How to develop your own unique sound, part 2

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The amazing tone of the Mongolian swamp ash

When you go shopping for the amp or instrument you want, try your  best to forget about what others say. Really listen and be open. Be honest about what you like and don't like. And if you can't hear or feel the difference from a $200 instrument to a $2000 instrument, then that $2000 instrument can't be for you. And paying for the difference is insanity if you get zero value out of it. Decide to only pay for real results. For what you can hear and feel.

The musical instruments business is full of hype and "stories" about the instruments. "This guitar was hand made out of north Mongolian swamp ash so it has an amazing depth to it's lower frequencies" It might be true but only if you can hear and appreciate it. Trust your own experience and seek for what you like the best. Forget about finding  a "special" tone. Find the tone that you like the most. Because you are special and what you truly like will be as well. Ask yourself "What is it I like about this tone compared to this other guys tone?" In this way your tone becomes a reflection of you and not of the need to feel significant or special.

Inexpensive gear

I tried a lot of different amps and guitars. Expensive ones and less expensive ones. And I ended up with  a Squier Deluxe with 3 Dimarzio Pick ups and a Marshall  MG amp. I used to play through a stack of Marshall JVM 410 amps but then I bought the MG for practice. I ended up wanting to plug into that over the JVM. In the beginning I really wondered why I didn't go for the much more expensive amp, but I had to conclude that, I just liked the other sound better! (Pretty basic) I didn't deliberately choose inexpensive gear, this was just what gave me the best experience.

Maybe for you it's something completely different. The point is to go for the experience and the sound, not the hype, the "quality" or anything else. Because quality is an experience. It's your experience. If you think it's the best instrument you've ever played then obviously it's great quality! There's no objective good or bad when it comes to instruments although musical instruments manufacturers would like you to think so.

Everyone  who ever had a distinct sound just followed their heart (As far as I'm informed) They didn't go out seeking for "something different." They simply sought after the best playing experience. You know what it feels like to play a guitar that seems to help you play: The sustain is right, the distortion is great. The strings feel great the fretboard is a joy to play. Everything is right. That's what you should go for.

Fast lick in E-Blues

How about paying $2500 for nothing?

Here's a story to illustrate my point: A friend of mine had a friend (My friends friend) who had  just bought a $2500 sound card for his computer. My friend has been studying the industry for some time and had learned that the basic components of any sound card comes from only two factories in the world. These factories deliver the same essential components to all manufacturers of digital sound equipment, so the real audible difference between what you get is very little. But back to my friends friend. He was so excited about his new gear and he went on and on about how great this new sound card sounded. How the high end was much clearer and the mids where better articulated and so on.

Then my friend said "I bet you can't hear the difference between your built in sound card and the one you just bought" Of course my friends friend was completely convinced that he could, but they agreed to test it. And so they did. They made a blind test and my friends friend couldn't tell the difference at all. He had no clue what so ever. The illusion was perfect. He paid $2500 for a story because he forgot to listen with his ears instead of his mind. He brought the sound card back to the store the next day and got his money back.

"Illusion is the first of all pleasures"

Oscar Wilde

How lucky I am: I can't hear the difference

My friend has another friend. He's a professional sound  engineer and he has his own private studio, fully equipped with everything any musician could ask for. But all the equipment comes from manufacturers of inexpensive stuff like for instance "Behringer" When people ask him about his choice of equipment he replies: "How lucky I am that I can't hear the difference"  And he  never hears any complaints about bad sound quality from his customers. Please understand that I'm not saying that expensive gear isn't worth the money. My point is still that you should bye instruments with your ears if you want a great and very real experience. And what you like may sometimes be the more expensive alternative

If you want the feeling of holding a "real" American produced Fender in your hands then I salute you. The feeling consists of the physical instrument and the story in your head that "I have a real Fender" If you really want that feeling and you can't get it in any other way, then go get it! It's just such a relief to know when we are fooling ourselves and when we are not. And you might even like the sound of the Fender over the much cheaper Kramer.

But it can be really really tricky to distinguish between the story about an instrument and the reality of it. If you're in doubt as to whether you're listening with your mind or your ears when you try out gear, ask someone to play several guitars through the same amp while you're not looking - or if it's an amp you're looking for, ask him to plug into one amp after the other and listen for what sound you like the most. It might the Mesa Boogie and it might be Peavey practice amp. What ever it is, be true to what you like and compromise as little as you can.

"Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true"