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"Singing" guitar tone
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the donal
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12th March 2012
Old 12th March 2012
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"Singing" guitar tone

Describing musical sounds is so full of purple prose that is generally only relevant to the person doing the describing.

So. I've always had this phrase in my head, but can't quite define it. I guess it's somewhere in an open, airy (you see- there I go!) sustaining sound, probably from the bridge pickup. a sound that's very sensitive to nuances of picking and fretting.

For me, it's probably the solo in Black Country Communion's Song of Yesterday that's closest.

What do you guys think constitutes a singing guitar tone? It would be nice to get a frame of reference from other peoples' musicality..
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13th March 2012
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What comes to my mind when I hear "singing" guitars is Santana
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13th March 2012
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Warren Haynes has that tone in my opinion. Thing is...we all know his gear is top notch, but that type of singing sound truly comes from his hands. All the great guitar tones we seek after come from the style in which that player approaches or approached their instrument. The best tone machine a musician has is his or hers own hands and fingers.
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13th March 2012
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Tom Verlaine on Marquee Moon. Plexiglass jazzmaster through a Vox AC30 turned up loud I think. I get kind of the same sound with an AVRI Jazzmaster through a Fender Twin with a touch of compression, a RAT turned to almost the lowest setting with the filter all the way up, and a dab of tremolo. And lots of finger vibrato.
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13th March 2012
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Eric Johnson
Brian May
Santana

Those are the first few that came to mind when thinking of 'singing' guitar tones.
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13th March 2012
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That sound on the BCC song is really similar to Warren Haynes. IIRC he uses mostly Gibson guitars with humbuckers into Soldano or Rivera amps, fairly high gain but with the volume/gain dialed back to get that crunch, then moving into more liquid sounds when he turns the guitar up... It also works better if you can crank the amp up pretty high (Warren and Santana use 100w amps cranked) so that you can get some physical coupling between guitar and the sound from the speakers...
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13th March 2012
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Allan Holdsworth and Frank Gambale smooth Legato. none better IMHO.
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13th March 2012
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Gibsons using the neck pickup sing. I think of slash soloing or santana
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13th March 2012
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Depending on the piece, it could also be descriptive of much of Steve Vai's work, as well as a bit of Hendrix's output, not to mention the highly ignored Terry Kath of Chicago and most of all the Moody Blues Justin Hayward.
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13th March 2012
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Seems like a level of overdrive to high gain. Clean tones I do not think can be described as "singing". Bridge is going to have more response, cut and bite, neck more thick warmer bassier. Higher gains are usually always bridge. Singing tone, I am not sure, same with "woman tone" and what have you. Hard to describe sounds to be sure, try describing colors to a blind man. When I think of "singing" I think more high end attack and bite you only get from the bridge. I am a Strat guy myself so if I want a cutting lead I go bridge and I have a HB on one that rips.

If it's the song I am thinking of on that last live deal I saw it is his rig setup he uses in general. Bonamassa cranks that brighter cutting lead on the bridge PU. A nice overdrive to push the amp gain more. Just watched the new DVD on public television channel the other night, just gave us about an hour of it with the pledge drive yada but just some amazing playing. The DVD is like 2 hours. I do not think I have ever heard Joe's tone better than that new release. His rhythm tones killed me on some of those tunes. He did Fire and Water with Paul Rogers and god that killed, that rhythm tone was monster. He kicks over to that bridge and the lead just cuts through and "sings" if you ask me.
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13th March 2012
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Some great answers- cheers guys.

I did think of Santana too.

Darkhorse- I think you can get singing from a clean tone- I guess one that is a little compressed with plenty of sustain. David Gilmour excels at this. For me, the singing is often in the more sustained part of the sound, but there's more to it than that.

I agree on Vai too- but was trying to avoid referring to guitarists who use a lot of processing on sounds (like Satch as well)-even just wah. Though he does really wail with the guitar, regardless of wah and whatever else he employs on a particular pience. It's the root sound and again points not just at the guitar/pickups and playing.

Thinking about it today again, I was also thinking of Clare Torry's vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky- I reckon if I could get my guitar to 'sing' like that, I'd be happy. Again, sustain, open sound plus plenty of articulation. So by singing, I guess I really am referring to a guitar sounding like a voice singing in some ways.

This is why I like Bonamassa's sound on that particular song- it's not just the sound of the pickups and drive, but all those little transitions between notes- between the slides and hammer-ons, the 'vowel' sound when he bends the strings (particularly early in thes solo) all add up to that singing thing, as well as the overall sound and soaring wails (there I go again!) on the upper frets.

