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 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! 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.
I know a guy who has sold some of the most sought-after tube amps and pedals to get an Ax-Fx. It was the tone he said!!
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 you're looking for.
The hunt for "Great Tone" is a pirate 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".
You are probably asking right now, "Where is the X that marks the spot to find this treasured tone?"
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. Eddie Van Halen amps, Eric Johnson Strats, Joe Bonamassa Fuzz Faces, Jimi Hendrix wahs, John Petrucci Mesa Boogies, and the list goes on and on. You ussually see more signature model gear resold than the non-signature models. You have different fingers, different techniques. Signature gear will get you closer to their tone but in most cases never really nails it.
Ask yourself how do I want to sound? What type of tone do I want?
2nd Does the gear that you have suit the style of tone?
Case in point, in the early 90s all my guitars had Floyd Rose tremolos. 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 instruments. 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 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 your gear is your 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 Sawzall. The right tool for the job will help you on that quest for a 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 out of 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. It's all Snake oil, drink it if you want but be open to new things. 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 $500.00 boutique version.
Here is a little saying that will help you on your tone quest and probably save you some money too.
"If it sounds good it is good."
5th Have fun on your journey and don't get in debt
Have fun finding those tones you're 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.
This article may leave you with deep down questions or it may make a light bulb go off over your head like in the cartoons! 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