The list of songs with perfect guitar tones should be endless and picking any one as the best is, of course, subjective. The most memorable guitar melodies are usually those with something compelling about them. They’ll really pull you in without being too showy or rude.
A good tone can say a lot about a song without words. A notable example would be John Lennon’s introduction to I Feel Fine on guitar, Carlos Santana’s solo on Black Magic Woman, and Mick Ronson’s work on “Ziggy Stardust”. Instead, we tried to choose songs from different genres that discuss something ineffable and primal which can start a conversation.
- Top Lead-Guitar Tones
- 1. Back In Black – AC/DC (Angus Young)
- 2. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream (Eric Clapton)
- 3. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed – The Allman Brothers Band (Duane Allman/Dickey Betts)
- 4. The Fly – U2 (the Edge)
- 5. Free As a Bird – The Beatles (George Harrison)
- 6. Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Mike Campbell)
- 7. Soul Man – Sam & Dave (Steve Cropper)
- 8. Champagne Supernova – Oasis (Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher)
- 9. Voodoo Chile – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Jimi Hendrix)
- 10. Enter Sandman – Metallica (Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield)
- 11. Bargain – The Who (Pete Townshend)
- 12. Midnight Rambler – The Rolling Stones (Mick Taylor)
- 13. Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
- The Ways to Get the Perfect Lead Guitar Tone
- Start From Scratch
- Sort the Volume and Gain
- Determine the Balance
- Adjust the Grip Height
- Add Some Effects
- Distortion Pedals
- Reverb Pedals
- Gain Pedals
- Delay Pedals
- Check the Intonation of your Guitar
- Change the Strings
- Care for your Cables
- Use Quality Cables
- FAQ for Lead-Guitar Tones
- What are lead-guitar tones?
- What is the history of lead-guitar tones?
- Which is the most popular type of lead-guitar tone?
- What types of lead-guitar tones are there?
- What is the difference between a lead tone and a rhythm tone?
- How can I create my own lead tone?
Top Lead-Guitar Tones
Hey everyone! This is a list of all the songs we’ve published so far. You might have noticed that they aren’t numbered in any particular order, which is deliberate and a point we want to expand on in the future. Stay tuned for more updates!
1. Back In Black – AC/DC (Angus Young)
Much like the sound of punk rock, AC/DC’s Back In Black (the album and the song) gave many bands ideas to create their own music.
The sound of an SG through a Marshall stack, without any effects. It’s easy, right? Even so, Angus Young smashed his signature riff and especially his mean solo. It’s impossible to emulate.
This classic rock song is pretty easy to sing along with, so just scroll to 1:52 and 3:36, then listen as Young rocks out on his guitar while maintaining perfect pitch. Classic.
2. Sunshine of Your Love – Cream (Eric Clapton)
Clapton’s solos in songs like “Sunshine of Your Love” was so avant-garde at the time, they had to invent names for it. He calls it his woman tone. Clapton used it throughout Cream and we love it when he plays it since.
Any guitar player will tell you that the woman tone is as simple as putting an SG in the neck pickup, turning the volume all the way up and the tone all the way down. But it’s not. The ‘woman’ tone isn’t just in Clapton’s hands and attack as much as anything else. This track is the perfect example of how hard it can be to replicate that sound.
This is a video of Clapton showing off his woman tone for a film crew.
3. In Memory of Elizabeth Reed – The Allman Brothers Band (Duane Allman/Dickey Betts)
The twin guitar attack of Duane Allman and Dickey Betts is legendary and inseparable. Not only did Duane Allman die too soon, or due to the pure awesomeness of them both performing together on the Allmans’ 1971 album Live at the Fillmore East, but also because they are two parts of a perfect whole, but because they are unmatched when it comes to tone and brutal honesty
Allman & Betts’ partnership was fruitful and they offer a great example of guitar work and technique. “Whipping Post” is a great track, but there are even better ones – like the one from Fillmore East.
