Guitar Tone: How To

Tone. The reason for musicians spending thousands of dollars on gear to just sell it and buy something else. The perfect tone is something musicians dream of but just never quite achieve except for a few minutes at 2am in their parents upstairs bedroom when they were 16 after finding the “more drive” button on their new amp. This search usually costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars but for the normal musician that’s not really an option, however, it’s not an excuse. So unless you’ve by some mystical manifestation of the tone gods have achieved the perfect tone with the gear you have, you are probably looking to hit improve your tone. Guitar tone is crazy subjective, most of the work I deal with is along the ambient/rock/indie rock field, so that’s what we’ll tackle. Most guys that I know have spent somewhere between 5-8k on the guitar tone, but what if I told you this guitar tone could be accomplished for under $2K. IT CAN, and I am going to explain how in 3 easy steps.

STEP 1: THE AMP ($350 used – $600 new)

An amp is the number one source of good tone. I have heard guys who have thousands of dollars wrapped up in their guitar and board and their amp just sucks all the life out of it. A nice tube amp like a Fender, Vox or Egnater is a great option but there are some others brands out there too. Now don’t be fooled, all tube amps are not created equal. Some brands design their amps to be used for a certain type of music such as hardcore or metal. If you buy one of these amps return it, sell it, or give it away, you don’t want it, they are made to make a sound you’re just not going to get for the type of style we are going for. I’ve gotten the unique experience of getting to work with a large amount of different amps from high end boutique Jackson Ampworks amps, to vintage Fender Twin-Reverb, to low end sub $300 tube amps. The one that has caught my ear, bang for the buck, is the Egnater Tweaker combo. This amp has a large amount of tonal options and sounds huge for only $600 new, $350 used on eBay.



Improperly used effects can be the most destructive thing to great tone. The big rule of thumb I go by here is that I want to still hear the strings of the guitar being hit. It shouldn’t just sound like this big driven, verbed out mush. That being said here are the main pedals I recommend:

Overdrive: Voyager – Walrus Audio (Great versitile and open drive at a great price. My favorite drive pedal right now.)

Pitch: Micro Pog – Electro-Harmonix (This can accomplish boosting your signal, adding octaves to you tone to cut through, and giving you really great shimmer tones for slower, ambient stuff. This is a must have for any record I do.)

Delay: DD-20 – Boss (This is an oldie but a goodie at a great price)

Reverb: RV-5 – Boss (One of the longest lasting reverb pedals out there, and most versatile and at a great price)


3. THE GUITAR ($700)

There are thousands of different guitars out there that sound great. My advice would be to keep it simple. A Fender Strat is one the most versatile guitars out there and will give you almost any tone you want. You could also hit up a Gretsch Electromatic on the lower end and be good there if you are going for more darker tones on the whole.

After all of this I want to make something clear this is all subjective! Get 10 people in the room and they’ll probably all give you different advice. This post is more from my years of experience in the industry and what I have seen work over and over again. I hope this helps you in the search for the perfect tone!





Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *