The Soul of Tone
T O N E… four letters make one simple word. Yet this word is one of the most elusive things on the whole planet. Countless men and women have devoted years of their lives in search of it. Some are remembered for it. Guys like Peter Frampton, Eric Johnson, & The Edge, are among those who will be remembered for their tone.
However, as a worship leader, tone becomes even more important. Tone can evoke emotion, tone has the power to change a whole song. Good tone can be a tool that helps a worship leader usher the presence of the Lord into a room.
I have set myself on a quest for the soul of Tone. For an understanding of the dynamic nature of tone. Ye, I stole the title of this blog series from Fender’s 60th anniversary slogan, but when I read that slogan, I felt a stirring of my spirit to truly understand the soul of tone.
So many things affect a players tone. From the equipment he uses, to his techniques, to his playing abilities. There is an old saying, “tone is in the fingers.” There is a ton of truth to this. If you can play well, you will sound better than someone who cannot play or is at best a mediocre player. Your fingers encapsulate much of your natural tone.
However there is more to one than simply being technically good. There is tone in your equipment. Different guitars have different tones. This is easily seen. I have a Fender Stratocaster, whereas on of the youth in my church has an Epiphone Joe Pass model hollowbody. we can both plug into the same amplifier and play the same song, the same way, yet we get totally different tone. There are mountains of tone hidden in your guitar itself. From the woods its made of to the strings and picks you use, to the pickups. Every detail of your guitar affects the tone it gives.
T O N E…
The more we think about it, the less we know. See, having the right guitar is only a portion of the tonal equasion. The Amplifier you use has a dramatic effect on the tone you have. There are two main types of amplifiers, Tube amps, and solid state. I will begin by telling you I own a solidstate amplifier until I can afford the one I really want, however I am not a fan of the solidstate amps. A Solidstate amplifier is one that uses circutry, rather than vacuum tubes to create tone. The vacuum tubes tend to give a richness and a creamier tone than the solidstate amps and are generally preferred by guitarists.
However, at this stage we have only begun to crack the egg that is tone. You see there is another element to tone which is effect units. There are tons of effects in various categories. Several common categories are Overdrive, Distortion, Chorus, Wah, and Delay, but there are many others. Each type of effect serves a different purpose and adds something unique to the sound you are producing.
In the next few posts of this series, I have asked worship leaders and guitarists to give a rundown of their setups, explaining their amps, guiatrs, and effects. I asked them to explain what each one does, and why they chose it over others like it. The goal here is that you by reading would begin to understand tone and its power.
However with all the technical information we can discuss there is still something missing in the tone. Tone is more than the sum of a series of components, it is more than what guitar you play. There is a spiritual side to tone. There are people who understand the spiritual side of tone and have spent time perfecting it, and you can hear it when they play. There is emotion in the music waiting to be released. When all of the posts in this blog are done, I can teach you a ton about the physical side of tone, but you have to have the passion to dig deeper for yourself and truly see the spiritual side of tone.
With each post I will include a youtube video that really speaks volumes through its tone. In subsequent posts, I will ask the worship leader to choose a video that really speaks to him through tone. Along with this, I will add posts of youtube videos featuring famous guitarists explaining their rigs, and occasionally add links to websites that a guitarist might want to read for more information.
For today, I am not going with a worship song, not even a christian song, The song I feel is perfect to begin this series is called “Gem” By Eric Johnson. This instrumental has no words, and thus all emotion is shown through the tone of the guitar and the sound he produces.