What Tone Qualities Do You Listen For…

Slartybartfast

Strat-Talker
Aug 10, 2020
377
Ca.
…when you pick up a Strat (either your own or someone else's)? I own two stock Strats; one being a 2001 Amer. Series and the newer one , a 2012 stock Amer. Standard with the Fender ”Fat 50's” pickups. Despite pickup differences, weight, and rosewood as opposed to maple boards, they each exhibit that “fat” Strat tone. The bottom strings chewy, meaty tone offset by the top strings chime. IMHO, it is almost like having two different guitars in one; and this applies when using any of the 5 pickup switch combinations. One of my favorite exponents of my description was Hendrix's playing on a relatively clean amp without much in the way of pedals.

What tone qualities do you seek out when testing out or dialing in a Strat; before adding modulation, OD or distortion to its inherent tone?

Stratstrangler
First a crisp snappy bridge tone - on ALL the strings. I like to pluck the wound strings with my fingertips, then strum all six strings on a G and E chords, a C with the extra low G note with a pick and let it ring. Then the neck pickup must have crisp high end and clear lows, like a fresh cup of perfectly brewed coffee (Wind Cries Mary). If those things are in place the other three positions will fall in line.
 

bigreen505

Strat-Talk Member
Jul 5, 2021
87
Colorado
open, big 3d-like string separation.
string sensitivity. warm woody neck tone,
no shrillness to bridge.
Pretty much this. Clarity and note separation without sounding shrill, sterile or plinky. Volume and tone controls that can give the guitar a wide palette of sounds so that 7-8 is starting, lower to clean up or darken, more to boost gain or treble. Pickups with enough output to give the note some heft without pushing the amp. I don’t like zingy or metallic sounding guitars, more woody. Full, but with clarity.
 

Nick L Plate

Strat-Talker
Sep 15, 2020
266
Santa Barbara
If, like many of the posters here, you cannot hear the character and detail that wood (and build) can transmit to the string, affecting fundamentally what the pickup senses, then nothing makes a difference but pickup and outboard processing. Those who are able to hear such details recognize that pickups and the whole remainder of the signal chain can be swapped, adjuasted, and changed, while the physical body of the guitar is what it is. I listen for the absence of hardware noise (rattles and buzzes), for trebles that ring loudly and fully, for bass that is not soft and flubby, and for chords that are balanced and not muddy. Of course, I listen for clean noting at the frets, and I listen for sustain and the kind of decay the guitar offers.
 

joebtone

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Jan 26, 2022
1,570
Northwest US
…when you pick up a Strat (either your own or someone else's)? I own two stock Strats; one being a 2001 Amer. Series and the newer one , a 2012 stock Amer. Standard with the Fender ”Fat 50's” pickups. Despite pickup differences, weight, and rosewood as opposed to maple boards, they each exhibit that “fat” Strat tone. The bottom strings chewy, meaty tone offset by the top strings chime. IMHO, it is almost like having two different guitars in one; and this applies when using any of the 5 pickup switch combinations. One of my favorite exponents of my description was Hendrix's playing on a relatively clean amp without much in the way of pedals.

What tone qualities do you seek out when testing out or dialing in a Strat; before adding modulation, OD or distortion to its inherent tone?

Stratstrangler
I listen for a tone so sweet ..it makes my teeth drop out from resultant tooth decay.

Or, maybe it’s just so sweet that I go into a diabetic coma.
 

sam_in_cali

Scream for me Strat-Talk!
Silver Member
Feb 21, 2014
15,739
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Usually I'll just strum a few chords unplugged and listen to make sure it doesnt sound dead (no sustain, dull, etc..) and then all the normal stuff like checking each note for fret buzz and if any there is any choking out during bends. After plugging in, then I'll noodle around a bit to see if it feels good. After awhile you kinda know what will work for you and what won't.
 

meat cheese meat

Strat-Talker
Mar 6, 2020
151
L.A.
I like when they sound good.
Me too. An' ah like to say sayin's. When ya say sayin's yore really sayin' somethin'. Yup. I tell you what. Know what else ah like? Shoes that don't hurt. Ah cain't help bein' picky. Ya know when yore string wahnder get's stucked up yore nose? Ah don't like that. But sometimes it'll happen when ah'm not lookin'.
 

