There are a lot of discussions about ‘great guitar tones’ on the internet. Blogs, forums and comment threads on various video streaming websites are a battleground of opinions, speculations and – quite often – heated debate.
Comments often show a clear divide between those who believe that tone is all in the fingers and the way a specific player approaches the guitar, and those who worship at the altar of guitar gear. Proponents of the former will undoubtedly iterate that there is no way for any guitarist to truly mimic the sounds of their beloved inspirations, insisting that the best way for any player to sound good is to forget about the rigs and setups of others, and really listen to his/her own sound in order to develop a personal tone. Supporters of the latter will counter with the idea that, with the right setup for the situation, no tone is out of reach. They will strive to find the exact gear and settings to allow them to sound like their heroes.
I am going to sit on the fence on this one, as both sides have their own valid points. While I agree that, in order to be a really successful player, one should try to craft a hard-hitting, instantly recognizable personal tone, I also believe that taking inspiration from the greats is an important first step.
You only have to look back to that wonderful moment which is forever ingrained in the mind of every guitarist: the time that you heard a lick, solo, riff or even a single note, which to you sounded so breath-takingly beautiful that you decided there and then to grab an axe and start strumming away. Everyone has a clear memory of the moment they began their musical journey. I would bet that for the majority of us, that moment occurred while listening to a piece of music written by another person: a tone crafted and refined by someone other than yourself.
This is why the soundtrack for every guitar shop the world over consists of ‘Smoke on the Water’, ‘Stairway to Heaven’, ‘Comfortably Numb’, ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Enter Sandman’. How often to you hear a player trying out a guitar, amp or effect by playing a piece of original music in such a place? For me personally, the answer is never. Maybe I shop in less creative areas.
The point is that we all need heroes, we all need inspiration. It sets a fire inside of us, pushing us to learn more and play better. Whenever we may feel that something is too hard, it encourages us to keep on trying until we persevere, and when we get there in the end, it provides a reference to show how far we have come and how much our efforts have paid off. With this established, it is much easier for personal creativity to flourish, as we have developed the listening, skills and techniques necessary to allow us to better express our inner thoughts and feelings through the guitar. You cannot write a poem without first learning the alphabet.
It is in this spirit that we at Baroni Lab have introduced a new series of videos about great guitar tones, where we set up the sounds of those legendary rock riffs and solos, with our own equipment. Our aim is to get as close to the original sound as possible, to show the quality of the products we produce, and to show that it is possible, and worthwhile, to study the sounds of great players.
The second video has just been uploaded to youtube, and you can check it out below. In it, I tackle that fantastic, catchy main guitar riff from Dire Straits’ ‘Money For Nothing’. This one was truly great fun to record. Mark Knopfler, we salute you!