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Need help getting good guitar tone (for my band)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by rabid_granny, Mar 12, 2003.

  1. Now that the playing is getting better, I can concentrate on getting a good sound out of our band. The guitarists like to use distortion but it sounds like crap and there is no definition (ie. mud).

    Here's the set-up:

    Lead - 70's Fender strat with a Marshall JTM1450(?) combo. Uses a Boss DS-1 for lead boost.

    Singer - MY Fender Tex Mex Strat with a Fender Ultra Chorus combo. Normally he's going direct to the amp but we tried my Boss SD-2 Overdrive and it sounded a bit better (but still sucked a$$).

    Fortunately, we won't be using those amps when we gig. We'll rent two amps. I'm still working on the issue of volume (I had a "little" chat with my drummer yesterday about playing with control). So stupid, we sounded better outside of the room rather than inside.


    - What amps would you recommend to get better tone?

    - Is solid-state distortion always going to come out as mud?

    - If you ran two identical guitars out of identical amps with identical settings, would they cancel one another out?

    Feel free to give me any advice or words of wisdom. (Aside from the usual TB smack.)
  2. babecker


    Mar 7, 2002
    Sykesville, MD
    Well, if the combo's solid state I would definitely recommend getting a tube amp. Solid state guitar distortion really sounds pathetic in comparison. Our guitarist had a 100 watt Marshall Valvestate (SS) head for a while, but once he got plugged into a 70's all tube Marshall MkII there was absolutely no comparison -- tone and volume in spades.

    As far as the clarity issue goes, Marshall distortion tends to be a bit on the muddy side IMO. Some like it (I do -- at least the tube overdrive), some don't; but backing off on the gain and boosting the master to compensate might help.
  3. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I'd advise against renting amps for the big gig. You won't be familiar w/ their settings, and you'll have lots of other things to worry about. Unfamiliar gear just adds stress.

    SS distortion does usually bite. There are many good distortion pedals out there though. Your Fender should be able to get a nice clean tone, I'd say keep it and try out as many distortion pedals as you can until you find your sound. Your existing Boss pedals are ok but cheap sounding IMO. As far as the JTM goes, I've never been impressed w/ Marshall clean tones. Maybe try to trade it in on a used tube combo and follow the same pedal procedure?

    I don't think the identical guitars setup would cancel out.

    Do your bandmates really listen to your thoughts about changing their gear? I've never been in a situation like that. Usually, people have spent years getting their rig just the way they like it and they resent other people telling them what to tweak, let alone buy. I once had a guitarist w/ a LAB amp that was loud and had good blues distortion, but we were playing popmetal covers. He would not listen to critiques. One day my keyboardist walked over midsong and changed all the eq knobs in an attempt to get a better tone. I thought he was going to get popped in the face!
  4. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    Here's my perspective...SS distortion sucks big time. Set the amp to play loud but clean, then use a valve-based distortion box - that should sound much better.

    Also, if you use distortion, try not playing all the strings - it sounds better when you play 2,3 strings (as many as you need to convey what you need). More strings played=more mud.

    Another thing...heavier gauge strings will tend to give better tone, clean or distorted.
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Your original thread is so funny to me, because I got to a point where I always asked up-front before auditions what the guitarist(s) were using.

    If they were one of the many who said "Fender Strat through a Marshall" I just replied, "Don't call me, I'll call you." That single coil sound with the Marshall just became a nightmare. Plus, they always seemed to use these Roland effects boards that nauseated me.
    (On the other hand, some of them wanted to make sure I wasn't using an Ernie Ball Stingray + Ampeg, because that sound is such a "cliche' " to many bands....that ought to P.O. a lot of the younger guys here, but it's the truth).

    Boss guitar effects are great.......IF you wnat to sound like the other 2 dozen "joe-blows" playing down the street. They could do a lot worse, but digital effects just always sound "digital" to me....."thin."

    Ever since I got with guitarists who use, among other things, an older PRS (when the pickups inset into the neck woods), a vintage Les Paul, and a Parker Fly through a Soldano or a little old 70's MusicMan that gets mic'd, I'm happy as all get out. The Marshall sound is wonderful....but everyone and their cousins have the same thing.

    Plus, they put the cheap Boss stuff away and got distortion units that use actual tubes, like a Badcat and a Fulltone.
  6. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I have a Marshall 50W all-valve combo and a Marshall JCM900 100W all-valve combo here, and they sound very very differently from each other. The smaller one has a much warmer, more musical sound which works great with both a Strat and a Les Paul. JCM900 on the other hand is pretty 'edgy' but much better when run clean, and works great with a Tele and a Les Paul, but not with Strats. It all depends...
  7. I don't really like my SD-2 Overdrive. It's a pretty weak pedal. I bought it out of ignorance 5 years ago 'cause I wanted to play Green Day through my bass amp, LOL!

    The amps we were using aren't ours- they are borrowed from the drummer's roommate. The lead guitarist has an old Marshall combo that needs new tubes. The singer doesn't own gear (he's using my strat!).

    I was thinking of getting a guitar amp for myself, despite the fact that I hardly play guitar. I want it to play good clean or a little bit dirty and good for small venues (~50 watts). Most importantly, it's gotta cut through the drums, bass and vocals.

    The thing that gets me is that no matter what the volume level was (loud or quiet), the guitar tones were still mud!!!