4. The Fly – U2 (the Edge)
It’s not as easy to get the same tone as Clapton or Edge, but there are a few things you can do. For Clapton’s sound, use a Les Paul and go through a Vox AC30 with Alnico Blue speakers and insert some effects. For The Edge, use a Les Paul and go through a Marshall JCM 800 with Celestion
The guitar in The Fly is as memorable as all the best U2 songs and Edge’s technique has always been unique and interesting. He does so by slowing the sound down and looping the resulting waveform. Add a little bit of wah for that extra something special to happen.
5. Free As a Bird – The Beatles (George Harrison)
George Harrison is probably the most underrated guitarist in recorded history, despite his fame.
Bob Geldof stated that Harrison was the last lead guitarist. He could probably hum a solo with 10 people on the street, just like he did when he died in 2001.
Harrison has a long list great tones, both as a solo artist and in the Beatles.
The heart-wrenching, emotional lead song, Something. Or the fuzzy-up riff on What Is Life? George can be heard in all things, from All Things Must Pass to the strident slide of the 1973 hit Give Me Love. (Give Me Peace On Earth). All these songs are George’s. Each one uses a tone that pushes and pulls at the song as well as the listener.
You can say what you like about the Beatles”reunion recordings’ in the late ’90s, but Harrison’s amazing slide solo completes John Lennon’s demo in ways that no one else could. That’s the tone!
Geoff Emerick, engineer, told me that it was George in 2006 during the sessions. “He just plugged it in, and there it was. All I had to do was set up a microphone.
6. Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Mike Campbell)
Tom Petty frequently refers to guitarist Mike Campbell his secret weapon.
Campbell has co-written many of the band’s most memorable songs, including George Harrison’s. He’s also consistently played guitar parts that are immediately recognizable and melodic over his 30+ years as the Heartbreakers’ co-captain.
His Telecaster guitar lines are crisp and warm on Refugee, but his soloing and riffs on Mary Jane’s Last Dance 1993 convey the confidence that a player knows where he wants the song to go.
7. Soul Man – Sam & Dave (Steve Cropper)
This is what you hear right before the solo on 1967’s Stax Records mega-hit from Sam & Dave. You can play it guitar Steve Cropper.
One of the greatest ironies in the late-’60s R&B/soul revival is that the group that provided the grooves on the most popular records of that era included some of most white guys you could stumble across. Cropper, Booker T. & the MGs and the Mar-Keys Horns had soul!
Cropper was a master of many hits from that era. He also co-wrote and performed on Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay and Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour, among many other hits. Soul Man is the best example of his style and tone.
8. Champagne Supernova – Oasis (Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher)
Paul Weller was a key member of The Jam, who drew inspiration from all kinds of rock & roll artists. His fiery guitar solos and intricate compositions often drew comparisons to Pete Townshend and Wilko Johnson.
Just listen to the band’s cover of The Who’s Disguises, you’ll get the idea.
After the Jam’s 1982 split, a new crop of guitarists, who had been raised on Weller’s licks just as much as anyone else, stormed the charts. A lot of fans of these 90s British bands would argue that they would never have been as successful without the other band’s guitarists.
by 1995, Weller was in a career resurgence and Britpop was on the rise. No one was riding higher than Oasis.
It was the final track from their smash-hit album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, but as soon as Andy gathered his wits about him on ‘Champagne Supernova’, Liam stepped in and their combined magic gave us one of the most iconic albums of all time. Weller took the lead, with Gallagher in a supporting role, and delivered a glorious solo. It was such a great song that this was enough to make it even better.
Weller’s guitar system is nothing new but his warmth and vibrato on the strings are unbeatable. He also uses a white Gibson SG on top of a Vox AC30 amp.
Britpop never reached higher.
9. Voodoo Chile – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Jimi Hendrix)
If you wanted to get an example of the work Jimi Hendrix put into his creative ventures, it would be Electric Ladyland’s Voodoo Chile.
