The ideal guitar tone is something that most guitarists seek, but never truly find. Although everyone’s idea of what they want their guitar to sound like is different, some common mistakes will almost certainly prevent you from finding your perfect sound. Here is a look at where you might be going wrong with your guitar sound.
Not Enough Mids
Scooping your mids can get you a sound that many guitarists, particularly those who play metal, seek. However, many people go too far when scooping their mids. Keep in mind that the guitar is a mid-range instrument. If you completely eliminate your mids, you are eliminating most of your tone. Although guitarists like Dimebag Darrell of Pantera famously cut their mids down to zero, they also played venues with top-of-the-line live audio setups and sound technicians who could carve out space for them in the band’s overall EQ. If you do not have as luxurious of a situation, you need your mids.
Too Much Gain
A tone with a lot of gain can give you those screaming lead tones, and chugging rhythm sounds that many guitarists want. However, most guitarists are simply using too much gain. You’ll probably be surprised to see how little gain you actually need. Past a certain point, adding more gain contributes nothing but noise to your sound. One good rule of thumb is to push your gain just below the point where you can no longer control your feedback. Even at that point, you might find that you have much more clarity with less gain.
Setting Your EQ Without the Band
Many guitarists find incredible guitar tones while playing at home by themselves, but become frustrated when these tones don’t have the same feeling when playing with their band. The fact is that playing alone and playing with a band are two completely different situations when it comes to dialing in your tone. What sounds good by yourself will rarely sound good when playing with other people. Furthermore, the room you’re in also affects the tone. Have a ballpark idea of how you want your EQ set up, but adjust it to suit your live situation.
Using Your Eyes Instead of Your Ears
Although you probably have an idea of where the knobs on your amp should be, sometimes you might be surprised by how they sound in certain live situations. Different amps respond differently, so you might also find surprising tones when dialing in your EQ on a backline amp. Don’t stubbornly leave the knobs where you think they should be. Use your ears to make your tonal decisions.
Certain guitar pedals can kill your tone, even when they are turned off. It is crucial for you to sit down with every individual pedal you buy and see how it affects your sound. Always look for effects that have true bypass. Don’t fret if you find that one of your favorite pedals is sucking out all of your tone. Many shops and technicians offer modifications that can give these effects true bypass.
Chances are that no matter how good your tone gets, you’ll always feel that it can be better. The sound you’re looking for is a matter of personal taste, but following the rules in this article will help guide you to your perfect guitar sound.
For private music lessons, contact Clint Fanslow today.
About the author: My name is Clint Fanslow, and I am a private music instructor. With a career that spans over three decades, I’ve worked with many clients ranging from young children to local professionals. My one-on-one method of teaching allows me to deliver a tailored approach to each of my students. I currently live in Lake Charles, Louisiana with my pet Labrador, Major.