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View Full Version : Tone, Urban Legends, and PRS



LSchefman
02-05-2013, 01:43 PM
Ever since there have been internet discussion boards, we've all seen some variation of this meme:

"PRS guitars can come close to a lot of sounds but don't have a sound of their own."

My blood boils when I come across it. First of all, it's not true. Second, I'm really into audio, and sound. I make my living as a composer working with different instruments and timbres. For me, the idea that I would buy a guitar because it's shiny and pretty, or even because it feels good, is preposterous. I'd no more do that than buy a microphone or studio monitor for looks instead of sound! Hint: I would not buy a mic or monitor for looks, ok?

Though I only go back to 1991 with PRS guitars, from the beginning I've observed that they share an openness and clarity that makes the business of sculpting one's personal sounds easier. The controls and electronics have always made that a simple matter. They share the ability to do lots of things, and to be what I need personally for a given song or session.

I suppose if all one does is crank the guitar to the max, and the amp's gain to the max, and use pedals on top of that, maybe it's harder to hear what a guitar does. That's the only thing besides deafness that I can imagine a player referencing when he or she repeats what I think is the above Urban Legend.

I appreciate the unique tones of a Strat, or a Lester, or a Tele. Certainly. They're older designs, we've heard them on countless recordings dating back to when Paul Smith wasn't yet born (though I was!), but they're limited in this sense: they are ponies with fewer tricks.

That can be a good thing, or that can be a not-so-good thing, depending on what you like. I'm never going to argue that PRS guitars are the only, best guitars for everyone, blah blah blah. That's up to the individual's needs. For me, they work, they're great instruments and inspirational tools. I've gotten to the point where PRS are what I work with, period. They're just that good.

And yes, they have a lot of sounds. Really good ones. They're also getting better every year.

But enough of my slight rant. What are your thoughts? :)

sergiodeblanc
02-05-2013, 01:54 PM
I don't know, they all sound like guitars to me! and I like guitars.

]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T !
02-05-2013, 02:03 PM
What are your thoughts? :)

I guess my angle is decidedly less cerebral. I 'play guitar' but I still have so much to learn. Some days I feel good about what I can express with my instruments and other days I'm reminded just how far I still have to go.

But when it comes to tone and the gear that gets me there, I'm a zen master. I can hear things I couldn't a few years ago. I can feel things others can't. I have owned and/or played some amazing guitars, including a few Holy Grail instruments. And when it comes to recording my music or playing it live, I'm going to play the guitar that best supports my goal. I don't give a flying Sh!t who likes it (or not).

Aeetus
02-05-2013, 02:16 PM
I'm with you, it makes my blood boil too! So a PRS doesn't sound exactly like a Les Paul, a Strat, a Tele or a ........ etc etc. Well surprise surprise, it isn't one and isn't pretending to be one. I can only speak for my own guitars but my PRS has a modern twist on a classic sound, so it hasn't got the real big bottom end but it sounds tighter. It plays fantastic, looks very classy with the satin finish and feels ..... well, it feels like no other guitar I've played! If I want another type of guitar sound generally I'll play that guitar if I have one.

LSchefman
02-05-2013, 03:09 PM
-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ;47508']I don't give a flying Sh!t who likes it (or not).

Do they fly like pigs, or what?

]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T !
02-05-2013, 03:19 PM
Do they fly like pigs, or what?

No. Monkeys.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgUwpb3I98M

LSchefman
02-05-2013, 03:23 PM
-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ;47540']No. Monkeys.

I had a feeling you were going to say that.

gush
02-05-2013, 05:21 PM
As I have said before, PRS guitars make reaching tonal bliss much easier. The guitar part of the tone equation is taken care of. Our band did a show a couple of weeks ago, some of my musician friends showed up. One guy in particular was talking to me on break, he was commenting on how good we were sounding. Now this guy is a very good guitarist, much more advanced than I am and he hadnt heard the band since my cu24 purchase, which I was using that night. He said my guitar was cutting through nicely and right before he walked away he also said" I need to try some different pickups". For ME to influence HIM was awesome. There you go!

sergiodeblanc
02-05-2013, 05:30 PM
To tell the truth I only play PRS guitars so people may mistake me for a doctor or a lawyer. Hasn't worked so far.

