Write Now: Don’t Worry About How Your Tone Is Different; Just Embrace The Fact

Have you watched your favorite musician shred on guitar, bass, keyboards, or drums and thought what a great tone he has?

Me too.

And then you play that musician’s simplest of licks (patterns or phrases) and find out you played the correct notes, but sound nothing like him — his tone.

Me too.

Then you wonder why your tone doesn’t sound like his tone.

The answer is because it’s his tone or timbre, which means quality.

What I mean is it is his tone that he creates with his whole body.

Guitar companies will create artist signature editions of instruments, and usually these instruments can be on the expensive side of ledger. The companies hope consumers will go and buy these signature edition instruments because the thinking is if you have one of the instruments, then you will sound like the signature artist.

This is not so true.

The artist edition guitar is made better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will have better tone. In my experience from interviewing many musicians over the years, the tone comes from the guitarist’s hands and fingers.

Say for example you live in a big city like Nashville, New York, Las Vegas, or Los Angeles, your guitar teacher just happens to gig on the weekends in a really-popular, really-tight band on the weekends.

You see your teacher play and are mesmerize at what he is playing. You think that wow, he didn’t teach me that at my lesson. So, at your next lesson, you ask him to teach you some of the licks he played.

Easy enough, right?

He agrees, and he slowly teaches you how to play one lick. He plays it on his guitar through his amplifier. Instantly you remember seeing him play that on stage. It sounds just like it did then.

In the studio, you are playing through another amp just like your teacher’s. You begin to play but notice again the notes are correct, but the tone is not there. You play it again.

Still nothing.

You ask if you can play his guitar, and it still doesn’t sound like him. You are at a loss. Then you ask him to play that same lick on your guitar.

He plays your guitar and it sounds like his guitar. You play your guitar and it sounds — well not like him.

Roadblock. You want to put your instrument in its case and not take it out for a long, long time. You scratch your head and wonder how did he get his tone from your guitar?

It’s in his hands and fingers. It’s also years of experience. He knows how to put his fingers on the fretboard to coax and cajole notes to sound like him.

And it seems he does it with grace and finesse.

When you play, it seems like hard work.

But the hard work will soon pay off.

By listening how your teacher or favorite musician plays, you will develop your own tone. And other players will ask you about how did you achieve that remarkable tone.

Your teacher and favorite musician also were at a point like you are.

The same can be said for drum tone.

You watch a drummer and his drums sound perfect. You research how he tunes his drums, and you tune your drums the same way, but your drums still don’t sound like his. You have the same size drums and use the same kind of drumheads. You even purchase a pair of his signature sticks, but your drumset sounds like you.

Remember it’s how he holds his sticks and how hard or soft he hits his drums and cymbals.

John Douglas, Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen’s drum technician, said in a YouTube video, youtube.com/watch?v=dosskPJY0is, “I get lots of questions about the Alex Van Halen snare drum sound. The key to the Alex Van Halen snare drum sound is Alex Van Halen. No matter what drum he is playing, it sounds like him.”

Don’t get discouraged.

The takeaway or the flip side is that if these musicians were not somewhat famous, then they are just musicians who know how to get great tones from their instruments. Covet that your tone is different. Try to develop your own tone. It will set you apart in a good way.