What Makes Guitar Tone?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by ZacZeppelin, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. ZacZeppelin

    ZacZeppelin Strat-O-Master

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    What would you say contributes most to tone on a guitar?


    I think it's roughly (from most important to least important)
    Body Wood
    Pickups
    Neck wood
    Body thickness
    Strings
    Nut
    Bridge

    Am I totally wrong about this?
     
  2. fumbler

    fumbler PhD-Stratology

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    Since we're on the strat-talk forum, I assume you're talking about strats . . . which are solid body guitars. They're pretty quiet on their own. They need to be plugged in.

    #1. Speaker/cabinet

    But I would re-order your list this way:

    Pickups
    Neck Wood (meaning EVERYTHING about the neck: weight, size/back profile, truss rod construction.)
    Bridge (a strat bridge is a HUGE hunk of metal and the strings are anchored to it.)
    Body Wood
    Body thickness
    Strings
    .
    .
    .
    Nut material
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2014
  3. balston11

    balston11 Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    Yes I think so, surely pickups are the most important. With cheap nasty pickups no amount of good body wood will save the tone.
     
  4. Ronkirn

    Ronkirn Most Honored Senior Member

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    Yep..

    1, talent... a skilled guitarist can elicit pretty much whatever tone he likes from a well setup guitar..


    2, amp.. c'mon... it's the box that interprets the electroniic signals and produces the sound... the amp is a biggie..

    I might mention that 1 & 2 comprise the majority of any sound you're hearing.... #3, would be the hardware, but if "tone" were a calendar year, the first two get ya all the way to the last week of the year, that's where all the other "stuff" guys wanna get in a huff about come into play.

    NO one ever walks up to a great guitarist and suggests altering something to improve the sound... it's just not necessary.

    the notion that to alter the tone, ya start changing parts has always been pretty weird to me... the tone controls on the amp and guitar give you a far broader range than screwing parts to the guitar. Second on this list, change the brand of strings..

    Ron Kirn
     
  5. albala

    albala Most Honored Senior Member

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    ears....
     
  6. michplayer

    michplayer Senior Stratmaster

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    Wood and body shape. Nobody agrees with me about body shape, but body shape.
     
  7. suncrush

    suncrush Senior Stratmaster

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    The strap. That's where all the tone is.






    (I clearly forgot to wind my watch. I thought we had another week before the next iteration of this thread. ;))
     
  8. suncrush

    suncrush Senior Stratmaster

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    (Within 20 posts we're going to have a huge argument over the boundaries between tone and technique. I'll make popcorn.)
     
  9. Ramblin'man

    Ramblin'man Strat-O-Master

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    I'm with Ron on this...... All you have to do is watch a few video's with your guitar hero playing the same tune with different instruments to know what makes the tone. Joe Walsh comes to mind.
     
  10. Rogue Bohemian

    Rogue Bohemian what? WHAT?????

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    Air. Without it, the strings don't make noise to allow any of the other factors to do their thing. Ya gotta move some air to make some noise.;)
     
  11. QReuCk

    QReuCk Strat-Talker

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    I'm with Ron for the majority of it. Still, I would put his 2 in 3. My 2. is:
    - scale length and neck/body junction type (screwed, set, through body), type (single coil, P90, high output HB, low output HB) and positionning/combination of pickups. I would call that "basic concept of the guitar".
    I put that before the amp because any decently transparent clean amp* should let the listener recognise a strat on position 2 from a strat on neck PU, from a Les Paul on both PU, from a LP junior with P90, etc...
    IMO if your amp is so much more important than this, then it's overdoing what it's supposed to do, and I'm very concerned it might also lessen the impact of the nuances you put in your playing. Just my opinion, though.
     
  12. QReuCk

    QReuCk Strat-Talker

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    I'm pretty sure the strings of an electric guitar absolutely don't need air to excite the magnetic pick ups and produce an electric signal. The speakers need some though in order to transfor the movement of the cone into a sound pressure wave.
     
  13. Rogue Bohemian

    Rogue Bohemian what? WHAT?????

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    Bottom line, it takes air to make noise. Magnetic fields don't without air either.

    I will say that I believe Ron is a tad off base with regard to pickups. They absolutely change the tone. There are also other properties that they influence. How hot the pickup is makes a difference.

    And some pickups simply sound better than others.

    Now, it's true that there isn't a pickup that somebody somewhere doesn't want. It's like is said in car sales. There's an ass for every seat. Even the hot snot green POS is the perfect car for someone.
     
  14. ZacZeppelin

    ZacZeppelin Strat-O-Master

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    Yeah I guess I have made a thread like this. On this I mean purely from the guitar rather than including things like the amp, pedals,humidity, whether or not you are a distant relative of Jimmy Page or not ect.

    I guess my goal was more things like is it more useful to get a guitar that plays well with lower quality tonewoods and better pups or a guitar that has higher quality tone woods and lower quality pups
     
  15. michplayer

    michplayer Senior Stratmaster

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    I disavow my former response in favor of this one. The strap is an irreplaceable part of a player's tone.
     
  16. michplayer

    michplayer Senior Stratmaster

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    I would say that given what we all like to discuss, it's a conversation worth having many times.
    At least until someone agrees with me about body shape.
     
  17. 335eye

    335eye Senior Stratmaster

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    I guess you could get a thousand opinions and be no better off. Objectively I think a good guitar setup, neck relief, string height, intonation, etc., will maximize your ability to get good tone from any guitar. Find one that you like, then think amp. For me that means vintage fender amps. Since I've acquired a 66 Princeton and 60 Tweed Deluxe I spend very little time shopping equip, or seeking tone.

    That's not to say opinions don't count, but research which members have the most experience building and swapping and upgrading guitars, and follow their advice.
     
  18. suncrush

    suncrush Senior Stratmaster

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    If you want to take it from that perspective, it has to be the electronics first, in the case of an electric, as that's what generates the signal.

    Now, if we're talking an acoustic tone, different story.
     
  19. libertarian

    libertarian Strat-O-Master

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    1. Pickups
    2. Type of construction of the guitar (Strat, Les Paul, Floyd Rose superstrat...)
    2a. Amp preamp type
    2b. Speakers and cab type
    3. Neck construction and woods
    4. Body woods
    5. Power amp type

    I'm glad there wasn't a lot of "fingers" in the initial posts, because that old chestnut drives me crazy. Of course, good players will sound good with pretty much anything and can make it work - but it doesn't change the actual tone. And gear choices are always part of a players tone in my opinion.
     
  20. Yogi

    Yogi Most Honored Senior Member

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    Its really all subjective, but I don't think body wood matters that much in an electric guitar. Take this into account:

    Concrete Guitar Sound Test - YouTube