Monday, October 10, 2011

5 Quick Tips for Better Guitar Tone

Here are my five quick tips for better guitar tone, no matter WHAT genre!

1. Maintain Your Instrument and Rig

Keep your guitar set up well, new strings, well intonated, tuned, cleaned, wired correctly, and working efficiently. It's SO worth the extra $50 to get it set up at your local guitar store every month (or LEARN how to do it yourself!) Change your strings often and keep your neck clean. Have nice cables, clean connections, and a well maintained amp. Keep your pickups at the right height (which is usually really darn close to the strings, but not necessarily as close as possible). Locking tuners and GraphTech nuts help you stay in tune. Think about it! So many variables...

2. Play at the right Height

I don't care how cool you look for playing low, the truth is, the higher you hold your guitar, the easier it is to play. Find a good height that works for you. Things to watch out for - pick strumming differences when playing lead and playing rhythm, wrist positioning, and relaxed shoulder/hand. How does this get you better tone? It helps you strike the strings at the right angle and helps you press with your fretting hand with the right tension and strength. This allows you to relax more when you play, and thus, enjoy yourself. Relaxed players = happy players. Happy players = better players.

3. Use a pick that works for you

Don't just find a pick and settle with it! Use a pick that works for you and your genre. Some prefer lighter picks (not my cup of tea) others prefer heavy picks. I think in my experience, rock players play best with .70 - 1.0, Metal and or lead players best with 1.0-3.0, and acoustic players anywhere from .50 to 2.0 depending on heavy you strum! A general rule - heavy strum/lighter pick, lighter strum/heavy pick. Using the right pick can drastically change the way your tone is produced, definitely on electric and especially on acoustic guitar.

My favorite picks are custom made picks from Red Bear Trading Co. They are expensive but last for months and months without dulling, and they sound better than any picks I've ever used.

4. Practice, and Practice with a Metronome

You can't get better if you don't practice. So do! Practice and practice with a good metronome. If you can't play with a met you will have a hard time getting good, a hard time getting studio work, and a hard time getting in a good band. You need to know how. The more you practice and play with a met, the better your ear's natural metronome will be and you will naturally play in time better.

5. Get a Tube Amp

Not much to say about this one. Get a tube amp. I've got 10 of them and they will forever sound better than solid state amps. Your favorite guitarists DO use tube amps -- look it up. Page, Hendrix, Mayer, Clapton, Vai, Petrucci, Paisley, Knopfler........

If you don't have a tube amp, get one. It will change your world, really. If you do have a tube amp, keep it maintained and make sure you get a good one. Some of my favorites include Hiwatt, Bad Cat, Dr. Z, Top Hat, Splawn, Divided by Thirteen, and of course good old vintage Fenders.

-Kendal Osborne
Recording Lounge Podcast
The Closet Studios