A Question on Tone

alnico59

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I'm posting this here because this is something I've noticed only with reissues and the $600-$800 boutique PAF re-pros, quality POI caps, pots and wire harnesses that seem to accompany them.

Yeah, tone is subjective. But listen to any classic rock recording from the 70's and back, albeit live or from a studio, what you hear is what you're hearing. Nothing subjective there. Anybody with a decent set of ears can here the tone of these vintage burst through most likely a Marshall or Fender amp all have a certain likeness. Not exact, but a likeness in their tone.

Ok, so I noticed to get real close to those recordings I have to push the amp and turn down the tone on my bridge pickup to 4 or 5, volume full up and then turn the volume on my neck pickup down to 8.5 to 9 while keeping the tone full up. I've noticed turning down the tone on the bridge pickup actually affects the output as well, taking some of the heat off which helps in balancing the pickups. Anything else doesn't get that old sound.

I know one of the traits of a PAF is that it is bright. So I'd like to know if anyone else on here has noticed what I described above and is doing the same by turning down the tone on their bridge pickup so low?

I know this is geek stuff and probably boring to some. But all the money spent what are we trying to achieve? I'm chasing the past so I find this part fairly important. Thanks.
 

ARandall

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The 50's wiring is what is producing the effect. But specifically how it works on each pickup depends on the full tone of the pickup in question.

What you are doing is what would have been done with the recordings. Small budget, loud amps, very few tracks to work with, no overdubbing etc etc etc. The performance had to be done with the whole band at once and likely as not on a tight time budget. You set your amp and then worked the knobs hard.
 

Sct13

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yes ...exactly, you should be manipulating the tone, the pickup should be bright at full blast to slice though a live mix. Then backed off if your going to play accompaniment.

50's wiring helps a lot
 

Thumpalumpacus

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This is the beauty of a four-knob harness. Put it in the middle position with tone controls wide-open, balance the volumes to set up the basic tone, and then tweak the tones to get where you want to be. There are hundreds of sounds in there.

As far as balancing the pickups goes, I drop the body of the neck pickup and raise the polepieces, and do the opposite with the bridge pickup -- raise the body and sink the poles. They'll still sound different due to location, but doing this means fewer volume adjustments when I switch pickups, which is important when you're working that middle-position balance.
 

bulletproof

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Brother,one of my favorite settings is with the ole bridge on 10 and the tone on 4-5....middle position......neck pickup on 6,maybe 7(honestly I really don’t pay attention to he numbers,just my ears) neck tone wide open. Glorious tone to my ears!!! However,so many different variations and subtle,sweet flavors....when I get new pickups, I spend endless hours just playing with the Vol Tone controls.
 

Oldskoolrob

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It is? Cool! How would you describe the differences (sorry to hijack-I wont be long lol)?
 

ARandall

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The vol pot works on the whole pickup' output. This is the typical 2D type plotting of a pickup's response with different value pots:
Pic-1-Resonance-and-Pot-Value-Graph.jpg


The tone pot simply has a shelf frequency based on the cap+pot value and works to roll off frequencies above that.
 

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Oldskoolrob

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Do you have a graph of what that looks like, to get my head around it?
 

alnico59

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This is why I wonder if a 300k pot might be better in the bridge than a 500k - to take off that brightness a bit on the bridge....so do you ever open up the bridge tone to 10?

I can if I dial some highs and gain out of my amp. But I don't because at the volumes I play at I feel I'm then choking the amp. After trying every which way it seems I'm getting truer vintage tones by manipulating the guitar's controls.

I think the magic for me is that the guitar's tone when turned down actually decreases gain too which allows for the gain on the amp to go up. Honestly I never knew that was the case until I got into these RI's and 50's wiring.

Like someone here said, hundreds of sounds in there. Which is funny because myself prior and many others still look at a two humbucker loaded Gibson as a crank the bridge and go one trick pony axe. Which is quite far from reality with the vintage set-up. For example, I just had someone ask me on another forum what kind of music I play that I'm in the neck and middle position of my LP a lot?

These guitars with modern wiring vs 50's and with proper PAF-ESQUE pickups are two totally different beasts and apparently misunderstood.
 

alnico59

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^ The volume knob value change is a different tonal effect to the mere rolling back of a tone knob.

Yes. On all three of mine, different pickups, etc.. as the tone rolls off the output (I said gain) decreases. Very cool effect.
 

Stuff

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what you hear is what you're hearing. Nothing subjective there

You might believe that, but it just isn't the case.

Anybody ... can here the tone of these vintage burst through most likely a Marshall or Fender amp all have a certain likeness. Not exact, but a likeness in their tone.

You're hearing:
  • their playing
  • the guitar as it was at that time, w/ its pickups & pots & wiring harness
  • the amp
  • the cab + speakers
  • the microphone(s) used
  • the room noise / other bleed into those microphones
  • the console w/ its preamps
  • the way the console sums audio
  • whatever was done in mixing & mastering
  • the effect of recording onto the master tape
  • the effect of creating a copy off the master tape
  • whatever else happened to create the recording you're listening to
  • the colour added by whatever you're playing back the recording on
That's a lot of variables. And that list is far from comprehensive.