    Oh man, yesterday was such a learning experience for me. I never tried to EQ an amp in a band setting before. I never really understood the HUGE difference in dynamics between humbuckers and single coil pickups.
  8. slam

    slam Guest

    Mar 22, 2000
    I used to play in a band with 3 guitar players. They used various guitars during the time we were together but they got the best sound when all three used different guitars: a PRS, a Les Paul, and a Tele. They noticed it too.

    I think if you got one guitar player to stop playing a strat it would be the biggest help. Guitars have a basic tone that can be shaped through different amps and effects. Using different guitars gives you two completely different tones from the start.
  9. Good clean & overdriven guitar tone is a challenge to achieve, if you haven't been around the block a few times (& for a few years).

    Friend Ben - has absolutely gorgeous guitar sound, clean, distorted, effected, you-name-it. He plays a vintage Strat (like an early 60's or something), has one of those busy pedalboards with various stompboxes - the whole thing looks like a fluorescent fruit salad, and an old Fender Twin amp. His guitar tone sings like the voice of God. When he does a clean type sound, he uses a Godin guitar that has unbelievable tone.

    Friend Mike - has absolutely gorgeous guitar tone as well, clean, distorted, effected, or anything. He plays either his new American strat, or his vintage Gibson vee, thru a Digitech multi-effects unit. Whether he plugs into his Peavey Bandit (?) 112 with the single Sheffield speaker, or thru his Marshall all-tube head with halfstack of Celestion greenbacks, his guitar also has the voice of God.

    What do these good-sounding tone-monster guitarists have in common? I'll tell ya - they've both been gigging & playing for 15 to 20 years. They know how to get the tone out of the gear, and this is a skill that takes time.

    Best of luck Rabid Granny, may better tone happen with each milestone for you and your band.:)
  10. Nuts. I figured that getting good tone would be easy. After all, my cheap Yorkville amp and Sansamp BDDI yield a decent tone that cuts through quite nicely.

    Since I don't have years of "guitar" experience, do you think I could make up for it by getting a more expensive amp? (Yes, that sounds ignorant but my tone and playing increased dramatically when I got my MIA Precision.) Naturally, I would buy it used :D .
  11. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    A quick fix might be one of the new modelling processors, like the pod or the J-Station. No, they don't sound exactly like tubes but they each offer a LOT of amp choices so you should be able to find something that works.

    I play guitar once in awhile, and used Jstations are under $100 now so I've been checking 'em out. The switching is a bit slow on them, but they do have some good tones, and bass amp models (the pod doesn't because they want you to buy a bass pod).
  12. I'd say don't spend money just yet in trying to solve the problem....

    Try to meet a local working-class guitar player (preferrably a good-sounding one:)) and ask questions about his sound. Most guys would be happy to share the info. It's much more fun for them to help someone out than it is to listen to arrogant drunks (the usual treatment of working class players like me).:meh:

    Invest in a little more knowledge and experience. This, plus spending a hundred bucks, will make your bands guitars sound better.:bassist:

    No more knowledge and no more experience plus spending even a thousand bucks... you won't sound much better, you'll just wish you had your grand back someday. :bawl:
  13. Can anyone tell me why one guitar tone will cut through and why another one won't? I tried EQ'ing the heck out of that Fender Ultra Chorus and it always came out like garbage. On the other hand, I could get a good tone out of my Sansamp BDDI / Yorkville combo after a few seconds of tweaking. Serious.

    Why was it easy to get a good, usable bass tone while the guitar tone eluded me all night??? :confused:
  14. CaracasBass


    Jun 16, 2001
    Madrid, Spain
    Tell them to get a Line 6 FlextoneII head or a POD
  15. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    That's because you know what you're listening for with bass tone. YOu've probaly spent countless hours thinking about your bass sound, digesting info, listening to other bass players, listening to bass lines in recordings etc etc. If you're like me you've probably never done that for guitar before.

    Sorry Gran but there's no real short cut. I've been paying more attention to other instruments since I fell into part time sound engineering. I think I "get" drums and vocals now, I always knew bass, but I'm still not sure what makes a good guitar tone.
  16. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    If you are talking about good mix rather then just good tone, I noticed that most guitarists tend to have too much bass. That is fine if you play alone, but in a band situation, it sounds really muddy. With almost every guitar player I ever played with, I had to convince them to roll off bass as much as possible. It really makes a huge difference in how the band sounds, especially if you have 2 guitars or guitar and keys.
  17. Wownirvana


    Jul 7, 2002
    Athens, GA
    A great guitar amp is a Fender M-80. You can get it in a combo amp or just as a head. They also have matching cabinets, but they aren't anything to scream about. I see M-80 heads on ebay at least once a week selling for less than $150 and they rock. 100 watts, simple controls, and built in distortion that sounds awesome. Our guitarist plays through one and loves it. I think they are the best guitar amps for under $1000.
  18. An alternative to the Marshall stack that, like the Marshall, isn't in the boutique amp price range:

    I recommend a 65 reissue silver face Fender Twin. It is one of the sweetest clean tones ever made. However, if you want to dirty it up you will need stomp boxes. Menatone and Fulltone make some good stuff. I use Menatone.
  19. Isn't the Fender M80 a bass amp? I see there is one for sale in our local paper for $350 but it's advertised as a bass amp.

    Is it possible to have a distorted/overdriven guitar that can arpeggiate chords clearly? It's a bit of an oxymoron (distorted, clear).
  20. Right on the money, Pete!!