Ebidis

Providing the world with flat bends since 1985
Nov 14, 2013
28,313
Alabama
I like my guitar to sound like a butterfly delicately fluttering from flower to flower...

so he can smash them with a sledge hammer. :cool:
 

dilver

Strat-Talker
Jan 22, 2009
178
nj
Someone asked me why I like a certain ice cream vs others. Some are too sweet, some aren’t bold enough, some are too creamy, others aren’t creamy enough, some are gooey, some are icy. Guitarists use a lot of the same words. Then there are words like transparent, warm, big, and 3D, that sound cool, but are still wide open for interpretation (no offense to anyone who’s used these words).

I prefer using well known recorded tracks as reference. We might not all agree that we like certain tones, but at least the reference tone is the same. SRV‘s Texas Flood has great examples of neck, neck/middle and bridge pickup tones that I like. Clapton’s playing on Roger Water’s The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking is great for clean middle/bridge tone, David Gilmour’s neck pickup tone on Shine on You Crazy Diamond, John Frusciante’s playing on Californication has great funk and distorted tones. These are the tones I look for in a strat. These are all very different than say, Hank Marvin, Rory Gallagher, Dick Dale, Robert Cray, Eric Johnson tones, which I like, but these are not the “reference strat tones“ in my head.
 
Y

yettoblaster

Guest
My American Performer with “Yosemite” pickups was nice and bright. Glassy.
My AmPro II is rounder, meatier, more versatile, and bright enough.
I like a pure, clean tone. Like a horn.
Once distortion kicks in I don’t sound like me anymore, which can be a good thing, depending.
 

Bob Spumoni

Senior Stratmaster
May 5, 2019
1,886
New England
Over the past couple of years, I have been transitioning largely to hollowbodies. I find myself listening more to the attack and to whether the guitar has the sound of an actual physical string vibrating, a more "acoustic" sound.. I pay less attention to sustain and to sheer volume. I guess I like a sound less "pure" than I used to, if that makes any sense.
 

Guitar Hobbyist

Strat-Talk Member
Oct 25, 2021
62
Virginia
I’ll know the tone when I hear it. Having said that, I always use a reference amp so that my tone testing is consistent (for me). Every guitar is tested through the same amp the same way with all the tone controls set at 12:00 on the amp. My amp of choice is a Princeton Reverb. Does a Strat, Tele, or Les Paul sound like I expected it would at those settings? Some guitars just can’t be played through a certain amp without sacrificing tone no matter how much you tweak the amp’s tone knobs. D’Addario 9-42s are my reference strings.
 

Hudman_1

Strat-O-Master
May 12, 2018
611
Gibraltar Michigan
Sustain and fullness while being balanced. Also, noticeable tonality differences between all 5 positions.

I don’t care for shrill sounding Strats with poor sustain.
 

Odell

Strat-Talker
Mar 24, 2011
117
Nashville TN
I don't play like EJ but borrowed from him on my icon strat. Bridge pickup is a DiMarzio HS-2, wired single coil, with Pure Vintage 54's for the neck and bridge. The volume pot is 275k. As a long time tele player, a good bridge tone is essential to me. The volume pot mod wakes up the 54's and smooths the HS-2 a bit. All this makes for a very versatile strat.
 

92 Fiesta Red 62

Strat-Talker
Apr 27, 2022
170
TEXAS
I would quantify perfect Strat sound as sparkly, spanky, fat and funky, with a fair amount of pearl when overdriven.

All of which means absolutely nothing to anybody but me.

I’ll completely misquote Potter Stewart,”I can’t describe it but I know it when I hear it.”
 

Dik Ellis

Strat-Talker
Aug 24, 2021
291
Georgetown, TX
…when you pick up a Strat (either your own or someone else's)? I own two stock Strats; one being a 2001 Amer. Series and the newer one , a 2012 stock Amer. Standard with the Fender ”Fat 50's” pickups. Despite pickup differences, weight, and rosewood as opposed to maple boards, they each exhibit that “fat” Strat tone. The bottom strings chewy, meaty tone offset by the top strings chime. IMHO, it is almost like having two different guitars in one; and this applies when using any of the 5 pickup switch combinations. One of my favorite exponents of my description was Hendrix's playing on a relatively clean amp without much in the way of pedals.

What tone qualities do you seek out when testing out or dialing in a Strat; before adding modulation, OD or distortion to its inherent tone?

Stratstrangler
Does the shop have an amp similar to what you own? Try to stay in familiar territory to get a better idea.
 


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