Adam has played guitar for over 25 years, 10 of those professionally with Fleetwood Mac tribute band Nightbird.
Every beginning guitarist, or advanced player for that matter, wants to craft the most amazing tone they can pull out of their instrument. It can be a mind-boggling problem. Where to start? Is it the type of guitar, the amplifier, or is it some fancy effect pedal that makes your sound stand out above the competition? In my experience, none of the things I just mentioned have as much of an impact as the four surprising tips I'm about to share with you. Fear not, killer tone is already at your fingertips!
Tone Tip #1: It's in Your Hands
Believe it or not the most important aspect of gaining great tone has nothing to do with your gear at all! That's right, it's right there at the end of your arm. Your hand. The pressure you apply to the strings to fret notes, the vibrato you use, and the clarity of your fretted notes all add up to great tone. Not committing to your note? Not pressing the strings firmly enough? Weak vibrato? You will end up with tone that would make Stevie Ray cringe! Don't be that guy, trust in your hands not in your gear.
Tone Tip #2: String Gauges
Bigger strings = bigger tone. This one is a bit of personal preference, and likely very debatable, but in my experience it rings true. It comes down to a bit of physics. The more mass a string has the stronger the vibration when struck. So, if you want fat tone, string up heavier gauge strings and strum those suckers with intent. Don't worry, you won’t hurt them!
Tone Tip #3: Slow Down!
So many guitar players are obsessed with speed. I get it. To some, faster playing equals better playing. Well slow down speed racer! There is nothing wrong with playing fast, but if you take your time and allow the music to breathe a little you might be surprised how much more feeling and expression can come through. And that is what good tone is all about, making the listener feel something emotionally. Don't try to melt faces, melt hearts.
Tone Tip #4: Play Like You Mean It
Can you tell when a guitarist is just going through the motions? I sure know I can. There is a robotic quality to the whole thing which leaves you unsatisfied. Remember, music is about passion and emotion, so when you pick up your guitar play it like you mean it! Put it all out there, get into it, and remember to have fun. Don't think too much, let the music flow.
Well those weren't so hard, were they? Remember there is no shortcut to great skill, but even novice players can get great tone if they have the right approach. In my opinion many players overthink the degree to which ones gear dictates ones sound. Don't get me wrong, having quality equipment can indeed be part of the equation of killer guitar tone. I would say this though; don't use it as a crutch or requirement to obtain the tone you are looking for. Go back to basics. Use the most immediate tools at your disposal, those wonderfully capable hands of yours! Put these four simple tips into practice today and see how much better your tone can be without breaking the bank!
© 2020 Adam Walton