Importance of good tone while practicing

I find myself practicing more diligently and for longer periods when I have a good tone dialed in. Makes it more fun.


That’s right! Life is too short to hate the sound of your practicing :wink:

Also, I noticed that I tense up when I play with a tone I don’t like!

PS: your username is awesome on so many levels


I find it more relevant when I’m creating music. When I’m just practicing, scales, etc. the tone doesn’t seem to matter too much to me.

Absolutely. It’s not necessary, but I’d rather hear a pleasant tone for 3-6 hour practice sessions.

I think playing through your amp, at a level you can hear, lets you know if you’re dialing in your attack correctly. Quiet unplugged practice, especially with a light touch, makes it impossible to know what I really sound like, and impossible to know if I’m hitting the notes the way I want, or controlling the noise of the unplayed strings. For high gain type players, anyway.

Good lord that’s a lot of time. You’re not playing most of that time are you? Pursuant the post about injury that I just replied to, I now feel obligated to mention that I don’t ever do technique practice for that long. And when I do practice, I don’t generally go for longer than a few minutes without stopping to look at footage and make sure that what I’m doing, I’m doing correctly.

I totally understand that there are different kinds of practice, and something like memorizing a long piece takes time. But I suspect that even that type of work functions better in short increments of a few minutes here and there. My brain can only take so much before it gets tired.


Yeah I know lol! It’s usually closer to only 3 hours after work. And actually 6 or more on my days off. But not all of it is strict practice. A lot of it is just having fun. Especially when I make some progress or a breakthrough, I’ll just jam and try to find ways to incorporate it. I’m 54, so I can really feel the clock ticking and I want to push the physical limits of what I can do before my physical ability starts to decline. I don’t want to be sitting in my rocking chair saying “If only I would have applied myself, I could have played this or that”


My Carr Mercury V is perfect for this. It has a built-in attenuator. British voiced. American made.

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Two things on this:

We’ve interviewed some people who are starting to get up there - Albert Lee, for example, mid 60s, now mid 70s. The guy rips. I don’t doubt that age plays a factor, but you’ve got plenty of time on the clock for any technique you could reasonably want to have. All of us do.

And two, I think “pushing the limits” is the wrong way to think about skill learning type of practice. I know more about this now than I used to, and I’m better at it now than I used to be. I don’t think it works like exercise, where you beat yourself up a little and grow as a result.

If you want to go hard-core on learning, then I think that schedule looks super different: lots of little mini sessions of a few minutes here and there, throughout the day, where you attempt certain things and test to see if you’re getting them. Possibly with a camera to film the movements. Not everyone has the flexibility to do something like that. But my best guess is that’s what “pushing the limits” looks like for technique learning. Not really long sessions of playing, thousands of reps, icing down your hands afterward, etc.


That’s good to know. I was already putting that much time in before CTC. But now I’m actually getting results! Anyway, I just enjoy playing. I have made the mistake of hurting myself years ago on that damn Frank Gambale Chop Builder VHS. I have a knot on top of my left hand to this day. I appreciate your advice Troy. It’s always welcome with me.

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Wow - This surprises me!
Firstly - I can see that you are working out and always wondered how you combine those two ambitions
Secondly - I thought there are a lot of similarities between exercise and guitar practice.

I totally agree that it makes no sense to beat yourself up - whether in the gym or in the studio.
All you get from this is sore muscles or frustrated with the musical improvement.

How then is a good practice routine anyway?
Small increments throughout the day?

I do mostly maybe 20 min. practice and then some fun jaming. The jaming can then take up for 2-4 hours =)
I wish I could have zest regarding the theory and technique.

Regarding tone - I consider a good tone as some kind of extra. Meaning I practice e.g. a riff first whitout any FX (guitar tuning mode) and later with the final tone. Mostly followed be a “wow” Effect which gets me into practicing this even more.
And then its exactly like you said: Then I hear the strums and feel of the tone where I can check where to put more emphasis on.

So maybe everything wrapped up:
First the memorizing and technique - Then the tone. =)

Just to say, I sometimes like switching between a shitty little practice amp with some sort of distortion box when I practiced to a nice setup for the playing/jamming. Reason being, that my nice setup felt so easy to play, forgiving almost. I have it in my head that if I could sound good on the shitty amp (no/minimum fx too), it would be even better on the nice rig. The playing and jamming felt way more inspiring that way.

I’m not saying that this improved my playing but, it kept me honest and improved the experience!

This thread comes at the perfect time for me, as I have recently vowed to only play plugged in. The reasons are endless:

  • Control accidental noise particularly from incorrect muting.
  • Optimize pick scratches and other such intentional noise.
  • Optimize switching of pickups for best base tone.
  • Get used to switching pedals as needed without mistakes.
  • Enable recording!

The recordings are ultimately the most critical reason:

  • Listen to at least 20% of what I play, at least via a looper, if not Logic Pro, with a critical ear for mistakes and improvements.
  • It is so important to eat one’s one dog food and make sure it sounds right, and this is impossible to do without being plugged in.

Indeed, I have been reading the manual for the Axe-FX3, and now I realize that I didn’t even really grasp the correct way to use a “preset” and a “scene.” :rofl:

@kgk I would be weary of the mental blocks that could manifest themselves if you vow to only play plugged in. Maybe it’s just my schedule, but it’s not the norm that I have a huge chunk of time to practice and record, which is why I’ve mentioned in a few threads that I practice mostly unplugged for a few minutes throughout the day (enabled by having the guitar somewhere easily accessible, the living room). I think if I committed myself to only playing plugged in, I would be even less inclined to pick up the guitar if I were short on time.


You are absolutely right, so the effort has to be close to zero. I say “Alexa, turn on Fractal” to power the “amp” on, pick up my guitar, flip “on” its wireless, and I’m ready to practice. I always have my trusty 2.0mm Flow picks in my right pocket… :rofl: But the upside is that once one has good tone, and the looper sounds good, it’s hard to put the guitar down!

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