Welcome to Tone Tips Part 3! In this series, we're going to help those of you out there learn how find and create pretty much any tone imaginable! It’s not as hard as you might think. It's all about learning the key players involved in tone, their signature sound and how they react when paired with each other. We're talking pickups, an instrument's body type, amps, effects and even choice in plectrum (picks)... all ingredients to a recipe where the main dish is your tone!
Alright, this is far more straight-forward than selecting the right guitar since there are far less variations between vintage amps than there are between vintage electric guitars.
First of all, all amps prior to the introduction of the solid state amplifier during the ‘70s used valves. These valve amplifiers – also known as tube amplifiers – contribute a lot to a player’s tone, so much so that there are innumerable guitarists out there who still swear by the warm, natural sound of valve. The reason for this is because much of the gain and distortion coloration is directly contributed by the valves on these amps, giving them a warm, colorful and far more natural sound than your standard solid state. Simply put, if you want an amplifier with a true vintage sound, get yourself a valve amplifier. Although a valve amplifier will run you a bit more than your entry level solid state, they are definitely worth it if that vintage sound is what you are after.
Depending on the certain guitarist’s tone that you are looking for, you might want to check out a few of their favorite amps until you start seeing the pattern in their equipment choice. Again, you can take a look at our artist gear page for what type of amps they used. Check out some early Fender amps such as the Twin Reverb or the Bassman for some popular choices, or you can simply get a Marshall with Celestion Greenbacks (another very popular vintage choice).