The eight greatest guitar tones ever

YouTuber Music is Win lays out his all-time favourite guitar tones, along with his trusty desktop amp companion, the Positive Grid Spark.

Image: Positive Grid

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Achieving legendary guitar tone is a constant hobby for many players. But on the journey towards tone perfection, you might run into a hurdle you can’t overcome. Bits of gear get discontinued or are otherwise hard to come by. Have you ever tried to find a Dumble Overdrive Special for less than $70,000?

Luckily, the good people over at Positive Grid have teamed up with music YouTuber Music Is Win to demonstrate how their affordable Spark amplifier can achieve eight of the best guitar tones ever recorded – and they’re also giving you the chance to win over $3,300 worth of gear the amazing Jam At Home Giveaway, including a Spark, plus great gear from ESP, PreSonus, Dunlop and more. Check out the video above.

If you’ve ever chased the tones of the greats, you might have found the process of researching the gear used on your favourite records can take up quite a bit of time. Especially when you find out half of it has been discontinued, so you’ve got to research alternatives, and then decide between different bits of gear all claiming to do the same thing. Once you’ve built it all into a cohesive rig, it’s had a huge impact on your free time – not to mention your wallet.

Positive Grid’s Spark provides a much easier and cheaper route to achieving your dream tone. Thanks to Positive Grid’s powerful and award-winning BIAS Tone Engine, Spark can model thousands of pieces of gear.

So how does Music Is Win go about getting eight iconic tones in around 20 minutes? Thanks to the Spark app, it’s quite easy – paired to the Spark amp itself, it provides an intuitive interface that lets you quickly adjust settings, and place effects into a predetermined signal chain of a noise gate, drive, amplifier, modulation, delay and reverb. Tones can be downloaded straight from the ToneCloud, an online database hosting tens of thousands of user-created patches. Here are the ones Music Is Win takes a look at:

  • Slow Dancing In A Burning RoomJohn Mayer Mayer’s soulful yet modern take on blues has inspired countless fans to pick up a guitar, and this song from his 2006 record Continuum features one of his most iconic tones ever: immaculately clean and glassy, with just a touch of compression and soaked in reverb. Music Is Win shows you how Positive Grid’s “Dancing In The Room” patch “works right out of the box.” This particular example sets Spark to run a Blackface Duo amplifier, allowing for miles of headroom so the percussive string hits can really ring out – and includes a booster pedal for when you need to kick into the solo at the end of the song.
  • Purple HazeJimi Hendrix Music Is Win pulls this Hendrix down from the ToneCloud, where you can find tens of thousands of tones that have been uploaded by Spark users across the globe. The thick octave fuzz running into a dirty British-style amplifier takes you immediately into Are You Experienced Hendrix territory. While the soaring solo is an iconic part of this sound, the real test comes with the crunchy alternating octave riff of Purple Haze’s intro – and Spark delivers the goods: it’s wild and hairy, but it doesn’t lose any low-end thump.
  • EruptionVan Halen Assuredly one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, if not the greatest. This tone comes from running a compressor into the front of a 5150-style amplifier, along with some heavy modulation and some light delay and reverb in its effects loop. Music Is Win would rather a phaser over a chorus for this specific sound, but luckily the spark app means this only takes a quick tap on the modulation slot and a scroll down to Positive Grid’s included Phaser effect.
  • BatteryMetallica High-gain tones and modelling amplifiers don’t always go together well, but that’s definitely not the case here. Thanks to a mid-boosting overdrive pedal running into a high-gain amplifier, it’s an easy journey straight into the land of old-school thrash. The sound gives palm-muted power chords a chunky, percussive feel, evoking the unmistakably cutting sound of Metallica’s Master Of Puppets. Like before, Music Is Win fancies tweaking with this sound a bit, so he swipes up on the delay slot, engaging it for some lead tones.
  • Under The BridgeRed Hot Chili Peppers John Frusciante’s, octave-based fingerpicking on Under The Bridge is an amazing piece of guitar playing, one that’s only helped by the tone he uses. Recreating it here is Positive Grid’s LA Comp compressor, which smooths the attack of single-coiled pickups and gives them more sustain – creating a beautiful, bell-like chime. Adding to that is some reverb, which makes the transitions between chord shapes all that much smoother.
  • Bohemian RhapsodyQueen Speaking of chime – Brian May’s guitar tone on the solo of Bohemian Rhapsody, and across his career, is known for just that. If you listen closely to the recording, you can hear how the attack of each note is accentuated, but not in an unpleasant way. The attack gets rounded out, before making way for a smooth, saturated sustain. Achieving that here is an AC-30-styled amplifier, running after a compressor and an overdrive, with the multiple gain stages bringing the sound into saturated richness.
  • Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin This understated, swaggering riff that opens Led Zeppelin II has tons of character, and a lot of that comes from the tone itself. Here, there’s a little slapback delay from the Spark emulating the roomy sound of the original. Old-school rock n’ roll tones are sometimes far less saturated than you might think, and so a lower gain setting overall lets the palm-mutes of the riff come through in all their honky, filtered glory. The clean British-style amp that forms the basis of the tone also gives off a lot of low-end – so while the sound is dynamic, it still provides a rock n’ roll thump.
  • For The Love Of GodSteve Vai Leaping to the other end of the saturation spectrum, Steve Vai’s For The Love Of God makes use of a violin-like tone, with enormous amounts of sustain soaking up Vai’s soulful legato. It’s hard for a sound this saturated not to sound messy, but Spark once again provides a dead-on recreation, with soaring lead notes and plenty of dynamic attack when Music Is Win digs in with a pick. Bringing the saturation to the party is a combination of a distortion pedal and the same high-gain amplifier that brought us into Metallica territory. This tone is of course, best served with liberal helpings of whammy bar usage and pinch harmonics.

Don’t believe how spot-on the tones are? Take a look at the video above and hear for yourself. If you’re impressed with how Spark sounds, and how easy it is to use, then good news – Positive Grid is running the Jam At Home Giveaway, which offers a shot at giving your home studio or practice space a serious upgrade. You can sign up here for the competition – one lucky winner will receive over $3,300 in prizes, including a Positive Grid Spark guitar amp and BIAS software pack, plus amazing items from ESP, PreSonus, Dunlop and more. Entries close on 30 November 2020, so be quick.

To enter the giveaway click here.

Whether you’re looking for a studio workhorse or just a practice amplifier that lets you jam along with the perfect tone, Positive Grid’s Spark amp has you covered. It’s a revolutionary new 40-watt combo guitar amp that utilises smart technology to offer futuristic features like real-time Smart Jam accompaniment and Auto Chord detection, as well as intuitive practice features for players of all abilities. It’s powered by Positive Grid’s award-winning BIAS Tone Engine for fully-featured modelling of amplifiers and effects. You can find out more about the Positive Grid Spark amp here.

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