VAN DYKE: I think there’s a ‘squatch in these woods…
When I have found myself watching TV lately, there have been two shows in particular that are always on. One is a program where they hunt for ghosts. They go to supposedly haunted places and hang around until they see or hear something and try to capture it on video or audio tape. The other, is a show where they travel across the country looking for Bigfoot, also known as sasquatch. They go to places that are hotspots for sightings of the creature. It is usually along the lines of “Aunt Netty saw him peekin’ in people’s windows around Cranberry Woods.”
Both of these shows fascinate me, and I am unsure why. I figured I would find a way to relate it to music and write a blog to perhaps figure out what it is that I find so interesting. It did not take long to start piecing it together.
I was reminded of a lot of musicians that I have known through the years, mainly guitar players. Just as the people on those shows are looking for something, most guitarists that I have known are in search of something just as elusive as any ghost or hairy manbeast. TONE!
Like the ghost guys, who have these devices that somehow pick up energy and convert it into English words along with all kinds of sensors and gauges, most guitar players have a dizzying array of gadgetry and multiple guitars and amps that help them find that perfect sound. Like the Bigfoot hunters will camp out in the forest waiting to catch a glimpse of a ‘squatch, guitarists will camp out in music stores across the country waiting to finally plug into that sound they hear in their head. It is truly difficult, because most musicians are always evolving, always discovering new sounds and always experimenting.
I have noticed that there are really just two schools of thought among serious guitar players. The traditionalist who keeps the effects and processing to a minimum, and the gear head who has every effect and new component available, usually on a pedal board the size of New Hampshire. There really is no middle ground. Those in the middle usually just do not have thousands of dollars to buy the stuff or they would have it. There are tremendous players in both camps. Both are similar in that they still are not satisfied with their sound.
Here are a couple of examples of players with remarkable tone:
The Edge – A gearhead, putting it lightly. He uses the Clark Griswold approach when it comes to equipment. Just as Clark had every Christmas light known to man, the Edge has every sound shaping device produced on the planet. His guitar rig is more complicated that the federal tax code. I bet he gets more revenue out of his device, though. He has created some great sounds over the years. “The Joshua Tree” and “Achtung Baby” are the albums I think show most of the best tones he has used.
David Gilmour – My personal favorite tone-master. More of an experimenter than a gearhead, the sound he pulls out of his guitars are flawless. I believe it was the producer the legendary producer Bob Ezrin who said that Dave could make a broken ukulele sound like a Stradivarius. Check out his work on the albums “Animals,” “The Wall,” well most Pink Floyd albums are full of great guitar work.
I am limiting myself to two or I will profile 79 guitarists. I chose these two in particular because they illustrate what most guitarists strive to be able to do, which is have flawless tone at all times. But, if you have read any interviews with these guys, they still are looking for new sounds. These may not be their perfect tones at all, they may just be content with them until they can get what they really want.
So what is it that I am saying? What is the point? Well, just think about how uncool it would be if they actually found Bigfoot or verified without a doubt that ghosts and spirits roam the earth. Just like a certain writer I know always illustrates in his work, it is not about the end. It is about the journey. So do not give up on finding your sound. It is out there. Maybe you just need a parametric EQ or something…
Once again, please support your local bands and establishments that feature live music. Let me know if you need me to recommend any…
Don Van Dyke
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