#1
What is the best way to get the most natural sound out of a good guitar (Les Paul type, in this particular case)? What should be the role of the pickups to get most out of what the wood gives to the sound? If I understand it right, active pickups do some sort of processing to the sound, maybe even apply some compression, so that means the sound is not so natural. Also I've been told that even the passive pickups with a higher output take the sound further away from the natural sound of the guitar.
For a long time I used to think that the pickups are the most important part of a guitar, and I did not care about the wood it's made of; now I understand that I was wrong.
#2
Natural sound?


IMO wood type doesn't matter as much as the condition/quality of wood being used. EMG's also have a preamp which is why they depart a somewhat similar tone on different guitars.
#3
Yeah I really dislike active PUPs because the sound(vibrations) is, like you said it yourself, isn't natural. Higher output passives amplify the sound more than the lower output ones so yeah...I think it definitely sounds more unnatural.

I got this guy that builds guitars for a living and he's so freaking good when it comes to wood. Different types of wood vibrate differently so they give the sound different characteristics. A lot of manufacturers combine wood types to get the sound they desire.

So I think the best way of getting a natural sound out of your LP would be getting some low output pickups and try those...maybe even p-90...cause in my opinion single coils do sound more natural.
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#4
Quote by andriusd
What is the best way to get the most natural sound out of a good guitar (Les Paul type, in this particular case)? What should be the role of the pickups to get most out of what the wood gives to the sound? If I understand it right, active pickups do some sort of processing to the sound, maybe even apply some compression, so that means the sound is not so natural. Also I've been told that even the passive pickups with a higher output take the sound further away from the natural sound of the guitar.
For a long time I used to think that the pickups are the most important part of a guitar, and I did not care about the wood it's made of; now I understand that I was wrong.


Which wood is the body made of?
#5
Quote by andriusd
For a long time I used to think that the pickups are the most important part of a guitar, and I did not care about the wood it's made of; now I understand that I was wrong.

Why, exactly do you think you were wrong?
#6
Start by sniffing corks all day until you’re really high off the vapors…
#7
Quote by andriusd
For a long time I used to think that the pickups are the most important part of a guitar, and I did not care about the wood it's made of; now I understand that I was wrong.


Correct! Unless you're using active pickups, the species of wood used in the body and neck make a large difference in your tone. If you want to accurately reflect the tonal properties of your species in your actual tone -

1 - Get a good guitar. Bad guitars are made of bad wood: cheap mahagony won't sound like it ought, etc. etc.

2 - Get a well made amp that will reproduce the tone of your instrument faithfully. Cheap amps will obscure the tone of the species, or add their own particular artifacts to it.

3 - Get well made pickups, and get them direct mounted. Cheaper high output pickups tend to obscure your natural species tone as well, but once you break free of the cheap pickup category, the high out-put problem will cease to be: e.g. Warpigs are high output, but they're some of the best pickups in the world, and will accurately reproduce your tone.

In general, direct mounting pickups, running your guitar with well made and well insulated cables that are as short as conveniently possible, and through as little processing equipment as possible, will yeild the most authentic representation of the chosen species.
#8
You're chasing something impossible to get. The electronics are part of the guitar as is the amplifier. You cannot take those out of the equation. If you did, you would be playing unplugged. The guitar works as a unit. There's no such thing as "natural" sound unless you're talking about playing unplugged but then those other qualities won't matter. High output pickups aren't less natural. They just have more output which means they're more compressed. Active pickups have a preamp in them, but you're plugging into a preamp 95% of the time anyway. It's up to the amp to make it sound "natural." And that's just an illusion because the preamp and poweramp greatly color tone. Plug your guitar directly into a PA and you probably won't think it sounds natural at all even though that's the most natural you can get while plugged in. Just get stuff that sounds good.
#9
Quote by JELIFISH19
You're chasing something impossible to get. The electronics are part of the guitar as is the amplifier. You cannot take those out of the equation. If you did, you would be playing unplugged. The guitar works as a unit. There's no such thing as "natural" sound unless you're talking about playing unplugged but then those other qualities won't matter. High output pickups aren't less natural. They just have more output which means they're more compressed. Active pickups have a preamp in them, but you're plugging into a preamp 95% of the time anyway. It's up to the amp to make it sound "natural." And that's just an illusion because the preamp and poweramp greatly color tone. Plug your guitar directly into a PA and you probably won't think it sounds natural at all even though that's the most natural you can get while plugged in. Just get stuff that sounds good.


totally agree. you can buy pickups that complement the guitars wood but that's about it. mahogany has a darker tone so it is often paired with pickups that keep the low end tight but also add a little high end to keep the tone more balanced. in the end though it is an "electric" guitar so the electronic end of thing will dictate the final sound
#10
I had a Gibson Les Paul Supreme for a while. That sounded very natural. Very woody and raw. I didn't like it though so I took it back.
#11
The tone you get is so interdependent on so many things that you really can't just point to one thing to say that's the 'natural sound'. It's commonly agreed that, assuming you have just a guitar, a cable and an amp, the 4 most dramatic variables on your sound is your Amp, your Pickups and electronics, the Construction and Materials of the guitar itself and then finally the Strings you use with the most subtle of impacts on tone.

