Guitar Tone and What Makes Your Tone

For this article a few highlights about your guitar tone.

Most beginners may wonder what is up with guitar tone. “Does a guitar’s tone not depend on the instrument and how well you play”? they may wonder. Well to an extend that is true but there is a lot you can do yourself to get a better tone.
The problem with the guitar is, you give anyone, who has never played, a guitar and get them to play one note or a simple, open string chord and they will get a sound. This is not the case when you think of a violin or a trumpet. With both those instruments you need to work on your technique to produce a sound. The guitar, on the other hand, seem to be this instrument which will give you a sound straight away. Get an experienced guitar player to play the same note or chord compared to any beginner, and both people will produce the same sound. Difference is the experienced guitar player will produce a better sound.

The tone of the guitar depend on your fingers, how you finger your chords and the kind of equipment you use such as guitar, plectrum, amplifier and any kind of effects in between amp and guitar. Let us have a closer look at some of those elements I mentioned before:


 The touch of your fingers will interact with the strings of your guitar: When you dig in harder on the strings, the strings will produce a fuller and louder sound. When you dig in too hard the strings will break up their sound and the tone is no longer any good. It is a fine line between the sound breaking up and producing a good sound. Playing as strong as you can is a good starting point. Again, this is something most beginners will get into at a later stage.

What I mentioned about fingers also applies to the plectrum: The plectrum acts in a similar way as your fingers, the difference is that the plectrum acts like a piece of plastic in between your fingers and the strings: It produces a brighter tone which also makes the strings sound louder as well.

When you are starting out with the guitar it makes sense to try to get on with both plectrum and fingers since you are new to playing the guitar. 
If you are used to playing with a plectrum you may want to try playing with your fingers since it produces a different tone: It is more mellow compared to playing with a plectrum. Once you get used to playing with your fingers try to get your finger technique up to the same level as you plectrum technique. Once you can do this you can let the music decide which technique is best suited for what you want to play.


Once your plectrum-and finger technique are in place have a look at your guitar: When you are using and electric one, look at your pick ups: Are they weak and microphonic or do they produce a thick, full tone? Changing your pick ups on your electric can give you a different tone at the flick of a switch.

Looking at the kind of amp you use, does it have a preamp, or is it a single channel amp? Try playing with your fingers when you use a bit of distortion. Listen to your tone, see how different it can sound compared to when you use a plectrum.
Amps with a preamp will give you the ability to dial in a bit of extra volume which can give you a bit of distortion to your sound. Sometimes a tiny bit of distortion may just be what you like. A distortion- or overdrive pedal can also act like a preamp on your amplifier.

Use any distortion or overdrive pedals? Try to pick one which work best with your amp and guitar. If you have several overdrives, try them to see which one works best for what you want. You will find that over time your taste may change. It makes sense to have a few different overdrive pedals since all of them will give you a different flavour. 

Tone at the end of the day is a personal thing, there is something like good and bad tone, but in between those two there is a lot of variation and most of it will depend on your vision, experience, musical taste and style.

Keep on working on your tone and hope to catch again soon,