The ingredients for Jerry tone

The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby shadowboxer » Wed May 21, 2014 12:21 pm

A quote from an article on guitar builder Ron Kirn over at the Telecaster forum:

"Ron finishes his guitars with nitrocellulose lacquer, but argues that paint, among other things, doesn’t really affect a guitar’s tone. After watching the TV show Cosmos, he came up with an analogy:
“If you were to break down the sound of your guitar down to a calendar year—365 days—your talent, your skill, and your ability as a musician carries the tone well into Fall.”
“Then somewhere around September, the amplifier picks up. That pretty much carries you down to the last two weeks of the year. Well, on one of those two weeks nobody does anything, so you’ve got five days left. And in those five days, everything else anybody wants to argue about, be it pickups, paint, wood, cables, capacitors, anything—that all falls into those five days. It’s an insignificant part of the total experience.”"

With regard to achieving Jerry's tone, do you guys think this about right or disagree?
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby augustwest1 » Wed May 21, 2014 1:35 pm

That's a long-winded way of saying that your actual guitar has 1/73rd to do with the "tone of your guitar." Utter nonsense -- and anybody that has two guitars could disprove it immediately.

It's not just a dumb thing to say (although it certainly is that), it's more than a little ironic coming from a guy who makes his living building custom Strat and Tele knockoffs. What's his sales pitch: "I'll make it any color you like but aside from that, you might as well save yourself $2,500 and buy a Fender Squire at Guitar Center."
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby TI4-1009 » Wed May 21, 2014 1:39 pm

Oh man, I can just hear it coming, I've got to find a safe place to hide... :lol:

(my limited opinion would be that that has the scale tipped a bit too far to the woodsheading side of the spectrum. If it's correct I'll sell off the cocobolo/maple/DiMarzio/AB763/McIntosh/JBL mess and get me a First Act and a Peavey... )

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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby milobender » Wed May 21, 2014 4:28 pm

That's a long-winded way of saying that your actual guitar has 1/73rd to do with the "tone of your guitar." Utter nonsense -- and anybody that has two guitars could disprove it immediately.

It's not just a dumb thing to say (although it certainly is that), it's more than a little ironic coming from a guy who makes his living building custom Strat and Tele knockoffs. What's his sales pitch: "I'll make it any color you like but aside from that, you might as well save yourself $2,500 and buy a Fender Squire at Guitar Center."


+1 :lol:
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby tatittle » Wed May 21, 2014 4:35 pm

Actually I kind of agree, if I substitute "tone" for "sound" anyway. Your looking at it from the wrong perspective. Take some 15 yr. old Bangladeshi native (who isn't trying to play Dead tunes) and a 50 yr. old Jerry impersonator and give the kid Jerry's rig and the impersonator a Squier and have them play a show. The impersonator will sound far more like Jerry than the kid. You are arguing from a baseline of everything else (talent etc) being the same and assuming the player knows what noted to play. What makes Jerry sound like Jerry is the notes he plays (and when he plays them). That is not the same as saying tone doesn't matter or guitars sound the same, they don't, but if you play Zakk Wilde or Wagner through Jerry's rig you wont sound like Jerry at all, especially to the average listener who isn't preoccupied with shop talk and tone.
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby shadowboxer » Wed May 21, 2014 5:06 pm

I regret having posted this comment. I didn't intend to open this up to all who want to bash Ron Kirn. I think all that Ron is saying is that the way you present as a player to an audience depends primarily on the player's input (his skills with the pick and fingers) and with the device that conveys that to the audience (the amplifier). As for Jerry, no one on here disputes that the Fender preamp/solid state Mac/JBL speaker combo certainly played a big role in his sound. And while Jerry's tone wasn't static over the years, you can certainly hear remarkable similarities through the Alligator, the Wolf, the Travis Bean, Tiger, Rosebud, and Bolt phases.
Last edited by shadowboxer on Wed May 21, 2014 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby PaulJay » Wed May 21, 2014 6:02 pm

I think it would be cool if a Bangladeshi kid had a Jerry Rig. I think he would be very happy and wouldn't argue with his buddies about which came first the chicken or the egg.
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby TI4-1009 » Wed May 21, 2014 6:26 pm

tatittle wrote:Actually I kind of agree, if I substitute "tone" for "sound" anyway. Your looking at it from the wrong perspective. Take some 15 yr. old Bangladeshi native (who isn't trying to play Dead tunes) and a 50 yr. old Jerry impersonator and give the kid Jerry's rig and the impersonator a Squier and have them play a show. The impersonator will sound far more like Jerry than the kid.


Or better yet, have the Dead play an April 1 show and have Mickey play through Jerry's rig. Did he sound like Jerry?
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby milobender » Wed May 21, 2014 7:06 pm

It's just a silly discussion... the analogy wasn't thought thru with enough detail "o) I do believe the finish has a very small impact on the instruments capabilities, but I would rank the pups with the finish, nor the woods used. I've always believed that a player's 'sound' is 75% in the hands and head... I just think the 1/73 is a bit off the cuff. For me it's like arguing that the brass trim on Jerry's guitar had any kind of significant impact on the tone....