If you want a 'natural' guitar sound, you're going to have to get an amp and electronics that have a fairly flat frequency response. You basically want a purely Acoustic Guitar since, in the strictest of senses, that eliminates the need for an amp and pickups.

The way I go about pickups selection is to first think about the guitar itself; how its made, what tonewoods are used, what type of pickups its routed for, etc and try to figure out what all of that would sound like as an acoustic. A Les Paul is a set neck, thick, dense guitar made of mahogany maple and rosewood. That's going to come together to give a warm ballsy tone, So if you want something more natural, get pickups that enhance what's already there. P-90 are perfect for this. When you plug it into an amp, set the EQ to match.

Personally when I go for a 'natural' tone I pick gear that doesn't necessarily contrast each other, but when one piece is lacking somewhere I pair it with something else that sort of picks up the slack. For example, if I had a P90 equipped LP, I'd run it through a Fender Amp with the EQ set to boost the higher frequencies. If the LP had clean humuckers I'd run it through a Marshall and maybe even ease off the mids to let the others shine through.

But that's me. Feel free to dissagree or go about it your own way. In fact I encourage it. Make your own decisions. This also doesn't take into account of pedals, but those color your tone arguably more than the amp does so if you want a natural guitar tone you shouldn't be altering it with effects anyways.
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#12
Quote by androidred0100
The tone you get is so interdependent on so many things that you really can't just point to one thing to say that's the 'natural sound'. It's commonly agreed that, assuming you have just a guitar, a cable and an amp, the 4 most dramatic variables on your sound is your Amp, your Pickups and electronics, the Construction and Materials of the guitar itself and then finally the Strings you use with the most subtle of impacts on tone.

This.

Everything else is negligible, at best.

inb4 da tone iz in da finguuurz
#13
Quote by Butt Rayge
This.

Everything else is negligible, at best.

inb4 da tone iz in da finguuurz

I do agree with that, but saying Jimmy Page will sound like Jimmy Page's famous tone on any setup is bullshit. It's the way he bends the notes, how fast he bends them, how hard he holds the strings down, how he picks the notes and what he does with the notes. So saying the tone is in his fingers is referring to his technique, mainly I think. But the other factors such as pickups, woods, amps, valves ect are much more important; so much so, that it makes the technique nearly irrelevant in comparison.
#14
most people will confuse the wood affecting the tone with very dynamic pickups. like those 57 classic pickups they are putting in the traditional's now adays sound completley "natural" and wood sounding but then when u play a standard with burstbuckers u stop to wonder what just happened.

dont get me wrong, the wood still does affect the overall character of the tone, but the pickups are what changes the dynamics and makes every note come out gritty and "woody"-y
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#15
Quote by andriusd
What is the best way to get the most natural sound out of a good guitar (Les Paul type, in this particular case)? What should be the role of the pickups to get most out of what the wood gives to the sound? If I understand it right, active pickups do some sort of processing to the sound, maybe even apply some compression, so that means the sound is not so natural. Also I've been told that even the passive pickups with a higher output take the sound further away from the natural sound of the guitar.
For a long time I used to think that the pickups are the most important part of a guitar, and I did not care about the wood it's made of; now I understand that I was wrong.

despite what most people think, the wood has very little to do with your tone. i've played plywood guitars with good pickups and it sounded great. i've played guitars with better woods and with bad pickups and they sounded crappy. all pickups have an EQ and colour the tone. the amp and speaker does too, and so do whatever effects you use.
#16
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
despite what most people think, the wood has very little to do with your tone. i've played plywood guitars with good pickups and it sounded great. i've played guitars with better woods and with bad pickups and they sounded crappy. all pickups have an EQ and colour the tone. the amp and speaker does too, and so do whatever effects you use.


I've played a cheap knotty peice of basswood with: Dimarzio tone zone/ air norton and bkp aftermaths, still sounded like shit. Explain that. Both sets are in other guitars now that both sound fantastic.
#17
Quote by DCshoes
I've played a cheap knotty peice of basswood with: Dimarzio tone zone/ air norton and bkp aftermaths, still sounded like shit. Explain that. Both sets are in other guitars now that both sound fantastic.


You explain to me why I can get a better metal tone off of my first act *plywood* than I could get from my Art100 *mahogany* and my RG470FM*basswood*?