The tone out of the guitar is important, sure. If the tone is missing essential elements, you're not getting them back further down the signal chain. But the guitar is (almost) at the very start of a very long signal chain. The items further along that list are going to play a significant part, especially if you're hearing common characteristics from different guitarists recorded at different times.

Ok, so I noticed to get real close to those recordings

What are you comparing?
  • Are you comparing your live sound directly out of your cab w/ the recording?
  • Are you comparing your recording chain with the recording?
  • Something else entirely with the recording?
And what are you listening to the recording on? How does it colour the tone?
 

BBD

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I can if I dial some highs and gain out of my amp. But I don't because at the volumes I play at I feel I'm then choking the amp. After trying every which way it seems I'm getting truer vintage tones by manipulating the guitar's controls.

I think the magic for me is that the guitar's tone when turned down actually decreases gain too which allows for the gain on the amp to go up. Honestly I never knew that was the case until I got into these RI's and 50's wiring.

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ This.

Wisdom of the ancients.
 

alnico59

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^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ This.

Wisdom of the ancients.

I think most guys back then were doing this and I mean guys like Kossoff, Clapton, Allman, Betts, Page, etc. I mean I can not cop their tones with that over the top bright sound of a PAF with everything on 10 unless I seriously castrate my amp. I'm now a firm believer this is the magic of the 50's LP. Those four knobs hold all the secrets. And by turning those four knobs it can be as versatile as a Strat and even more than a Tele. :iough:
 

alnico59

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You might believe that, but it just isn't the case.



You're hearing:
  • their playing
  • the guitar as it was at that time, w/ its pickups & pots & wiring harness
  • the amp
  • the cab + speakers
  • the microphone(s) used
  • the room noise / other bleed into those microphones
  • the console w/ its preamps
  • the way the console sums audio
  • whatever was done in mixing & mastering
  • the effect of recording onto the master tape
  • the effect of creating a copy off the master tape
  • whatever else happened to create the recording you're listening to
  • the colour added by whatever you're playing back the recording on
That's a lot of variables. And that list is far from comprehensive.

The tone out of the guitar is important, sure. If the tone is missing essential elements, you're not getting them back further down the signal chain. But the guitar is (almost) at the very start of a very long signal chain. The items further along that list are going to play a significant part, especially if you're hearing common characteristics from different guitarists recorded at different times.



What are you comparing?
  • Are you comparing your live sound directly out of your cab w/ the recording?
  • Are you comparing your recording chain with the recording?
  • Something else entirely with the recording?
And what are you listening to the recording on? How does it colour the tone?


I've always had a pretty good ear. I mean some guys say, well it's doesn't matter if the original recording is in E flat it sounds the close enough in standard tuning. Really? To me it's not even close. Sounds worlds apart and just not right. So if that's out range for the vocalist, then I say skip that song if you can. It's only one song against thousands.

I've always said being in cover band is the hardest gig. Anyone can play their own songs!

If I listen to a track in the house, in the car or with headphones through my PC - guitar wise I still hear the same things. The dynamic quality of the sound changes. But the notes are still the notes.

My post was not meant to split hairs. Yeah nothing is exact. But IMHO an overly bright, extra gained out guitar tone doesn't catch the true essence of the classic tunes most guys on here would know, listen to and play. Our heroes were pugging into tube amps, mostly Marshalls, and playing really loud! Idk, every time I plugged into an old tube Marshall, Fender, etc.. and put everything, amp and guitar wise, on 10 I get one thing and one thing only, major brightness and gain! I'm just saying back in the day a lot of players most likely controlled that phenomenon off their guitar. So in that sense by doing so it's a huge part of the signal chain.

I guess this is what makes it all so interesting and endless.
 

Stuff

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I've always had a pretty good ear. I mean some guys say, well it's doesn't matter if the original recording is in E flat it sounds the close enough in standard tuning. Really? To me it's not even close. Sounds worlds apart and just not right.

That's pitch, not tone.

I've always said being in cover band is the hardest gig. Anyone can play their own songs!

No arguments from me on that one!

If I listen to a track in the house, in the car or with headphones through my PC - guitar wise I still hear the same things. The dynamic quality of the sound changes. But the notes are still the notes.

The pitch - the fundamental note - should be the same. But if you're hearing the same tone in the house, through headphones, and in the car ... I want your car and your headphones :)

And you're listening to a recorded guitar, which isn't the same as listening to a live guitar coming out of your speaker cab.

If you're trying to make your own recordings sound like the recordings of your heroes, that's one thing. It just doesn't sound like that's what you're trying to do.

Trying to make your live guitar sound exactly like these recordings ... the tone-matching features of something like Positive Grid's stuff are one way to achieve that. Trying to do that all-analogue ... I think you're chasing the end of the rainbow there.

Good luck with it!
 

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