Long time, no see!

Got a bit of an issue here, with my new band, in which I play bass. We're a three piece, but usually have another guitarist play shows to fill the sound out - long story short, he agreed to tour on bass before I joined, ended up coming anyway and playing 2nd guitar and wants to contribute but not join as a full member. This bit's important (*)

It's been going really well, and we have a solid following in our area but to progress, we really need to start working on our sound. Myself, the session guitarist and drummer (twin brother of the singer/guitarist) all care very much about our individual sounds and how it meshes together onstage, in rehearsal and in the studio. We work hard for our money to pay for decent gear and have between us a very professional and polished sound.

The main guitarist/lead singer/songwriter however, is completely ignorant to this.

His amp, guitar and pedal are all of really poor quality (a broken 70's solid state combo, a digital multi fx used for all distortion as well as outdated/cheesy effects and a cheap, knock off strat) and he does not have a job aside from the band, yet finds money for other things as he lives with his parents. I love the guy, and he quite literally is the band, writing all the songs and booking the gigs, but his lack of drive to improve his tone bugs me and the other guitarist a huge amount. It really spoils the sound and makes us look very amateur, and a decent cheap rig is easy to come across, especially as he has no issue buying used gear ( all of it came from eBay).

Some people like to shape their tone, but he really does not care and thinks it sounds fine. (*) This is a key reason (unbeknown to the singer) why the other guitarist won't permanently join - as he feels that the band cannot progress while he has this attitude.

We have all spoken to him about it - I have even lent him my entire guitar setup (Jet City JCA50 and Marshall 4x12, as well as my cherished tele) but he prefers his own gear, with mine sitting in the corner of the rehearsal space. His ear for tone has been affected badly by the hugely processed, digital sound of his gear and cannot understand why he should change when he likes the sound and is used to the setup he has, and does not like what most would call good tone.

For reference, the other guitarist uses a 5150 into a Mesa 4x12 cab, with either a Gibson SG with Bareknuckles or a Japanese Fender Jaguar - what most would call a decent rig - but the singer doesn't like the tone at all, saying it's too raw and gritty. He also does not like my equipment other than the tele, that he takes to gigs as a backup.


Guitarist won't do anything to improve his tone, despite dragging the band down. However, he IS the band (does all social media, bookings, writing, merch etc) and is a great guy/songwriter to boot.

What can we say, as a collective, to make him change his mind on tone and use better stuff available to him (my gear) or buy his own?
My opinion is that he thinks he has his tone. Tone is subjective. What you want to hear is not what he wants to hear. You seem overly concerned about having the biggest, best, newest VS something that just works for him personally. His no name guitar and amp may be giving him exactly what he wants. You may just have to live with that idea. 
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
The guitar doesn't really matter, but the solid state + digital fx has to go - that's quite literally the most painful tone to listen to. Even through a tube amp those units have terrible drive sounds. 

Have a band meeting and explain it clearly.  Failing that I don't know what else you can do.  Clearly budget is an issue, even if he won't admit it.

A band with bad taste and bad tone is doomed.  If you have an outside member hesitant to join the band because of how bad you sound, that's a huge problem.  

To be frank, the singer sounds arrogant, which is normal unfortunately - does he like the sound of every album he listens to? Not one of them was recorded with a cheap solid state and digital unit for distortion.  Maybe you should get him to identify what album sounds he likes and then research what gear was used - maybe that will help convince him.

Classic case of LSS ( Lead Singer Syndrome) - unfortunately no cure has yet been found....
Quote by Rickholly74
My opinion is that he thinks he has his tone. Tone is subjective. What you want to hear is not what he wants to hear. You seem overly concerned about having the biggest, best, newest VS something that just works for him personally. His no name guitar and amp may be giving him exactly what he wants. You may just have to live with that idea. 

While I agree with several of your points, I don't consider myself too concerned with biggest/best etc. We need to polish our sound/blend to improve and progress, which is something he agrees with, but cannot see the limitations he is setting us, as a band looking to sound more professional.

Imagine *insert band here* where one guitarist uses his regular rig and the other uses a Line 6 Spider or a Marshall MG with a cheap multi-FX unit. 

Perhaps I'm being a bit selfish, but we are all looking to take the band up a level and this is a major obstacle in moving forward, albeit a simple one and one that he is struggling to see.
Why not just ask him.

