When did your tone journey start?

DrewJD82

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I think most people can remember when they went from “I plug my guitar into this and it makes sound” to “Man, I’m not digging how this sounds” and the endless journey of finding a tone you’re content with.

Mine started fairly early on, around 2.5 years after I started playing and it was entirely because I was reading all these Eric Johnson interviews where they kept talking about tone. I had a general idea of what “tone” meant, but more of “This is distorted and this is clean”, not much else. At the time I was playing a MIM Strat into a Fender Champ 25 and the only way I could articulate what I was hearing was “Eric Johnson’s tone sounds like 2000 grit sandpaper, mine sounds like 60 grit sandpaper”. I was on the bridge single coil, tone knob all the way up with a fairly sh*tty sounding dirty channel, it sounded like straight ass.

My dad’s a drummer but had a fairly decent understanding of guitar gear and he really didn’t waste any time trying to help. He yanked this dual-band rack EQ out of his stereo system, found some RCA-1/4” jacks and then started showing me how to sweep the EQ sliders to eliminate/add frequencies to the signal. I was so f*cking stoked he might as well have handed me an AxeFX. I remember spending that whole weekend just experimenting and finding out what worked and how to get closer to the tone I heard in my head. I’ve contemplated buying this same gear now so I can hear what it sounded like.

All that said, I still didn’t know sh*t about tone until I was 17 or so and had enough gigs under my belt to realize how things translated in that environment….as well as what happens when you stick a mic on an amp and the shock that hit my face when watching a video of a live show where I thought I sounded great. :rofl
 
Hmmm, I suppose mine started the day I realized the new Yamaha G100-212II was not "able to get any tone I wanted because it has a Parametric EQ", despite the salesman telling me not only that, but also: "It's the amp Geddy Lee uses live when he plays guitar." Which, to his defense, that last statement was true, but why I didn't say, "I don't care. I want the amp Alex Lifeson uses live when he plays guitar" I'll never know.

(Oh yeah, it probably had something to due with money, or more correctly, my lack of having enough.)

I must've played with that PEQ for weeks before I finally gave up. I ended up getting a Marshall JCM900 50W half-stack, and was really satisfied..., until I discovered playing in stereo by using two Marshalls of different types together.

I coupled an ADA MP-1 with a Mesa Stereo 50/50, and I was well on my way to having lots of tones I was quite satisfied with.
 
I started out on a MIM strat into a Dano SS amp. In my first band, the other guitarist had a LP Studio and it seemed so much fuller and bigger to me. That's kinda the moment I realized there was more to guitar than just notes and chords. I quickly upgraded my amp to a Blues Jr and snagged a LP Studio with my tax return. Didnt take me long to jones for something else, and since I was relatively broke at the time, that kinda started my foray into pedals, since I could always scrounge up 100 bucks here or there to totally change up my tone with a Sonic Stomp or another tube screamer clone. :facepalm
 
Basically right away. Started lessons at 14 on a walmart first act acoustic. In about 6 months I got an MIM strat and after that the real spiral began. I think I was 15 when I saved up enough for my first tube amp... 5150II. That died immediately on me, and the "tech" I brought it two stole it after scamming me out of a couple hundred more dollars for "parts"

Fast forward many more months of hustling and saving and I scored an insane scratch n dent deal on an engl steve morse and the whoring just carried on from there
 
Basically right away about 3 Months into learning I knew what tone was being an avid music buff
I started with a 2019 MiM Start and a Katana but that axe gave me nothing but grief so sold it and also realized a Katana was not going to get me where I wanted so I moved to a Boss GT-100 and Headrush please god make it stop 108 and things started to get better, but the more i read about modelling the more i realized for what i wanted to do the GT-100 would not cut it... enter the Helix and later Powercabs
 
