I always thought a great pedal company name would be Snake Oil Pedals. Just because of all the Bull-Crap marketing out there. It's like the old Medicine carts that used to travel from town to town selling snake oil promising to cure whatever ails ya. I even see a lot of pedal companies are using similar artwork to what those old medicine bottles had. It's a cool look and yes I want more snake oil. It may not cure my sickness but that bottle looks awesome! It will sure look great on my pedal board. But why more snake oil?
What about the root of our illness? The Great Tone Search..... It can be expensive and exhausting and really fun all at the same time! What exactly is great tone and what exactly are we searching for? I'm going to try and help you figure that out with this blog.
Searching for the tone we have in our heads can be really tough sometimes. The odds of seeing Bigfoot seem more realistic than finding our perfect tone.
I know a guy who has sold some of the most sought after tube amps and pedals to get an Axe FX then sold it to put together this massively beautiful pedal board only to sell it and get a Kemper. I bet in a year or so he will sell the Kemper and move onto whatever new thing promises that perfect tone he's looking for. My friend is on a tone hunt and in the 30 years or so I've known him it hasn't changed. Maybe you are like my friend you just can't seem to get that tone your looking for.
The hunt for "Great Tone" is a pirates treasure hunt but 99% of us have no map and no idea where to look next for that buried treasure holding the infamous "Great Tone".
Your probably asking right now , "How do I find this tone treasure?"
Not to sound like some self help guru but...
First off look within yourself.
What type of tone do you want to achieve? Maybe you really want to have a guitar tone like Slash but you just can't get it. We'll you may never sound like someone else. You will always sound like you. Case in point, signature pedals, amps, guitars etc. Don't always sound like you think they will. Think of all the signature models of gear you see on Reverb and eBay. Eric Johnson Strats, Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Faces, Jimi Hendrix wahs, John Petrucci Mesa Boogies and the list goes on and on. You see as many or more signature model gear than the standard stuff being resold. You are you and those famous guitarist are them. You have different fingers different attacks its all different sure it will get you closer to their tone but in most cases never really nails it.
Ask your self how do I want to sound? What type tone do I want?
2nd is the gear that you have suiting the style of tone your after?
Case in point, in the early 90s all my guitars had Floyd Rose trems I was way into metal and instrumental guitar music. Steve Vai, Satriani, Blues Saraceno to name a few.
Then Grunge happened I was loving stuff like STP and Soundgarden, Alice in Chains. I wanted to do some Drop D and on a Floyd rose guitar that was a chore. So I went out and got a Les Paul Studio and a Strat one day same purchase on the old discover card at the time. Spent 1200.00 for 2 USA made instuments. These instruments changed the way I played. I found that a Les Paul was and ever since has been my instrument of choice. It's my tone I love and I love the way the necks play.
Then the strat was cool too, I liked it! It wasn't a Les Paul but when I was learning some SRV and Hendrix licks! Holy cow that was the tone I was looking for. Not to mention those Jangly 90s alt rock chordy songs. Perfect fit at the time.
Then came the amp. I was playing a Mesa Mark III but for the alt rock, grunge stuff I was playing at the time it just didn't sound right. I ended up with a Marshall JCM900 head that a friend had. The amp with those guitars was the sound I was after.
I always say gear are like tools. You wouldn't use a Screw Driver to cut a sheet of metal you'd use some Metal Sheers. You wouldn't use a Table Saw to cut a hole in your wall you'd use a Saws-all. The right tool for the job will help you on that quest for Great tone.
3rd although this should be first
Tune your guitar and practice your technique.
Tone is only as good as what your fingers tell the gear to do.
Also being in tune will make you sound better right outta the gate Unless your Jimi Hendrix.
4th Expose yourself to all sorts of gear and be open
Don't be a gear snob. I used to be and missed out on a lot of great tone tools because I thought that if it wasn't made in a certain country it was crap or if it wasn't a certain wood, or wired a certain way, or a certain class of amp. Its all Snake oil and drink it if you want but be open to new things as a guitarist. You may find that the tone your looking for is in a cheaper combo amp mic'd up vs a head and 4x12 cab. You may find that you actually like Maple necks vs Rosewood, you may find that a $30.00 inexpensive delay pedal is exactly that slap back sound you wanted vs the $350.00 boutique version.
Here is a little saying that will help you on your tone quest and probably save you some money while your at it.
"If it sounds good it is good."
5th Have fun on your journey and don't get in debt
Have fun finding those tones your looking for. We all play guitar and buy gear cause we love it! Have fun on your journey don't stress over not having certain gear. Enjoy your tone tools and remember that one day or next week you may need that sound. Don't get crazy in debt maxing out your credit cards always buying the next great thing. Odds are if you wait a bit you can save a lot of money when its used on eBay or Reverb.
I may leave you with deep down questions or it may make a light bulb go off over your head like a cartoon! Either way I hope you enjoyed my article and please check out my website for pedals, mods and other things to help you on that tone hunt.
Also check out American Musical Supply use this link and you can get $50.00 off your next 250.00 purchase GET 50 off at AMS