What Is Tone? – Electric Guitar Masterclass Ep. 1

Introduction

Welcome to the Boothe Music Electric Guitar Beginner Masterclass! Through this multi-article and mutli-video masterclass, Miles will take you through all you need to know about how to turn your electric guitar into the instrument you want it to be. We’ll be going through pedals, pickups, amps, body styles, and more! Today, we’ll start with tone. First off, this isn’t a bare-bones beginner course. We’ll jump in assuming you understand the guitar and how to play it, as well as basic music theory like what treble and bass is. If you’re brand new to the guitar space, we recommend JustinGuitar’s fantastic beginner course to get you started. Also, if you haven’t seen or read our Beginners Guide to Pickups, we recommend starting with that as well! Go give that a quick watch, and then come on back here, and let’s get started.

Tone For Beginners

In short, tone is a word we use to describe the quality of an instrument’s sound. In guitar specifically, we have treble and bass. We can use words like “dark” and “muddy” for bass, and “bright” and “clear” for treble. To change and alter your tone, you have a few (hundred) different options! First are foremost, however, are the pickups installed in the guitar itself, as well as the gauge (size) of strings you’re playing on.

Changing string thickness will drastically alter your tone. Going to a thicker gauge will bring out your bass tone: muddy and dark, while switching to a lighter gauge string will bring out the treble tone: bright and clear.

Your pickups will have a few different options on how they effect tone. The neck pickup will bring out your bass tone much more than your bridge pickup, as the strings have more room and looseness to vibrate with. Try starting on your neck pickup, play a few bars, and then switch to your neck pickup. Notice the difference?

Amps are another way to change your tone. Most amps have treble and bass option knobs. Use the neck pickup with your tone knob all the way down, and turn up your bass knob on your amp. Then switch to the bridge pickup, turn your guitar tone knob all the way up, and turn the treble on your amp up as well. Give it a listen and notice you have even more range of tone! With the bass and neck pickup, the sounds all blend together in a very smooth, satisfying way. With the neck pickup and treble, its clear, sharp, and almost tinny.

In our Intro to Pickups, we showed you a few different basic pickup options. To recap for our purposes here, single coil pickups are the most common and provide clarity and sharpness. A humbucker will, by definition, be warmer and give you more bass than a single coil, as it is literally “bucking” the hum from the pickup (we could probably call them “humthrowers” or “hum-get-rid-of-ers” and it would make a little more sense).

Play around with your pickups, amp, and even strings if you have them! Learn what effects your tone and how to get the sound you are going for as your own musician. The world of electric guitar is huge, and this is a lot of information, we know. But keep practicing, keep playing, and keep making music! We’ll be here every step of the way.

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