Best 12 tricks to improve your tone as a guitarist
Best 12 tricks to improve your tone as a guitarist, tips to improve, develop and expand your techniques, resources and style as a musician.
Defining our style as guitarists
Our style is the fundamental part of our tone. It’s a set of personal and subjective aspects that make up our way of sounding. It includes our musical tastes and also our technical resources. It doesn’t matter if we use a Les Paul or a Stratocaster, we’re going to sound like ourselves.
In this note, we cover those techniques and resources to improve, develop and expand our style, our tone as a guitarist.
For all types of guitarists and of any level
This note is aimed at those who seek to get the best out of themselves as guitarists, regardless of their level or style. The search for how to improve the technique and take care of the small details. How to make your instrument look its best.
Also, we recommend our guide on how to improve your tone with your amplifier.
How to improve your tone as a guitarrist?
- Listen to new bands, different styles of music
- Study with different teachers
- Play in tempo
- Play on bases or backing tracks
- Take care of your body, take care of your hand
- Good and simple, good twice
- Make your guitar sing
- Record yourself whenever possible
- Play as many guitars as you can
- Play with different types of picks and fingers and different places on the string
- Try different tunings
- Study music theory
12 Tips to improve your tone as a guitarist
Listen to new bands, different styles of music
A broad and wealthy musician is constantly looking for new music. It is not simply listening to it, but analyzing it, interpreting it, understanding it. This implies studying, learning songs from different guitarists and even other instruments. In this way, you will absorb all kinds of new ideas, techniques, styles, concepts that will later come to light in your style, in your tone, in your way of playing, maintaining an evolution in your tone, thus avoiding stagnation and repetition of resources and ideas.
You are what you listen to!
Study with different teachers
In line with the previous point, this will give you different resources, and each teacher has their style. You can study with teachers of different styles, that is, with one of Blues, one of Rock, another of Jazz to expand your resources to the extreme. Or if, on the contrary, you are very involved in a universe, try teachers of the same gender but with different styles. Although we recommend you try experiences with teachers of other musical genres, you might be surprised, and develop your own fusion style.
Also, check out our guide on how to improve your guitar tone.
Play in tempo
The metronome has to be one of our best friends. But there are also other techniques to improve your timing and also enrich your tone and style.
A very interesting exercise is to play the bass, a good bass player knows that the kick drum and the snare drum are his gods, try to acquire this. A time playing with a bassist “like” band, or just practicing at home, can have amazing results on a guitarist’s tempo and, in turn, on his tone. You will have improved your technique and can adopt bass resources to enrich your style with new ideas for phrases and arrangements.
Simple things played well and on time will always sound better and will give you more concerts, than uncontrolled histrionics.
Play on bases or backing tracks
In this hyper-connected world with platforms full of learning tools, take advantage of all the backing tracks that YouTube provides you. This will allow you to practice playing songs as if you were with a band, improve your improvisation, also improve your time and it will be like meeting people of the style of music you want with just one “play”.
Take care of your body, take care of your hand
We generally all agree that “the tone is in the fingers.” That is why it is important that you take care of them, both your fingers, hand and wrist. There are even professional musicians who spend a lot of time with their instrument that they also have to take care of their arm and shoulder.
Stretch and elongate the muscles in your hands and arms, even your shoulder if necessary. This way you will avoid hurting yourself and therefore interruptions in your studies and in your progress with the instrument. This will allow you to improve your tone as a guitarist in a more sustained and healthy way.
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Good and simple, good twice
Something simple, well played, that is understood is always more effective than something too loaded, exaggerated that is not understood or does not have a clear reason for being.
It does not mean that you cannot touch complex or “dirty” things. But what you do make sure it makes sense and can be interpreted and understood by the public.
Rests are an important part, always consider them as one of your most valuable resources, sometimes they express more than a large handful of notes played at maximum speed. Endless bursts can overload and saturate the audience and end up losing impact.
He should only be a story, have an introduction that climaxes, a development that tells something and a denouement that has an end. Music is an art, and it has to generate sensations, make your audience part of your story.
Make your guitar sing
Brian May and John Petrucci use this concept a lot. John explains that since he writes lyrics, it comes naturally to him to approach guitar melodies as if he were a singer.
On Brian’s side, he explains that he likes to get a vocal sound from his guitar. These two forms seek to make their guitar “sing”, in this way they manage to play in a more melodic way. Simple, expressive and sung melodies are often much more inspiring and memorable than unnecessarily complex ones. They are the ones that the public chooses and is recorded in their mind, they can even end up being used for court songs.
Record yourself whenever possible
Take advantage of advances in technology that have put a good quality audio and video recorder in our pockets, called a cell phone. Using -or downloading- an application specially prepared to record you can obtain excellent results.
Recording your practices and rehearsals will help you find good ideas, opportunities for improvement, have a more objective vision, which you can take advantage of to improve your technique and tone.
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Play as many guitars as you can
Instead of obsessively studying the specifications of a guitar in a brochure, on an online store ad, or on your favorite guitar forum, get out into the real world and play as many gutiarras as you can. You will discover new tones and details that you did not know. They will inspire you to define your audio. They will serve as a reference to know where you are standing.
You will see between the guitar that sounds regular, the one that sounds good, the one that sounds great and the one that inspires you new things and you can’t stop playing it. In addition, each particular audio leads you to play different things, this will expand your resources.
Play with different types of picks and fingers and different places on the string
The material, thickness and shape of your pick, the way you hold it and strike the string all influence your tone. The most extreme case is that of Brian May who found his tone playing with Sixpence coins. But you don’t have to be so radical. Try different picks, explore different audios and attacks.
Also explore your fingerboard, you will see that as you play more towards the center of the string, you gain more body and warmth while the attack becomes softer and sweeter. The more you play near the bridge, it takes on a more metallic attack and shine, while the audio gets leaner and brighter.
Those who have already played with fingers will know of the unique sensitivity and dynamics that this technique allows. Initially, some speed is lost. But the expressiveness that you achieve through finger playing, for example, you can use the most popular Slap technique on bass to achieve vivid and powerful audios, you can play softly, achieving unique climaxes.
Touching with your fingers opens up a new universe worth exploring. It also allows you to feel the string more. Look at the extreme style, full of dynamics and different colors, of the great Jared James Nichols. This guitarist is an excellent role model. Of course, you also have Mark Knopfler as another great exponent of this style.
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Try different tunings
Going out of standard tuning will not only give you other audio, it can also change your playing, starting new ideas.
Tuning in Eb is a very common practice both to have a softer guitar that allows you to make more radical bendings or stretches or to achieve fatter tones with more sustain. It also allows you to use thicker strings for the same scale.
By lowering a semitone, the tension on the guitar drops, so the string vibrates more freely, this reduces the attack, but increases the sustain and the body and depth of your audio. Many Stratocaster guitarists like Jimmy Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan did it, and we also have Slash as an example of a musician who uses Les Paul.
Playing with alternate tunings will allow you to achieve other audios and have new ideas. Keith Richards is an example of a guitarist who comes out of the standard tuning, that allowed him to achieve that very personal tone for which we recognize him today. Try different tunings, experiment, new ideas may come up that will surprise you.
Study music theory
This will allow you to better understand the musical world, finding the relationships between notes, scales, and far from structuring your style, it will develop it, expanding your musical borders. A good base to study music theory is the platform on which you can develop all the rest.
Play more guitar to improve your tone as a guitarist
More than tip, this is the fundamental platform on which all the previous points should be based to improve your tone as a guitarist. It is the cornerstone on which our tone must be built. The fastest way to sound better is to play better, and the way to play better is to practice as much as possible.
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