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Thread: Confession: They all sound like guitars to me.

  1. #1
    Senior Member sergiodeblanc's Avatar
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    Confession: They all sound like guitars to me.

    I've been going through all the stuff I've recorded over the years, both stuff that I played on or just recorded for other people, and while I can remember some of the guitars used... They all just kinda sound like guitars.

    I mean, I know that this song or that song was recorded on a Tele, PRS, LP, Ibanez, etc. 'cause I was there... but aside from the general "family" of pickups used i.e. P-90, hum buckers,single coils, I doubt I can tell the difference between a Fender Telecaster vs. my old studio partners Ibanez Deluxe Tele knock off within the context of a song unless I put them side by side, and you know, looked at 'em.

    I've been recording guitars for over twenty years and I suppose I should be a little disappointed in my abilities when it comes to critical listening. After the amp get mic'ed, my mic, and mic pre is chosen, and the sh!t is eq'ed to you know, give the other instruments some room in the mix, I just wind up with a guitar tone I either "like" or "not" and a general perception of pickup type.

    Why the hell can't I tell the difference between a vintage Les Paul and a Les Paul classic like everybody else says they can? I mean, I can hear that a certain guitar may have a little more output or that it has a bit more "honky-ness" to it, but I am always thinking in terms of 400hz rather than "Oh, listen to that SG-like Snarl!"

    I'm amazed by dudes (and women) who can tell what guitar and amp so-and-so used on a song after a series of rather drastic tone manipulators like the pickups,cables, pedals, amp, tubes, or no tubes, speakers, mic, mic pre, compressor, EQ,... Oh god, then there's the type of EQ and then what if there was tape involved... or God forbid a modeler. F@CK!!! They all just sound like electric guitars!

    I have had a mess-load of guitars over the years and sometimes duplicates of the same model, and they all sounded a little different from each other so it begs me to ask where does this definitive "sound" that people talk about come from? I just did a few touchups on a track that was originally recorded on my Telecaster with my CE22 with a tele neck pickup installed... blended in very well, in fact when I listen to the tune I'd be hard pressed to tell which is which.

    I know nobody's feelin' me on this, and I'm sure some of it has to do with standing next to a drummer for so long or perhaps that I'm listening to the lyrics of a song occasionally and not just the guitar tone... but I thought I'd share just in case there's somebody else out there who's perfectly content making music a guitar they enjoy that isn't on the hallowed list of tone machines.

    I will listen to your song and surmise that it sounds like a guitar.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    I thought this thread is funny.

    http://www.thegearpage.net/board/sho...highlight=poll

    In short, OP posted 5 sound clips of Les Paul and asked them which one they think sounds best.

    The winning guitar has like 3 times as many votes as most of the others, which is a PRS SC245 !
    Last edited by Raymond; 05-20-2014 at 04:26 PM.
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    I agree 100 %

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    Senior Member vox801's Avatar
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    I have to agree

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    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    Mostly true. I have a few that sound quite distinctive to me while I'm playing, but I probably couldn't call most of them from the next room - except the things I only have one of like: the classical, though I could tell the one I kept from the one I gave to my daughter; the 9 string, maybe the dragon.

    There are half a dozen my wife can call out from the other side of the wall, but it might be partly what I tend to play on some guitars.

    I couldn't tell you what someone else was playing on a recording.

  6. #6
    All that matters is whether the recorded result is good, not whether the instrument, mic, mic preamp, mixing console, etc., can be identified later.

    This isn't to say that instruments, microphones, preamps, consoles, and so on, sound alike and don't matter. They do matter - while you're using them, an instrument, a mic, or another piece of gear brings out different things in one's art.

    I was listening to Bonnie Raitt's Luck of the Draw today, a record I'm familiar with, because I am working on my studio acoustics and I have certain recordings I use as references. I couldn't tell you what mic she sang into, except to say "a good one for her voice." Nor could I tell you which Leslie speaker the organ player used, or whether it was a B3, a C3, or something else. Same with the piano and the guitars.

    Because when listening to a work, it's the work as a whole that counts, not the pieces-parts.

    At the same time, I was asked by a client to pull out an old recording I made to license for a documentary last week. So I pulled it out, and immediately recognized my old Artist II played through my old Tremoverb. I also know what synths I layered to get the pad sounds. I don't think I remembered playing that session, but certain things were identifiable (and perhaps it stimulated some old cobwebbed memory cells, who knows).

    Ultimately, it's very difficult to tell what guitar is which through most overdriven amps. After all, the amp is creating a square wave out of a sine wave when it clips. It's easier on cleaner stuff. But it also doesn't matter one bit.

