You veteran players and your tone terminology

Discussion in 'Amps & Cabs' started by living room rocker, Jul 6, 2018.

  1. living room rocker

    living room rocker Member

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2018
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    17
    I'm a relative novice player of 2 years now. I've been trying to get a better understanding of you veteran players' terminology when describing tone. My amp (Fender Champion 20) offers some limited effects which I can clearly hear and describe. The terms "tight, headroom, saturated tubes, overdriven, bite, crunch, scooped mids, high gain, etc" leave me puzzled by what you mean though; just not enough experience yet I guess. These terms are not effects, but instead amp or pickup tone characteristics.....correct? This amp offers 12 "voicings" I toy with and have zero'ed in on Blackface and British settings as my favorites. I turn the effects completely off and just listen to the tonal differences. Do you guys get classic rock tones with cleaner amp settings........or is that an oxymoron? I've read that guitarists like Angus Young actually play with cleaner settings, plus lots of volume obviously..........is this true?
     
  2. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,478
    Likes Received:
    8,517
    Location:
    -
    Tight-technically perfect, pitch tone and rhythm.
    headroom-how much power your amp can provide before the sound starts to break up and distort.
    saturated tubes-That is a crude description of cranking the volume knb on your amp to 11 so that the signal from the guitar drives the pre-amp and power amp tubes beyond their nominal voltage capacity causing distortion. It is LOUD.
    Overdriven-see above. An amp may be pushed beyond its normal capacity by use of its native volume and master volume or by an inline device (pedal) that boosts the signal beyond the clean capacity of the amplifier.
    Bite-amount of treble in the signal, extreme is called ice pick.
    crunch- low and mid frequency mild distortion-think (Free's Alright Now) rhythm tone
    scooped mids- an EQ setting wherein bass and treble tones are flat or boosted and midrange is set very low. If you have a contour control onyour amp, it shapes the midrange curve.
    high gain-gain is the power level of the signal to the pre-amp. Gain is also called "drive" on some control panels. High gain means raw signal is boosted to a high level. While gain affects volume, it should also be thought of as a tone control.
    That'll be $100,000 for the totality of my knowledge.:rofl:
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
  3. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,478
    Likes Received:
    8,517
    Location:
    -
    Weird synchronicity: I sat in with my ex-singers new band which included a 20ish guy who had great touch and tone but had no musical glossary to convey his ideas with or to interpret what others want from him. I spent about ten minutes talking with the guy and he got the concept of figured bass very quickly. By the end of the night he was calling chord changes for an original he wanted to play. "I ii ..." It took me longer to explain it than it did him to grasp.
     
  4. Worblehat

    Worblehat Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2018
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    150
    I know just what you mean! Since I started learning guitar last year, I try to get my head around all those terms and am still puzzled about a lot of them.

    Biddlins explanations are helpful, but descriptions like "it shapes the midrange curve" and "treble tones are flat or boosted and midrange is set very low" are still problematic for a beginner like me. Those basic terms treble, mids and bass are hard to grasp. After a lot of fiddling with my amp settings I think I know when I need to adjust treble or bass to get to a sound I like. But the midrange control is still something I don't really know how to use.
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  5. Worblehat

    Worblehat Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2018
    Messages:
    235
    Likes Received:
    150
    And even if you know what those basic EQ terms (treble, mids, low) mean and how to use them, there are so many more terms like bite, attack, punchy, muddy, thight... It does not help very much to read explanations of them. Experience is probably the most important aspect here. I guess you can't really define these terms as tone is something intangible and subjective.
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  6. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2015
    Messages:
    5,671
    Likes Received:
    4,863
    Location:
    Sutton Qu├ębec
    Most of these terms are very subjective, since our ears hear different things that the next guy. But then again, they are also graphic. When I hear that a certain pickup has a lot of bite in it, it is usually because it does just that, it bites, it pokes you. Attack ... this is how your pick physically attacks the string. If we say it's punchy, it's because it punches the air and you feel it. Muddy ... no definition, the notes sound blurry, like they were covered with mud.

    Don't look to deep into these expessions, they come from musicians trying to define what they like or want in an instrument, when speach is the only tool available to describe it.
     
