How to Get New Sounds On the Guitar - 153

On todays podcast, it's all about sounding different. We spend so much time trying to imitate our favorite players.

Let's start thinking like them and start to find new sounds that are all our own.

There's nothing new under the sun (Straight from the Bible).

For guitar players, this holds very true. We've got six strings, a pickup, some pedals, and an amp. It has worked for countless players over the years. Think of all of the different guitar tones you've heard. How did we get so many different tones from these four basic building blocks.

You have your favorites. We start hearing something that we like and what happens? We want to be a part of it. We want to sound like that.

Most of us work and work on getting that sound for years

But, what about those players: The greats, What made them the game changers?

It was because they had a new sound that was something we hadn't heard before, and it resonated with a lot of people. They had a signature sound. all their own.

It may have been an evolution or combination of other players tones. But they were new sounds to us.

There are tons of new sounds - not just the good ones and not all of them resonated.
Today, I would like to push you in a certain direction. Just a little push. Today, I would like to encourage you to put your own spin on your tone.

Where did this come from? The idea came from an article from guitar world about Tom Morello. And I encourage you to check it out. The link is on the show notes page.

The first part of the article is about the history of Tom, sprinkled with cool stories.
One of the stories was about an early gig of his where there were two other bands with two shredders - so he spent time working on the things that made him unique.

The other was a story of how he used his 20 watt solid state practice amp and a 40 dollar guitar to record a song that won them a Grammy.

This made me think about some of you who are struggling with tone.
I'm hoping to inspire you to take a chance to shine like Tom did.

Remember, if we all sound exactly the same - the future of guitar music is in bad shape.

So, I thought to myself: "How can we go about getting some new sounds on the guitar?"

"What are some things we can try to break out of the imitation game, and find tones that are our own?"

So, I thought about it and here are the three things to try that I came up with:

  1. Combining styles.
  2. Using unusual gear.
  3. Using it wrong.


1. Combining Styles

What do I mean by that? Well, it's using a guitar tone, a riff or a certain scale, or a chord voicing or progression from another style of music, and using it where you wouldn't expect it.

One of my favorites that do this is Rodrigo e Gabriella. They play Nylon string Flamenco inspired Acoustic Metal. It's fantastic. It's their own sound.

Another band that comes to mind is the Hellacasters. Country tele tone for shred guitar. It's fantastic as well.

You hear this in pop music and new trends all of the time. And it flows from borrowing one style's sounds to another.

It's the mashup and it's always been happening in music. - Rap and rock, reggae and rock, classical and metal, latin and bebop. on and on

If you are thrilled by different things, don't shy away. Experiment, combine, and work them till they're ready.

What are your favorite styles?

What are the riffs, tones, melodies that speak to you in that style?

Is there something there that you could use in other situations?

Unusual Gear

Let's talk about tones here. How can we get new sounds with gear? Well let's start at ground zero... we get new tones by necessity.

Using what gear you have

Here I tell a story of plugging into my Dad's old stereo, and an old Squire I used to borrow to teach with. 
Brian may and his dad built his guitar and Eddie Van Halen built his guitars from inexpensive parts.

Try everything you have - experiment trying to find the jewel. Don't worry if it doesn't sound like a typical guitar rig. Get out of that mentality and try to find the unique tone for that guitar, pedal, or amp.

Using Unusual Gear By Choice

If you listen to your favorite guitar players recordings,
most of the time there are different parts with different gear than their signature tone - to create interest.


Go through your old gear with new ears.

Pickup that used cheap guitar, pedal, or amp. It may not be your all around guitar tone, but it could prove useful or inspiring down the road.

Start Cheap with instruments that you don't have that could fill out a void in your gear. (hollowbody guitar, Telecaster, fuzz pedal... things that you don't currently play, that could be fun)

Once you open yourself up to different gear, you are also opening up your ear to different sounds.

These sounds may not be great at first. Learning to use different instruments in different ways takes time.

Using it wrong

Have you ever started using something and over time realized that you were using it incorrectly, but you got good results anyway? That's the direction I'm headed here.

You could call this: Embrace the bad or Experiment with what you have.

Spend an hour or so taking chances.


Here are some examples:

Jimi Hendrix with his upside down Strat. Being left handed, flipping a right handed guitar, but restringing it backwards was a necessity for Jimi. He had to do that for the way he played.

Something happened when he did this that you might not notice at first. The bridge pickup. It is angled on a Strat. The closer a pickup is to the bridge, the brighter it sounds. The high strings are very close to the bridge and the low strings are further away. That's why the bridge on a Stratocaster is known for being sharp and brittle sounding.

When Jimi restrung his flipped guitar it did the opposite on the bridge pickup. The angled pickup was closer to the bridge on the low strings and farther away from the high strings. An instant warmer and distinctive sound for Jimi's rhythm.

Another example of using a guitar "wrong" is Jeff Healey who was blind and played the guitar in his lap, flat. He got a very distinctive sound playing that way.


Using pedals incorrectly is probably the easiest way to get different new sounds. Pedal order can drastically alter your tone and it is easily fixed if it doesn't work out.

Setting them wrong

You can run the trebel all of the way up or set the delay time to work against the beat.
You can also use the wrong pedal for the job.
Just use a fuzz or heavy metal pedal with the gain low for a different type of overdrive.
One example is that EVH used an echoplex as a boost pedal.


Setting them for a bass heavy strange breakup. You can roll up the bass for a fuzz type wide open breakup.
Ive also heard of using small amps to boost big ones, Be careful
Another common way of getting different tones is bymixing speaker cabinets.

Take an hour out of this week and do some experimenting with the gear you already have. Learn what it can do and try setting it in ways that you might not think to try.

For more of this, make sure you subscribe to

Later this week, I'll be going live and doing some gear experimenting of my own with your help.


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