Amit Sharma reviews Tone Manual by Dave Hunter, a comprehensive study of how to achieve different sounds through use of instruments, amplifiers, speakers, effects and other peripherals.
Have you ever gone to a concert and been mesmerised by how the people on stage create that sound? Plenty of musicians will tell you ‘its all in the fingers’ though this is actually only half true. Guitarists are as identifiable by their tone as much as they are by their choice of notes.
We live in an age where there is so much choice when it comes to voicing your musical ideas, and it is amazing how much difference an amp, pickup or even plectrum can make to your sound. Heavy metal bands like Metallica would simply not sound the same if they had to plug straight into Fender combos – it is very much the high gain Mesa Boogie amplifiers that drive the signal into distortion and create that overall wall of thunderous noise. On the flipside, country players would not sound so twangy through the Marshall stacks that Slash has endorsed for his entire career.
Tone Manual is a very informative read, broken down into sections that explore the tonal characteristics of different guitars, then amplifiers, speakers and effects. For example, did you know that most guitars are made out of at least 3 different types of wood and each variety shapes the overall sound of the instrument? In the amplifiers section, there is a look at how different valves (or ‘tubes’ as they are called across the pond) can completely transform the loudness, EQ and pre-amp break point of an amp.
This book provides musicians with all they need to find that sound in their head. There is advice on daisy-chaining pedals, detailing how even the order of the pedals can affect the final signal. The ‘Tone Reference Guide’ at the end is a great idea – looking at the great guitar sounds recorded over the past 60 years and providing a guide to equipment used to achieve these sounds. There is also an accompanying CD with demonstrations of different tones from a range of guitars, pickups, amplifiers, valves, speakers, cables and plectrums. If that isn’t in-depth, we don’t know what is!
Many guitar players and engineers have dedicated their lives to finding that well-coveted ‘perfect tone’ and Tone Manual is a profoundly enlightening reference point that is easily understandable and very user friendly. A great read for any guitarist or engineer that wants to know how to get the best sound possible.
Tone Manual, Dave Hunter, R.R.P. £16.95
Published by Hal Leonard Corporation