  7. Clifdawg

    Clifdawg Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2015
    Messages:
    536
    Likes Received:
    487
    I can't possibly add to what Biddlin said, but I'll reiterate what DrBGood said - most of the words we tend to use are descriptive of the sounds they make. We might say a Vox amp has a lot of "chime" because it's a word that sounds like high-frquency "pop" that the amp makes. We might say a Marshall "roars" or "growls" because those words sound like the middle-frequency bump that the amp makes. We might say that a Fender is "sparkly" because it audibly represents the kinds of cleans that the amp makes.

    But I'll be honest - a lot of it is learned bull-honky we reinforce to each other because we love guitars and amplifiers and effects, we like to talk about them, so we describe them in the best way we can do while simultaneously trying to sound knowledgeable about "tone." It's entirely subjective... and yet we still try to distill it into various objective descriptors. The truth is that every component in the electric guitar and amplifier system creates a specific tone, and there are an almost infinite number of variables that affect that tone, from the volume and tone knobs on the guitar to the EQ on the amp and everything between. It doesn't matter if you can't describe it; if you like the way it sounds and it inspires you to play, then that's all that matters.

    As always - if it sounds good, it is good! :thumb:
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  8. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,478
    Likes Received:
    8,517
    Location:
    -
    Absolutely and education doesn't hurt, much.:naughty:
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  9. Notabot

    Notabot Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2017
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    60
    I finally found a use for all that monopoly money I've been hoarding!!!
     
    Biddlin likes this.
  10. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,478
    Likes Received:
    8,517
    Location:
    -
    It's a matter of hand/ear coordination.:rofl:
     
  11. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Active Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2017
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    151
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    The English language has a very limited set of terms actually assigned to sound.

    It is sort of amazing because sound can be such a powerful thing to experience, but it is true. As a result, those who experience and create sound have come up with descriptions of sounds they hear. "Warm." It can mean a million things. Part of the problem is that sound is temporal: it only exists in time. Once the sound is over you can't compare it. You really can never have two sounds side by side - you can only hear them serially, one after the other.

    HERE is an article with some of the terms.

    Bob
     
  12. Biddlin

    Biddlin Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2012
    Messages:
    10,478
    Likes Received:
    8,517
    Location:
    -
    I appreciate much of your sentiment. Terms like warm and crunch are entirely subjective. On the other hand, modern English has at least 900 adjectives describing sound. Even more definitive is modern musical notation. While many good guitar pickers eschew formal training, one advantage is having a common glossary to express our thoughts to one another in the most precise, least vague way of conveying our musical intentions. most community colleges offer courses in sight reading and some theory. I came from a long line of folks. In my family most of us can't remember when we learned the treble clef, but that doesn't happen so much these days. Just a thought.
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  13. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Active Member

    Joined:
    May 27, 2017
    Messages:
    104
    Likes Received:
    151
    Location:
    Virginia, USA
    Having studied music composition and recording studio technology at a masters level, I understand what you are saying. However, musical notation is still quite spare when it comes to a universal language of timbre. Yes, there are codified instrument-based shorthands, but actual description of timbre is very sparse. You can look at Modern and electronic scores and quickly see that.

    Bob
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  14. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Messages:
    7,029
    Likes Received:
    6,554
    Location:
    Michigan
    Great thread... and thanks to our young members for standing up and asking WTF...
    Most of us on this forum don't think there's any such thing as a dumb question.
    Because all knowledge is worth having.

    It took me a long time to understand as much of this tone jargon as I ever do...
    And a 'real soundman" can still impress me by being able to identify where tonal problems
    are, and then to be able to make adjustments that actually improve the sound. And a fake
    soundman might have his head up his arse... Our Biddlin calls that being "recto-cranially
    impaired." When the sound man's bewildered, it becomes painfully obvious to everyone.

    I'd say: start by thinking "Highs, Mids and Lows..." and listening to music with these concepts
    in mind. Especially listening to other bands. If there's a concert at the gazebo, go and listen.
    Listen to the highs, mids and lows. It doesn't matter what kind of music it is. (how's that for
    a concept?) It can be Jazz, or Country, or Eastern European Stoner Doom Metal and it will
    still be composed of those three elements. If you can hear them, it's a good mix.

    If there's a guitarist, can you hear all six strings? Is one part of the music overwhelming
    the others? Is the keyboardist's left hand work stepping on the bass player's place in the
    arrangement? The illustration below is called a Graphic Equalizer. Each slider controls a region
    of the tone. Lows on the left, highs on the right.
    behringer-minifbq-fbq800-ultra-compact-graphic-equalizer_1_PAH0004617-000.jpg
    You can see that the setting on this EQ is with emphasis on the low frequencies and the high frequencies, and the controls are set to de-emphasize the midrange. Once you begin to listen for tone with this image in your head, you can work with the controls on your guitar and your
    amp, and imagine how they would blend with some other performers and all their controls.

