The question, expression, declaration, or however it gets said seems to make its round about once a week on social media. It usually turns into an argument and the post gets deleted, people get banned, and the world implodes a little more on itself. This post is going to more of one man’s opinion and not a who’s right and who’s wrong. Okay, that may be a lie…
This will probably be a bit random and off the wall but hey, I wrote this late at night.
Let me jump right into this by asking the question, why does my tone change when I change up amps, run direct, or heck even when I switch guitars? I left pedals out for now just for sake of argument and to just focus on “clean tone” for now.
I had someone mention to me that “The ‘tone is in the fingers guys’ often tend to have a very specific amp/guitar combo…” Which I kind of, in a way, noticed. My comment was focused of the Praise and Worship community of “Telecasters and *insert Fender style amp here*.” He mentioned “Les Pauls and Marshalls.” I say that to say that most of the time, the people that claim “tone is in the fingers,” play one of these two base rigs. And know people with these rigs. And probably plug into one of these rigs at their local guitar shop of choice when trying out new things. So yes, your tone will be pretty much the same.
Another point someone brought up is that what they really mean is “the TECHNIQUE is in the fingers.” Which really makes more sense. We all develop our own way of approaching a guitar. My playing technique isn’t going to be exactly the same as someone like The Edge or Jimmy Page. Even after years of studying their playing, learning the licks, and if I ever got lucky enough to take a lesson from one of them, I’d still sound like me. Just actually playing it more like they do.
Since I feel that it’s more of how we approach guitar, I’m going to jump to the extreme here. Put someone like B.B. King on Kirk Hammett’s rig and vise versa. You’ll still be able to sense who’s playing, but if you’re just listening to a sound sample, would you really be able to tell? Will B.B’s fingers magically change cranked high gain amps into smooth bluesy tone? No. Most of us would probably thing that it’s B.B playing a Metallica cover or Metallica playing a B.B King cover. If you put Eric Johnson on a Line 6 Spider set on the highest gain and a waked out E.Q., he’ll still play like himself, but probably wont 100% sound like himself.
All that being said, that’s where the gear comes into play. Everyone has their set of guitars, amps, pedals, or whatever other gear they decide to use. THAT is, in my opinion, a big part of what makes our tone, our tone. And probably why sometimes half of us sound the same half the time.But that’s a whole other post in the future… If I plugged a Les Paul in to a Marshall, I know for a fact I would sound totally different than I do with my Explorer or P90 equipped guitar into my Vox AC30 reguardless of my technique or lack there of.