    It matters what guitar you use if the guitar inspires you to play well. If it helps you come up with and achieve your vision.

    Identifying guitars on a recording is a nice parlor trick, but it matters not at all.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

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    I could not agree more!

    To quote The Comedian from Watchmen.... "it's all ********"


    Seriously...I recall listening to a guy give a talk on guitar tone, etc...oh...wait a second...it was PAUL REED SMITH HIMSELF!

    Anyway...the comment was along the line of "all these guys on the Internet, each with 25 years of playing experience, and how they can pick out all these differences."

    To quote The Comedian again.... "Hilarious!"

    I think we can ALL pick off the tone differences between a thin Strat and a chunky LP...other than that? C'mon....

    I've noticed over the years, especially in the age of the Internet...the adjectives are ALL THE SAME. A Strat always seems to have "quack" or "spank" or "twang". Uh huh....
    Didn't that guy from Yes play a Strat and man, it sounded pretty thick and heavy to me! What about that Hendrix fella?

    Randy Rhoads? C'mon...that guy was the effects king! Strum a few strands of yarn, but run it through 40 effect boxes and man, you're in business.

    One guitarist that I've really been studying lately...simply because he plays so many different guitars... the Edge. He's not identified to a single model...but he sounds like The Edge no matter what he's playing.

    It's art. It's in your hands and in your head and in your heart.

    Nice topic Sergio!! I hope others chime in...

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    This is waaay too deep a topic to make a real dent in it.

    Practically speaking, of course there isn't much of a difference....either recorded, or even listening live.

    I get that, and I personally am sure that I'd fail most blind taste tests. But still, there's something to all of these flavors of guitars, even if it's only in my head.

    Playing these things live, different guitars sure "seem" to sound and react differently. I can promise you that nobody at any of the gigs that I'm playing can tell the difference. Even my band mates probably can't. But it feels and sounds different to me, and that's part of the fun of the whole thing.

    I'll freely admit that some of how I interpret the sound of a guitar is based on what I know of its construction, materials, looks, etc, rather than the actual tone. I have a rosewood neck 513, and a rosewood neck SC Ted for example, and I think that part of why I respond to these the way I do is the fact that I know the neck is rosewood. I'm sure I dial out any tonal differences associated with the rosewood neck at the amp (I tend to dial the amp to make all guitars sound equal if truth be told...) But....these are still among my favorites to play.

    I also have a couple of vintage Les Pauls. The feeling I get from playing these things live is great. Is it because I imagine the history of these 60 year old instruments? Probably. But it's cool nonetheless.

  9. #9
    Well, I do hear differences, I'm attuned to them since I sit in the studio all day long. My 408 split sounds very different, and records differently, than, say my Artist V.

    Then, too, I play cleaner than most here.

    But it's all good, and as I said earlier, it doesn't matter as long as the music is good.
    I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken...

    Website: http://www.elfxi.com

  10. #10
    I was severely impressed Herr Squid's Avatar
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    You notice the difference in the fingers and in the head. In the ears? Not so much...

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    Senior Member ViperDoc's Avatar
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    I love this thread!

    I've recorded through cassette 4- tracks, Roland CD studios, ProTools on a Mac, PTHD through a Neve console...and the major nuances I've heard in any of those recordings comes, I believe, from the engineer. All equipment has a tone color that it might excel at, but when you link it together in different ways, it all changes. Especially when you take a private stock guitar through a $5000 amp miked with a $2000 tube mic, say, and then slam everything through a $99 EQ plugin. Nonsense. Every rig has its tonal DNA to be discovered through talented mixing et al ( aka not fu<<ing it up). I absolutely am a horrible engineer. My guitars all sound like guitars, too. The pros I've seen tend to keep their gear clean, keep it as analog as possible, print maximum tonality when recording, and then they know where the sweets are for each instrument and they treat them like the Bible. Had a chance to listen to Steve Miller's blues album premixes at his studio with Andy Johns before he (AJ) died. He kept it "ballsy", and always kept the layers simple. In order to preserve the sweetest tones, you have to "print them on tape" first. Few of us, especially me, know how it's done. There's a reason why amp modelers are so damned popular!

  12. #12
    Senior Member ViperDoc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ViperDoc View Post
    I love this thread!
    I absolutely am a horrible engineer. My guitars all sound like guitars, too.
    By the way, you probably already know I'm not saying YOU are a horrible engineer. Capturing a guitar or amp's tonal SOUL is, regrettably, such a b!tch…if you feel any pain in saying what you said, I'm FEELING YOU BROTHER!
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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    but I thought I'd share just in case there's somebody else out there who's perfectly content making music a guitar they enjoy that isn't on the hallowed list of tone machines.

