Where to start when trying to discover a guitar tone

How do you guys go about discovering a tone that you have heard on a song you are trying to learn?

I now understand what gain and reverb do on my Katana but I’m not sure where to start to be able to dial in a particular tone for a song I am learning and it’s a part of the song where it is the solo bit.

Thanks. :slight_smile:

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I’m very beginner at this, so maybe we can learn together.

I have a fancy-dancy processor. I have models for amps, effects, speakers, etc. in it. It is a lot of fun, but that is a different topic. :slight_smile:

When I am trying to figure out a song’s sound, I usually go to the web and look up what the artist uses in their setups. Sometimes it takes a bit of searching, especially if they change a lot over the years. I then go to my processor and just dial in a nominal setup with the models of the items I found on the web. I tweak the sound from there until it is pretty close.

Sometimes it is hard to get there if you don’t have something that is somewhat close. For instance, trying to get a good Metallica sound using a neck single coil is not going be quite right. It still may sound good, but not like the recording.

For tuning the timbre, I can sometimes locate a short chord or two that is isolated from the rest of the band. I will try to match it with distortion, EQ, delay, or reverb by experimentation. For things like wah or phaser or flanger I have not really made good attempts as these sounds are not common in my songs right now and they aren’t really understood by my ears very well.

If you are trying to do this without fancy models, then the amp EQ is your likely place to get close I think.

I’ll be interested in what else we see here.


I first learn how to play the song (or solo or whatever), without worrying about the tone. When I’m perfectly happy with how I play it, then I try to dial in the tone.

However, I am never perfectly happy with how I play anything, so that means I never have to worry about finding the “right” tone. :smiley:

BTW, you could apply @CT 's philosophy and find your own tone, without worrying about reproducing the original exactly.


Hi Sgt
I have same amp and if you know roughly what tone you want … like AC/DC clean, pop etc, I usually start on Tone Studio.
Get close then tweek in the Amp program.
Justin also has some .tsl files to get started.
I cannot do it by ear starting from scratch so this gives me a sort of “starting point”
Hope that helps


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What I do is fix all knobs at midday. Then play a note or a power chord and twist 1 knob at a time. That’s an important aspect:
Basic principle of experimentation.
So, by trying one knob at a time, through the full range, I try to listen to the differences it makes. Then set it back to midday and try the next knob.
Once I’m satisfied I’ve understood how the knobs respond individually, I try to set them where I think they should be. Then I make adjustments using the principle of dividing by two. For example if bass was at midday and turned it to 3 o’clock for the first adjustment, if want to reduce it I’ll turn it to 1:30. If I want to increase it I’ll put it at 4:30. You get the idea. And I do that with all the knobs.
My idea of what bass, mids, treble do so that I know what to adjust is:
Bass: punch but less clear sound
Mids: grinding machine + adds volume
Treble: pierces your ears + works with mids + adds presence.
Gain: depends on pup+amp combination.

Not sure if that helps at all and I’m just a beginner guitarist so I don’t have the experience of other people here but that’s my process and understanding of the thing.

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Hey Stefan,

I generally use the power of the 'net to get some ballpark ideas, then go from there with the gear I have.

I’m finding over time that;

  1. Im getting quicker at doing it
  2. Close enough is often good enough - dont endlessly fiddle. :nerd_face:

Cheers, Shane


One thing to bear in mind is that it can be hard to get a particular sound if you are using the wrong type of pickup.

If you have a Katana and are happy to tinker with Tone Studio there’s a solution to this that doesn’t involve buying a new guitar (although I’m not discouraging that either :joy:).

There’s an effect called “Guitar Sim” which can emulate (to a degree) other styles of guitar pickup.

Here’s a video to show what this does:



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I google for what the artist uses, and also search the Fender Mustang app for an artist tone. I assume the Katana has something similar?

It’s pretty hard to get exact, but you can get pretty close. E.g. AC/DC is super dry, no reverb, whereas GnR has delay & reverb, etc.

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Nailing the exact tone can be really hard, but the good news is that you don’t have to. The notes and song itself will do a lot of heavy lifting. Unless you’re in a tribute band where you try to be as authentic as possible, being somewhat close is generally fine.

Start with all the knobs at noon. Pick the amp model that seems like the closest with those defaults. Then tweak the gain and volume to get close, and then tweak the EQ a bit to try to get closer. Often the solo will add a boost pedal to the base sound, or add another pedal effect such as wah, delay, flanger, phaser, etc. You can use Tone Studio to select and enable such a pedal on the Katana.

And remember that others generally don’t care if we nail the exact tone or not - they’re just happy to hear and recognize the song. An acoustic cover will still evoke the original song people will recognize it, and that’s often about as far from the original tone as you can get.


A general method for dialing in a guitar tone. Feedback welcomed.

