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Thread: Follow The Rules...Of Tone

  1. #1

    Follow The Rules...Of Tone

    I just happened to re-read an article in last year's Signature magazine on Paul's Rules of Tone, and thought, gee, this isn't mere marketing hype. It's real.

    I know that PRS players love to debate pickups, finishes, woods, models, tuning machines, bridges, etc. And that there is tremendous demand for the early stuff. I get that; it's hard to beat a good guitar that's got 25+ years of aging under its belt. If only I had aged so well!


    I've been a PRS player since 1991, and have had quite a few. I've depended on them professionally. It's my belief that the guitars have been improving over the years, and that these improvements have accelerated since the 25th Anni models came out. A bunch of little things, each seemingly minor, add up to results that can be heard and felt.

    Twelve years ago on the old PRS Forum, a debate raged as to poly v. nitro. I adamantly felt that that the type of finish was a red herring issue. With the V-12 and PRS thin nitro finishes, and hearing the results as part of the overall equation, it's apparent to me that I was wrong. It does seem to make a difference.

    Same with truss rod changes, wood drying methods, bridges, tuning machines, and more obviously, pickup and electronics design. I can't quantify this stuff, all I know is that I like the results. Yes, I spend a lot of time in the studio listening, so my ears are pretty acutely attuned to detail, but I really think anyone who knows what to listen for can hear these differences.

    I realize that I'm something of a gear-head, and that I'd be well off considering my technique more than my instrument, but...if the instrument inspires me to write better, or play more often, that's a small victory right there.

    So yeah, I'm gonna follow the rules!

  2. #2
    408 Sig Club President Twinfan's Avatar
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    Apr 2012
    I'm with you Les. I've only been playing PRS for 4 or 5 years, but the latest models are CRAZY good. My DGT Standard, the "lowliest" PRS I own, is not a million miles away in quality of tone and feel as my Private Stocks. Yes, given the choice, I'd take a Private Stock for that little bit of extra something but the regular production models are seriously good instruments.

    I very much doubt I'd buy an electric guitar from another brand again.

  3. #3
    Senior Member slang05's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    Springfield MO
    I would love to read that article, but I feel the same is not marketing hype. I know Paul is concerned about the "bottom line" but I never felt that he has ever designed a guitar with profit in mind (maybe a few exceptions early on with the EG model??) I have never played a PRS that was not exceptional in tone, a few I didn't like, but always had a certain type of tone that I could see some players really liking. I always love challenging a guy at guitar center when he recommends a Gibson over PRS (usually because they are discounted or they don't have the PRS I am looking for) I always tell them to pull down the Les Paul and we'll compare the quality to a PRS. I can always find a few finish flaw or glue that's been painted over or something stupid (stupid for a $2500 guitar) but never with a PRS.

    Anyway, I'm off subject..the rules of tone are real. Watch the youtube videos on them, they make perfect sense and he talks about them with such passion.
    "Just one more and then I promise, no more guitars honey!" - The phrase I say most to my wife

  4. #4
    So here's a fun question: What are YOUR own, individual Rules of Tone?

    For me, it starts with a guitar platform that sounds lively unplugged. I need pickups that can reproduce the nuances of pick attack. There has to be a good resonant, woody tone at all volumes, and an even sustain all over the fingerboard. The volume and tone controls have to do useful things, be able to shape the tone in good ways. The guitar has to be able to do both bright and warm tones, and sound good either way.

    If the guitar doesn't sound cool with the guitar volume and/or tone knob at "3," it's not gonna make me happy dimed either.

    While I like and appreciate pretty guitars, a guitar is useless to me if it doesn't meet these tone criteria. I can't recall posting much about what kind of pretty wood or colors I like, because while that's great to have, it's not the main course.

    Finally, if a guitar is going to have coil splits, they really need to sound good, even though I'm a humbucker player for the most part. Because if they're there, I'm going to use them.

  5. #5
    Love Boat Captain butterfly's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    My experience is in line with the OP. I thought PRS hit s high watermark in the early 2000s and then again now as they have upped the game noticeably.

  6. #6
    Senior Member kingsleyd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Rule 1: Whatever the rules are, at some point I'm going to break 'em. (see rule 6)
    Rule 2: If a guitar doesn't turn me on unplugged, I'm not gonna like it plugged in.
    Rule 2a: The less the pickups impose themselves on the sound of the guitar and amp, the better.
    Rule 3: I generally prefer a guitar that has a relatively even balance across the frequency spectrum.
    Rule 4: I use my volume and tone controls. A lot. So I expect a certain functionality in them. (note: this is something that PRS gets right the vast majority of the time)
    Rule 5: I generally prefer a guitar with a distinctive character to its voice. Usually this means the guitar is not perfect in some way.
    Rule 6: The extent to which I can live with a guitar's imperfections/quirks is directly proportional to the extent to which I like how it sounds.
    Rule 7: Everything is part of the circuit. Everything matters. Including all the other stuff: picks, strings, fingers/nails, cables, and the whole pedal-amp-speaker part. I pay attention to all of it, and I'm always willing to try something new or revise my thinking.
    Last edited by kingsleyd; 01-19-2013 at 09:46 PM.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post
    )Rule 5: I generally prefer a guitar with a distinctive character to its voice. Usually this means the guitar is not perfect in some way.
    Yup, I should have included that on my list - character, personality, vibe, mojo, whatever you want to call it. Though I'd say that the personality is what makes it perfect - for me!

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