Tired of feeling out of the loop when folks talk about guitars? In this video, you’re going to not only learn how to play guitar but learn how to talk about guitars like a pro in just 4 easy steps.
Guitar tone terminology is essential. Without it, guitar geeks don’t have a common language to describe guitar tones. This video will help you discover precisely how to talk about guitar tone so that you sound like a professional.
From the dark and focused sounds of some guitar tones to the thin and string sounds of others, you’re going to hear the 4 tonal categories to describe guitars with.
In addition, you’ll get a chance to hear how each of these categories applied to a real guitar, that way you know exactly what sounds I’m trying to describe.
This video will also cover the latest acoustic guitar news and headlines, and, as per usual, you’ll get my take on some of the news and how it’ll impact the industry. That’s right, I’m looking at you Gibson!
As always, you can catch Acoustic Tuesday at 10 am every Tuesday in these four places:
Hi Tony, I tried sending an email, but wasn’t sure if it would go through. I recently started playing a little after many years. I have an old nylon string acoustic and was thinking of picking up a mid level Taylor Acoustic…. I came across an ad for Zager guitars who claim it’s an easier on the fingers to play. I was wondering if you are familiar with Zager and what you thought… Thank You for any Info.
Hey Rick first let me say I have numerous guitars and I’m a big Martin fan, but I have Takamine, Epiphone, Gibson and others, I found a modified by Zager Martin years ago and it’s always been my favorite, I have small hands and it is just easier to play, year before last I ordered a Zager parlor in mahogany. It’s a 12 fret (which two of my go to Martins are) yet it’s the one I reach for every day. And you can’t beat the deals buy it try it don’t like it they take it back, and the hardcase it comes with is sweet! Hope this helps!
I LOST MY WIFE TO CANCER I N 2015 . IN DEC 7TH OF 2020 I TO AM NOW FIGHTING CANCER AND NOW PLAYING GUITAR TO SAVE MY LIFE THANK YOU TONY P
im a fighter as well picked guitar to keep my mind occupied love learning to play and im determined to play a hot lick or two
Good information about tonal characteristics. While most of us will not have had ear training, I suppose they are more easily distinguished live vs. over headphones.
What would be really helpful is a resource to go to that would rate various guitars on each characteristic. The descriptions on manufacturer sites, like Taylor, are a little more marketing bling where I find things like scales or spectrums more useful.
Rock !,the monster mash
Great overview on the various tonalities. Do you have any experience and/or opinion about some of these new “Smart” guitars coming on the market such as the HyVibe?
Interesting show on a guitars tonal qualities. I’ve been playing for over 50 years and have had/played a few guitars. Of course we’re always lusting after that “perfect” guitar, the complication being that “perfect” is highly subjective – to both the person playing and the situation (room ambience, other people/instruments present, sound system, etc.) A discussion of language around tonal qualities helps to better get one’s head around what variables make up the equation, so thanks for that, Tony.
However, one frustrating piece of language I have encountered on my journey is with the concept of “sustain”. It’s easy to say and appreciate what sustain is, and it is often a very desirable quality. The issue I’ve found though is that it often becomes a singular consideration that eclipses what I call the companion of sustain: the “energy input”.
I too am a sucker for sustain, and I recently bought a McPherson Carbon Fiber Sable Touring guitar. As you know, it has incredible sustain – which I love, but when looking at such a guitar (not just McPhersons), my experience is that there typically very quickly becomes a sole focus on it. The guitar salesman points out the wonderful sustain, and its hard for the potential buyer to avoid focusing on it…and soon one must agree that there is magnificent sustain. It is a shiny object that tends to obscure the other part of sustain: the energy required to produce it.
Sound that has a long sustain can be a perfectly legitimate goal, and it is often delightful to hear and have in a guitar. But, have you ever picked up a great sounding guitar that plays like a truck? To play an instrument that rings clear, warm, and true with just a light touch is a delight. (I tend to refer to it as: “a guitar that almost plays itself”). And sustain is a delight as well. But, sustain that can only be produced with heavy hand and with arms like a lumberjack, to me, is annoying and tiring. Sometimes in my case, I end up purchasing a guitar with wonderful tone and sustain, only to regret how hard you have to play it to get that. It’s also something that may take a while to notice because you need to play it bit to realize the effort/fatigue that accompanies the experience. Many times this is only apparent after you get the guitar home for awhile, and the novelty of the incredible sustain wears off a bit.