  1. Adjust the level of overdrive/distortion (fuzz?)
  2. EQ
  3. Reverb
  4. Delay
  5. Modulations

I started watching some of Josh’s videos (the JHS Pedal guy) and it seems to me that all distortion pedals are pretty much the same. If you watch his infamous Bad Monkey Video (see below) he takes a klon, bad monkey, morning glory et al and adjusts the gain and EQ settings to make them all sound the same. Distortion is distortion is distortion. After watching Josh’s videos it appears to me that all these overdrive/distortion pedals are pretty much doing the same thing.
Bad Monkey Video

In more detail

  1. Adjust Distortion
    How much distortion is there? Is it a clean tone, very slightly distorted or heavily distorted. A lot of rock tones use less distortion than you might think. You can adjust distortion a number of ways. You can take a clean amp and throw an overdrive/distortion pedal then adjust the gain setting on the pedal. You can choose a high gain amp and adjust the gain setting on the amp. Listen for fuzz. Fuzz is a type of distortion but it has a particular quality that’s fairly easy to hear. My advice would be to pick one overdrive/distortion pedal that you like and stick with that one for a while. Swapping between ten different effects pedals is not necessary at this stage. (see EQ notes below)

  2. Adjust EQ
    I suspect that people who are very good at dialing in tones are good at adjusting EQ. Guys like Josh can duplicate a tone because they have a great ear for determining the frequencies present in a tone. You need to play with the EQ knob/knobs. Is the tone full of high frequencies or have the high frequencies been dialed out to give you a darker more bass heavy tone? You might want to play with your pickup selector at this stage. I have a SSH strat and the humbucker seems to work best for rock tones. I really need to work on this.

This is present to some degree in most tones. Surf music uses tons of reverb for instance.

  1. Delay/Echo
    This is often used. Listen carefully for a slight repeat/echo of a notes as they are played.

  2. Modulation
    This is generally all the exotic stuff that gets thrown on a given tone. Things like chorus, flanger, tremolo, octaver, univibe etc etc.


  1. Get a looper! Then record the particular lead line or rhythm pattern you are trying to match. Now you can concentrate on playing with the dials to match the tone as best you can. Constantly switching between guitar and knobs is difficult and inefficient. With a looper you can sidestep this problem.

  2. Download the tonebridge app. Search for the song you want and check the settings someone else has used. Don’t get overwhelmed by the fact that so many different pedals and amps are used in these patches. At the end of the day (imho) all distortion pedals are quite similar. I suspect that many combinations of pedal+amp+EQ you could produce a a similar base tone.

Listen to Phil discussing the EQ pedal It starts at 2:12. He comments that you can make a single coil pickup sound like a P90. Again, it shows the value of understanding and mastering EQ.
EQ Pedal

Tom Bukovac EQ Pedal Video This is mentioned in the Time Pierce video. It shows how important EQ can be when dialing in a tone. At the end of the day always keep in mind that guitar playing and technique trumps great tone matching every time. No one listening really cares about the tone. Don’t knock yourself out trying the perfectly tone match. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to do it anyway given the amount of post production that has occurred on a recording. Get it close enough have fun.



Especially as the sound you hear on the record is not the sound that the guitar player heard in the room when they are playing.

A guitar amp and a recording of a guitar amp are very different things.



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When using the Mustang III I used rely a lot on the Fender Fuse preset library and search for band or band/song pre-sets. I’d the snaffle up the ones with the highest number of downloads. Figure the most popular must be the better or closest ones. Guess the Katana online pre-sets would be similar in that respect. Shame when Fender took the Fuse site down but I got hold of the whole archive via the InTheBlue channel but there’s nothing to tell which are the “good” ones so its a bit and miss.

But as Keith intimates, you will find it hard to get that “recorded” sound / tone especially with something like a Katana or Mustang. You just don’t know what the mixing guy has been up to further down the line. What frustrated me about the Mustang was the limitation of the number of pedals in the chain and the fact you could only have one of each, hence my move to the POD Go.

Another variant I have found since getting the POD are the speakers and cab being used. These can make a significant impact on the overall tone. So this is something else that can be experimented with. Not sure if the Katana has that facility but along with the Mustang III 17 amp models, there are 12 separate cabs, so you can mix and match.

These days I don’t chase “exact” tone but with the POD tend to go for a more “in the style of” approach. Like the Mustang I have downloaded a few “band” pre-sets for the POD from Line 6 and some more generic style pre-sets from ChopTone.

But as others have said find your own tone or at least a tone you are happy with for the style of song you are playing. Make it your own.



Thank you everyone for taking the time to reply. There are plenty of ideas here for me to explore and I’ll hopefully manage to achieve the sound I am looking for, or somewhere close to it.