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Got a Hamer guitar and a Crate amp from a friend for $90, bought a white MIM Strat from my cousin. The hamer flew out of the back of my truck going to college at 60 mph and survived in a gig bag! Played that garbage drive channel on the Crate for a while. Went in to the local music store to trade in for a "cooler guitar" and told the guy I wanted to sound like Collective Soul. He sold me an Epiphone SG haha. Told me how cool the SG being on the truss rod cover was (I was oblivious to what he was even talking about.) Then got a Vox AD15vt modeling amp and a Boss ME-50. Upgraded the pickups on the SG to Gibson 57 Classic and 57 classic plus. I then thought I needed a tube amp to be legit and traded in for a Peavey Classic 410. Got huge into pedals, became an endless quest to nowhere. Traded in my Epiphone SG and a G&L Tele and a Squire Strat I'd accumulated for a Fender Deluxe Strat. Got Zexcoils in it - still have that geetar. Got a PRS Archon 25, loved it. Got into Fractal. Sold the amp and haven't looked back. Now have a tele and PRS s2 with zexcoils as well :rawk
 
Basically right away. Started lessons at 14 on a walmart first act acoustic. In about 6 months I got an MIM strat and after that the real spiral began. I think I was 15 when I saved up enough for my first tube amp... 5150II. That died immediately on me, and the "tech" I brought it two stole it after scamming me out of a couple hundred more dollars for "parts"

Fast forward many more months of hustling and saving and I scored an insane scratch n dent deal on an engl steve morse and the whoring just carried on from there

Sorry man. That sucks! I had a tech do that to me and a friend's tube amp. It's an epic story
that led to me finding stolen gear in his garage when I dropped in him randomly, and busted into
his garage when he pretended to NOT be home. I found a bunch of "new" amps and gear from a
music store he contracted with to do service work for. Led to me alerting the store, delivering a signed
affidavit to the Police, and his near brutal ass kicking he almost received.

I did get both of our amps back, but they had been salvaged for parts, and were worse off then when
we took them to him.

Special place in Hell for musician's who fuck over other musicians. :horse
 
Sorry man. That sucks! I had a tech do that to me and a friend's tube amp. It's an epic story
that led to me finding stolen gear in his garage when I dropped in him randomly, and busted into
his garage when he pretended to NOT be home. I found a bunch of "new" amps and gear from a
music store he contracted with to do service work for. Led to me alerting the store, delivering a signed
affidavit to the Police, and his near brutal ass kicking he almost received.

I did get both of our amps back, but they had been salvaged for parts, and were worse off then when
we took them to him.

Special place in Hell for musician's who f**k over other musicians. :horse

Damn thats wild, bummer about the amps :(

And for reals. Especially a teenager and his first real amp. Terrible time.

This guy literally moved during the time he was "fixing" the amp so showing up with a goon squad wasn't even an option. He had the damn thing for so long. Think I sent him somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 in total while he was allegedly fixing it then after 9 months of bullshitting me he says he can't fix it and if I wanted it back I needed to give him $350 for a still broken disassembled amp, or $495 for him to put it back together (still non functioning)


Keep in mind this is back when 5150IIs were $400 all day long on craigslist. Terrible experience all around
 
Mother fucker took advantage of you hard. Man, hope that didn't take a lot of air out of your balloon. :(

I was a grown ass man, so I made more options available.
 
Mother f****r took advantage of you hard. Man, hope that didn't take a lot of air out of your balloon. :(

I was a grown ass man, so I made more options available.

The bright side was that I ultimately ended up with a badass ENGL that ended up being trade fuel to go through quite a lot of sweet amps over the years whenever I got bored :D
 
I made all the mistakes for a loooooong time. Still blame Metallica (:hmm) for me cranking the bass
and treble on every amp I owned, and the turning the mids to damn near zero. Also, too much gain.
Also, too hot of pickups with too much gain, with too scooped a tone.

