Ev­ery month, Justin Sander­coe of justin­gui­ lends GT his in­sight as one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful gui­tar teach­ers. This month: My ‘one and only’...

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS - Get more info and links to re­lated lessons on all Justin’s GT ar­ti­cles at www.justin­gui­­mag

Food For Thought, Ses­sion Shenani­gans, 60 Sec­onds, Jam Tracks, Phil’s OML and more.

Be­fore we get started on this thought stream, I must say that I have suf­fered from se­vere GAS (Gui­tar Ac­qui­si­tion Syn­drome) for most of my life. I’m not sug­gest­ing that we shouldn’t all have many more gui­tars than we need, but…

Thoughts of gui­tar monogamy have been brew­ing in me since do­ing an in­ter­view with Tele­caster ge­nius Jim Campi­longo about five years ago. We spent an af­ter­noon talk­ing about his play­ing, his in­flu­ences and, of course, his gear. Jim plays a Tele­caster, pretty much al­ways the same one (a beau­ti­ful ’59 To­ploader) through a Fender Prince­ton (1966) am­pli­fier. No ped­als. Jim is one of the finest gui­tarists around and to wit­ness his su­perb play­ing was no sur­prise, but his ma­nip­u­la­tion of tone was off the scale – he knew ev­ery nook and cranny of his gui­tar and amp and knew ex­actly how to draw out an ef­fort­less fat jazz tone, a bit­ing Buchanan twang, a thick crunch and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

For a few months af­ter this I played noth­ing but my Tele and my Prince­ton. While I never got to the tonal depths that Jim reached, I found tones I never knew were there and was able to ma­nip­u­late my tone to match sounds I had in my ‘mu­si­cal mind’ far faster and more clearly than I ever had be­fore.

That got me think­ing about other play­ers I loved and how most of them had an in­stru­ment that we as­so­ciate with them and their sound. And I won­der how much of their sound comes from their gui­tar and amp choices and how much is down to re­ally get­ting in­side the sounds they find in them. Think of the Strat play­ers with great tone; Jeff Beck, Jimi Hen­drix, Mark Knopfler, Steve Ray Vaughan, David Gil­mour, Buddy Holly, Hank Marvin, Yng­wie Malm­steen. Th­ese guys all have in­cred­i­ble tone, and sure they have dif­fer­ent gear com­bi­na­tions, but I’m sure their ‘tonal per­son­al­ity’ comes from get­ting to know their in­stru­ments in­side out.

Take a look at Jeff Beck: he’s al­ways tweak­ing his vol­ume and tone knobs, and of­ten it’s so sub­tle I would never have known had I not been watch­ing; but he knows, and he knows his in­stru­ment so well that he can ma­nip­u­late it ‘just so’ and make it sound how he wants to hear it. You see this kind of thing in many of the great play­ers, and it’s worth notic­ing, think­ing about and see­ing where it takes you.

I think those mi­nor tone tweaks over a num­ber of years can re­ally help a player de­fine ‘their’ sound, and per­haps hear­ing the same sound con­sis­tently over many years helps de­fine what one hears in one’s ‘mu­si­cal mind’. I sus­pect it’s a two-way street and that both parts as­sist the other’s de­vel­op­ment.

While it’s true that a lot of tone comes from the fin­gers, the older I get the more I think that get­ting to know a few gear com­bi­na­tions re­ally well, is more re­ward­ing than be­ing a to­tal ‘gear slut’.

So this year I have pretty much ex­clu­sively played my Suhr Clas­sic (S-style HSS gui­tar) other than for ses­sions or lessons where a spe­cific sound was re­quired, and that I couldn’t draw from it. I feel I have learned an in­cred­i­ble amount about my tone, about what sounds I can get from the gui­tar, and that my fin­gers are able to make the gui­tar sound dif­fer­ent with­out touch­ing any set­tings. I don’t un­der­stand how that works, but it does! There’s some­thing in my sub­con­scious that is help­ing my fin­gers cre­ate the tone I want to hear, re­gard­less of the rest of the chain.

It’s the same with amps. Us­ing Kem­per’s Pro­filer re­cently I’ve found that get­ting in­side a few pro­files is tak­ing me deeper than flick­ing through lots of dif­fer­ent ones for an ar­ray of sounds. My ‘real’ amp of choice has been the Lazy J 20, and hav­ing just one plugged in at the stu­dio and al­ways go­ing to that, has helped me get more tones out of it than I would have been able to be­fore.

With all that said, when I got my ’70 Les Paul Gold­top out in the stu­dio last week I was in heaven. I’d for­got­ten how nice it felt un­der the fin­gers and also loved how thick and woody it sounded - very dif­fer­ent from the Strat style gui­tar I’d be­come so used to.

So maybe I’m not ready to be­come a ‘one-gui­tar guy’ just yet, but I do think there is a lot to be learned about tone from gui­tar monogamy, and it’s some­thing I plan to con­tinue ex­plor­ing in the com­ing years. Food for thought?

per­haps hear­ing the same sound over many years helps de­fine what one hears in one’s mu­si­cal mind

Justin: says he didn’t put his Tele­caster down for months

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