No, it’s not all in the fingers.

CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
I recently got into a somewhat heated discussion about tone. First off, let me say that I do NOT believe that the fingers contribute nothing to the sound. They absolutely do. But when there’s a thread about someone asking what gear someone uses to achieve their tone, telling them it’s in the fingers is A: just blatantly incorrect, and B: not helpful to the person wanting to know the information. I’m looking at Gearslutz....Gearspace here.

Guitars and their amps, and their settings, and the methods to record them all matter more tone wise than the fingers when accounting for the fact that the person knows how to play.

Unless you’re at a Chopin competition (then, yes, it’s practically 100% in the fingers), there‘s no reason to be saying this. I have my Hofner (with flats), and my Vox. and the right settings, and I can sound what I would guess is 85% of the way there to McCartney’s bass tone. Another 10% goes to the mics used, the placement of the mics, the room, the preamps, and the medium on which you record. And the last 5% is the fingers.
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
Part of the confusion with this is the fact that people tend to conflate the tone they want to hear with the way it feels.

This always comes up in discussions about John Bonhams drum sound. The fact is, the actual sound of those drums isn't that great, but between the performance and the way it sits with the rest of the mix, it's magical. Not to mention the fact that the sound is different from album to album.

Van Halen's tone isn't the same from album to album, but it always sounds like him. The part that makes it always sound like him is in the fingers. The rest of it changes from album to album without many noticing.

I think that tone doesn't matter as much as technique and style.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The biggest proof of fingers being vital are in the scores of Queen bands going through my venue over the years - often with Red Specials of decent manufacture, three, six or even 9 AC's and they don't sound like Brian May exactly - then recently Brian May has been promoting some new guitars, and despite it being a non-Red Special clone or the original even, they still sound like Brian May. His brain, his fingers - that's a HUGE part of the sound - not the sixpence (tanner) he plays with - not the guitar or strings - but him.
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
if it were a piano, does the piano matter more than the fingers pressing down hard or lightly?
guitar lead players surely have some form of their own style and the fingers would be a big part of it, imo, but probably a smaller percentage than the gear.

I agree the fingers are a smaller percentage.
If Paul and you.. lay down a Rick 4001 into a X amp in a X room and the mic being the same and console etc...everything the same, Tone knobs exactly the same , all hardware EXACTLY the same... it will be 85% there.

except for the persons fingers..their brain, tempo/groove..
Id guess there will be a small change in tones from sound, depending on how much the players have in common in playing style.
Style I think comes from the brain more than the fingers, how they write how they emphasize the notes, do you slide from G to A or lift or mute etc... Tempo is more groove and that all can effect the sound somewhat, but I think the gear is 85% too.

even Jimmy Page could sound immaculate in the studio and like crap live....same fingers, different gear.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
This always comes up in discussions about John Bonhams drum sound. The fact is, the actual sound of those drums isn't that great, but between the performance and the way it sits with the rest of the mix, it's magical. Not to mention the fact that the sound is different from album to album.

I just watched the Prime documentary on LedZep 4. For the drums on When the Levee Breaks, they set up the drums in the big open first floor room of Headley Grange, and a stereo mic up at the top of the stairs on the 2nd floor. So when recording (not DI) its' not only the gear, but how its recorded.
 

Farview

www.farviewrecording.com
I just watched the Prime documentary on LedZep 4. For the drums on When the Levee Breaks, they set up the drums in the big open first floor room of Headley Grange, and a stereo mic up at the top of the stairs on the 2nd floor. So when recording (not DI) its' not only the gear, but how its recorded.
Right, but is that the Bonham drum sound that everyone references? Does everyone wanting to sound like Bonham want the exact sound of that song?

