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Hey there fellow modern guitarist! Welcome to our very first publishing of our “How to Tone” series where we show you how to acquire some of the most exceptional signature tones of our favorite modern guitarists. Our goal is to provide the basic fundamentals of each tone so you can dial in your gear to sound as similar as possible to the pros. We will break down the entire signal chain, from pickups, to effects, amps and EQ. From there, it’s all about listening to the artist's music and using your ear making the necessary adjustments to your own rig.
So, let’s dive right into our very first “How to Tone” where we discuss the majestically ambient lead tones of one of my personal favorite modern artists, Plini. As a guitarist who is constantly pushing the known boundaries of our beloved instrument, Plini has experimented with a number of tones over his professional career. However, he has always maintained a highly distinguished sound despite the great variation in his writing from song to song. If you love Plini's tones as much as we do and are wondering how you can replicate them, take a moment to continue reading as we break down his signature lead tone, featured in songs such as Selenium Forest and Electric Sunrise.
The simplest breakdown of Plini’s signature lead tone is a moderately compressed, low to mid gain distortion, with slightly boosted mids, moderate delay, and a fat dollop of reverb for that highly ambient effect. For those of you looking for more than just the cliff notes, below are the details starting with pickups and ending with amp settings. We always recommend following the order we outline, starting with pickup selection, followed by effects, and ending with amp and EQ settings.
Plini splits the coils on both humbuckers to produce a super clean and snappy tone with a sharp attack. According to the legend himself, this produces a "strat-like" sound with highly defined notes and chords. If your guitar doesn’t have a split-coil ability or humbuckers don’t fret (pun intended)! Just aim for a warm, clean tone that is well balanced across the bass, mids, and highs. This will provide an acceptable foundation to further dial in with your effects, amp, and EQ.
Plini uses quite a bit of compression at the very front end of the signal chain to create a very balanced input before any other effects or amps. After the compressor comes a substantial amount of clean boost via a low gain overdrive input. This produces a snappier and brighter tone with exceptional note clarity that is apparent in Plini’s lead tones. Next, we have a healthy amount of stereo delay followed by a fat dose of reverb. I usually aim for a level of 3 to 5 (out of ten) on the delay and 5 to 7 on the reverb. You can also experiment with a bit of chorus which is occasionally featured in some of Plini’s productions. Ambience is the goal here, but too much can take away from the actual notes and technique.
Most amps and amp-cab combinations have multiple channel settings. Ideally, you’ll want an amp with at least a couple of drive settings. On my Boss Katana 50 for example, the optional channels are Clean, Crunch, Lead, and Brown. Not so surprisingly, in the case of Plini’s slightly dirty lead tone, I like to use the Lead setting. The purpose of this setting is to enhance the definition, sensitivity, and overall dynamics of the output. Otherwise, a simple clean channel will tend to sound very flat, dull, and lacking in flavor. Again, we want to keep the gain down low, so we don’t introduce any grit into the signal. If you don’t have an amp with multiple channels, you can still acquire a somewhat similar effect by messing with your overdrive or distortion pedal. However, the amp and cab play a huge role in tone, so the wrong setup can be quite limiting.
I remember watching a video of Plini speaking with bassist and producer, Simon Grove, where Simon half-jokingly mentioned that Plini almost always sends over his initial recordings with super low treble. Significantly rolling off the high frequencies helps create that super smooth signature lead tone, but you don't want to kill them completely. If you have a simple 3-band EQ, simply turn the treble down to somewhere between 3-4 (out of 10). Also, make sure to bump the mids up ever so slightly to around 6–7 to get a bit of a fatter, modern sound. As for the bass, somewhere between 3-5 is a pretty safe range to be in.
These settings and effects should get you about most of the way to Plini’s signature tone. Sure, it won’t be a studio-replica version, but it’s a solid foundation to get you sounding like our modern guitar hero.
Obviously, we could go much, much, muchhhh further in detail about these tones, including the exact gear Plini uses, and of course, the importance of technique, but our goal is to provide the most basic formula for creating Plini’s signature sounds. As previously mentioned, it will take a bit of dialing in your own gear to get your tone as close as possible to the original. I recommend simply listening to the tone you are trying to replicate while fine tuning your amp and effect settings.
I hope that this “How to Tone” blog has been helpful and inspires you to pick up your guitar today! Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any requests for “How to Tone” or any other blog topics. We love to know what our fellow modern guitarists are studying.
Brett, the owner and founder of Ploutone, is a modern guitarist on a mission to create a sustainable future and build a thriving community through the power of music. Brett founded Ploutone to celebrate independent artists and foster connections among guitarists worldwide. With a vision of spreading positivity and promoting sustainability, Brett hopes to inspire others to push the boundaries of their instruments and contribute to a better world.MEET THE OWNER