It wasn't until I returned to playing electric in 2004-5 that I dove into the deep end and became
the high-falutin' tone snob and cork sniffer I am, and still aspire to be, to this very day. :LOL:
 
I think most people can remember when they went from “I plug my guitar into this and it makes sound” to “Man, I’m not digging how this sounds” and the endless journey of finding a tone you’re content with.

Mine started fairly early on, around 2.5 years after I started playing and it was entirely because I was reading all these Eric Johnson interviews where they kept talking about tone. I had a general idea of what “tone” meant, but more of “This is distorted and this is clean”, not much else. At the time I was playing a MIM Strat into a Fender Champ 25 and the only way I could articulate what I was hearing was “Eric Johnson’s tone sounds like 2000 grit sandpaper, mine sounds like 60 grit sandpaper”. I was on the bridge single coil, tone knob all the way up with a fairly sh*tty sounding dirty channel, it sounded like straight ass.

My dad’s a drummer but had a fairly decent understanding of guitar gear and he really didn’t waste any time trying to help. He yanked this dual-band rack EQ out of his stereo system, found some RCA-1/4” jacks and then started showing me how to sweep the EQ sliders to eliminate/add frequencies to the signal. I was so f*cking stoked he might as well have handed me an AxeFX. I remember spending that whole weekend just experimenting and finding out what worked and how to get closer to the tone I heard in my head. I’ve contemplated buying this same gear now so I can hear what it sounded like.

All that said, I still didn’t know sh*t about tone until I was 17 or so and had enough gigs under my belt to realize how things translated in that environment….as well as what happens when you stick a mic on an amp and the shock that hit my face when watching a video of a live show where I thought I sounded great. :rofl

Hmm I gotta really think on that one. I think I started with rolling pickups before anything and that was fairly early on. Maybe a year after I started playing guitar. TBH I don't think I started tone chasing til I started trying to use multi fx units for gigs like the GSP1101 and GFX-1 by Digitech. I am thinking early 2000's or so. before that yeah I pretty much just had a wah, tubescreamer and phase90 as my chain eventually. I guess you could call the ADA stuff modeling and multi so in that case the later 90's. I hate doing the thinking thing so YMMV on how accurate my memories are.
 
For me, it was there basically from the time I had money to spend.

I got my first drumset for Christmas in 1994 and then joined a band with friends shortly after that. Because I was the drummer, everyone brought their stuff and left it in my basement. Naturally I played with all their cool guitars and amps and pedals when they were gone. Of course I wanted my own gear, so I started out with a cheap starter guitar and practice amp. And then I did a lot of horse trading and saving to work my way up the quality chain. When I stopped playing with that band, I needed my own real amp and pedals.

Here was my first half decent rig when I was in high school in 1999:

'97 Fender California Strat
'93 Gibson Les Paul Studio
Marshall 100w Valvestate half stack
Boss Metal Zone
Boss Super Chorus
Boss GE-7 EQ

In college I started to get really into digital modelers because Pods were getting more popular and I was living in apartments. I had a Digitech RP-20 and then a Pod XT which was neat but sounded like ass. After college, I started to dabble in tube amps and had a few small combo amps and cycled through a bunch of pedals, but nothing sounded nearly as good as the big Marshall half stacks my friends had. It was always a struggle to get good tone at low volumes.

I also had gotten into tinkering with pickups and guitars and pedals over that time too. I did my first pickup upgrades around 2002 (Seymour Duncan Jazz and JB because I heard that's what Adam Jones used). I modded some Boss pedals with some kits I had gotten, made some hybrid pickups when those were first being talked about on forums, and was planning to do some amp and guitar builds too.

But I quit playing for several years when I started having kids, and didn't get back into it until around 2015 or so. That's when my career started to really take off and I was making a LOT more and had some disposable income finally. Of course by then I was no longer gigging so I mostly focused on low volume solutions, mostly digital modelers.