38Roars
02-05-2013, 06:11 PM
I thought tone only came from Trainwreck Amps and Gold Horse Klons!
You gotta have the right mojo, brothers.......

kingsleyd
02-05-2013, 07:35 PM
Do PRS guitars have an identifiable sound? Do Les Paul-recipe guitars have an identifiable sound? Do semi-hollow guitars sound different, as a group, from solidbody guitars?

We might think they do.

Well, OK, let's see about that. Surf on over to Vintage Rocker and check out this thread. Listen to my clips.

http://www.vintagerocker.com/forum/showthread.html?19375-Spot-the-PRS

There are two PRSi in there. Can you identify them, based only on the sounds and knowing that there are two PRSi and two non-PRSi? Can you spot the semi-hollow?


Though I only go back to 1991 with PRS guitars, from the beginning I've observed that they share an openness and clarity that makes the business of sculpting one's personal sounds easier. The controls and electronics have always made that a simple matter. They share the ability to do lots of things, and to be what I need personally for a given song or session.

I would agree with this. It's not so much an immediately recognizable sonic thing as a functional thing. Which is immediately apparent for the person at the helm of the guitar but not so much so, necessarily, for the person at the listener end.

LSchefman
02-05-2013, 07:52 PM
It's not so much an immediately recognizable sonic thing as a functional thing. Which is immediately apparent for the person at the helm of the guitar but not so much so, necessarily, for the person at the listener end.
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I completely agree. But of course, being the person operating the instrument, the object is to get what's in your head into the world.

kingsleyd
02-05-2013, 08:01 PM
I completely agree. But of course, being the person operating the instrument, the object is to get what's in your head into the world.

I had a conversation with a good, long-time friend yesterday about guitar sounds and the skill of listening to guitar sounds. Engineer-turned-producer Bill Szymczyk's name came up. You know who that is, right? James Gang, Joe Walsh, Edgar Winter, "Hotel California." Some of the most immediately recognizable guitar sounds ever committed to record.

So I listened to "Free Ride" this morning. And I thought about those guitar sounds, about how even in the context of a YouTube streaming through my laptop (and a nice pair of Grado earbuds, at least), those guitar sounds just jump out of the mix and sound like, well, they sound like money. Irresistable ear candy. I thought, there's a reason this music was so popular at this time, and it's because it sounds GREAT.

I never hear guitar sounds like that, at least not in mainstream music, any more.

Old guy rant? Or is there something physical going on? I'm not sure. I don't even like the song all that much, but damn, the sound of those guitars just makes me wanna ​ROCK!!!

LSchefman
02-05-2013, 08:42 PM
Old guy rant? Or is there something physical going on? I'm not sure. I don't even like the song all that much, but damn, the sound of those guitars just makes me wanna ​ROCK!!!

Definitely not an old guy rant, at all. There is an art to all this, there was different recording and guitar equipment, different musical styles, and musical and sonic fashion changes from time to time, and has something to do with it as well.

Even tracking and mixing are done differently now than they were when I got into it in the late 80s, and I'm not talking about the switch from analog to digital. Here's an example: drums are, in general, far more prominently mixed in pop and rock music today, and have been for the last 20 years. Well, bring the drums up, and you've got to balance that with more low end grunt. So the bass and bottom end of the guitars come up, but to make room for vocals somewhere, you have to create a hole in the midrange and upper midrange guitar sound.

However, that also requires more compression to the guitars or it sounds a little lifeless.

So there's a lot going on to remove the guitar ear candy from the mix. At least, that's my experience. I completely agree with you that those sounds were absolutely great!

Albrecht Smuten
02-06-2013, 03:02 AM
I just like those beautiful pointy headstocks ;)
I'm a typical victim of a love brand.

jfb
02-06-2013, 01:21 PM
The PRS shape is sexy. To my eyes it simply doesn't get any better. That lust turned into a purchase because it played and sounded as hot as it looked. The more I learned about PRS the more I knew I made the right choice for me.

Mikegarveyblues
02-06-2013, 01:42 PM
Ever since there have been internet discussion boards, we've all seen some variation of this meme:

"PRS guitars can come close to a lot of sounds but don't have a sound of their own."