It's like the sax solo on the album recording of Shine On You Crazy Diamond- so many wonderful vocal like sounds in the articulation of the playing.
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13th March 2012
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Singing isn't just about tone - it's at least 50% about the playing. Finger vibrato and subtle use of the whammy bar -- but above all if you want to sing you have to play a vocal-style guitar line. That means lots of stepwise motion with the occasional jump, and an overall shape to it that sound like something you would sing.

I'm not the biggest Knopfler fan - it was Dad rock even back in the day - but he's a perfect example of how the playing is what makes the guitar sing, not the tone.

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I think if you can get a great touch & tonal responce and sustain out of a clean sound on an Amp, you won't have much problem making it sing with a good OD or distortion at the front.

there are lots of good amps these days like this. Laney Lionheart springs to mind. Dumble Amps were well known for that too.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Muser View Post
I think if you can get a great touch & tonal responce and sustain out of a clean sound on an Amp, you won't have much problem making it sing with a good OD or distortion at the front.

there are lots of good amps these days like this. Laney Lionheart springs to mind. Dumble Amps were well known for that too.
Absolutely. I spent a lot of time just working on the tone of a guitar not plugged in (ie from my fingers), so I could find the sweet spots in my playing and in the guitars.

I've got a great set of guitars and a lovely amp (Nomad 45), so I'm not so much looking at this from that side of things.

I think this all came about as I occasionally look at the Jaden Rose site and lust after a custom made guitar and would like something that really does sing. So part of the question came from the idea of choosing a bridge pickup that really lets the guitar sing, but it got me considering the wider aspects of it all and what people would actually class as a singing tone.

I can't look at it at work, but which Knopfler solo is that? If it's Brothers in Arms, I absolutely love it. Wonderful tone and touch. I find a lot, like the BCC song mentioned above, can be achieved on a Les Paul with the volume rolled back and a bit of tone rolled away. It really does something to help the sensitivity to your playing.
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13th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by the donal View Post
Some great answers- cheers guys.

I did think of Santana too.

Darkhorse- I think you can get singing from a clean tone- I guess one that is a little compressed with plenty of sustain. David Gilmour excels at this. For me, the singing is often in the more sustained part of the sound, but there's more to it than that.

I agree on Vai too- but was trying to avoid referring to guitarists who use a lot of processing on sounds (like Satch as well)-even just wah. Though he does really wail with the guitar, regardless of wah and whatever else he employs on a particular pience. It's the root sound and again points not just at the guitar/pickups and playing.

Thinking about it today again, I was also thinking of Clare Torry's vocals on The Great Gig in the Sky- I reckon if I could get my guitar to 'sing' like that, I'd be happy. Again, sustain, open sound plus plenty of articulation. So by singing, I guess I really am referring to a guitar sounding like a voice singing in some ways.

This is why I like Bonamassa's sound on that particular song- it's not just the sound of the pickups and drive, but all those little transitions between notes- between the slides and hammer-ons, the 'vowel' sound when he bends the strings (particularly early in thes solo) all add up to that singing thing, as well as the overall sound and soaring wails (there I go again!) on the upper frets.

It's like the sax solo on the album recording of Shine On You Crazy Diamond- so many wonderful vocal like sounds in the articulation of the playing.
Wow.. how did I forget Gilmour?! That IS singing guitar tone.
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14th March 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkheadedbug View Post
Singing isn't just about tone - it's at least 50% about the playing. Finger vibrato and subtle use of the whammy bar -
very true. gotta be musical
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14th March 2012
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Finally looked at that late last night- Telegraph Rd is about my favourite DS song, along with Brothers in Arms and Private Investigations.

I often don't consider Mark Knopfler in terms of singing lead- I suppose because a lot of his style is fast fingerpicking, but he can definitely get there!

Phrasing is such an important thing too- leaving the spaces.
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If you want to learn about singing on the guitar you need to study singers!! That will give you a sense of the phrasing and nuances involved in creating singing lines. You also need to spend a lot of time developing your ear training. Most people that great great singing lines can hear the melodies in their head and then play them.
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14th March 2012
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Interesting....as I just finished a tune where I specifically wanted my guitar tone to....sing with me.

I cranked up two small combos and ran my old SG through a comp pedal.

Oh yeah....a room mic at ear level really helped things .

FWIW......

Call Me!
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15th March 2012
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