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Musicians Insitute Library

Instrument and Equipment Guide

This guide is meant to illuminate and educate readers about the many facets of what makes a guitar feel and sound different from one another. This is to aid students decide what guitar will best suit their needs when checking an instrument out at the libr

Characteristics of guitar sounds

In music we often describe sound with other adjectives that describe a more visual or physical feeling. Ex: A sound that feels warm/cold, or thick/thin, or bright/dark. There are preferences to be had per the individual player, but different genres of music may demand different tonal colors.

In country music for example, a bright, spanky, telecaster (or stratocaster) sound may be preferred to fit that mold. In metal and rock music you will find many people prefer the sound of two humbuckers on a Les Paul style guitar to give them that thick, roaring sound. These are broad generalizations, as you can use most guitars for most genres and sounds. However, you may find more easy success by utilizing tried and tested sounds, if you’re trying to achieve a specific sound. 

Typically, any guitar with a single-coil pickup will be made to be brighter and have more high-end frequencies. Likewise, any guitar with a humbucker pickup will be darker, but also have a more full-bodied sound.

Here is a link to a publication that has a comprehensive and easy to reference list of guitar related tone terms:

https://www.premierguitar.com/tone-terminology

Sound Examples: