One-Way Ticket to a Sick Guitar Tone

(Image credit: Damian Fanelli)

Guitar players are usually on a mission to improve their guitar tone. For many, this journey never ends. I dare say we're obsessed with it.

The point of the story you're reading right now is simple. I’m not going to discuss new toys for our guitars. However, I'll tell you without any trepidation that the single greatest way to improve your tone is practicing. It might seem simple; on the other hand, it can take years for us to truly understand it.

A couple of years into playing guitar, I realized practice is the greatest tone improver. Today, whenever I put in some serious practice time, I start gaining major tonal benefits as a result.

1. I notice I need less gain to execute what I'm playing, which lessens saturation. The result is a more dynamic, punchier sound. Your chords and notes get better definition and retain their character. If you play in a band, trust me, your sound man will love you.

2. I can easily play guitar with higher action, which allows the strings to breathe more, making notes sound fuller. It also can provide more room for a better, more controlled vibrato.

3. The strength in my left hand allows for a better touch on the guitar, which provides warmer chords, better intonation and less fuzz.

4. The strength in my picking hand allows for more controlled and confident pick attack, resulting in a tighter sound.

Practicing regularly will bring you the same results. You can take the above to a whole new level if you have the chance to play live for a few weeks on the road. Playing regularly in a live setting can do incredible things for your guitar’s tone and control. I call this “road chops,” and it’s basically a symphony your body goes through to prepare you for a tonal killing machine. You’ll learn how to hit a chord so it jumps out of the speaker. And you might also find out that fuzzy, no-middle guitar sound will mean no one will ever hear you. And that’s just the beginning.

For killer tone, aspire to practice with a band or play out live. I promise you'll learn things you can't do while practicing alone. For the most part, I have little need to improve my guitar sound with outside equipment. If I hear that things aren't sounding quite right, I practice more. This usually takes care of 90 percent of the improvement I might be looking for.

Polish-born Metal Mike Chlasciak has recorded or performed with heavy metal greats Rob Halford, Sebastian Bach, Bruce Dickinson and Axl Rose. Mike is the long-time guitarist for Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford's solo endeavor, Halford. Mike's new album, The Metalworker, is due in spring. For more info, check out his official website and visit him on Twitter. Mike has a new EP — This Is War, and it's available digitally.

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