Rob Fetters Tone Jones

“One of the things I love most about my favorite guitarists is their tone,” explains singer/songwriter Rob Fetters. “That especially holds true for George Harrison. His Rickenbackers and Gretschs sound like a stick of Juicy Fruit gum to me. They’re sweet, melodious, chunky, and satisfying. I’m trying to have that same aural impact on my own recordings.”

“I sometimes use tone to express feelings such as warmth, danger, anger, or love,” says Fetters. “For instance, on the song ‘Zero,’ I’m describing a person who calculates the success of her relationships with a spreadsheet. So, I used really harsh and edgy distortion created with a ProCo Rat, and then I put a Boss TR-1 tremolo in sync with the music, panning each eighth-note hit alternately left or right. It has an almost surreal on-off, binary vibe that represents her manipulative nature.”

“Tell the Truth,” a song about co-dependence, finds Fetters combining two distinctly different acoustic guitar sounds. “I wanted to have the acoustic solo on that track really defined,” he explains. “So, I double-tracked it using a Godin Multiac nylon-string panned left, and a Taylor 612 CE steel-string panned right. The combination of steel and nylon results in a sort of ‘chewy’ articulation that I use a lot now. The wide panning also sounds great with rhythm guitar parts.”

Fetters took an even more ambitious approach on “I Didn’t Know,” an acidic look at infidelity. “There’s a mellow stew of guitars on that one,” he says. “I used a Kimble Parlor guitar on the quarter-note chord rhythm, and I layered a Danelectro DC-3—which sounds like a vintage Gretsch—through a Wavelength custom amp. I also added a cascade of subtle descending notes with a ’65 Rickenbacker 625 through a Fender Cyber-Twin set on ‘Super Reverb,’ and then doubled those notes with a Fender Nashville Telecaster 12-string. Next, I panned these guitars quite wide in the mix so they can be picked out if you listen carefully. The trick is to define the space of each guitar, and try not to double up on too many of the same frequencies. I rely on my ears—I don’t look at meters, knobs, or plug-in graphics to determine the right balance. Trusting your ears and your intuition is usually the best way to go.”