My blood boils when I come across it.

Indeed!

It's a really daft statement when you think about it. I wonder how many people make such satements without actually thinking there's any truth to it... They just repeat what someone else has said like a parrott.

rugerpc
02-06-2013, 02:59 PM
There are levels of understanding in all things. As our civilization ages and the knowledge base deepens, it becomes increasingly hard for any one person to have deep, deep knowledge in even one subject, let alone many.

Guitars are no different than quantum physics, theoretical math, literature, history, etc. There will always be people who get it and those who don't. On the high side of get it are the savants. On the low side of don't get it are the posers.

Savants are so into their field that it can be hard for them to converse even with others that get it. Posers think they can spew information and not get challenged.

Anyone who says PRSi don't have their own tone and character is a poser. The statement alone identifies them.

PRSh, on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It really would not surprise me if he could hear a mouse fart at 200 paces and identify what kind of cheese produced the emission.

kingsleyd
02-06-2013, 03:02 PM
PRSh, on the other hand is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It really would not surprise me if he could hear a mouse fart at 200 paces and identify what kind of cheese produced the emission.

I wonder, though, if PRSh happened upon my blind comparison thread on VR, would he be able to recognize the two PRS guitars? Both of which I know for a fact he has played.

The whole thing about "dog ears" is a very innaresting topic. Although I certainly believe that people are differentially endowed with a natural ability to hear well (I'd argue, based on experience, that women in general have better ears than men), I am quite sure that the kind of hearing skills PRSh demonstrates are the result of a LOT of focused and thoughtful experience. I know a number of people in the guitar world who have that kind of ability to discriminate tiny aural details, and every one of them got there that way, it wasn't inborn. Moreover, it often doesn't translate to other aspects of their hearing.

LSchefman
02-06-2013, 04:08 PM
I wonder, though, if PRSh happened upon my blind comparison thread on VR, would he be able to recognize the two PRS guitars?

It's a fool's errand. At the very least one needs a frame of reference, for example, playing through those guitars with those amps. A little experience with them would help.

gush
02-09-2013, 10:37 PM
My prs purchase makes me sound better. thats what Im after. If a LP makes you sound better thats what you should buy. I cant always identify a certian brand on a recording but if it sounds good so what. Just watched a zep dvd, JP really pulls some good sounds out of that LP, I would bet he is really comfortable on that LP too.

Steph
02-09-2013, 10:55 PM
I don't know, they all sound like guitars to me! and I like guitars.

Thats also how I feel. And I'm also a believer that tonal personality is in the hands not the gear. But hey! This is all too subjective, as all art forms are. I guess it all comes down to personal taste. Just look at what Jack White can accomplish with crappy guitars and gear. Wether we like it or not, the dude sounds big. And people love it. And he don't need no private stock.

LSchefman
02-10-2013, 10:20 AM
Thats also how I feel. And I'm also a believer that tonal personality is in the hands not the gear. But hey! This is all too subjective, as all art forms are. I guess it all comes down to personal taste. Just look at what Jack White can accomplish with crappy guitars and gear. Wether we like it or not, the dude sounds big. And people love it. And he don't need no private stock.

Good comments, though I can personally observe that my guitars really do sound different from one another with only me playing them.

Jack White's thing with the cheap guitars started as part of his "Garage" band ethic with The Go, his original band, who I know pretty well. The whole Garage movement in Detroit was a lo-fi, rough and ready kind of vibe, and part of the aesthetic was to use lesser-known, Sears catalog style instruments, etc. In fact, The Go mastered some of their recordings on cassette machines, so they'd even sound worse.

But lately, Jack has been playing various Gretsch models a lot, some of which are pretty expensive.

And part of the appeal is the guy has an amazing voice. He really cranks it out, especially live.

Steph
02-11-2013, 12:07 AM
Good comments, though I can personally observe that my guitars really do sound different from one another with only me playing them.

Jack White's thing with the cheap guitars started as part of his "Garage" band ethic with The Go, his original band, who I know pretty well. The whole Garage movement in Detroit was a lo-fi, rough and ready kind of vibe, and part of the aesthetic was to use lesser-known, Sears catalog style instruments, etc. In fact, The Go mastered some of their recordings on cassette machines, so they'd even sound worse.

