Getting A Great Guitar Tone

This is a very lengthy and sometimes controversial subject. The idea has always been that the tone of a guitar is all in the hands of the guitarist. If that were true, why do we obsess over gear like we do? If you are looking for great tone, follow these simple rules!

Start with the basics

Start with a good guitar and amp, and then go from there. If you like country or blues, go for a telecaster and a fender twin reverb. If you’re into metal, maybe a PRS, Ibanez and Mesa Boogie Rectifier or Marshall. Then add effects pedals or processors such as delay, reverb, chorus, flange, and overdrive to get the desired result.

Do Your Research

If you love Stevie Ray Vaughn or Jimi Hendrix, find all about the gear they used. To me, the holy grail of guitar sounds was Alex Lifeson’s tone on Rush’s Moving Pictures. That was what led me to using Gibsons and semi-hollow bodies like the ES-345, ES-135, and ES-137. I remember doing extensive research on what Alex used—then and now.


Go to a local music store and try different guitars, amps and effects. If possible, borrow equipment from a friend and use it in your next live or studio gig. Another tip: watch demos of products on YouTube. This is what I did before getting the Fractal Audio Axe2.

If you are a real gear head, I recommend purchasing the book Guitar Tone – Pursuing the Ultimate Guitar Sound by Mitch Gallagher.