5 Basic Guitar Tone Tips
by Matthew Markel
1. Good tone starts and ends with the guitar and amp
Having a large pedal board full of effects, overdrives, reverbs and delays can be a lot of fun and add to your sound, but ultimately good tone comes from a good guitar and a good amp first.
Try plugging straight into the amp with your guitar and get the tone you like first, then add in pedals to add to your sound. Don't rely on pedals alone to make you sound good.
2. Guitars, amps & pedals: You get what you pay for
Cheap gear will usually sound cheap coming out of the PA system and in-ears. Investing money into higher quality gear will improve your tone and the playability of your guitars and amps. Expect to pay at least $500 for a good quality guitar and around $600 for a high quality tube amp.
3. Tube amps reign supreme
Tube amps are usually more sought after than solid-state amps for guitar players. While often costing more and requiring maintenance with replacing tubes, tube amps sound much warmer and will give you the good tone you're looking for. (See Vox AC15 Tube Amplifier, $629.99)
4. Have your guitars professionally set up
A properly intonated guitar with fresh strings will limit the frustration you and your band members will experience while performing. Having your guitar routinely set up will ensure your electronics work well, the guitar plays great and it stays in tune during performances.
5. Tune, tune and tune again
I usually tune my guitar before every song and many times even in the middle of a song to make sure my guitar is holding tune. Staying in tune will limit the distractions your audience experiences and will make the overall sound of the band more unified. A tuner pedal works the best and will run you between $70 and $100. If you're going to get any pedal, get one of these! (See TC Electronic Polytune Mini Tuner Pedal, $89.99)
Here are some affordable and good quality pedals to get you started:
1. Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler ($249.99)
2. MXR Carbon Copy Delay ($149.99)
1. Electro-Harmonix Soul Food Overdrive ($66.95)
2. Emerson Custom EM Drive ($159.99)
1. TC Electronic Polytune Mini ($89.99)
2. Boss TU-3 Tuner ($99.00)
Other recommendations include a Dunlop DVP1XL Volume Pedal ($119.99), Boss RV-5 Reverb Pedal ($149.00) and a Pedaltrain PT-2-SC Pedal Board ($119.99).