DNA of Tone: A Guide to the Basic Building Blocks Behind Jazz, Blues, Metal and Classic Rock Guitar Sounds

Creative individuals tend to view the term “formula” as a dirty word, but most styles of music have specific parameters and characteristics that define them. For several of the most common styles of popular music, the style itself is defined predominantly by the guitar tone. For example, while punk and metal rely on heavily distorted guitar, most music fans can tell the difference between the two as much as by how the guitar sounds as by how it is played.

While it would be nice to be able to buy just one guitar rig that could be used for every style of music, the reality is that guitarists usually need to rely on separate sets of building blocks to play various styles. Below are a few basic guidelines to consider when putting together a rig, whether you want to play jazz, blues, classic rock or metal.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.