Also both of those ibanez are gone but I kept the first act. haha
Last edited by Darkdevil725 at Nov 2, 2011,
#18
Quote by WholeLottaIzzy
I do agree with that, but saying Jimmy Page will sound like Jimmy Page's famous tone on any setup is bullshit. It's the way he bends the notes, how fast he bends them, how hard he holds the strings down, how he picks the notes and what he does with the notes. So saying the tone is in his fingers is referring to his technique, mainly I think. But the other factors such as pickups, woods, amps, valves ect are much more important; so much so, that it makes the technique nearly irrelevant in comparison.

In which case you could say the technique is in the fingers.

And it would be true, but it should also go without saying.

The tone is not in the fingers, unless you're playing fingerstyle.
#19
I'd say
30%-technique
30%-amp
18.3%-pups
15%-guitar(mine "chimes", even unplugged, try to get your plywood guitar to chime)
5.7%-pedals
1%-mood
___________
100%-mojo


And if your mojo works with a stock Ibanez Gio, a derilectro pedal and a Behringer amp, fu(k it, rock that syit!


ps the last 6.7% is actually interchangeable, depending on home, practice, gig...and mood
Last edited by lucky1978 at Nov 3, 2011,
#20
Actually, I think it's more like;

60% Idiocy
20% Naivety
10% Herp
10% Derp

100% bullshit.


There's always one idiot making up bullshit statistics.
#21
The most natural sound you can get out of a guitar set up looks like this;

Epiphone Les Paul Jr. "Special" II --> Boss Metal Zone --> Peavey Bandit 112

Everything else is irrelevant.
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#22
Quote by Blind In 1 Ear
despite what most people think, the wood has very little to do with your tone. i've played plywood guitars with good pickups and it sounded great. i've played guitars with better woods and with bad pickups and they sounded crappy. all pickups have an EQ and colour the tone. the amp and speaker does too, and so do whatever effects you use.

http://www.jamesbisset.com/blog/guitar/basswood-versus-alder
I used to believe the wood didn't matter, then I heard this clip. Same neck, pickups, bridge, tuners, but with different bodies.
I like trains.
Last edited by MrCloudshoe at Nov 3, 2011,
#23
Quote by Butt Rayge
Actually, I think it's more like;

60% Idiocy
20% Naivety
10% Herp
10% Derp

100% bullshit.


There's always one idiot making up bullshit statistics.

My sincerest apologies to butt rage, listen to him. He's spent far more time online than I. I have a band and a job so I couldn't possibly formulate an opinion as metal as his. Don't bother learning technique, just buy more gear! RAAAAWWWWRRRRWWWAAAA....uhhh
#24
Wood definitely makes a difference. To me, high quality mahogany guitars have a very rich, resonant sound - one of the defining characteristics of Les Pauls. It just wouldn't be the same guitar if it were made of a different wood. Pickups do play a very large part in overall tone, though. I find that the lower the output is on a pickup, then the more natural and 'woody' it is. As you get into higher output pickups then the tone gets a bit more saturated. That is not to say that being more saturated is a bad thing, some styles of music definitely require it. I mean a lower output pickup would be as piss poor for high gain metal as a high output would be for blues. Then of course EMGs are practically a sound of their own.
Quote by lucky1978
My sincerest apologies to butt rage, listen to him. He's spent far more time online than I. I have a band and a job so I couldn't possibly formulate an opinion as metal as his. Don't bother learning technique, just buy more gear! RAAAAWWWWRRRRWWWAAAA....uhhh

Peace and love, guys. Peace and love.
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Last edited by King Donkey at Nov 3, 2011,
#25
For the most natural sound, use piezoelectric pickups
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#26
You can't get a 'natural sound' out of an electric guitar. You're talking about something which generates its sound from magnetic fields and pieces of wire. The 'natural sound' of the guitar is what you hear when you play unplugged. Once you plug in every single little piece of the guitar effects the tone. The magnets and coil windings effect it a lot obviously, as do the bridge material and the nut material. But also the capacitor type, fretwire material, even pickguard material can effect the tone a little bit.

Trying to pin down the 'natural sound' of the wood implies that there is one completely objective, scientifically quantifiable tone that can be singled out, as if you can make every other element of the guitar stop effecting the sound. You can't. Reality doesn't work that way.

The best you can hope for is to get some really balanced pickups and the most traditional parts. Traditional hardware and electronics will seem to give you the most natural tone because they're what you're most used to hearing. They may actually effect the vibrations of the guitar more than modern parts but we always tend to think the stuff we're used to is the most natural even when it isn't. For pickups you want P-90s with a really cool wind and alnico 4 magnets. Alnico 4 are the flattest-sounding magnets and an underwound P-90 will give you the most basic tone possible.
#27
Quote by lucky1978
My sincerest apologies to butt rage, listen to him. He's spent far more time online than I. I have a band and a job so I couldn't possibly formulate an opinion as metal as his. Don't bother learning technique, just buy more gear! RAAAAWWWWRRRRWWWAAAA....uhhh

I apologise if I have offended you. It seems you focused more on the pain I caused you than you did on the actual point I was trying to make, because you totally missed it.