This may more accurately fall into the category of “playability”, but it is more than “action” or “setup”. And, because it so closely accompanies the concept of “sustain” (you will never hear sustain unless you can get the strings to ring in the first place), I see it as a parallel variable when considering sustain.
Thanks for your show, keep up the good work,
I’ve been playing guitar for 8 years, but just started at age 70. I’ve have had minimal instruction. I decided 2021 would be my “year of the guitar”, so I joined your TAC program and decided to buy a really good guitar. I convinced my wife that, (all things considered), this would probably be my “very last guitar ever so spending money shouldn’t be a big issue”…and she actually bought-in! So, your program today was spot-on for helping me get the right/last one. I do have one in mind. Now, tell me if you think it’ll be the right one.
Using your helpful categories:
1). Loud low-end with long sustain and less-high end chime or brightness.
2). Good projection and room-filling with a bigger body.
3). Lush and rich….a lot of overtone…deep low end.
4). Woody and as warm as possible.
I’ve chosen a Taylor K26, all koa Grand Symphony with light strings and a “projection hole” in the body. It’s in production, but I could change to something else too. On the internet this guitar sounds great. I tried the K24 koa, but it didn’t have enough low-end. I’ve also tried a Preston and a Froggy Bottom which were great but not quite perfect enough. In fact, I “tried ‘em” for so long that now I’ve fouled-up my left shoulder…now in some back-off while the tendonitis cools down..
I’m really enjoying your teaching, your interesting shows and tips, and good insights.
I hope you’ll get this OK and be able to help me out some.
P.s. My wife is waiting for the answer too!
Hi Mike and Mrs Mike,
I have nowhere near the knowledge of Tony, but I have story. I was in in Guitar Center in La Mesa, Ca and pickup a Martin D-18 and played it a little. The tone was wonderful and I decided the next guitar was going to be a Martin D18. About 2 months later I went back and picked up every D18 they had and could not find the same voice. I decided then that I would never buy a guitar without hearing it and that I would never try one unless I had the money to buy then. I think for the amount of money you are going to spend you should give it a test drive.
Thanks for your input. This was my first ‘COMMENT”. I thought Tony would be responding. Guess that isn’t the way it works. Anyway, how interesting that you mention I should check a MARTIN D18; right now I’m playing a Martin D-20! I found it in a guitar store at Dartmouth and it sounded beautiful…and still does. Rich low-end and a lot of depth. I’m going to sell it as I buy the Taylor K26ce, which just arrived this week. I went on Reverb to see what a good price would be…but NO D-20s…but a lot of D-18 and D28s. So, do I just happen to have a unique Martin guitar that I should be keeping???? The local music store offered me $1400 on the trade-in. Thoughts?
I hope to hear back from you.
Thanks again. Mike
Wow. I love these categories sustain, fill, tonal depth and stringy. And when I heard you play that custom Martin, my stomach felt warm and happy!
I see that you’ve received my comments and questions. One other thing, have you played or demoed the Taylor K26ce…the one I’m considering?
It is good to see you! Happy New Year and thank you for Acoustic Life.
mvp019 – Bourgeois & Collings both make great instruments. I’d love to have either the JOM or the OMH2. But if I had to choose, I’d go with the Collings for the Rosewood, which always sounds richer to me than Mahogany. I’ve also played a few Collings guitars, and it’s hard not to fall in love with them.