Hendrix’s longest studio album tells the story of the blues and points to where Hendrix was going. Billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix is in fact (supporting himself) with Traffic’s Steve Winwood on organ, Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The studio recordings of this album are solid, but nothing beats the live version. Live tracks have a certain freedom to them and showcase Hendrix’s skill in a way that other versions of this album can’t.
Hendrix can do a lot with his guitar, but most importantly he had an unreal tone. Guitar fanatics can all probably agree on some mainstream artists. Who is your favorite? But in these 18 minutes, Hendrix lays claim to the role that electric guitars had in shaping popular music. If no one else will ever top Voodoo Chile, we’ll still have this intimate recording of it.
10. Enter Sandman – Metallica (Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield)
The 90s were an exciting time at the height of grunge rock. Nirvana, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine and Metallica had some great riffs that are still remembered today.
But Metallica were the undisputed kings of the most over-the-top sounds. All of this is a testament to how powerful Enter Sandman is- it propelled the band’s 1991 self-titled album to 30 million plus sales and became one of their most iconic tunes.
Metallica’s song “Enter Sandman” is relatively straightforward compared to their other songs. Hetfield and Hammett have an unmistakable guitar tone that’s heard in the verse and pre-solo sections. It’s most notable in their larger-than-life riffing duel.
11. Bargain – The Who (Pete Townshend)
When I hit on doubling an acoustic guitar with an electric guitar, a whole new palate of sounds was suddenly at my disposal, Pete Townshend of the Who told me in an interview. The signature sound might be heard on the band’s landmark album Who’s Next.
Some people may disagree, but I think that Townshend’s “tone moment” was this solo on “Heaven and Hell” during the band’s circa-1970 live shows (check out the Live at Leeds live album to get a taste of it), and Joe Walsh’s career was full of his signature sounds, but the twin guitar combos he used on Who’s Next may be his most lasting. He combined a Grestch 6120 (Joe Walsh had given him) with a Gibson J-200.
Every one of the Who’s Next tracks is great and has tons of vibe.
The Who are known for their hit songs like Baba O’Reilly, Goin’ Mobile, Won’t Get Fooled Again, and Behind Blue Eyes. Considering it came from the ashes of the Lifehouse project they completed before they were a band, it’s an impressive achievement.
But I think Townshend’s most famous moments come from a combination of lead and rhythm playing on Bargain. A Fender amp and volume pedal sound great with the Gretsch/Gibson combo. They create a warm bed that’s so good, it can stand up to Keith Moon’s pounding drumming and John Entwistle’s punchy bass playing.
12. Midnight Rambler – The Rolling Stones (Mick Taylor)
You can’t argue that the Rolling Stones in their Brian Jones era were the best. Without alienating millions of early Stones fans, suffice to say the band didn’t truly take off as a top-notch musical unit before Mick Taylor joined.
Keith Richards always lay down distinctive and rich acoustic parts in addition to the electric ones, but it was when he collaborated with Taylor that they started playing around and doing the ‘ancient art of weaving’.
When the band began touring in 1972, they were truly at their best, and Midnight Rambler from Get Yer Ya Ya’s Out! is the ultimate example of this. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards provide sublime harmonica while Taylor provides a nice audio hug. This album is all over the place with some bluesy, southern rock mixed in.
13. Shine On You Crazy Diamond – Pink Floyd (David Gilmour)
Are you familiar with Comfortably Numb, Wish You Were Here and On An Island? All these songs have this one thing in common, David Gilmour’s tone. Gilmour is a recognizable and unique voice in Pink Floyd. His music cannot really be ascribed to any other artist – both of his solo albums are great efforts.
You see it all over their 1975 album Wish You Were Here – on this ode to Barrett and the madness he succumbed to. Long & adventurous but never boring, this track is a perfect example of the band’s progressive sound in the ’70s. At the same time, Gilmour draws out good tone from his Fender Stratocaster.
