http://lamkins-guitar.com/music/article/tone-chase
David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: attitude, evaluation, human nature, opinion, performance, preferences, @musings info
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Does the "tone chase" ever end?

The tone chase. That search for the "perfect" guitar sound. Does it ever end?

I believe that it can.

I've been through this twice. Once in the 60s and 70s, and then again after a 20-year layoff. The big difference is that I had more financial resources at my disposal the second time around. Also, the internet has been a wealth of good information. OK, not really... But there are some genuine pearls of information to be found if you're willing to sort through mountains of crap.

The first time through, I started with a simple tube-amp rig and one or two cheap pedals because that was all I could afford. Of course, I learned guitar by trying to imitate what I heard on the radio. I never attempted to exactly reproduce the guitar sounds of the day because, frankly, it wasn't an option. I had the gear I had, and could get any sound it was capable of producing - no more, no less. When I wanted to sound like a particular guitarist I learned that capturing the "feel" of the performance - phrasing, timing, dynamics and harmony - was a lot more important than replaying the same notes. Guitar sound was so far down the list as to not be worth a second thought - if it was in the ballpark it was good enough.

I eventually stopped playing because of conflicts with my (now ex-) wife over my involvement with music. When - in the late 1990s - my younger son started to develop an interest in playing music, I took the opportunity to revive my involvement with music.

The first thing I learned was that gear prices had gone up a lot in the past twenty years. I started out small, putting about $1,000 into a decent guitar and a cheap modelling amp. I ran into the amp's limitations pretty quickly and moved on to tube amps. To make a long story short: I had money to burn, and went through a lot of modern, complex gear before realizing that the kind of rig I was after was the one I had as a kid. Simple, yet responsive. Of course, it took me tens of thousands of dollars, lots of research, and countless hours of playing and soul-searching to finally learn that lesson.

Now I'm in the process of selling off the last of my excess gear. I'll end up with a few really great guitars and amps that can do anything I want them to... The rest, as we've all heard ad infinitum, may be in the fingers, or the hands, or the heart, or the cojones, or ... whatever. My gear is not a source of limitations.

May 14 2004 03:29:28 GMT