Again, most people who are chasing a sound are actually chasing the feeling or impact that what they are referencing had on them.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Loved the piano analogy - fingers do indeed play a part. I remember being given a Yamaha Concert Grand to use, free of charge, simply to get it played in - and every month or two Yamaha would take it away for a concert, then bring it back. One day the German pianist who might want to play it arrived and his fingers beat the crap out of it for ten minutes, then he pronounced it not played in but acceptable. I'd played that piano loads of times but not once did it ever make the sound that fella got out of it. Little things an amateur pianist like me cannot actually do - on a grand you can tickle the keys and the way the hammers bounce and fall under gravity assistance mean your finger tips can introduce very subtle but audible changes to the how the string gets excited. Uprights try to mimic this but usually fail. The pedals also can be double pedalled - doing different things. 15 years ago - one of my bass heroes, Herbie Flowers played my bass and it refuses to sound like that for me - yet I couldn't see what he was doing.

I simply refuse to accept the idea that the player is not doing this. I understand people believing it, it's even understandable - but to a player utterly and totally wrong. Equipment of course makes a difference - and for some simple stuff - I could sound exactly like Rick Wakeman on a plastic keyed synth. However - the differences would soon become apparent. Buying a copy of loudspeaker, flowing back to the guitar, bass, or even keyboard misses out the vital bit - the person one step further away from the speaker.
 

LazerBeakShiek

Active member
. I'd played that piano loads of times but not once did it ever make the sound that fella got out of it. Little things an amateur pianist like me cannot actually do
This sounds like you are not at a level of skill to play the style.

If you had 10 years in on keys, same playing style. You should be able to mimic it well.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
LAZER - you clearly believe your stuff. That's fine. Don't try to convince me you know about music performance. Clearly you don't. You've kind of even proved it. The same kit, but played by somebody else. That's the difference. People make music, equipment doesn't.
 

VomitHatSteve

Hat STYLE. Not contents.
Equipment is important, and "tone is in the hands" is definitely an unhelpful and rude answer on a gear forum.

But I'd argue that the hands are more important than the gear. Sure, you can get 85% of whoever's tone with the same gear as them, but that last 15% is the part that anyone cares about. (Plus, top tier musicians can still get 85% of their own tone using different gear.)
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
A few years ago, I was at a jam, and the bass player had some songs he wanted to play. I handed my guitar to him, grabbed his bass and off we went. When I went back and listened to the recordings, you could clearly distinguish his playing and tone vs mine. It was the same guitar, same amp, same pedals, but the way he picks, his vibrato, chord forms, etc. all gave a different sound from mine. Same ballpark, different bases!

My bass playing was different from his as well, since I used a pick and he's a finger player. BTW, it was a really nice Ric 4000 type bass.
 

Gtoboy

Active member
I don't agree that "It's all in the fingers" answer is acceptable, why cant they just say, "Here's the amp, pedal, cab, etc we used" and let the quester figure out for themselves how to achieve a specified tone from there?

However! Sausage fingered dudes like myself know for a fact that finger technique can and does change tone , especially attack and decay. This can be demonstrated empirically by anyone with a guitar and fingers. Change where and how you play and listen to the tone differ.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I'd like to emulate Picasso, Satie, Jon Lord and Niles Rogers. Sadly wanting something is not the same as being able to do it. This is why artistic talent is so sought after. Buying the same equipment is often stupid. I bought a Bob Ross kit, watched dozens of videos and my crazy little trees looked nothing whatsoever like his, despite him telling me to do it however I liked........
 

CrowsofFritz

Flamingo!
I'd like to emulate Picasso, Satie, Jon Lord and Niles Rogers. Sadly wanting something is not the same as being able to do it. This is why artistic talent is so sought after. Buying the same equipment is often stupid. I bought a Bob Ross kit, watched dozens of videos and my crazy little trees looked nothing whatsoever like his, despite him telling me to do it however I liked........
Painting is vastly different from guitar, though. It’s reversed there. Almost entirely in the brushstrokes (thus in the fingers) rather than the paints used. I can emulate John Frusciante very well. I can sound like Frusciante even if I’m plugged in direct. That doesn’t negate the fact that the tone Frusciante uses is associated with a Boss DS2 pedal and a strat going into a Marshall.
 
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