It’s truly an interesting thing, this guitar playing thing. I often joke calling it my “jobby”… There is no real right and wrong when it comes to finding your sound. Some players use the same exact guitar for their entire career while others switch guitars after every song. Some players find that signature sound by using the same amps for a career. Maybe for others, still, it’s a certain drive pedal or delay setting that can cement their sound. It probably all comes down to the fingers and the mind of the creator but what fun would that be for all of of us! We NEED to buy pedals! lol
I have gone through a number of stages while “finding” my tone. I have owned 21 guitars and have sold nearly as many. (One needs to eat sometimes.) I couldn’t count how many pedals I have torn through. (Two currently are on the “need to be repaired” list.) Every gross sticky bar room floor was a pedal graveyard. About 8 or 9 years ago, I finally built a solid permanent pedal board.
There have been a few constants for me that I have become pretty comfortable with. That being said, I’m in the midst of yet another quasi gear transformation as we speak. I will, however, retain and continue to utilize the core things that I believe define my sound.
I think that there are live guitars and there are recording guitars. Live guitars should be light, stable, versatile, reliable and look really sweet! I always thought that Steve Morse was right on the money when it comes to his live guitar approach. Steve’s original Tele/Strat was so unique. The Ernie Ball Steve model is amazing but I really love Anderson guitars! I am now playing a drop top Anderson with custom extra switching as my live axe. The guitar can wrangle up 24 different sounds, Tele-Strat-L.P. I had to let one beloved guitar go to afford it but…that’s how it goes right?
My philosophy is the four basic food groups. There are probably 5 or more but I have stuck with the four thus far. (Gretch guitar sound being the 5th) Fender/Gibson…Strat, Tele, Les Paul, 335. Those a the key ingredients that I feel will help to make a well rounded recording. On “Bold Horizon” I used my two Anderson Strats, Anderson Tele, PRS SC58 and Gisbon 335 to accomplish this basic line up. I like the Fender sounds for all of the chimey clean rhythm stuff and the Hendrixy chord melody sounds. I conversely love the Gibson-eque Humbucker sounds for those lead lines and distorted rhythms.
I have been using a Carr Slant 6V and a Fuchs ODS 30SLX for quite some time and see no real reason to change. The Carr has a wonderful clean tone and a spongy but crisp lead sound. The Fuchs has the Dumble sound down, the other important amp tone in my world. By the way, I am proud to be a Fuchs Artist!
I have a knack, no a skill, for destroying pedals! lol (Unfortunately still happening to this day) After my third mutilated Wah Wah, I decided to build a lasting solution. These are some guys on that board that I swear by and really help to shape my sound, especially in the studio. Please check out the “Gear” post to see a complete list.
All of these tools would be nothing without careful consideration when it comes to mics, cables, mic pres, the list is huge. Please reference my “Gear” post for a look at some of my tools of the trade.
Back to finding your sound. I have found that learning as many styles of guitar playing from as many players as possible is the way to ultimately have your own thing. I know that sounds backwards, find your own sound by borrowing from everyone else. Its really a combination of everything that you love, from your list of favorite players, all rolled up into a unique colleague that makes us who we are. I have never been actively trying to re-invent the guitar, the way some players have but instead tried to take traditions of playing and take them somewhere new. I try to incorporate the familiar with some “new” ideas that are my own to achieve something unique. I like to use familiar sounding gear, although boutique versions of it, to make my recordings. I should also mention that it’s as important to decide what to not play, to not include in your style or sound. There are plenty of things that decided to not play and that I can’t necessarily do.
I hope that helps to explain my approach to attempting to create a unique guitar voice in a world full of so many great ones. Please check out the post entitled “Gear” to see what I’ve been using to make my recordings. Also, please have a listen to my latest album “Bold Horizon” by clicking on the link below.
I would love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your comments below. What are you doing to achieve your sound?