I can’t imagine any other player being able to play as good as Gilmour at full volume. Most people find it too loud or overwhelming and won’t be able to produce anything at that volume, but his playing is far beyond a mortal’s.
For your listening pleasure, the following link includes all 9 parts.
The Ways to Get the Perfect Lead Guitar Tone
This is something that many of us do all our lives. Each note is carefully studied and admired by us. The ideal tone in most cases is the goal for the highest echelon. This is something we can only dream about.
The ideal tone is the way you think. Confidence and discipline are essential to great sound and technique. You can make a great tone by using small settings and tips. Although there is no universal formula to create an incredible tone, these are some helpful tips to help you improve your guitar’s tone.
9 Ways to Improve the Tone of a Solo Guitar:
- Get a good starting point with your settings
- Sort your gain and volume
- Select the bridge pickup
- Use the effects pedals
- Get a balance of high, medium and low frequencies
- Check the intonation of your guitar
- Change your guitar strings
- Take care of your drilling rig
- Use Quality Cables
Start From Scratch
Start from scratch when you decide on your solo guitar tone. It will be hard to create the right sound and adjust the settings if you try to use too many settings at once.
Set all controls for 12 hours.
This is the best place to begin to determine what type of leading tone you desire. When you make adjustments to this position, only change one thing at a given time. Let’s now discuss the controls and how to configure them.
Sort the Volume and Gain
What’s the first step? Starting with gain and volume is a good place to start. When you start playing a different style, the first thing you should do is adjust your gain setting to suit it. If you play in a metal band, then obviously your winnings will be higher. It would be a shame to have an incredible amp but, at the same time, no speakers. Start by finding the crunchy sound you hear when you turn up the gain and then reduce it until that sound disappears.
Determine the Balance
Most decent amplifiers have timbre controls. They are essential for setting the right tone on your solo guitar.
There are at most three tone controls:
- High frequencies: refer to the quality of your amplifier’s sound. Higher frequencies produce sharper sound.
- It’s easy to see the average values: it determines the frequency at which your sound is heard. A lower setting is “scooped”, while a higher setting is more saturated.
- Bass: a low sound. The bass is the lower, and the more subtle the sound.
You may also have other tone controls depending on the amp you use. The tone of your solo instrument will be affected by the equalizer control. You may also find a loop or filter setting. This is a universal treb/bass-mid setting and can vary depending on the amp.
You now know the meaning of the tone settings. How can you improve the tone on your lead guitar? Let’s start with the averages. You should turn it on between 4-6. You won’t notice a significant change in your tone if you turn it on lower than this. However, higher settings can sometimes be effective, but can cause confusion.
You will most likely want the bass volume to be higher in most cases. Start with around 7 and go from there. If you have smaller speakers, this may be necessary.
You’ll want the treble to stay at 5. The sound could become too harsh if you raise the treble to high. It will sound weaker and less distinct if it is too low.
Adjust the Grip Height
Excellent tone is dependent on the quality of your pickups. Although we can’t change their character completely, adjusting their height is an easy way to adjust the output level of your instrument quickly and easily. You will need a screwdriver and a ruler. Then, you can do some experiments.
There will be three settings for your guitar’s pickups: bridge, neck and both. A bridge pickup is best for solo guitars. The sound of the bridge pickup will be more sharp, while that of the neck pickup will sound “bassier”. It is the same as the midrange, bass, and treble controls.
- Neck pickup: High bass, low treble
- Bridge pickup: Low bass, high treble
- Both pickups: more mid-range
Your amp settings will usually favour the bass. This ensures that you don’t have to turn up the amp’s volume too high in order to hear it, especially in crowded environments where there’s a lot of background noise. Your guitar pickup will pay more attention to higher frequencies, so your overall sound should be brighter and better defined.
Some people prefer neck pickups, some don’t. It’s just a matter of preference. If you’re using both, it might be a good idea to use the higher installed pickup position or install a two-way switch to make switching between pickups easier. Running neck pickup only may not allow you to cut through the sound as much – although it is unlikely that running neck pickup.
