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Tone and Technique


Fractal Fanatic
We've all heard about "the tone is in your fingers" and I've always been a big supporter of this. I know when I pick up somebody else's guitar plugged into their rig that I simply don't sound like them; I sound like me. What I didn't realize is that even though I've been playing guitar for 10+ years that what "my" tone sounded like is still improving and developing.

I've played in a few bar bands and am currently playing in an original band, but I got the call to join a full time cover band (we're talking 4-5 nights a week, quit my day job scenario). I've decided that if I really am going to make music my career that I've got to step up my game, so I've spent 2 hours a day, 7 days a week playing with a metronome running technique stuff (scales, arpeggios, etc...) for the last few weeks. I've been doing most of this with a simple clean on a marshal 1x10 practice amp and really focusing on making each note sound good despite the amp. I've never been a shredder, so it's not about speed. I just wanted to develop my technique to be clean and precise.

Last night, I plugged into my Axe FX and went to a patch I haven't used in a month and I noticed that the tone was drastically different than what I had originally dialed in. I tried out my normal lead patch, which I don't use very often, and the rest of my band asked if I had done a bunch of work on it because it really sang. The only thing I've changed is how much technique practice I've been putting in.

Even though I was always a big believer in tone coming from your hands, I really did not expect such a drastic difference in such a short time. I thought my tone in my hands was locked in at this point, but boy was I wrong! The funny thing is that when I told my wife, who is a budding bass player, she said, "You're constantly telling me that my tone will improve with practice. Why are you so surprised?"

I guess my message is that if you're not getting a great tone out of your equipment, it's probably not just the equipment. Work on your technique and it'll do wonders, though I can't explain why or how. It doesn't matter how good you think your technique already is, it still needs work.


Not to dispute your main point (I agree with it 100%), but aural memory is so short, my patches sometimes sound "drastically different" the next day after I dial them in. :)

I record everything I play on a Sony portable recorder, and save it to my file server at home. That way I can at least tell if I'm getting better or if I'm fooling myself. I wish I started doing this years ago.


Fractal Fanatic
I agree that aural memory isn't always accurate, but the reason I know it's drastically different is because I have literally never heard this sound coming out of any amp/patch I've ever used. Petrucci has this focused laser like sound on single notes that I really enjoy, but have never been able to achieve (e.g. right at 1:06 on Glass Prison). Last night, it was very reminiscent of that sound.
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