    I will listen to your song and surmise that it sounds like a guitar.

    The Artist 3s, Gibson Johnny Smiths, and a few other random guitars are my hallowed tone machines, and thats all that matters to me! I can pick out if I am playing a Strat, a tele, a LP or one of my PRSs 95% of the time on tape, but in person, each guitar sounds and feels quite different, and can inspire me at different times. Speaking only for myself, I need that. If I am feeling totally stagnant or uninspired, or I do not feel like practicing when I should be, a different guitar can make all the difference in the world. Thats a good thing. While all of my PRSs sound different live, there are a few that sound close enough that on tape, if I do not remeber like you mentioned, I can not tell what is what, but when I was playing it at the time, I could, and thats the important thing. If you can stay inspired and make one guitar sound like everything else, you should feel very, very lucky, and your bank account will be that much bigger. That is VERY good! Ah yes, adding this....as Les says above, I do not play with lots of gain, (totally clean most of the time) and if and when I do, all bets are off as to telling what is what. The more gain, the more similar everything sounds for sure.
    Last edited by Tag; 05-21-2014 at 01:22 AM.

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    Just a member JustRob's Avatar
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    Good to know I'm not alone in this. I do hear a lot of difference between my CU24 with 59/09s and my SCHBII with 57/08s, but I'm sure I could be fooled in a blind test.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Raymond's Avatar
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    I am not at a level you guys are but I can relate from another field – photography.

    I know what camera I used when I see a photo I taken, but if I look at photos others have taken it is quite difficult to know what body it was taken with. Canon, Nikon, Sony or is it a Pentax ? I can normally can guess the lens used from the field of view and focal length but it would be a guess.

    The bottom line is that as an observer, it is not really what tool was used, it is what came out in the end. If it is good, it is good regardless of what was used.

    Looking at it from the other end however, the camera (or guitar in this case) makes the difference that it was used at the time because it was the best tool for the job at the time. You were happy to use it and it got it done. So whilst you might not be able to tell afterwards, the fact that you did it with that is the important part. ,
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    I've been going through all the stuff I've recorded over the years, both stuff that I played on or just recorded for other people, and while I can remember some of the guitars used... They all just kinda sound like guitars.
    I did the same a while back and I swore a solo was done on my LP using it's neck pickup, according to the recording notes it was my Ibanez Strat knockoff with their really hot pickups and the bridge. That's when I understood how Leslie West could get his tone on a Jr.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    I've been going through all the stuff I've recorded over the years, both stuff that I played on or just recorded for other people, and while I can remember some of the guitars used... They all just kinda sound like guitars.
    .

    Sergio,

    You may just be in a musical funk, which i get it quite a bit. They all just sound like guitars, because they all just are guitars. If they sounded like a Trumpet, you probably would not have bought them! Another thing is that most of us have a particular tone we really like, and regardless of what guitar we play, try to dial in that sound. If you want different sounds, make them really different. Use the neck pick up split with a different OD box instead of the bridge in bucking mode, or something similar to really change it up.

  18. #18
    Good thread.

  19. #19
    Senior Member veinbuster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raymond View Post
    I know what camera I used when I see a photo I taken, but if I look at photos others have taken it is quite difficult to know what body it was taken with. Canon, Nikon, Sony or is it a Pentax ? I can normally can guess the lens used from the field of view and focal length but it would be a guess.
    I can't even tell if it real film or digital if it is a good shot, except for the grain of some film shots and even that might be a digital effect these days.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sergiodeblanc View Post
    I've been going through all the stuff I've recorded over the years, both stuff that I played on or just recorded for other people, and while I can remember some of the guitars used... They all just kinda sound like guitars.
    sergiodeblanc,

    One hears similar remarks from people talking about tasting wine, or tasting coffee, or listening to hi-end stereo systems.... or any of a number of challenges for the senses.

    It comes down to experience. If you taste enough wine, you start to taste the differences, and it stops "..just tasting like wine", or "..just tasting like coffee".

    You can probably tell the difference between an acoustic guitar and an electric car, right? Well, with more experience, you will learn the subtle differences between one guitar and another, and they will stop "...just sounding like guitars"

    P.S.: although I've been living in California since the mid '80s; for the first half of the '80s, I used to live in Woodridge, and so I'm familiar with Downer's Grove; which happens to be the home town of one of my favorite acoustic guitarists, Muriel Anderson.

    Greg

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