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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby James-T » Wed May 21, 2014 7:18 pm

Poetic way of saying, your playing comes first and that's really what matters, then your amp which is a key part of your rig, and then your guitar(s).

I was killing time in Winnipeg this winter and spent some time in a guitar store with a $150 stratocaster, a MXR Micro Amp and an old Roland solid state amp.

Not a great rig but I sounded like me. They had a back room with a 67 Vibrolux that they were quite proud of so after a bit they let me try it out. My tone improved a lot. Crappy guitar by any means but it sounded wonderful through that vintage amp. I think the amp has to be a big part of the equation.

When you get into pick-ups a lot of it must just be EQ'ing. Sure the Dual Sound has less treble response than the Super II, but a Dual Sound with the treble dimed is gonna give you a similar biting tone to a Super II with the tone at 5 (and I'm still wondering why Vic switched out his Super II for a Dual Sound - such a rebel!).

More to the point, Jerry sounded like Jerry when he was playing the bridge pick-up, sounded like himself when he played the neck pick-up and sounded like himself when he played the middle pup. Of course he played mostly on the middle, but in some songs he used all three, like sometimes in the E/B bridge in China Cat.

And in late 77 and well into 78, Jerry played a bunch of different guitars with a bunch of different pick-ups and he still sounded great and just like Jerry with that mid to late 70's tone. Some of those tones are my favourites (Dicks Picks 18), while to others the same tone may fall way short of perfection.

When Warren Haynes played the Wolf on TRI last year his tone was miles from Jerry. He sounded like Warren, and speaking of Warren, when he came through town with his band he played about 6 different guitars through 2 amps over 2 sets of music, and it all sounded great to me and just like Warren ripping up some really heavy music.

What I like about this forum, is we are all looking for the same pot of gold under the rainbow. Some are just about there, some gave up a long time ago and some are probably running a second mortgage on their house trying to get there!

And back to Jerry, I have to say his best Dark Star tone for me was from the early 69 Filmore West run, two T-buckers, two tone controls, a Vox cry baby and a cranked Fender Twin with JBL's.....but with that rig he' probably would have sounded heavy handed playing Jack Straw or Big River, at least to most of our expectations. I think that's why he liked the Tiger so much. So many different tones out of one instrument.

And to keep the rant going....my favourite Truckin' tone is from the last night of the Strand in London in 72 - I just dig the tonal nuances of that long jam out of Truckin. He'd been playing that tune straight for a couple of months and his hands just kept getting more and more skilled at this jam by the end of the tour. And to most die hard non musician heads that 72-74 period is their favourite and I recall being on tour in 83 and hearing nothing but complaints that they just didn't play like they used to, with the long free flowing jams. But I was digging Jerry's tone!, but at the same time still ever hopeful that a late 60's style St Stephen would be broken out at any time! And I was at Greensboro when they sound checked it and damed as it were I had to go back to school so I missed the New York City break out :? - but listening to the tapes it was a bit lacklustre compared to say Live Dead, or Mac Court 78.

It's all good!

Here is a little video I put together last summer, comparing three very different guitars over the same backing track. None of my playing sounds exactly Jerry like, but its all in the realm of possibilities.

Peace,

James :-)

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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby tatittle » Wed May 21, 2014 7:45 pm

LOL! I just heard that April Fool's spoof for the first time not long ago. Hilarious...and illustrates the point empirically. I think Bobby was trying a little to hard to sound good on keys that tune :)
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby Searing75 » Thu May 22, 2014 4:05 am

Dicks picks 18 is my fave tone as well!! Something special in the machine that night!

As to this tone talk. I believe in a systems theory, where every little detail counts. Pick, speaker, amp, new strings. It all plays a significant role in tone. And yes, so does the pick attack, and the fretting hand technique. This is based on my own experience of building my rig one Jerry piece at a time, and hearing the difference it made.

But..............if I HAD to pick one element that is crucial to the tone we all love, it would be the JBL!

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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby RiseandFall » Thu May 22, 2014 5:42 am

Ron Kirn is a pretty sharp guy, and at the level he is referring to, I think he is right.

But at our level and in the sonic circles we travel in, we are shooting for some extremely precise and highly specific tonal characteristics.
With the hyper focus most folks here seem to exhibit in searching for THE sound, little things have great bearing. We hear when the pick isn't Adamas, or the middle pickup is not split. We hear differences between power amps and variances between E120's and K-120's, because it is what we do. Most guitarists out there don't have the myopic deadication to use the musical electron microscope that we do, that we MUST, and that is OK. Hell....I imagine it is very freeing for them in ways.

Part of it I'm sure is that we have logged so very many hours intently listening to Jerry Garcia. We not only hear the differences between 1974....1980...1989 but we can verbally articulate the audible differences and speak correctly as to the reasons why.

It is a weird and beautiful thing.
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby TI4-1009 » Thu May 22, 2014 6:17 am

^
+1 Excellent point, often lost in our "forest and the trees" discussions. Thanks for articulating that.
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Re: The ingredients for Jerry tone

Postby shadowboxer » Thu May 22, 2014 8:30 am

Very good points from Rise and Fall. I think Kirn is talking about good tone in general, whereas we on this board, for good or bad, are more focused on duplicating a certain tone that we love.
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