But lately, Jack has been playing various Gretsch models a lot, some of which are pretty expensive.

And part of the appeal is the guy has an amazing voice. He really cranks it out, especially live.

Hey LSchefman
I have to agree with you. The obvious would be the difference between single coils and humbucker pickups. They sound really different, who ever plays them. But sounding different and sounding original and personal is another thing, imho. I just love my expensive PRS. It is the most inspiring guitar i ever own. But will it enable me to devellop a personal sound? It is something that still need to be accomplish. Unfortunately, that aspect didn't come as an option with the guitar. And it didn't instantly made me a better player. Just a lot more motivated, which right there justified the expense. I still have to do the work.

I'm no connoisseur of Jack White but I've been building a lot of respect lately for the artist. And he just rocked at the grammy tonite. Def my fave of the show

Thanks for sharing your info about the guy.

LSchefman
02-11-2013, 09:12 AM
I just love my expensive PRS. It is the most inspiring guitar i ever own. But will it enable me to devellop a personal sound?

Steph, I honestly think that all instruments enable one to develop a personal sound to a degree; give two artists the same brush and the same paints, and the results are still going to be two different paintings.

For me, the instrument is a platform. That is, you start with its inherent tone; from there, the platform should work with your brain, ears, and hands; you should be able to get tones out of it that you want to hear. Whether that's a PRS or something else is up to your ears, hands and brain.

For me, the beauty of PRS is that they make guitars I can easily get the sounds I want on. I love how they work as platforms for my personal tone. It's like standing on solid ground, and building a building. You need the foundation to be right for you.

That's going to vary from person to person.

I think PRS are a good platform for a lot of artists, but everyone's got different needs.

Steph
02-11-2013, 09:32 PM
Steph, I honestly think that all instruments enable one to develop a personal sound to a degree; give two artists the same brush and the same paints, and the results are still going to be two different paintings.

For me, the instrument is a platform. That is, you start with its inherent tone; from there, the platform should work with your brain, ears, and hands; you should be able to get tones out of it that you want to hear. Whether that's a PRS or something else is up to your ears, hands and brain.

For me, the beauty of PRS is that they make guitars I can easily get the sounds I want on. I love how they work as platforms for my personal tone. It's like standing on solid ground, and building a building. You need the foundation to be right for you.

That's going to vary from person to person.

I think PRS are a good platform for a lot of artists, but everyone's got different needs.

Excellent comment LSchefman. I totally relate with this perspective. Thank you for sharing.

swede71
02-12-2013, 05:15 AM
"PRS guitars can come close to a lot of sounds but don't have a sound of their own."


To me that means PRS have a sound of their own :)

Fox77
02-12-2013, 06:41 AM
For me the whole point was to get something that wasn't "standard" and that had its own sound in order to allow me to have my own sound too.

I admit that I fell in love with PRS guitars for their looks first. The PRS doublecut shape to me is still the most beautiful guitar shape available. But what won me over to actually buying one (and now I already have three) was the playability, the sound and the tonal flexibility.

To address a specific point that Les made: I mostly crank the guitar volume and run the gain pretty high but the PRS guitars can keep up where others struggle. I've recently tried an R7 through my amp and with the amount of gain I typically use it lost all clarity, whereas you could still hear a lot of nuance with my SC250 (and the other PRSi too).

So I'd argue that PRS guitars have their own, clearer voice. And IMHO that's a good thing.

And yes, I can also get angry when people are parroting others' unqualified statements about the sound of PRS guitars.

LSchefman
02-12-2013, 09:45 AM
To me that means PRS have a sound of their own :)

Absolutely!!

As I said in an earlier post, a guitar is a platform with a basic tone, and ideally it should be compatible with the tone you want to hear.

There are lots of guitars that sound like the "usual suspects." That's all well and good. I like to find my own path.


So I'd argue that PRS guitars have their own, clearer voice. And IMHO that's a good thing.

And yes, I can also get angry when people are parroting others' unqualified statements about the sound of PRS guitars.

Yup.