    Think of "gain" as input level at the amp. Like turning a water tap more or less...
    So if you install 'high gain" pickups in your SG, they will send a stronger signal to the amp.

    Think of "Volume" as output level at the amp. So even if you have 'high Gain" pickups in
    your SG, you can still turn the volume down (at the amp) and spare your neighbors in the apartment building.

    If you listen to your tone, and you hear something in the lows that is overwhelming other parts
    of the sound, like vocals ...you might call that muddy, or woofy. You can take a screw driver and lower your neck pickup on the bass side, and maybe that woofy-ness goes away. Or you can buy some expensive Seymour Duncan pickups, and install those, and start a new thread
    on the subject. *laughs

    There's a lot more to say, of course. I'm old, so I actually think in terms of buying a book
    on the subject, and reading it, and keeping it so I can go back and read again the parts I forgot. I'll recommend one called "The guitar pickup handbook" by Dave Hunter. I found that
    fascinating when I began in earnest to study the electric guitar. For most of my life I played
    acoustic and bass. With acoustic guitars, we are working with sound waves passing through
    air (we used mikes for decades) instead of magnetic field vibrations, but Highs Mids and Lows
    are just as elemental.

    I didn't think much about controlling my tone with the bass, I just bought
    a Fender bass and figured that was that. I was right. Fender engineers actually know their
    stuff. Buy a Fender bass and a Fender amp and you could be stoned out your mind and your
    music might still sound good. ( it might NOT!) But because Fender figured all this out for us
    your chances are good.

    Gibson too. (and Seymour Duncan). I like to read what our colleagues have to say on
    this subject. For me, it's a lifelong study.
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  15. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2009
    Messages:
    7,029
    Likes Received:
    6,554
    Location:
    Michigan
    Once you've got that Graphic Equalizer image in yer head,
    you might find yourself listening for tone where ever you are. If you're at
    a festival and one band sucks and another one doesn't, you begin to hear why.

    If you've got a video and you listen to the mix, you imagine any of the performers
    adjusting their tone, getting us to feel like that when we listen. Then you play your own
    guitar and listen, and you begin to see the path.
    electric pedal board 2017.jpg
    I like to use a simple pedal board to make adjustments to my sound while I play.
    The boss Tuner works as advertised, and gives a bright and visible readout. Stomp that and
    the guitar signal is muted from there, so you can tune it without annoying everyone.

    The EQ pedal is a compact version of the Behringer above. It's a compromise between size and
    coverage. I like it. It's designed to control guitar frequencies. I have a notch or scoop in the
    lower midrange of my signal, with a bottom boost, a boost in the upper frequencies and
    a reduction in the very highest. And I can change that at will, or when I change guitars, or
    for a different song that needs a different tone from me.

    My Blues Driver is designed to simulate the sound of 1960s Blues men cranking their Fender
    or Sears tube amps so high that the signal overdrove the output tubes on the amp, creating distortion. They damaged their own hearing, doing that. So did a lot of rockers, following
    this path.
    All those old tube amps that people get so religious about were designed to play
    clean
    . Distortion was considered "amp failure" by the engineers who designed them. It didn't
    occur to them that anyone would crank the signal up high enough to distort on purpose.
    But we changed all that, didn't we...

    More modern amps have distortion features built in, of course. Because our consensus now is
    that a distorted signal is more interesting to play, and to listen to. Purists on this forum will
    still maintain that the best distortion sound is created by cranking a tube amp hard enough
    make the output signal 'break up." Controlling the level of breakup is what we live to do.

    I prefer to use a pedal, and if you look closely, you'll see that I've painted my starting points
    on the pedal using white paint, so I can see quickly where I am, in dim (or harsh) light. Those
    are just reference points. The pedal does a really good job of simulating the distortion sound
    at less than painful levels of sound. (to me, painful means harmful). And I can turn it on for
    a solo, and then turn it off, with my foot.
     
    living room rocker likes this.
  16. smitty_p

    smitty_p Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2012
    Messages:
    4,835
    Likes Received:
    3,459
    ^^^This.
     
  17. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2017
    Messages:
    1,698
    Likes Received:
    1,879

Share This Page


Recommended Links: PAF Pickups, Luthier Forum