I think in pretty quick order, I went like this:

Yamaha THR10 -> Eleven Rack -> Line 6 Helix -> Fractal AX8

From there, I was using mostly Helix or Fractal, with a couple Kempers thrown in. Right now it's the Fractal Axe FX 3 but there's always the risk of adding to the collection.

For guitars, again in 2015 I only had the old California Strat and a cheap Chinese Music Man copy. I found a good deal on a used LTD EC-1000 and picked that up, and that really got me more excited to play. Then I got big into pickup upgrades, finding more good used guitars, doing a lot of work on them and flipping/trading, etc.

Around 2017 I started to get into American made guitars, both because of the quality and because I was making a lot more money. I ended up getting rid of all my cheaper import guitars and slowly working into the collection I have today. And of course, I've been a relentless pickup tinkerer over the years too, and probably had 100+ pickups in and out of the guitars.

I had been really good about not getting into pedals until last year, when I put together a small board. I rotated through a whole bunch of pedals and now have probably a dozen of them. Just starting to purge those. Also, I still don't have a proper tube amp, but I have no ability to turn it up past TV volume, so no real interest in going down that road.
 
For me it really started at the beginning when all I had to play through was that bookshelf stereo.

There are only so many tones you can get out of a mic input on a small stereo. I couldn’t get distortion or anything that sounded like what I heard from other guitarists.

Getting my Crate GX-15 was the most amazing experience. It sounded so good I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing.


Everything since that moment has basically been one big “grass is greener” train wreck!
 
Getting my Crate GX-15 was the most amazing experience. It sounded so good I couldn’t even believe what I was hearing.
Man, I started on that amp and was so happy to get something better!

I think my tone journey started by going to a guitar store and hearing people more talented than me play on amps that I could not afford and hearing what guitar tone really could be.
 
Just lately I seem to be more fixated with constantly changing amp settings and pedal settings/order in signal chain, chasing a tone that it seems I'll never really achieve.
I really should just get into the mindset that says stop arsing around and just play!
 
I think the moment it really kicked in for me was sorta by happy chance. My bandmate and I at the time ('95) would switch back and forth on bass/guitar during our sets and we used my Hondo strat most of the time. It was a beater guitar with a great neck. Problem was it had noisy pickups. We went done to our local music store dude and he talked us into these active EMG S pickups. I had never heard of them before. We installed them and it was like everything was beautiful, clean and clear -- and quiet. We had also started using my bandmate's Traynor YGM-3 combo (I still have it) which has beautiful tremolo and wonderful clean tones. It just so happened to have an EVM12S installed we'd gotten from an acquaintance, and that just stepped it up a whole new level. Shortly thereafter, by chance a guy from another band needed a phaser -- so I traded an Ibanez PT9 I'd gotten at a pawn shop for his 3 knob BK Tube Driver. I had never played or seen one, didn't know who used them but when I plugged it in it was like "oh yes, me likey this a lot." I ended up buying the phaser back from the guy down the road. So the combo of the EMGs, vox wah, phaser, bk and Traynor were just perfect in so many ways and it really brought to attention how certain elements build a unique sound. Sometimes it's a perfect storm of luck and sometimes it can be well thought out. Come to find out later some of my favorite players had used the BK driver a lot -- like Satch, Gilmour, EJ and Billy G. Same with EMG. So it was cool to see how it organically lead me in that direction.
 
I'd say early on, like 3-4 years into playing. Mainly because I was trying to get pinch harmonic squeals from a JCM900 and didn't realize I could just boost it with an OD. I thought running an overdrive pedal into a distorted amp was "wrong" and didn't even try it. :rofl

But the true obsessing>changing>obsessing cycle didn't really start until I discovered guitar forums.
 
When I found the 15 watt Epi combo in Service Merchandise that had a "gain" knob

I was on top of the world with that thing


My first amp was a tiny POS plastic Harmony amp and the only "distortion" you could get out of it was if you turned it up loud enough the entire enclosure would rattle :rofl
 
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