You can't make a totally clean amp sound like a fully cranked Mesa Dual Rectifier just by pressing the strings a certain way. The tone is not in the fingers.

EDIT: I do apologise to the TS for partially derailing the thread, but people need to know that your amp and you electronics tend to make up most of your tone.
Last edited by Butt Rayge at Nov 3, 2011,
#28
Quote by Butt Rayge
I apologise if I have offended you. It seems you focused more on the pain I caused you than you did on the actual point I was trying to make, because you totally missed it.

You can't make a totally clean amp sound like a fully cranked Mesa Dual Rectifier just by pressing the strings a certain way. The tone is not in the fingers.

EDIT: I do apologise to the TS for partially derailing the thread, but people need to know that your amp and you electronics tend to make up most of your tone.


you've mistaken tone for distortion two different things. now i agree that it's not all in the fingers however to say it's not at all is wrong as well. finger pressure on the string picking dynamics etc do contribute to the tone. seems like you are trying to take that idea a little to literally which is kinda silly. as for the guy you've been ragging on he did state his stats as an opinion so it would seem that you missed his point as it was an opinion.
#29
Regardless of whether he thinks it opinion or fact, trying to attribute numbers to it is just silly.

I haven't mistaken distortion for tone, it was just an extreme example. Distortion is part of your tone, though (I'm sure you weren't suggesting it wasn't, but it seemed a little that way.)

As for pick attack, that's part of your technique. It don't think it necessarily constitutes a change in tone. Picking on the neck, however will definitely give you a different tone to picking right next to the bridge.

As with the distortion example, you can't boost your treble/mid/bass or reverb with your fingers (unless it's your fingers on a dial.)
#30
Quote by Butt Rayge
Regardless of whether he thinks it opinion or fact, trying to attribute numbers to it is just silly.

I haven't mistaken distortion for tone, it was just an extreme example. Distortion is part of your tone, though (I'm sure you weren't suggesting it wasn't, but it seemed a little that way.)

As for pick attack, that's part of your technique. It don't think it necessarily constitutes a change in tone. Picking on the neck, however will definitely give you a different tone to picking right next to the bridge.

As with the distortion example, you can't boost your treble/mid/bass or reverb with your fingers (unless it's your fingers on a dial.)


pinch harmonic need i say more you have just gotten a much higher treble response then a regularly picked note where you pick between the bridge and the neck does make a difference closer to the bridge will get you a more trebly response. . how you pick can affect the tone but if you disagree then you are entitled to your opinion. and yes i know distortion is part of your tone.

you have to have something to support an opinion so if the other guy wanted to use numbers well then that is a method of support. whether it's factual or not is another story.
#31
Understand there is a difference between "Tone" and "Sound". If Carlos Santana were to plug a Fender Jazzmaster into a Marshall JVM his tone would sound COMPLETELY different than what he typically plays through, but you'd still be able to tell that it is Carlos Santana playing, because his signature playing style defines his sound.
#32
Quote by JELIFISH19
The electronics are part of the guitar as is the amplifier. You cannot take those out of the equation.


I cannot take that out, but I can make sure that they do as little harm as is possible.


Quote by JELIFISH19
They just have more output which means they're more compressed.


More compressed = less natural (less dynamics).

Quote by JELIFISH19
Active pickups have a preamp in them, but you're plugging into a preamp 95% of the time anyway.


So it's better to have one preamp in the chain than two. The more preamps - the more processing.

Quote by JELIFISH19
Plug your guitar directly into a PA and you probably won't think it sounds natural at all even though that's the most natural you can get while plugged in.


I agree, but I am not talking about the amplification stuff - I am talking about everything that goes BEFORE the amp: basically the hardware that's mounted on guitar. I understand that amplifiers add to the sound, and I am more than okay with that - in fact, I LIKE it, - but my concern is giving a natural sound to the amplifier.
I should have written my question a bit differently. If you read the whole text, you should have noticed that my main question was about the pickups. It's just my mistake that the very first sentence was less specific.
Last edited by andriusd at Nov 5, 2011,
#33
the truth is, no pickups actually respond to the "natural tone" of the wood because they are magnetic, so you need to be taking into consideration how much of that natural tone is being fed back into the strings.

i personally find the best way to get much of the body's resonance transferred back into the string sound is to use heavier strings and a non-adjustable wrapover bridge like the ones you get on les paul juniors. good pickups will help, but there's only so much they can do for a guitar if you're just not getting what you want from the strings.
I like analogue Solid State amps that make no effort to be "tube-like", and I'm proud of it...

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