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Is there a true holy-grail of tone out there, or is it all in our heads?

Note from the editors:
It is widely believed that a guitar’s tone involves fingers, physics, sometimes electronics, more physics, and then your ear. Not true. In reality, this signal path is not complete without one more thing… your brain. So why is it that the most complex part of the process, which is clearly the brain, is the one we never talk about? Assuming that beauty is ultimately in the brain of the beholder, why do so many beholders lust after the same handful of classic tones, when there are so many varieties out there? That can’t be a coincidence. Is that evidence that superior tones actually do exist, or is it simply proof that some mishmash of culture, acoustics, mojo— and who knows what else—have played with our heads without us even realizing it?

What exactly is happening when we try to produce certain tones with our favorite musical instrument? We believe it comes down to three things: psychology, science and religion (not that kind of religion; we’re talking about another kind of belief system). For the next three months, we’re going to explore these concepts. We know we aren’t likely to set the record forever straight; we’re merely trying to better understand the elements at play. In other words, our goal for this series is to mess with your head.

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