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Thread: Tone, Urban Legends, and PRS

  1. #1

    Tone, Urban Legends, and PRS

    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?
    Last edited by LSchefman; 02-05-2013 at 01:47 PM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    I don't know, they all sound like guitars to me! and I like guitars.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    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).
    One Life

  4. #4
    Senior Member Aeetus's Avatar
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    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.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! View Post
    I don't give a flying Sh!t who likes it (or not).
    Do they fly like pigs, or what?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    Do they fly like pigs, or what?
    No. Monkeys.

    One Life

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! View Post
    No. Monkeys.
    I had a feeling you were going to say that.

  8. #8
    Senior Member gush's Avatar
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    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!

  9. #9
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    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.

  10. #10
    Bless the Blues 38Roars's Avatar
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    I thought tone only came from Trainwreck Amps and Gold Horse Klons!
    You gotta have the right mojo, brothers.......

  11. #11
    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/s...5-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.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post
    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.
    [/COLOR]
    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.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    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!!!

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post
    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!

  15. #15
    Still a Junior Member Albrecht Smuten's Avatar
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    I just like those beautiful pointy headstocks
    I'm a typical victim of a love brand.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    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.

  17. #17
    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    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.
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  18. #18
    A♥ hoards guitars A♥ rugerpc's Avatar
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    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.
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  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by rugerpc View Post
    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.
    Last edited by kingsleyd; 02-06-2013 at 03:06 PM.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by kingsleyd View Post
    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.

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