It’s great to try and emulate your guitar idols. But reality is you should be seeking your own tone. But how do you get there?
That’s a long and winding road as it takes a lot of experimentation to get there. There is so much that makes up what your tone is. But if you were to sit down and listen you can quickly pick out a specific guitarist just by the way the sound comes across.
So let’s break it down.
Guitars and the way they are built and with what they are made from will make a contribution to the tone that identifies you. So what are the things that make up a specific guitar’s tone?
The woods that are used to manufacture the guitar body, neck and fingerboard contributes to the base tonality of the guitar. This also includes what type of laminate top that may be used, type of finish, and how the neck might be joined to the body.
The specific type of neck joints include bolt on, set neck (glued on), set thru (a hybrid of neck thru and set neck where the neck heel extends well through the body), or neck thru (where the body “wings” are glued to the neck heel which extends all the way through the guitar).
Additionally the method of string mounting will make a difference in tonality. Meaning that a like guitar with a locking tremolo will sound different than one with a hard tail or string through body design. Giving a focus to specific ranges of tonal harmonics as compared to others.
Finally the pickups will contribute to the tonality of the guitar. Single coils have a specific sound when compared to a humbucker. The single coils having more of a violin tone as where the humbucker has more of a cello tone.
All these thing combined create a specific tone from a specific guitar. And you will find variance of tone within the same family of guitars or even the same model. One having a slightly sweeter tone than another. No two guitars ever sound alike. They can get close, though.
This single item can contribute the most to your overall tone. Marshalls, Oranges, Mesas, Fenders all have a tone that is specific to their name brand. However their are differences even within the product lines of these brands.
This all has to do with the tubes and tone shaping of the circuit. You can dramatically change the tone of a specific amplifier just by changing the type of tubes used in the amp. Both in the preamp and the power stage. Solid state amps will impart their specific coloring as well.
Modelers are a whole different subject on their own as to how they add color or warmth to your signal chain. Some are better made than others.
But by far the amplifier will make one of the biggest contributions to achieving you overall tone.
FX can also contribute a significant amount to your tone. Some guitarists rely heavily on effects to achieve their sound. Whether it be a specific overdrive, chorus, flanger, wah or phaser, all of these things can identify a guitarist quickly.
Another significant contributor is you, the guitarist. The way you play, your note selections, phrasing, dynamics control and/or technique can contribute more to your overall tone than you would think. This single element can identify a Edward Van Halen from a Zach Wylde; or Al DiMeola from a Wes Montgomery.
Putting it All Together
So a combination of all these things will contribute to your tone to make you recognizable from other guitarists. And the search for the right tone for you can take a while to establish.But it is a worthwhile endeavor.