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What Is Tone

What is guitar tone? What does it sound like? Who has it? How do you get it? Can you buy it? What guitar pedal do you need to use? What type of guitar amp do you need to use? These questions have been around since guys have been plucking away on the six string guitar even before it was electric. Many people describe tone by pointing to a certain player on a record and saying, “That's tone!”

     When I listen to SRV or Robin Ford, I hear tone, but is it? The SRV tone mystery has been debated over and over again. Everyone seems to have their own thoughts about how he achieved it, what type of guitar gear he used, how it was recorded, and that the SRV tone should be pretty easy to obtain. Well, this is where we get closer to the true meaning of tone. Tone is really the sound signature of an artist. All of what Stevie Ray was as a player, physically, mentally, and emotionally as a person, and the specific gear that he used went into that sound. That sound set the standard for the tone of his music and life

     The point here is that you can't buy tone because it is more complex than the gear alone. Tone is subjective, personal, and unique. Tone is a sound that upon hearing evokes a feeling, and fills you and others with energy and emotion. It brings you to a place not of this world but of a higher place. Tone is not a Tubescreamer into a blah, blah, blah. Tone is not a formula. One man’s tone may be another man's nightmare.  For example, one man’s tone may be an awful biting fuzz into a Fender Twin on 9, and another man’s tone may be a Gibson 335 into a mild boost pedal into a Polytone split and played through a Vox AC30. Who has tone here? If both men, even if they are all by themselves in their basement, feel moved by the sound when they play…THEY BOTH HAVE TONE!