Add Some Effects
You can improve the tone and sound of your guitar by adding effects pedals to it. You can create your own tone with effects pedals. When turning your pedal board into a sound-playground, one thing you should remember is that some effects sound better when they are in the right order.
There is no “correct” position for your pedals. However, frequency-shifting effects may cause signal path disruptions, tone discoloration, cropping, and other effects may be placed in specific sequences. These are some guidelines to help you decide which effects pedals should go where.
It is best to begin with just one or two pedals if you are new to pedals. Once you have mastered them, you can move on to the next. You can easily get lost in pedal boards. They can be addictive. To get a great solo tone on your guitar, you don’t have to make things complicated, especially in the beginning. These are the most important types of pedals you should consider.
This type of stompbox is the most popular in the world. It adds a bit of character to your sound to make your guitar solos better. If you don’t want to spend a ton of money then the Boss DS1 is a good place to start. But if money isn’t an issue, then Ibanez Tube Screamer is worth looking into. This is one of the most popular pedals and was used by famous musicians like Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher.
Sometimes amps come with reverb built in, but you can’t turn it off without changing the settings on the amp. Sound doesn’t travel in a straight line, so you’ll need reverb to give your sound a solo boost. The problem with most reverbs is that they’re not great for purposes like loud gigs or podcasting. If you want the best of both worlds, MRX M300. If you’re interested in something more affordable, the EX Digital Reverb Pedal Mini is a great alternative to our other pedals. It’s nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.
This is a cool pedal that can give your guitar a nice boost in volume without creating any distortion. It’s perfect for the parts of songs when you need to have an impactful solo sound but other times you want to maintain a quieter setting. For example, in comparison to solos. The TC Electronic Spark Line is a good budget pedal to achieve this effect, and the Xotic AC amplifier pedal is a good choice if you want to spend a little more.
These pedals stay true to what they say. So when you stop strumming, the sound from your instrument will carry on. This can be a great addition to the overall sound of your lead guitar and has been used by many iconic rock bands like “Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses and “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd. Boss amps are pretty awesome, but they can get expensive. For an option that’s a little more budget-friendly, take a look at the Electro-Harmonix Canyon.
Check the Intonation of your Guitar
One of the best things you can do to maximize your lead guitar sound is to get a really good guitar in the first place. I’m not saying you need to A) buy an insanely expensive Gibson or Fender guitar (those are great, but there are other awesome guitars for a lot less money that perform equally well for what we need here) or B). You need to make sure that the intonation of your guitar is correct and there aren’t any issues with any part of it.
Here are some things to consider to check your guitar is correct:
- High action or extreme relief indicating the need for truss rod adjustment
- Bridge and saddle height that needs readjusting
- Worn frets
- If you’re not sure how to check the intonation of your guitar, here are some steps you can try.
- Play a note on the 12th fret
- Play the 12th fret harmonic of the same note
- Compare the pitch of the two sounds.
In these types of situations, you’re more than likely pretty competent around guitars. If so, then you should know that making adjustments can help improve their intonation (those fancy little things at the bridge). If you’re not too sure of what’s going on, then take your guitar to a well-known repair shop and ask them to check it and make any necessary adjustments.
Change the Strings
How often you should be changing your guitar strings will depend on a few things.
- The quality of your guitar strings
- The age of the guitar strings
- How often you play your guitar
To keep your guitar strings fresh, we suggest you change them every 100 or so hours (or 4-6 months), whichever comes first. Changing guitar strings not only improves your performance, but it’s also a more hygienic option.
When playing lead guitar, it’s important to change your strings regularly for a few reasons. The more worn out they are, the duller and less sharp your sound will be. Old strings feel less clear and less focused in comparison to the rhythm guitar. This isn’t too much of an issue with the rhythm tone but it’s a disaster for lead guitar tone – make sure you’re not losing these high frequency overtones!
Care for your Cables
A lot of people don’t care that much about cables, but these might be the foundations for your guitar tone.
