How to Get Warm Guitar Tone: A Guide for Guitarists

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Want to make your guitar tone sound smooth, rich, and pleasing? Who doesn’t? A warm guitar tone can add great depth and musicality to your playing. 

In this complete guide, we’ll explore what a warm tone is, why guitarists want it, and, most importantly – how to get it. 

What Exactly is a Warm Guitar Tone?

A warm guitar tone is all about balance. It has a strong and full low end, a boosted midrange, and rolled-off highs. This gives it a smooth, mellow, and pleasing sound compared to a bright, crisp tone.

More specifically, a warm guitar tone has:

  • Strong frequencies below 800Hz
  • Emphasis on midrange frequencies, especially around 400Hz to 2kHz
  • Less presence and sparkle in the high treble above 5kHz 
  • Just enough highs around 6-7kHz to give definition without harshness

It’s like a perfectly toasted marshmallow – golden brown on the outside with a soft, gooey center! 

When you hear a warm guitar tone, you just *feel* it. It’s rich, soulful, and singing – the kind of tone that makes you wanna cozy up with your guitar by the fireside.

Why Guitarists Chase the Warm Tone Dream

There are a few key reasons why we guitarists are always seeking the holy grail of warm tone:

It’s versatile 

A warm guitar tone sits nicely in a mix. It blends well with other instruments like piano, horns, vocals, etc. This makes it super versatile – great for anything from jazz to blues to rock.

It’s pleasing and musical 

A bright, harsh, trebly tone can be fatiguing. But a warm tone just sounds *right*. It’s smooth, full, and musical. The mids and lows are soothing to our ears. 

Warmth adds depth and character

Guitars with warm tones feel more human and emotional. The smooth mids and rounded highs give a tone character and personality beyond a sterile clean sound.

It sounds amazing clean *and* overdriven

Ever wondered why a Gibson into a cranked Marshall just sounds so good? It’s that natural warmth and midrange punch cutting through. Warm guitar tones excel at both sparkling cleans and pleasing overdrive.

So, in summary – a warm tone is versatile, musical, emotional, and amp-friendly. That’s why we guitarists chase the dream! 

Now let’s look at how to actually get there…

Guitars and Pickups for Warm, Singing Tone

First, you need the right guitar and pickups to set you on the path to warm-tone nirvana. Here are some suitable options:

Acoustic Guitars

Martin 000-10E – A mahogany top gives this guitar warmth and sweetness, perfect for blues and fingerstyle.

Taylor 714CE – The Grand Auditorium shape and rosewood back/sides of this Taylor ooze warmth.

Any jumbo or dreadnought with a cedar top – For a warm, rounded acoustic tone, it’s hard to beat cedar.

Electric Guitars

Gibson Les Paul Classic – Mahogany body, humbuckers, and legendary tone offer instant warmth. The gold standard.

Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster – The bridge pickup and alder body give Tele’s a snappy warmth, perfect for country and indie rock.

Semi-hollow guitars like the Epiphone Dot or Gibson ES-335 – Semi-acoustics offer resonant warmth and feedback that solid bodies lack. Jazz fans rejoice!

Pickups

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Humbucker – Arguably the warmest, most “vintage voiced” humbucker available. Nails those ’70s classic rock tones.

Fender Tex Mex Pickups – Great cheap pickups with increased midrange and bass over standard Strats/Teles that are fantastic for warmth.

LR Baggs Anthem – A revolutionary warm warm-sounding acoustic pickup. Costly but organic and feedback-resistant.

The guitar and pickup make a huge difference, but so does the amp…

Amps, Effects, and Settings for Warmth 

Choosing the right amp and dialing in the perfect settings is crucial to get that warm glow. Let’s break it down:

Guitar Amps

For warmth, you want amps biased towards the midrange with a rich low-end response. 

Fender ’65 Twin Reverb – The 6L6 tubes deliver powerful, rolling lows. And the silverface EQ is perfect for scooped mids.

Vox AC15 – EL84 tubes and the classic Top Boost channel give Vox amps their distinctive warm crunch.

Marshall DSL20CR – From Hendrix to Slash, Marshall has defined a warm rock tone. The secret lies in those EL34 power tubes.

Fender Blues Junior IV – An affordable warm tone machine thanks to the 12AY7 preamp tube adding midrange character.

