Guitar Lesson 16c: Using the controls on your Les Paul to gain a twangy, bright chimey sound



Guitar Lesson 16c:

TITU’s mini-series on dialling in better tone using your guitar controls

Externally published supporting article: IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT GUITAR TONE

In this lesson Dan demonstrates the range of tone available just using the tone and volume controls on your Les Paul.  He concentrates on the middle position, where you can make the most of your chimey bridge pickup by mixing it with your more boomy neck pickup and by adapting the amount of volume and tone for each open up the tonal variety of your Les Paul.

You can get all the tones you want from clean, jazzy, funky to crunchy (or not), rocky, metal, distorted and everything in between just with the controls on you Les Paul.  It will be a real lightbulb moment when you realise this and begin experimenting.


Learning to control your tone from your guitar is hugely beneficial and you will become a much more versatile and confident guitarist by understanding this better.

If you want to look further into it, then see the videos further down the page, but in particular see this video on how to begin to explore the Les Paul sound and tone:

And the YouTube sensation Marty Schwartz on these Les Paul controls and how adding some slap-back delay will change your sound:

As a basic rule, the more distorted/compressed your tone the less you’ll be able to dial it back using the guitar’s volume control. Mid gain tones allow for a huge amount of dynamic variation from solely the volume control.

In these lessons, Dan demonstrates to Gary how you can use these controls on different guitars with the setting on the amplifier left untouched. It really is incredible how with a little understanding you can dial in such a range of tone from the controls which are always under your fingers. For example, knowing that the ‘treble bleed circuit’ will decrease the bass from your signal as you lower the volume means that you will realise that with a low volume you will get a thinner twangier sound and diminish the boom of the bass. Likewise, adding volume will increase the thickness, distortion and crunch which you have already dialled into your amplifier.


Here you can hear the wonderful Robben Ford’s interview with the Captain from Anderton’s – at about 14 minutes and a half, Robben talks about how he matched the neck pickup with the bridge pickup on his Les Paul; at 17 minutes 55 seconds, Robben and the Captain play their Les Paul’s against eachother – the challenge being to ensure that Robben’s guitar sounds better than the Captain’s:

Covered in this mini-series:

  • 16a) Dan demonstrates the versatility of Gary’s PRS without touching the controls on the amp
  • 16b) Dan shows us that it is possible to get a thick, humbucker-type tone on a single-coil stratocaster
  • 16c) Dan gets a twangy tone with his Les Paul
  • 16d) Dan puts his own PRS through its paces

See this extra detail from other players via our question on Quora: Question on Quora

Useful videos:

Our philosophy:

As a result of some feedback we decided to break our lessons up into two parts, releasing part 1 each fortnight and part 2 the following weekend. Hopefully, this will make the length of the lessons a bit more digestible and bite-size. This may mean that there are references in each part to the other, but we will try to ensure that our lessons have two sections. As always get in touch to let us know your preferences, suggestions and feedback.

We love direct engagement and to show our appreciation you may get a mention: What lessons do you want us to cover? What would you like us to do? How would you like us to develop TITU?

Our podcast and blog has organically grown and we appreciate all feedback, follows, likes and suggestions. It is meant to be used as a way of introducing some ideas and themes which are useful to be aware of as you develop your practice on your guitar. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful in the audio format which we release them in as this way you can listen while doing another task and then use the suggestions we raise in each episode to do some extra research and to inform your own practise. It is our hope that you find this a useful listening exercise, to support the development of your musical ear. It is good to think that you, our listeners, are not immediately looking for tabs, but rather using your ear to find the notes yourself. This is important to develop your feel, phrasing and dynamics.

The way I myself find these lessons useful is to study in great depth what Dan introduces me too, including guidance on who or what to listen to, and I feel lucky that I can return to each lesson and not forget all his excellent advice as was the case prior to the recording of our lessons. I also find studying my own mistakes hugely valuable, I hope you do too.

We plan to continue producing posts for each podcast episode, linking in some guitar lesson videos from online tutors and guitar covers from players out there. I hope that you will find our lessons and blog useful and that we help you to see the big picture. I certainly think that I could have organised my own practice to be more effective earlier in my own learning and if this had been the case, then I would have developed my skills more quickly and easily. For further ideas about this we encourage you to spend some time looking at my article on guitar practice, apps and software and then dedicate some time NOW into learning to recognise intervals, rhythms and chords by ear. This will hugely fast-track your learning.

I hope you enjoy this lesson as much as I did and that you keep listening. If you want to support us further, then like us on Facebook, follow us on SoundCloud, Twitter or Google+ and subscribe, rate and review on iTunes to help us conquer the Apple algorithms. You can also follow my online magazine: Lessons and Gear for Guitar Geeks and Fanatics.

Good luck on your musical journey!

Gary and Dan.

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