Check whether the cable is well-made and has a build quality that will last. Make sure you avoid bending it and always wind it up when you’re done. It’s also worth storing it as, this will stop anything getting onto the wires.
So that’s it! Those are the best ways to improve your lead guitar tone! I hope you’ve found this guide useful and thanks for reading! Here are some other posts you might find useful.
Use Quality Cables
Cable TV can be tough to figure out if the first time buyer is not armed with the right information. Different pricing, styles and bundles can seem a little scary and confusing. You may be thinking “It’s just cable.” Not really! Cable is expensive, so it does matter which one you choose.
Simply put, yes. A well designed cable can be a game changer. You don’t need to spend $100 on it either- they’re not all expensive just because they’re good! The sensors generate a signal which your cable can’t fully support. Guitar cables are really just long capacitors with 2 types of wire. Generally, the more cable you use, the higher the capacity and the more data you will lose.
If you have a lot of pedals, then consider the amount of cable you’re using- it can cost a lot. The additional length will affect your tone and could really make an expensive guitar unplayable for this reason. If your sound always has too high levels, try switching to a lower capacity cable. On the flip side- If your sound is always too bright and you want to bring up the mid-level frequency a bit, try going with a high capacity cable.
Taking care of your cables will help keep them straight and prevent kinks, turns or deformations. If a cable has extra shielding around it, this will protect the wires inside, and reduce noise while operating. This allows you to use these cables for longer periods of time without any problems.
The other half of the great sound formula is of course a great amplifier. You could have a good guitar and careful accessories but if you don’t take care of your amp then you’ll never get the full potential out of it.
FAQ for Lead-Guitar Tones
What are lead-guitar tones?
The lead guitar tone is a type of electric guitar tone that is typically heard playing chords or soloing. The sound was created by using a tube amplifier such as a Fender amp, so it has a ‘warm’ character, and is often compared with the sound of vintage Fender amplifiers.
What is the history of lead-guitar tones?
Lead-guitar tones are a type of guitar technique that is used to create a particular sound. They are used in a wide variety of genres, including rock, blues, jazz and country.
Lead-guitar tones have been around for centuries. In the early 1800s, the term was first coined by French guitarist Jean Baptiste Lully who was known for his use of this technique in his compositions.
While lead-guitar tones have been around for centuries, they were not widely used until the late 1940s when jazz guitarist Charlie Christian popularized them after he heard Django Reinhardt play them.
Which is the most popular type of lead-guitar tone?
The most popular type of lead-guitar tone is the “smooth” sound.
Lead guitarists who want to play a smooth, clear sound typically use a small amp that has a single speaker. The other popular type of lead-guitar tone is the “crunchy” sound, which is typically produced with an overdrive pedal.
What types of lead-guitar tones are there?
There are many types of lead guitar tones. The most common ones are the ones that have a treble sound and a bass sound.
The type of tone you want to use depends on the song you are playing. For example, if you are playing a ballad, you would want to use a softer tone because it will sound more soothing and romantic than if you were playing a faster song.
Lead guitar tones can be found in various genres such as rock, pop, country, jazz, and blues.
What is the difference between a lead tone and a rhythm tone?
A lead tone is the first word or phrase in a sentence that sets the tone for the rest of the paragraph. A rhythm tone is a repetition of words or phrases that are used to add rhythm to a paragraph.
- “I’m going to be your lead writer.”
- “I am going to be your lead writer.”
- “But I’m going to be your lead writer.”
- “And I’m going to be your lead writer.”
How can I create my own lead tone?
A lead tone is the first impression of your brand and it can be created by a variety of tones.
One way to create your own lead tone is to start with an emotion that you want to convey. For example, if you want to create a sense of urgency, then think about how you would feel if you were running out of time. You might think about how being late for an important appointment would make you feel anxious or how being stuck in traffic could make you frustrated.
When creating your own lead tone, it’s best to keep it simple and use one emotion or feeling at a time.