Taste, Tone, and Technique – Open for Discussion

You never know what kind of questions and discussions are going to pop up on the Guitar Noise Forum pages. This one was posted over the past weekend:

Tone, Taste, or Technique – Which is most important?

I know all three are important… but what is the most important? Maybe a better question would be what is the relative importance of each?. Now I’m not talking jazz but something a like blues.

Well, you can always count on Tom Serb for a thoughtful, and thought-provoking answer:

IMO, none of the above.

Rhythm/timing are the single most important element in music – if they’re off, nothing else will save the day.  If you’re dead on in your groove, you could be playing “Row Row Row Your Boat” and most people will dig it.

Once you’ve got that, it depends on who your audience is.  Having great tone and no taste is like reading a novel with great words, but no plot.  It’ll work as background, but it’s not something you pay attention to (or listen to a second time).  So tone is a great focus if you want to be in the background but have nothing to say.

If you’ve got great taste but lousy tone, you can be popular within a niche.  There are fans of old recordings by Leadbelly, etc. where the tone just plain sucks (no doubt due to the technology of the time, but still…. it just sucks).  Great taste with tone will get you a wide audience.

If you’ve got great technique but not much else, you only get fans from folks who play the same instrument.  Go to a concert by Yngwie/Buckethead/Batio/Gilbert/etc. and ask those around you if they play guitar.  I’ll bet at least 90% of them do.  If you want to speak to the masses, they don’t care about technique – they care about the music.  Go to a concert by Jeff Beck/Eric Clapton/John Mayer/etc. and you won’t find nearly as many guitarists in the audience – it’s just the general listening public.  Their technique doesn’t suck, but it’s not best in class.

So if you’re talking about what the average music fan wants, I’d rank the choices:


If you want to chime in on the discussion, head right on over here!

Looking forward to seeing you on the Guitar Noise Forum pages throughout the upcoming year.