The Gear & the Tone of the Guitarist

I often read, and hear that the tone of the guitarist is in the fingers. That’s true but it is not a fully satisfying statement.

Last week I was at the recording of a teaching video co-produced by Radio France with l’Air d’U the web TV of the University of Rennes. The topic was : Capturing the sound of the guitar. It was a discussion between sound tech Pascal Besnard, and guitarist Jean Michel Kajdan. It was a great experience, and I’ll tell you once this video will be online.

Beyond the fact that I’ve learned some tips about recording, one clear point was raised : The whole point of a good sound capture is to transcribe the tone of the guitarist whether it is on a record or live.

Jean Michel Kajdan and Pascal Besnard insisted on the fact that once the guitarist has his unique voice then you don’t want to mess with it when you capture it. Of course, the tone is something evolutive. It doesn’t remain the same through your progression as a guitarist.

The tone is in your fingers because of what you learn, and how you play it. But the tone is also in the gear… It strongly depends on the guitars you play, the pick you use (or not), the effects chain, the amplifier, the microphone used to capture the sound. It even depends on who’s mixing the final tune.

So I’m thinking that maybe the tone is not in the fingers after all… Just like a voice can be improved by a microphone or some effects, the tone of the guitarist is likely to improve through experimenting with gear. Obviously if you don’t have a decent voice to begin with, you’ll have to work this aspect first by learning the basics. Then eventually, we all end up experimenting a shitload of gear!

Finding your unique voice… To me it seems like the whole point of playing guitar. That’s why I’m often stunned to see everyone looking to sound just like name-any-guitarist sounds. That’s why I’m also often dubious about the fact that entry guitars have to be Stratocaster and Les Paul look-alikes!

Doesn’t seem to be the right way to start searching for your unique voice, right?

Sorry for the quality of the pictures, they were taken with a telephone because I forgot to take my camera with me.

About Sem

I am the founder of Muzicosphere (that also exists in a French version). In 2011, I also created Guitar Fail, the Guitar LOL place to be. And before that I created GAS a GoGo, a gear giveaways blog in French.

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