If he says that he likes the tones he has now, that's it. If he writes the songs and leads the band and he likes the sounds he's getting I don't see why he should care about the opinion of others.

If he get's some epiphany out of your question and buys better gear, problem solved.

Have you gotten any complaints about your sound? Like real complaints, not you asking someone "our other guitarist sounds crappy doesn't he" and someone answering "I guess so", have multiple people actually come up to you and said "you should really work on your tone, it kind of sucks"? Have people written reviews/opinions in social media etc. about your band and explicitly stated that you have a bad sound? Do you have solid evidence that his gear relates to a drop in popularity?

Because if there are no complaints, there is no problem. The audience doesn't care about your gear and the audio tech guys are there to make you sound good live. What amp and effects is he using exactly? Because I can think of a ton of SS-amp/multifx combos that would work just fine, maybe not as good as tube amps and analog effects but good enough for a semi-professional band to throw gigs.

While we might have a case of Lead Singer Syndrome here, we also might have a case of Tone Snob Syndrome which is almost as bad.
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Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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*note that by fan i mean that guy who wants his friends to know he knows this totally obscure hip band that only he knows about with 236 views on youtube. lookin' at Kev here
When you say things like " His ear for tone has been affected badly by the hugely processed, digital sound of his gear and cannot understand why he should change  when he likes the sound and is used to the setup he has, and does not  like what most would call good tone." 

What is considered "good tone"? My idea, your idea, his idea of good tone is a matter of opinion and personal taste. Your comment smacks of "it's tubes or nothin' " cork sniffing. There are many good digital multi effects and solid state amps. Dimebag Darrel used digital amps and I never heard anyone say Pantera or Damageplan had a tone that sucked. OK so he doesn't like your tone and you don't like his but you said you have a following and you are gigging. I'd look for the positives and move on. Good luck.
Yes I am guitarded also, nice to meet you.
Quote by Rickholly74
Dimebag Darrel used digital amps and I never heard anyone say Pantera or Damageplan had a tone that sucked.

Really?  I've never heard anything but jokes about how bad his tone was and his phobia of mids, etc.  Also pretty sure he used old solid state Randall amps most of his career until he got that signature amp in the early 2000s. 
There's no such thing; there never was. Where I am going you cannot follow me now.
Dimebag used expensive solid state Randall heads, which have zero in common with the cheap solid state amps that have been ruining tone since the early 80's and prior.

In this case the problem is that he's getting his distortion form a cheap digital multi-fx, which produce horrid drive tones. That's always been their main weakness.

Tone is subjective to a point, but when you have  every other band member thinking the tone sucks and one would-be member hesitant to join because of it, then the  tone probably sucks.

I have no problem assuming his tone sucks based on the gear - been there done that - DOD Fx7 through a solid state Tubeworks -  it was  a horrible 4 years dealing with that!
While I really like Kevathuri's point, I might also add this.  There are two layers here... gear and tone.  The two are not necessarily synonymous.  Would he be open to trying to improve his tone with the gear he has?  Maybe use the multi fx for fx and use the distortion from the amp.  It's a solid-state amp from the '70s.  Def Leppard used Randall stuff, as did a lot of other of the '80's bands.  Vito Bratta from White Lion used solid state amps.  

Dimebag was already mentioned.  He's a perfect example of tone being subjective.  As much as there are people who will take shots at him about his horrid tone, there are as many others out there trying to cop it so they can sound more like him.  /shrug/

Is it that he really likes his tone, or is it that he really likes how he gets his tone?  

I've heard some pretty decent tones out of older model Marshall MG combos.  (mind you, I've heard some shockingly atrocious tones from some of the newer Marshall solid state stuff.... horrid.... )  Maybe he can get a better tone with what he has?

See, if he gets new gear - let's just imagine for a moment that you can convince him to update his rig - he will probably try to use it to replicate his current tone that he really likes... and fail.... and then blame the band.  That is, if he likes his tone and not necessarily his gear.  

Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

I know it sounds crazy, but try to learn to inhale your voice. www.thebelcantotechnique.com

Chris is the king of relating music things to other objects in real life.
As always when the focus is tone, nothing written so far means anything until you post a video or music link example of this tone...

