How To Sound Like…


How To Play Like Your Favorite Guitarist

how-to-sound-likeOne of the most frequent guitar related questions we get goes something like this: “How do I sound like (insert name here)?”; or “how do I get my equipment to sound like (again insert name here)”?

Although it is very understandable wanting to learn how to play blues guitar like B.B King or Eric Clapton, rock out like Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen, or how to sound like the amazing Steve Vai or Brian May – just to mention a few of the many great electric guitar players ot there – this is a very hard thing to do. Subsequently these are questions which are really hard to give a satisfactory answer to.

When you start out wanting to learn electric guitar – emulating and mimicking other players and artists in your field is a great idea. I would go as far as saying that studying other great guitar players in detail is one of the best ways there is to learn.

In our quest to follow the path of other master guitarists, it is only natural that we also attempts to get a sound that is at least somewhat similar to what he or she has.

Let’s face it, if you want to learn how to play guitar like (country guitar great) Brent Mason or the late great “the Humbler” Danny Gatton, then you probably don’t want to play with a death metal set-up, or use anything else than a Fender Telecaster as your starting point.

However, this urge to get the exact tone as your role model, is another thing all together.

Observing guitar greats up front

Through the years I have had the chance to watch quite a number of amazing guitar players performing live – not only on their usual equipment, but others as well.

And you know what? They always sound like themselves no matter what they plug in to or play on. This should really be some food for thought…

I can vividly remember seeing greats like Slash or David Lindley playing on run-of-the-mill borrowed equipment in smaller venues. They sounded just like they were supposed to – 100% themselves.

Here’s a quote from guitar great Steve Morse (during an interview with musicradar.com:

“I’ve seen this time and time again, and I’m sure you have, too: You get two guitar players, give them the same guitar, same amp, same setup, you can even give ‘em the same pick [laughs]…and they’ll sound totally different. Equipment has very little to do with it; it’s all about the player and his feel and approach to music. It’s just like acting: two actors can read the same words from the same script, and you’ll get two completely different performances.”

There’s also a great comment – I think it is on the Gibson guitar site – from this guy who once had the chance to watch LA Guns with Tracii Guns (real name Tracy Ulrich) on lead guitar. He was playing a Les Paul through a regular combo amp. Also, Brian May of Queen fame and another great player from the Alice Cooper band at the time did stints on the exact same rig and guitar used by Tracii.

The other players reportedly sounded nothing at all like Tracii. Brian May sounded like he always does (no surprise there)!

Does all this tell you something? At least it was an eye opener for me when I realized how much of the sound is in the heart, soul, mind and hands of the player.

Getting in the same ball park – sound wise

Like I said previously, there’s absolutely nothing wrong about attempting to get a sound similar to what other players are getting.

In order to get a guitar tone closer to what you’re aiming fore, you will probably need to play a guitar kind of similar to what that other person does. Then you’d want kind of a similar guitar amp type with the majority of guitar effects that this other player uses.

By doing a search online, you will probably manage to dig up information about most of the equipment used by a particular artist. You should eventually be able to find more information on how to sound like that guy from your favorite band.

Just don’t forget that you still probably will have only one small piece of the puzzle.

Another thing to spend some time reflecting upon is this: Why try to become someone else? Why being a lesser copy of Carlos Santana, Jimmy Hendrix or Duke Robbilard? After all it is so more rewarding (and a heck of a lot easier) to be yourself, would you not agree?

If you intend to get anywhere with you playing (aside from being a cover artist or perhaps a session player) – having a unique style, just being you and becoming as good as you can get, will likely get you the furthest.

So what do you think? As always, I’d love to get your opinion and feedback on this issue. Do feel free to contact me or post your comment below!

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14 Responses to “How To Sound Like…”

  1. Coleman Willams Says:

    This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your posts about how to learn electric guitar. Thanks!

  2. Cruzy Says:

    Thanks for this article. It amazes me how many folks try to emulate their guitar heroes, not knowing what it really takes. Also, wouldn’t it be better to become something other than just a copy of the original?

  3. Lill W. Says:

    This site and topic fascinates me. Nicely done.

  4. Usi Says:

    I’m afraid I’m a little bit confused as to what exactly is being given in this article.

  5. Simonne Cajulus Says:

    I’m afraid my English is not very well but your site is well thought out and also great looking. I would very much like to have same look for my guitar website.

  6. John B. Tero Says:

    Hello there, I like this post and the notion about guitar players so hung up on sounding like someone else. Why not be yourself? Both easier and more rewarding in the end :-)

  7. Ron Hams Says:

    Thanks for this post! Been looking for decent information about how to get the tone of other guitar players.

  8. Brian Musomba Says:

    I totally agree with you. The best way one can every play the guitar is to reproduce the music within.

    It seems that this ‘music within’ could be sounds that we liked since we were children and which were then stored in our subconscious which then mixed them into a beautiful sonic stream that’s as unique as our DNA.

    Whatever the case i almost always feel more comfortable exploring, playing and developing this music from within, than trying to learn Jimi hendrix voodoo chile blues from the songbook (i managed only three of the 10 or so pages before boredom took over).

    Cheers.

  9. Kathy Says:

    Thanks for this article about our somewhat strange and feeble attempts to sound like someone else, rather than finding our own unique guitar “voice” :-)

  10. Latisha Dage Says:

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  11. Pieter Haage Says:

    You’ve got a good point here! Many of us do perhaps try to “be someone else” rather than working on finding our own voice and expression on the guitar. Indeed, why not be a good and interesting original, rather than a copy?

  12. Garreth C. Capp Says:

    Thanks for sharing

  13. Werner Backmann Says:

    great post! I totally agree that way too many players (and it appears to be a guitar player thing most commonly) try to sound like someone else, rather than shoot for orginality.

  14. Boroca Maton Says:

    I sure like your style of writing and I’m enjoying this site. Kind of weird how we try to “become” another guitar player, isn’t it?

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