Have you ever listened to a guitar or even played one yourself, and the music just feels right? Now, how often has that happened with an electric guitar? Mostly you get a very warm guitar tone with just an acoustic guitar, but that doesn’t mean a warm electric guitar tone isn’t possible.
Here are 9 tips and tricks on how to get a warm electric guitar tone:
- Understand the parts of sound.
- Change strings and picks.
- Play without the plug.
- Find the right amplifier.
- Define what a warm tone is to you.
- Change how you play.
- Research guitars that give a warm tone.
- Maintain your guitar.
- Tune your guitar and practice your music.
By reading this article, you’ll figure out how to get a warm electric guitar tone and also all the things that affect and impact tone. With a bit of practice and understanding, you can find out what you need to do to get your warm tone!
1. Understand the Parts of Sound
The guitar tone is the sound that you get whenever you play your electric guitar (here’s how to play guitar cleaner), affecting your performance as a musician. The tone, determined by your guitar’s parts and your playing style, is how you sound while playing. The best way to discover tone is to listen to it yourself, Google a few videos of different tones, and see what the differences are.
You should also note that tone is very subjective. What you think of as a good tone can be completely different from what someone else thinks. Additionally, there isn’t one perfect warm tone; instead, it’s built from the ground up to become personal to you as you play.
The tone comes from the three parts of sound, which affect everything in music. These are the:
- Bass: The lowest sounds that can be heard when playing the low E and A strings.
- Middle: The body of your sound that can be heard playing the D and G strings.
- Treble: The higher and sharper part of the sound that can be heard with the B and high E strings.
Understanding these three parts of sound and the need to keep your sound clear will provide the first stepping stone to creating your tone. Ideally, you should have a crisp and clear sound that isn’t coated with too much bass or too much treble.
You can change your sound using several of these methods mentioned below. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the parts of the guitar that can strengthen or weaken your sound, or to fiddle with the amplifier to further experiment. Pretty soon you’ll find the right sound that works for you and your needs.
2. Change Strings and Picks
The most important thing to note about your electric guitar is that everything about the instrument affects the produced tone: the wood and other materials that the guitar is made of, the string material and thickness, the thickness of your pick, the speakers from your amplifier, the type of amp you’re using, and everything else.
So, if you aren’t happy with your electric guitar’s tone or are still chasing a warm electric guitar tone, try making a few changes to the strings and see what happens. You might also need to make specific changes for a specific song or tone. You could also create a pick collection, which is admittedly something every single guitarist has or should have!
Even the shape of the pick tips can affect the type of sound that you get. Softer picks that are thinner and more flexible often produce a flat tone, while stiffer picks tend to produce a snappier tone. However, these thicker picks can be tougher to use when strumming a guitar, while the more flexible picks bounce and move up and down with the strings.
You might decide to use various picks with different gauges to get different tones. For example, you could use lighter picks for strumming and heavy picks whenever you want to accentuate those single notes during your solo. Changing out picks or even strings can be a hassle just to get the correct tone for one or two songs, but if you do it right, you can make it work.
Just make sure you have a clear idea of what songs you’re playing beforehand, and then you can bring the picks along for the show!
In addition, the strings you use are very important when finding your sounds. Make sure to use and practice with a lot of string gauges, and experiment with your tuning as well. You might need to go an octave higher or lower to get the same tone that you need.
In order to get a warm guitar tone with both your picks and strings, you need to use softer but still very thick picks and copper strings. Copper or bronze strings sound very warm whenever they’re plucked or played, but the flexible picks have enough flex in them to add to the warmth of the song, while also still playing strong notes.
Still, there are dozens of picks and strings out there, and the best way to figure out which ones work for you is to test out as many as you can and see which ones work the best for your tone.
3. Play Without the Plug
One of the hardest things to get over with the electric guitar is that the amplifier does most of the work for you. It also means that you can sometimes get away with mistakes or bad guitar habits because the amp and the sound it produces cover them up.
To make sure that you have the best tone for your needs, play the guitar unplugged first and see if you can produce your desired tone.
This way, you remove the amplifier from the equation and make sure you can just see the guitar’s effect on tone. It’s much easier to see if you need to change your pick, string, style of play, or another part of the guitar whenever you just have the raw sound. Plus, it can be fun to see what you can do as a raw guitarist without needing the amplifier.
Even playing electric guitar songs on an acoustic guitar can help you achieve better finger strength which will be transferred over whenever you play on the electric guitar. If you have an acoustic guitar, playing it regularly will give you some benefits with both your finger strength and your skills.
4. Find the Right Amplifier
Once you get your electric guitar in order, it’s time to look at the second half of the equation and make sure your amplifier produces the perfect tone for your needs.
First, make sure your amplifier has good speakers. You may need to replace the speaker system on your amplifier with an upgrade or shell out money for a new amplifier. Do whatever you need to because your speakers are an integral and essential part of creating and adding to your tone.
Understanding the variables that make your speaker sounds work will help you understand how to get the perfect tone when using them. You should also understand when the valves of your amplifier are worn out, and have some type of pattern to change them. This might be every six months to once a year, but if your amplifier isn’t in tip-top shape, you need to have it repaired because it will affect your tone.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to fiddle with your amplifier settings if you’re doing everything possible to get a warm tone for yourself. Some of the things you might look at may include improving the volume, using pedals and pickups, and improving the amp’s gain. Change a few settings and see what happens for you, because you might wind up learning something about your amplifier.
