Developing a Sound: Muso Real Talk

You've been playing a while. You know your chords, scales, some favourite songs from the artists that inspired you to devote your soul to the stick of riffz.

So what's next?

Surely now you have to find "the sound"! That special combination of equipment that's going to lift your guitar tonez to the next level. To challenge the might of the old guitar gods, and bend the sweaty masses to the majesty of your sick riffz with extreme prejudice!

But is that really a thing?

The world of guitar is beset on all sides by the fearsome armies of myth, bias, and absolute relentless marketing. Signature model guitars, reissues, deluxe hardware, boutique pedals, bespoke pickups, oh my! Hundreds maybe thousands of posters, internet adverts, magazines, YouTube channels, guitar celebrity demos, facebook groups, forums, instagram pages and ahem...... internet blogs.

All of them (well... except for me) have one sole purpose. Freeing you of your cumbersome cashola for items that realistically you probably can do without. Look at the touring rigs of the people who are blasting crowds day in day out past and present. Bar from a few exceptions... reliability, versatility, and simplicity reign supreme.

There is a reason for that. Apart from the lack of access to cohorts of touring techs to fix your oversized pedal board when it fails. Or unlimited access to funds when your boutique 1/50 overdrive or amp you've built your "sound" around goes on the fritz. The reason is far more simple. That reason is your "sound" isn't in your gear, that's your tonal palate. Gear is essentially a tool musicians use to create, like a brush or pigment to a painter.

Yes, some gear can spark inspiration but it doesn't hold your creativity, musical choices, or personal taste. Its awesome too have nice gear and multiple options for tonal colours. And of course it is important that they work well (hence my bread and butter). But don't fool yourself. You will almost definitely get more out of consistent focused practice and song writing, or broadening your horizons appreciating new musicians and genres than you will buying some overhyped equipment.

Here's my advice for other musos:

  • Buy reliable, easily (and consistently) serviced or replaceable equipment.
  • Become familiar and understand the operation of as many instruments, amps and pedals you can.
  • Understand what kind of sound options you need and simplify your rig.
  • And above all else... write your own music! Play as much as you can, expose yourself to new music and experiment.

Music is about personal development as well as the relationship between player and instrument. Improve on these and follow the points and your individual sound will soon become apparent.

Then buy a bunch of cool s#!t because f#@% it!

Till next time stay safe and riff hard.

Chris Re-Animator.