How to Get Great Guitar Tone (for beginners!)

View the full lesson at How to Get Great Guitar Tone (for beginners!) | JustinGuitar


Really useful lesson - thanks! :slight_smile:

Great video Justin! I really enjoyed going through the different sounds. I was wondering what’s your opinion on amp sims / plugins? Do you use any? If so, what are your thoughts on amp sims replacing real amps for the bedroom player?

Since he uses a Kemper a lot, I would assume Justin doesn’t underestimate contemprary technology :smiley:

Justin’s comment about the feel of the guitar being the most important thing reminded me of a comment from a famous guitarist in an interview about why he plays Epiphones on tour instead of his more expensive Gibsons. He said, for one, the CNC machine in Taiwan making Epiphone necks is the same CNC machine as the one in Montana making Gibson necks, then he said ""So, when it comes time for me to buy a guitar, the first thing that I do when I pick up a guitar is to feel the neck. And if the neck isn’t great to me, I don’t care about the rest of the guitar. I couldn’t care less about how it sounds, I couldn’t care less about how it looks.

“The neck has to be great, and if the neck is great, my attitude is, ‘I’ll figure the rest of it out if I have to.’ This is my personal view.”

When I was first learning, everything seemed really difficult. An experienced guitarist friend noticed my playing style, which was exclusively fingerstyle at that time, suggested a guitar to me that had the wider nut 1 3/4" as well as wider width at the saddle by 5mm. It made a huge difference to me, everything that was really difficult became just difficult. It gave my beginner playing a real boost.

That doesn’t mean the size of neck I found is great for everyone, your finger size will vary as well your experience. It was a bit of a revelation to me that the neck could make such a difference.

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Very useful lesson this was. It was interesting to hear Justin never really uses the middle position on Gibson type guitars – I almost always use that on my Epiphone Les Paul :grinning: And I hardly ever turn the treble on the guitar up to 10 either. I guess I prefer a sort of rounder, more mellow mid-range sound most of the time.

And 3 thumbs up for the Miles portrait in the background :+1:

Ever since I saw your first video playing electric, I was thinking “That’s exactly what my electric guitar looks like!” The only difference is mine’s a Fender Stratocaster, so it has the Fender brand logo on the neck. I also think it’s funny that ,I’ve had this guitar for over 20 years and only have done 1 modification to it. In an attempt to improve the sound quality, I upgraded the pickup to a Humbucker, making it resemble your guitar even more! Everything to the detail with the exception of the Fender logo is a spitting image of my guitar, lol

What a great lesson, exactly what I needed to see.

Love Justin’s comment towards the end, ‘if you’re in the market for a new guitar, and let’s face it we all are, all the time’. :laughing:

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There really are Gibsons with splittable humbuckers - I have a Les Paul like that (Studio 2019), and it sounds pretty versatile.

The Book from Victor is absolutely amazing! got the audiobook. It has humor and is fun to listen to, but above that, the “Message” in it is powerful and widening my (music)Vision again. Strongly recommend it to everyone who iss interested in Music overall. I am a totally hobby musician and learned to listen to music. I can adapt to what justin is saying. The book also has a strong spiritual side, which i personally love.
Dutch greetz from Switzerland

I also find that where you pluck the strings makes a huge difference to the sound - especially on acoustic.


How about pedals? and what would be your recommendation to a very basic pedal?

Of course, pedals make a big impact on the sound, but Justin’s lesson here is talking about fundamentals: getting the foundation guitar/amp tone, and understanding how to use the guitar controls (pickup selector, tone, volume) and amp controls (gain, volume, tone) to do this.

Without knowing this then you are building on shaky ground.

I’m sure Justin will talk more about pedals in the future, and he already has done some videos on pedals and effects.

As for pedal recommendations, it depends what you want to do. Pedals are, mostly, about enhancing the foundational amp tone in some specific way, with some specific effect.

You don’t seem to have a strong view on what sort of pedal you might want, so it seems to me that you need to learn about what sorts of pedals there are before you start spending a lot of money.

A lot of people will recommend a looper pedal as these are great for practice, and I tend to agree. Note that looper pedals aren’t designed to change your tone in any way.

Other effects pedals which do change the tone, or introduce other effects like delays or modulations, are great fun but if you don’t know what you want or how to use it, then you can end up buying and setting up a lot of pedals to learn about them.

I tend to recommend getting hold of an inexpensive multifx unit (Zoom, Boss, etc.) to put in front of the amp. This assumes you don’t already have an amp like the Boss Katana or Fender Mustang which has a bunch of built in effects.

The trick with multifx systems, IMO is not to just blindly switch between factory patches (most of which are not that great) but to build new patches yourself from the ground up so you can learn what each effect does. With such a setup I would suggest starting with an empty patch (or with every effect block turned off) and then selecting individual effects blocks one at a time and exploring them.

If you are plugging the unit into an amp, I would turn OFF the amp modelling for now, or select a simple “Full Range” type amp (for instance, on the Boss GT-1 there is a “Full Range” preamp).

If you want to explore amp models on these units, this is best done into a clean amp or, preferably, something like the FX Return which reduces the colouration of the actual amp. Or use headphones or headphone-out into aux-in if your amp supports it.

I would also strongly suggest you explore effects blocks like drive (overdrive, boost, distortion) and EQ to understand how they can be used to sculpt the basic guitar tone.

Then when you’ve explored the effects blocks individually, you can start to combine them.

Even if you eventually decide you want individual pedals, a multifx unit can be a useful tool to understand what sort of effects pedals you might want to explore further, and even which brands/models you like the most (as most multifx systems give you emulations of well known models).




I would 100% agree with you there Keith, there seems a lot of people who buy a MFX and then get disappointed by the pre-installed patches (and then just end up downloading more patches). Best to start with a clean preset and then add things in slowly. I always start with my amp/cab selection get that tweaked how I like - I plug straight into a mixer & monitors - then will add in my distortion/modulation/delay/reverb to get what I want. A much better approach to building something that work for you and your setup.


One thing that wasn’t mentioned was the effect lighter/thinner strings can have on the neck. I put lighter strings on my Fender acoustic, the result being there was less “pull” against the torsion bar, so the neck was slightly more convex, resulting in fret buzz. I could have adjusted the torsion bar, but it was easier to put the gauge of stings back on that the guitar came with.
I guess the same would apply to electric guitars, so I have always stuck to the gauge that the guitar was set up with.

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Hello @GrahamWright61BW welcome to the Community.

All that you say is valid - changing string gauge effects tension and results in a need to alter the truss rod.
However, this lesson is about guitar tone by adjusting various parameters rather then the maintenance / tweaking that may need to accompany those decisions so is a little tangential to this topic.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator

Ok, newbie question here. After reading @Majik post.

What would be the advantage (other than nuance) of pedals over the effects of a modeling amp like my katana 100? Assuming amateur level play.

The primary advantage would be having physical controls dedicated to each function (at least for simple pedals). This is why a lot of people like physical pedal boards with simple pedals.

The other advantage it’s a way to try a wider range of pedals.

Bear in mind there are disadvantages, aside from the cost. One being that, if you have several pedals, you need to deal with power, cabling, and noise.

Generally you will want to build a pedalboard, which requires a degree of messing around and some technical knowledge. For some people, of course, this is part of the fun.



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Ah, another good way to spend money! I get it!
The “G” in “GAS” isn’t just for guitar any more…:man_facepalming:t3: