#1
When I listen to my favorite guitarists, one thing I always notice about their sound vs. my sound is how "clean" their sound is. For example if you listen to a guitar solo by the band Boston, or Jimi Page soloing Stairway To Heaven, Steve Vai ripping out a blazing melodic mashup, Randy Rhoades blending classical runs into his scorching solos, or any number of other famous guitarists, the one thing they all seem to have in common is this screaming, distorted guitar that still somehow remains... clean. Crisp.

There is no hum or buzz. I don't hear the strings connecting with the frets, and I don't hear the little metallic slide as their fingers move up and down the strings. They have incredible attack and sustain to their notes, and yet there is almost no "grunge" to the sound. You never get the impression that their distortion is out of control.

Often times I read reviews in guitar magazines asking these guys how they get their signature sound, and with few exceptions, they all claim the most simple of setups - "Oh, it's mostly just my Fender Strat straight into a Marshall head... maybe some chorus or a wah pedal. That's all". Well, even when I go to Guitar Center, grab the most expensive guitar I can find and plug it into the most expensive Marshall head, it still sounds like a guitar in a guitar store... grungy. Scratchy. Noisy.

In order to get the sustain and the distortion, I turn up the gain and presence, and that works, but now it sounds like a train wreck. If I back off on the distortion, things clean up, but now the sustain is gone, and things start to get twangy.

What am I missing? What do the pros know about tone that the average Joe doesn't?
#2
They know how to play.

I mean sure, sometimes they'll clean things up in the studio, but more than anything else it simply boils down to having good technique.
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#4
Technique and not too much gain.
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#5
Its mostly studio wizardry and flawless execution, which is done by doing about 500 takes of the same run to get it flawless.

Pretty much every single album that is recorded is heavily processed nowadays.

Before
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p_Cvg-Ua1o

After
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBFqo_kYcQo
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#6
They don't use as much gain as you think. They're just technically sound players (mostly).
#7
guitars are processed the least of everything in a recording, so id say 98% is in the playing and doing many takes to get it perfect
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#9
You do know how to use your guitar's volume knob, right?
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#10
To get a great tone with no scratchiness, you just turn your gain to max, and lubricate your fingertips. Just rub some Vaseline on them. And don't bother cleaning your strings off afterward, because eventually enough of the lube will be absorbed by the strings so you don't have to go through the process again. Don't ever change them either, or all that work will be undone.

Good luck, I hope I helped.
#11
i was listening to an angus young interview where he said if u want good tone cut the gain twenty percent from what u usually play and in songs like back in black thats what he does. technical guitar work sound a thousand times better than a marshall with gain fully cranked page prob played about sixty to seventy percent gain. learning scales and becoming accurate with them will help a ton.
#12
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Its mostly studio wizardry and flawless execution, which is done by doing about 500 takes of the same run to get it flawless.

Pretty much every single album that is recorded is heavily processed nowadays.

Before
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p_Cvg-Ua1o

After
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBFqo_kYcQo



Thank you for posting those two links - that's a perfect example of what I meant (so hard to describe sound in words). The "before" video is lot like what I get at home. Not that it's a bad sound at all, and clearly, the same guitar player here is performing. But then the second video plays, and all of a sudden we're struck with awesomeness. The rhythm line is clean as s**t, and the guitar solo practically sings. Compare that the the before version of the solo, where you can practically hear every pick and every fret.

Now, to be fair, I expect a ton of processing in the studio to sound better. But I've also heard "live" concerts where they sound pretty awesome. I assume that here again, what we have is tons of money being poured into sound boards, sound technicians, mixed in pre-recorded stuff, and other wizardry. But still, I hoping maybe there was some basic sound technique I am missing. Pretty much all my equipment at home is good stuff, but a lot of it relies on "digital modeling". Line-6 amps, Digitech pedal-boards, and what have you. The sound is great, but never as clean as I'd like it.
#13
Thanks to everyone by the way, even though I didn't respond to each and every comment. General consensus seems to be that great guitarists have the "magic touch", and I'm willing to accept that. As a self-taught guitarist, perhaps I've developed bad techniques, or at least, am lacking better style.
#14
a guitars volume knob can turn the distortion down quite a bit, also, gear and technique plays a large part.

gear as in, any power filtering on your amps and pedalboards? good cables? good strings, and good frets.

but playing is more paramount than anything.
edit: also, try approaching the fretboard like the piano, in other words, only let the very tips of your fingers touch the keys, by doing this, you give the strings just THAT much more clearance when playing. many people don't hear it, but strings hitting your nails or some such (even to a minor degree) can hurt a clean tone more than a dirty one.

and always approach it with a flair of emotion. i sure as hell can't play jazz when i'm angry.
Last edited by Ashe_Mc at Feb 6, 2012,
#15
Quote by steven seagull
They know how to play.

I mean sure, sometimes they'll clean things up in the studio, but more than anything else it simply boils down to having good technique.


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#17
It should probably be pointed out now that the second video is in a damned mix. Of course you can't hear the tiny details, they're all being drowned out by at least 2-3 other rhythm tracks, bass and drums.
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#18
Quote by Zaphod_Beeblebr
It should probably be pointed out now that the second video is in a damned mix. Of course you can't hear the tiny details, they're all being drowned out by at least 2-3 other rhythm tracks, bass and drums.


Exactly.

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#19
i think it comes down to doing the same track a zillion times in the studio to get the perfect one. Generally (not always but generally) a guitarist does not sound so perfect live in concert.
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#21
as mentioned, good technique really helps. alot of guys tie a rag around their strings when tracking a solo to completely deaden the sound of everything but the fretted notes.

good processing, such as subtle use of simple effects (compression, noise gating) can really help to clean stuff up.

good production, where the producer/engineer/mixer clean up the recording after the fact, really helps quite alot too.

its really not just one thing. pretty much everything that pros have at their disposal is intended to help them sound as good as possible
#22
A lot of people do tend to over do the gain, I only have mine very low, I sometimes boost it with an overdrive pedal, but that's only used on occassions.
The only problem with turning the gain down on a poor quality amp is that it doesn't really make it sound any better.
#23
Quote by Delboyuk_01
A lot of people do tend to over do the gain, I only have mine very low, I sometimes boost it with an overdrive pedal, but that's only used on occassions.
The only problem with turning the gain down on a poor quality amp is that it doesn't really make it sound any better.


if you are using a poor quality amp then that is your problem to begin with.

as mentioned technique really is the answer. playing notes cleanly helps a lot. also keep in mind that when recorded gain tends to muddy things up more than you might think. you'd be suprised if you've never recorded at how little gain is used. i know when i record i turn the gain down to the lowest level that i can get the sound i want (recorded which will sound different than what you hear when playing). when recording you get something called saturation which give the impression that there is more distortion than really is being used. often when you hear a first timer recording they use the amp settings they are used to live and it sounds like crap when recorded. the answer to the fix is always turn down the gain.
#24
lots of studio work. Listen to these guys live, it sounds a lot different, they are still technical, but more of these natural noises come through.