play them, and all the playing effects/ornaments like attack, bends, hammer-ons, attack, slides, vibrato, whammy, wah, and so on. Can you give your guitar playing vox humana? If so, nobody is going to care if your tone is the greatest.

    The same thing goes for sax, voice, synthesizer, and everything else. Each instrument has it's own ways of allowing you to express yourself. You have to find out what your instrument will do, practice each expressive device until it's so automatic that you don't have to think about it, and then coax expression from your soul to the soul of the listener.

    Does that mean we shouldn't care about our tone? No, I didn't mean that. I think we shouldn't obsess about it, and pay more attention to technique which allows us to get what is in our heads to the ears of the listener.

    You have the right to disagree.

    Insights and incites by Notes


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    09 Sep 2016 - 08:33
    Thanks for the kind words G Mac.
    I took the Berklee Correspondence course back in the stone ages before Internet. I started gigging full time after high school, and never stopped, so that was a great way to learn more advanced theory.
  2. Photo

    G Mac 

    07 Sep 2016 - 19:10
    Hey, Notes! Thanks for visiting my profile as well as your posts in general! I notice from your website that you're a Berklee guy, too. I got my paper in '86 I think... it's hard to remember exactly. Anyway, nice to chat and such. Hope all's well in sunny Florida! Cheers!
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