You are also unfairly presenting your argument... you claim he does not care about tone, yet he does not like the other guitarist's tone.  Without hearing anything it just looks like you and he disagree about equipment and tone, not that he does not care but that he is happy with his (as the other guitarist is happy with his own, but it is disliked by the singer...).

I'd like to hear both guitarists' examples of playing.
Quote by reverb66
I'm pretty sure the Bible requires that you play through a tube amp in Texas.
Last edited by PlusPaul at Apr 4, 2017,
I think I know this guitarist.  

We have a long time friend who we have been together in bands over the years and he sits in on jam sessions occasionally.  Decent player, good singer/arranger, tin ear for guitar tone.  He owns decent gear but runs a cheapie Digitech DMFX in front and thinks it's awesome.  It's just godawful and I have decided I can't gig with this guy because the cacophony coming out of his amp sucks all the energy out of the room.  

From my own experience, he has to want to change and it can't come from his band mates.  This will just make him defensive.  Maybe jam with an outsider who is really good and if tinny looks up to him as a musician he may be open to new ideas for guitar tone.  Worth a shot...

In the end we all bring personal "stuff" into the band.  Sometimes we can live with it, sometimes we can't.
"Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It's the way you pick, and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use." -- Stevie Ray Vaughan

"Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherfucker who plays it is 80 percent." -- Miles Davis

Guthrie on tone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmohdG9lLqY
Last edited by Cajundaddy at Apr 5, 2017,
I appreciate all the valid points made, and want to thank everyone for their input.

Just to say though, the SS tone does not suit our style of music. I agree there can be some excellent/iconic tones out of solid state gear (another friend uses the new Orange Crush 120 and it sounds pretty great), and I'm far from a tone snob as a couple of you have accused me of being, but when we are aiming for a light overdrive/VALVE breakup from the guitars and you hear an aggressively scooped, over-compressed, digital sound with occasional over the top flange/chorus, it stands out, dominates the mix with the volume and in my opinion, ruins his songs.

Maybe I've come across as a cork sniffer, but in essence, I want to further the band and I know he does too. I may have gotten through to him last night, when chatting, he seems to be coming around to using my gear. The last thing I want people to think is that I'm elitist, pretentious or snobbish in any way - that's really not me. Just genuinely looking to build on a decent foundation of songwriting, and be able to present it in a way that we can all enjoy and is cohesive to our audience.

As I stated in the OP, he has my gear at his house. and last night he plugged it all in and had fun experimenting and working on replicating the tone from a State Champs song. I think it may be the best decision to let him come around to it himself and just give him the help and support when he asks for it, and maintain a working relationship until then, and stick it out. I've told him he is more than welcome to borrow any of my guitar stuff, as I play bass in all the projects I am involved with, and I even bought him a tuner pedal, as he used to tune to the 5th fret/open method onstage, plugged in, loudly.

Yes, we have had negative comments. Mostly from other bands and spectators, and before I joined, I genuinely saw people wince if he had a part where he was playing alone. I have started helping set his gear up with him and his response to any questions I ask is 'just make sure I'm loud enough'. His gear has also broken down a few times and he opted to pay for repairs, rather than the equal price of buying something new.

Again, I spoke with him last night and he seemed pretty happy to try my gear at next band practice - we will see how it goes and if it works for everyone, we can all move forwards. Thanks again, everyone.
If he's the singer, and good at singing, have the sound guy just turn his guitar down in the mix. As long as he can hear himself in the onstage monitors, if the audience can't hear him, there isn't really a problem. 

And consider that if he writes the songs, then he is the only human on the face of the planet who really knows what each song is supposed to sound like. 
It just occurred to me that since tone is a totally personal subjective thing, maybe the singer/guitarist actually LIKES the tone of his guitar. Tune is objective. A note is either in tune or it isn't. Tone is totally subjective. If a group of musicans don't agree about whether a tone is good or bad, maybe they shouldn't be in a band together.
I think this is a classic case of members having different taste.  Bands split up over less.  At the end of the day, if you've communicated the tone sucks and he doesn't agree, you aren't going to change that.    
"I definitely don’t write all my music in a blackout, like I used to, although I did come up with some good stuff in a blackout."
-Matt Fucking Pike