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Asking the Important Questions: Can Guitar Paint Affect Your Tone?

Ed Driscoll

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Apr 24, 2002
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4,677
Billy Corgan, leader of the Smashing Pumpkins, has been catching flak among gearheads on the internet recently for purporting that paint color affects the sound of guitars. In unveiling his signature model Reverend for Guitar Center, Corgan said “I’ve found through the years that certain paints sound different, so the white Reverend, I think, sounds better.”

I buy into the notion that paint, like anything else you put on or in a guitar, will affect the tone. Other people who buy into this idea usually talk about the type of finish used—nitrocellulose, polyester, or polyurethane, the three most popular finishes. A lot of the discourse is just forum talk with a lot of speculation and contradictory answers.

To see if there’s credence to claims about guitar paint affecting tone, I talked to experts at the Fender Custom Shop and to Fender’s Senior Chemist Julio Cedano.

https://www.popularmechanics.com/culture/music/a25658216/guitar-paint-tone/

But of course -- isn't this the very basis of "'Burst Tone?"
smiley_emoticon.gif
 

Axelorox

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Sep 12, 2018
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The paint color that sounds the best is the one that is most pleasing to your eye and encourages you to appreciate and play your guitar more.
 

J.D.

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May 24, 2006
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I never heard finish "color" stated as affecting tone before.
 

Ed Driscoll

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Apr 24, 2002
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Yeah, that's pretty out there -- but I do remember a few discussions in the vintage section as to how the paint on a sunburst late 58-60 LP affects the tone versus a '57 goldtop with humbuckers. (This is a representative sample.) Corgan believing that the angels dancing on a pinhead sound better on his signature model guitar when it's painted in white isn't too far removed.
 

jrgtr42

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Mar 24, 2005
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2,230
I can see the type of paint affecting the sound - poly versus lacquer versus varnish and so on. but the actual color? No. The example of the bursts versus goldtop is one of the first thing - yeah, it had the lacquer over top, but it's a light stain versus the heavy gold paint they used. That could (in theory) affect the resonance.

I should also consider the caveat that if it's a metallic paint, it could affect the magnetism of the pickups and such - like Satriani's chromeboy guitars.

I doubt the coloring compounds in a white paint versus blue or red would make enough difference to change anything.


Didn't the Beatles sand down their Epi Casinos because John thought the finish was choking out the sound?
Then George painted that Strat in the psychedelic phase. As did Hendrix, on a couple guitars, Clapton's Fool SG...
 

thin sissy

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Jan 2, 2006
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2,611
I'm a fan of Billy's, but I've stopped listening to his ramblings long ago :laugh2:

What Axelorox says is valid though IMHO. I know I enjoy playing a guitar with an appearence I like more than one that looks (to me) boring. And that gives inspiration.

The paint color that sounds the best is the one that is most pleasing to your eye and encourages you to appreciate and play your guitar more.
 

renderit

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Jan 19, 2009
Messages
10,467
Yes.

When I play my red guitars in a red room I am uninspired. But in a green room wow!

When I play my black guitars at night I am total stealth and killer good.

So yes, it effects (not affects) my tone while adding to the effect.

But my goldtops effect me. So my tone is affected.

But I am infected with the need for difference and with deference I submit my answer:

Yes.

Please don't axe these questions when I am affected by beers. Infected? Now I'm cornfused...
 

corpse

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Jun 9, 2007
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4,494
All I know is I can't get no fancy notes on my blue guitar.
 

Jazzkat

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Jan 4, 2019
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The paint color that sounds the best is the one that is most pleasing to your eye and encourages you to appreciate and play your guitar more.
This is the truth.

Most people couldn't hear the difference between a Tele and a Les Paul. Most guitar players wouldn't be able to hear the difference between a maple fingerboard and a rosewood one (feel is a different matter). You'd have to have ears like a pipistrelle bat to tell the difference between paint, even if there is a logical and/or scientific difference.
Billy Corgan:bigal are you on about?
 

brandtkronholm

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Dec 3, 2006
Messages
2,380
The reasoning I use: If my guitar was pink with polka dots but sounded the same - I'd still be playing it.
The colour is mostly vanity and that's what everybody knows.

:salude
 

Triburst

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Feb 12, 2006
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4,348
Well, there's this pretty well-known story about Jimmy Page's Telecaster:

"I still have it,” he told Guitar World in 1998. “But it’s a tragic story. I went on tour with [a] ’59 Les Paul that I bought from Joe Walsh, and when I got back, a friend of mine had kindly painted over my paint job. He said, ‘I’ve got a present for you.’ He thought he had done me a real favor. As you can guess, I wasn't real happy about that. His paint job totally screwed up the sound and the wiring, so only the neck pickup worked. I salvaged the neck and put it on my brown Tele string bender that I used in the Firm [in 1985 and 1986]. As for the body, it will never be seen again!"
 

corpse

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Jun 9, 2007
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I have seen guitars that had signs the finisher didn't remove the hardware before doing some refinishing.
The former owners of my house very carefully taped off all the electrical faceplates before painting.
 
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