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Attention to Tone: Sloan to Sam Roberts

January 21, 2009

Yesterday I took in a concert by the Sam Roberts Band. I immediately noticed 2 things:

  • The quality of the instruments played
  • The choice of each instrument, amp, and effect

I am not a huge fan of Mr. Roberts, but I was impressed by his attention to detail. Every amp, every guitar, every pedal, and even the drums were all of a similar flavor. The interesting thing is that everyone has seen these instruments before, and yet he made it his own.

Sloan, a band that is similar to Sam Roberts in their straight ahead approach to Rock, uses many of the same instruments, yet Sloan is quite a bit different tone wise. The typical Fenders, Gibsons, Rickenbackers are employed but to me Sloan always had a creamy-er sound then Sam Roberts.

Tone is something that I’ve only really come to understand in the last few years. Tone makes a HUGE difference. After songwriting, I believe that tone is THE distinguishing factor in the success of your music.

The Beatles had the jingly-jangly sound of their Rickenbacker’s plugged straight into Vox amps.  Jimi Hendrix had his Stratocaster plugged into pedals and a stack of Marshalls. All of these choices impacted their sound, impacted their music, and impacted the success they’ve had.

Although Tool’s song Hooker with a Penis can be played around the campfire, it doesn’t carry the same sort of power. You can’t really separate the songs from the tone.

This may seem obvious to some, but how many times have you seen young bands playing with gear that is in direct opposition of their sound. Metal guitars while singing poppy numbers. Neil Pert drums in a blues band.

If your new and still evolving your sound then try all those things, experiment, make mistakes, that’s how you get better. But if you’ve been in this game for a while, and you’re in it for the long haul then you should be moving towards finding your sound, which means finding your tone, which means buying the right gear.

Take Control of Your Music,


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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2009 4:17 am

    Tone is a huge thing on wind instruments. Its not so much the instrument that you’re playing (though now there are many different ways to go) but the way you play. Roy Hargrove has that creamy (creamier) tone on the trumpet that goes oh so well with his music.

  2. Kaitis permalink
    January 22, 2009 4:25 am

    You’re so fucking right. Tone is so god damn important. I’ve spent hours playing around with tones on my bass amp alone. And put some pedals in front of me and I’m entertained for hours. Song can be totally made or broken by the tone.

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