Effects Pedals

A couple of effects pedals can really bring out the warmth too:

Ibanez Tube Screamer – Nothing adds vintage-voiced warmth like a trusty Tube Screamer hitting the front end of a tube amp.

MXR Analog Chorus – A thick, chewy chorus fills out the tone brilliantly. Use the CE-2 mode for ultimate warmth.

Boss OD-3 Overdrive – The smoothest Boss overdrive with plenty of warmth thanks to asymmetric clipping. 

Way Huge Blue Hippo – This chunky fuzz pedal has a midrange boost switch giving it a warm, vintage fuzz sound.

Amp Settings

It’s not *just* about the gear – you need to set your amp up correctly:

  • Set the gain low for a clean sound. Too much gain brings in harsh highs.
  • Increase mids substantially – they are the key to warmth. Cut some treble.
  • Increase bass to fill out the bottom end – but don’t overdo it and get flabby.
  • Use the neck pickup with the tone rolled off. Much warmer than the bridge pickup.
  • Play with the volume and master volume to find the amp’s sweet spot.

Modeling your amp after the settings used by famous guitarists is a great way to nail a legendary warm tone:

Jimi Hendrix was known for his use of Marshall amps. For Hendrix-like warmth, try:

  • Gain: 6-7
  • Bass: 6-7
  • Mid: 4-5
  • Treble: 5-6
  • Presence: 4-5
  • Reverb (if available): 2-3

Eric Clapton has used various amps like Fender and Marshall. For Clapton-esque warmth, go for:

  • Gain: 4-5
  • Bass: 6-7
  • Mid: 5-6
  • Treble: 4-5
  • Presence: 5-6
  • Reverb (if available): 3-4

David Gilmour favored Hiwatt, Fender, and Mesa Boogie amps. To mimic his tone, try:

  • Gain: 4-5
  • Bass: 6-7
  • Mid: 5-6
  • Treble: 4-5
  • Presence: 5-6
  • Reverb (if available): 3-4

Take the time to really dial in these amp settings. It’s amazing how much difference they can make to your warmth quest!

Speaker Cabinets for Warmth

Your amp is only half the equation – your speaker cabinet makes a huge impact on your tone too. Here’s some warm cab options:

Open-Back Cabs 

Open-back cabs have more leakage and accentuate the high mids for a bouncy, airy tone. The wide sound dispersion also helps warmth.

2×12″ Cabs

2×12″ cabs have a stronger bass response than 1×12″ combos. Bigger means warmer. The classic Marshall and Fender 2×12″ cabs are perfect. 

Wood Matters

Pine and cedar are the warmest woods. But solid pine is expensive. Quality plywood or MDF cabs can still sound fantastic.

Avoid bright-sounding birch cabs or cheap plywood if warmth is your goal.

Play Like You Mean It: Technique Matters Too

“Your sound is in your hands as much as anything. It’s the way you pick and the way you hold the guitar, more than it is the amp or the guitar you use.” Stevie Ray Vaughan

How you actually play has a big impact on your tone. Here’s some tips:

  • Pick near the neck – Super warm. Picking near the bridge brings out the treble.
  • Use thicker picks – Thinner picks sound brighter. Try a 1mm pick or larger.
  • Pick at an angle – A mellower attack is warmer. Play around with your angle. 
  • Roll off the tone – Turn down the tone knob for an instant warmer sound.
  • Press lightly – Picking and fretting hard makes a brighter sound. Keep a light touch.
  • Use neck pickup – Way warmer than the bridge pickup in most cases. 

Take the time to experiment with different techniques. It will really improve your warmth.

Conclusion: Let Your Ears Guide You to Warmth

We’ve covered a ton of ground here. At the end of the day, trust your ears to guide you. Warm guitar tone ultimately comes down to what sounds best to you.

Follow these tips, keep practicing, and most importantly – keep listening critically. The right guitar, amp, and playing style to achieve musical warmth will reveal itself in time.

Some final thoughts:

  • Experiment with different combinations until you find your perfect warm recipe. 
  • Small amp tweaks can make a BIG difference. Don’t be afraid to really dig into those knobs!
  • Record yourself and be brutally honest about what you like/dislike about your tone.
  • Listen closely to your guitar heroes and pick apart what makes their tone so warm and magical.

So go forth, be bold, and never stop chasing that warm, golden sound we all covet. Your ears know best – let them guide you.

Thanks for reading! Now get tweaking. Your dream warm tone awaits…

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