5. Define What a Warm Tone Is for You
We’ve already established that the definition of tone is tough to pin down, and you need to figure out what a warm tone means for you. Your definition of a warm tone isn’t going to be the same as someone else’s, and that’s okay. Because it’ll be different for everyone, it’ll also be something that you need to feel for yourself.
As you’re experimenting with changing your guitar, amplifier, and playing style, don’t be afraid to make notes and take down things that you like about specific changes. You might like the sound of certain gauges of strings when playing certain songs, or you might like the way a particular pick makes your playing sound.
Once you have an idea of what your warm tone looks like, do everything in your power to make sure that the warm tone is what you want. Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect warm tone or one that everyone will accept, so make sure to have a warm tone that’ll make you happy, and that’s all that matters.
6. Change How You Play
One of the best things that you can do to change your tone starts with yourself. How you play the guitar has a massive effect on your tone as well. For example, if you really listen to a guitar solo, you’ll find that a lot of the notes involved aren’t actually needed for the solo to work.
If you want to change your tone, stripping a solo or electric guitar piece down to its barest essentials isn’t a bad way to go about it. Play only the necessary and needed notes for the solo to work, and focus on the tone of the notes whenever you’re playing them. It will help you understand your tone and allow your solo to stand on its own rather than being drowned out by the rest of the notes.
Additionally, other ways of playing can help you overcome tone issues. For example, try changing where you play and practicing certain guitar licks. If you’re playing your licks primarily on G, B, and high E strings, then move your hand up the neck and get yourself playing on those lower and thicker strings.
In addition to getting a lower and fatter sound, which can improve your warm tone, you’ll also enhance your finger strength by playing on the thicker strings. It can help you bend the strings better and create a more precise sound for your songs.
Don’t count out finger strength, because your finger strength and playing the guitar properly without using the amp to cover your mistakes is a great way to get a warm tone. Plus, since there are so many ways to play your guitar, you should keep an eye on where and how you touch your guitar when playing the notes.
The various ways you can play will increase and change the tone. Finding the patterns that can create a warm sound can be a fantastic way to get that warm tone without doing much else.
7. Research Guitars That Give a Warm Tone
If you’re either getting your first electric guitar or looking for a new guitar for your collection, you should do some research into what guitars can give you the best warm tone. Of course, any guitar can be made to give a warm tone if you fiddle with it enough, but you’ll have to do a lot less work if you look for guitars that already give you a warm tone.
For example, Les Paul guitars, humbuckers, guitars with hollow bodies, and guitars made out of mahogany can give you a warm tone right from the ‘get-go.’ Again, not having electric guitars with these traits isn’t the end of the world. Any guitar can have any tone if you know how to create that tone..
Still, if you want to have a leg up and see what a warm tone sounds like right out of the box, getting more inclined to play with a warm tone might be a good idea. Plus, it’s a good foundation that you can then start to improve upon.
8. Maintain Your Guitar
Of course, as you practice and play with your guitar, you should maintain, clean, and occasionally change out the strings of your guitar. Clean your guitar and wipe it down after every performance, and also get it professionally checked at least once a year.
Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you know your guitar or how good of a mechanic with it you are. Taking your guitar in to have it professionally checked can be a great way to improve the warm tone. They can adjust the neck straightness, the frets, and all the other little parts of your guitar that’ll then improve how it’s played. It can also help to improve the tone as all those little tweaks can add up!
Having someone else look at your guitar can make sure that you aren’t missing any major problems, and might give you some extra insight into how to play your guitar even better from people who have been playing it longer than you.
Your audience will thank you! Plus, no one wants their guitar to break or sound out of tune just because of a lack of proper maintenance. That’s very easy to avoid, so make sure that you’re taking the time to keep your guitar up to date as well.
9. Tune Your Guitar and Practice Your Music
It’s another straightforward way to get a very warm electric guitar tone. Still, if you don’t tune your guitar and practice your music parts until they’re entirely memorized, you’ll have trouble with your tone and playing. You don’t have to be in tune ideally, but playing your guitar when it’s out of tune is one of those things that’ll undoubtedly affect your tone (Want to know: Are locking tuners worth it?).
Always make sure to have access to a quality tuner and to tune your guitar before every practice and performance. It can be part of your ritual before you start playing, and it’s another thing you can check off when it comes to things that might affect your tone. Additionally, if you don’t know your music forwards and backwards, it’s also impossible to completely discount the mistakes you make and how they can affect your tone.
Knowing your music and what you’re playing will increase your confidence, and that’ll help you get a warm tone when playing the songs you want to play. Additionally, it allows you to really get a feel for the tone of the song. Once you’re playing it correctly, you can dive deeper into the music and dissect the tone.
Getting a warm guitar tone on your electric guitar isn’t a one-and-done experiment for you. Everything affects tone, so making sure that you do some trial and error is paramount to help you find your tone.
Even though your definition of a warm tone is your own, you should still follow some of these tips to make sure you can find and control your tone:
- Play the guitar unplugged.
- Keep your guitar tuned.
- Upgrade your amp with some speakers.
- Change how you play.
- Keep your electric guitar maintained.