Does Tone Really Come From The Hands?

Posted · 6 Comments

I have heard this phrase since I was a teenager first learning how to play a D and G chord. People would talk about the great Stevie Ray Vaugh or Jimi Hendrix and how their tones moved there souls and it came from there magical hands.

“It’s all in the hands” repeated in my brain. So instead of buying a tube amp I would practice scales. Instead of getting a Tube Screamer I stuck with the Boss Super-Overdrive. Instead of looking into better guitar manufacturers I kept looking at my fingers and wondered why they sounded horrible.

I was in shredder mode. And that was the last thing my church needed. What my church needed was someone who could just play the solo for “God of Wonders” as it was written with a good quality tone (i.e. gear) behind it.

Back to the Greats and their Magical Hands. Sure Stevie Ray’s sound is amazing if you are a Texas blues player who loves gauge 14 strings, but I’m not. Sure Jimi’s tone was amazing for it’s time, but I’m pretty sure if I rolled into my church with a Marshal Stack cranked to ten, no, eleven and a Fuzzface, people would give me a weird stare (or grimace…or look of complete anguish).

Do you remember that scene from John Mayer’s concert DVD where he is playing on a bluff overlooking LA?

When I first saw this I couldn’t believe his tone, neither could my buddy who said “Man that guy’s tone is amazing. How do I get my hands to sound like that?” It was a rhetorical question so I didn’t draw attention to Johnny’s Signature head that goes for $8500.00. Even the Greats use great gear.

I think the core message the phrase, “tone comes from the hands” is trying to convey is that technique makes good gear sound great.

Any guitar rig is just going to sound better in the hands of a seasoned player who listens to Eric Johnson and Joe Bonamassa than it will given to a teenager whose idea of a good guitar player is Billie Joe Armstrong. But I would also bet that the seasoned player will sound better playing through a Dumble ODS-100 than a Marshall JVM.

Now tone without technique is useless so please don’t misunderstand me. There must be a solid foundation of technique and skill to support any guitar rig; however, don’t tell yourself that just because you are not a virtuoso that you don’t need or deserve good gear. If you can play the riff to “Hosanna” smoothly to a metronome and you play in front of your church then you and your congregation deserve the best gear you can get your hands on.

Does tone really come from the hands? I guess it’s true, but don’t let that be an excuse from getting good gear. If the “Greats” need it, you do too.

Love you guys, keep sharp,


6 Responses to "Does Tone Really Come From The Hands?"
  1. Karl says:

    Awesome stuff. I totally agree that there is a healthy balance between good hands and good gear, and one probably shouldn’t exist without the other. I’m not a huge Green Day fan, but I do, however, think Billie Joe to be an excellent rhythmic player. Maybe I’m weird. haha

  2. Jed says:

    If you’re weird then I’m insane :) I’m not much of a Green Day fan either, but I do have to give Billie props for how catchy he can make power chords sound.

  3. rhoy says:

    i think keith richards is a great example of tone & rhythm

  4. Jed says:

    I wish I could think of a some good christian artist that had that same quality of memorable rhythms and tone. Third Day has some good stuff. The most memorable rhythms I can think of is Superchick. Major brain laps going on.

  5. rhoy pamparo says:

    not sure if you’ve heard of this guy, Jimmie Bratcher. He’s a Christian blues artist, and a good one, too!

    Lincoln Brewster’s old materials has some pretty good rhtyhm & tone with his cranked bassman.

  6. Jed says:

    Oh Lincoln. Does anyone remember his old website where he listed off a bunch of amps he liked and had played, actual amps with actual tubes? Those where the days.

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