You mentioned one subscriber should look at a Collins OMH2. $4,000 up in price range. That would be really, really nice if I had that much cash laying around. Another alternative. Look at Zager guitars. $600 up. I bought a ZAD-80 for around $1,500 and am not disappointed. I’d have to classify it as 1. Loud/Sustained 2. Focused Projection 3. Overtone Rich and 4. A mix between Wood/Warm and Stringy/Cold. They give you a 30 day free look so you can actually try it out. Free shipping both ways should you want to return it for whatever reason. They say they are made in Lincoln, Nebraska. In my research, I’d say they are “finished” there but not built there. Lot of controversy in that department, but I am really pleased with my ZAD-80. I’m guessing I’d have to pay double that price for a Martin or Taylor with the same quality. But then again, I’m not an expert.
Hiya Toni you just give us the 4 differences in the guitars from one end to the other and you show us on your guitar (i have to say you got some beautiful guitars in looks and sound thank you for sharing them) do you have a guitar that has all 4 on one end and one on the other end of the spectrum i like to hear them thx again for all your hard work
It looks like “Bang a Gong” to me
I’ve listened to a couple dozen acoustic Tuesdays, but think you should show and explain some rife at the end. Simple, easy and showing your wares as a teacher.
Your tone descriptions were good but the volume of the guitar examples were too low to distinguish the difference over a podcast.
Alien was definitely playing “Born to be Wild”
Alien was playing Highway to Hell
I Love Rock and Roll from Joan Jett
Happy Tuesday Tony, I just wanted to thank you for mentioning Barry Gibbs Greenfields. I had not heard about it and when I heard Too Much Heaven featuring Alison Krauss, I melted. Alison is my favorite female voice and that song is probably my favorite Bee Gee song. Thanks again Tony…TAC on brother!
Alien MUST be playing something from Joe Satriani’s “Surfing With The Alien”.
So 80’s. 😉
Behind Blue Eyes
Hea Tony, I do believe you are right, I saw an article about Gibson and the first thing came to mind is that would be stretching them thin from their new aim of making their line of guitars better.[ like the Blackhawks last week her in Tampa] And I think the Alien was playing Fire, from the crazy world of Arthur Brown. Good job your friend Guy B. Ruskin FL.
I wrote to you yesterday, but had a good idea this morning that I thought I’d send. Your next program should be a sequel to Tuesdays: i.e., cover ”How woods make the difference and body type assists in a guitar’s output”…and then play guitars to demonstrate that. It would be the perfect follow-up to the tonal qualities, etc. program. And, it would finish the knowledge base we need to choose our next guitar.
Lastly, if we sent in comments, how will we hear back and when?
Thank you for the explanation on tone – I have now increased my knowledge on what to look for in a guitar search. I also can now define what I have in my own guitarsenal and this helps to choose a guitar for a specific situation. I also thank you for the nice surprise in sharing kind words about my second year TACadversary. And yes it was June 2019 at ALF when I attended ALF just 8 months after joining TAC, a decision that has enriched my life and yes, brings me joy daily. See you in 2022 ALF.
Fly Me to the Moon, what else.
Tony im learning quite a lot from your course thank you
Alien is obviously playing a power chord, probably shredding a Van Halen number.
Tony, It’s so obvious. He was playing Martian Boogie!
I joined up with you in September. I still get plenty of online ads from you. I love them. But are you paying good $ to send them to me? Just looking out for your profit margin. (I loved the fire wood ad by the way.)
Bad news: I couldn’t tell the difference between most of them.
Good news: I’ve got lots to learn!
Thanks for the rich content…
Look like Aviator Management GmbH is looking for a bribe.
This episode is blocked by Aviator Management GmbH on copyright grounds. Can you check into this?
I enjoy these Tuesdays so much. Thanks, Tony.
Hi Tony i”m thinking the song alian is playing has to be dust in the wind with over 400,000 deaths from covid 19 it seems to fit.
No doubt, the Alien was playing Creedence Clearwater Revival “It Came Out of the Sky”!
In order to fully describe the tone of the acoustic guitar, I would add ”Balance” as a 5th criterion. i.e the capability of the guitar to maintain its Volume, Projection, Tonal depth and Tonal character on all 6 strings, all the way up the neck. I have played some guitars with great tone up to the 5th fret but poor tone after the 6th fret.
I do believe Alien was playing the Rolling Stone’s 2,000 light years from home.