Tone Tips from a Random night…

So here I am… not having updated my blog in awhile, and playing more than I was before. I’m currently working a pretty long/tiring clinical rotation and have not had a lot of energy past going home and sleeping. 9 more months before I wrap this school thing up!

Without further to do: wow… my tone sounded awesome this past month! Now I try to figure out what I did…..

  • Change your strings often. Wow, a so-so lead from practice Wed night sounds squealing- full of harmonics- with new strings. You will not believe the sustain, the depth of tone, and smooth sound you get from new strings.
  • It strikes me as odd the people who spend BUCKS on “transparent” overdrives, modulation etc…. (everything the Buzz is about these days) yet don’t change their strings. Seriously, I bought 3 sets for $12.99- and that overdrive was $250? Junked-up strings don’t transmit the best sound when your gear transmits the pure, transparent tone of rust! If your tone starts in strings, then do the easy think to take care of your tone!
  • Get your amp EQed before each performance. Just put it on stage, step as far as possible and face it (as close to being a member of the audience as possible) and adjust accordingly. Then once its mic’d, then get the soundguy to give you any other tips.
  • Each guitar I have likes a differing amp EQ: Tele likes a little more bass in the amp, less treble. Les Paul likes less bass, and a bit more treble.
  • Each guitar likes a different Overdrive type: my Tele has a natural flatter EQ, so it likes pedals with midrange: Zendrive, Fulltone OCD, Tubescreamer type pedals- or perfectly transparent pedals like the TIM. My Les Paul tends to be a bit more heavy in the mids, so I roll off the mids on the Zendrive, use the Barber Small Fry, and natural tube compression.
  • The Hermida NuValve has two itty-bitty tubes in it. They sound real good.
  • Little tubes are NOT transparent.
  • However, they are a heck of a lot of fun to play.
  • When just “screwing around” with the little tubes on low gain at church, I discovered that at minimal volume the back of the room could hear what I was doing. I have never had anything cut through the mix so well.
  • I like the before said “itty tubes”.
  • Don’t be afraid to shred a little during a solo at church (tastefully of course!). For some reason some of us are worried of overplaying! I have been playing lead for a few years at this church and always play very deliberate, uncongested, melodic things. Then a couple of Sunday’s ago we were playing a Hillsong song,  I felt a quirk in my hand when I started playing the normal slow, cliche’ church “Hillsong” lead. At the climax of the solo, I ripped about 5 fast declining notes with quick high bend then went back into the  slow resolution. I literally saw the crowd smile as the solo was different than what I usually play, and it really peaked the song well.
  • Have the humility to not play when needed, and the combination of humility/courage to let loose when you need to. Feel the flow of worship- and listen to the spirit and make sure your talents point towards He who gave them to you.
  • Dotted 8th sounds good… on almost everything. Definitely solos. Yup.
  • Karl likes delay. Click HERE
  • To copy Karl: Delay is as perfect as it gets— God made it before the guitar, then gave it the guitar to make delay sound better.
  • Tap Temp is a necessity.
  • I can’t believe how I neeeeded a good tremolo a year ago and as of present I haven’t switched it on in 6 weeks.
  • I can’t believe how little I used a Wah a year ago, but now I keep asking myself why I haven’t put it back on the board.
  • I fully believe in a dual overdrive setup. The NuValve going into the Zendrive sounds phenomenal- smooth, and sustaining. The Barber Small Fry going into the Zendrive is riddled with harmonics and squeals… played lightly sounds like Santana, played aggressively, it sounds like RAWK!
  • Always mic your amp. Always. I let a soundguy plug into my “line out” once. Moral of the story: Mic it! ALWAYS.
  • When you mike your amp, your new pedal that cuts through the mix cuts through the mix- versus sounding like being played through a tape recorder.
  • For the love of the listener- do not turn your treble all the way up. Do not be the  ice-pick to the ear as I have been. Treble cuts through well, yes- but your audience is now deaf.

Remember, tone is subjective! However, I have found that there are a couple of things that you should always consider: how “soft” your notes feel, even at high gain levels (ever hear a lead that cut through so well, but didn’t sound HEAVY?), and how well those notes cut through the mix with little effort does please your audience.

Also, gear is nothing without the practice behind it- or the fresh strings. Don’t forget that!



11 Responses

  1. Great post, Larry! I find your comment “don’t be afraid to shred a little” to be very true–tastefully done when appropriate, of course! I usually hang back and play conservatively, because I don’t want to call attention to myself. But last Sunday, we played “Revelation Song,” and I was really feeling the passion, so I spontaneously launched into a Gilmour-ish type of solo (well, as close to David Gilmour as I can get anyway–by the way–I would love to be a synthesis of the Edge and David Gilmour, with a bit of Santana thrown in for good measure…anyway….). And…wow, you can tell when a congregation seems to respond to a song. Definitely feeling the worship vibe. I feel that if I can add to the emotional impact of a song to help free up a person to worship God, then I’ve really achieved what I’m there for.

  2. out of all these, there is one sentence I cannot dispute: “Remember, tone is subjective! ”

    congrats that you’re enjoying your tone, i’m sure you’ll grow tired of it soon and will try to find another setting later on (or maybe new gears … hmmm) … hehehe

  3. finally an update! good to read ur posts once again, so enriching to the guitar soul. love the creation of delay before guitar part lol

  4. Thanks for the comments guys. I’m trying to get back into the groove of regularly updating. I look forward to the future discussions.

  5. wait, it didn’t even registered right away in my mind that you have a tele! do you really have a telecaster now, like a real Fender Telecaster?!

  6. Rhoy: yeah, its a Fender. Its technically a Fender Thinline, which is a hollowbody Tele. I really like it 🙂
    Here is a link to a picture:

  7. very nice! no time for demo? hehe

    you know, i still love my les paul. but for church, i find the tele more versatile. i wouldn’t say it sounds better, this is subjective to playing styles. but definitely, can cover lots of grounds that a les paul might be too heavy for, in contemporary worship anyway.

  8. “Little tubes” would make anyone happy. I wonder if I can somehow get a wristwatch or an iPhone that has “little tubes”. That way I could walk around praising my iPhones “killer tone”…

    I’m also blogging again and doing media reviews over at

  9. the tip about checking your sound using a looper was good. I use a wireless so that I can walk the room during sound check to do the same thing.

  10. 13.7 for Boyce on bars.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: