Great sounds often come from a mixture of factors such as the purposeful engineering, accidental combination and a moment of inspiration just to name a few. Some of the most famous guitar players such as Brian Seltzer, Eric Clapton and others have a very distinctive sound that you can immediately hear and recognize. That didn't happen overnight though. Most likely it was a sound that they worked on for hours, days, and even years to get just right. It takes a combination of equipment setup and their guitar that really shapes what it is actually going to sound like.
The fact of the matter is that great tones come from great guitars. When you have a high quality guitar you are going to get a good sound more often then you will when you have an inexpensive badly made guitar. Even if you have a less desirable guitar, if you treat it right and "trust" the guitar you are holding then you can relax a little more and settle into the playing rather than letting the guitar lead so to speak. This will produce a better tone as well. You can't necessarily blame bad playing on your guitar, but you can certainly credit a good sound to the guitar you are using.
That brings us to the guitar setup. This can have a significant effect on how a guitar sounds and how well it plays. There are several things that can cause a guitar to sound poor. This includes bad fretting which can upset the guitar's action and cause intonation problems. If you have string nuts that are improperly set up you can cause dull notes and intonation problems as well. To expect the best from your guitar you need to have it set up properly and the best way to do this is to take it to a professional guitar tech that knows exactly what they are doing.
The most significant way to change the sound of your guitar is to change your pickup. There are hundreds of pickups to choose from, with new versions coming out all of the time. It is difficult at first to choose between all of them, but talking to people who have similar taste in music as you do may help. It helps to know what kind of guitar sound you want to have. Then take the time to listen to several pickup manufacturers that offer sound files that you can listen to online. You can hear the pickups there or you can try them out with different guitars at your local guitar store. Either way, have some patience and go through every single one of them if you have to in order to find the perfect sound for you.
Finding the perfect tone and sound for your electric guitar may not happen right away but by spending the time researching and trying out various guitars, you are taking a step in the right direction.
Steve Krenz is the instructor for Learn and Master Guitar. He is a active guitarist playing and records professionally in Music City USA, Nashville, Tennessee. He is a sought-after speaker and guitar lessons teacher conducting guitar-playing and music workshops in churches and venues across the United States and abroad, reaching as far as New Zealand and South America.
Good advice for all of us who want to sound our best when playing electric guitar!
Till next time...