Sean Tonar

Talking Tone with Sean Tonar

Sean Tonar is an Atlanta based guitarist currently playing in the progressive band, Story of a Life. Their self-titled debut EP has been featured in PROG Magazine and Vintage Guitar. He is a member of the Progressive Rock Hall of Fame and is the founder of Launched in 1999, it is one of the largest and oldest online forum communities on the net. In the third installment of our series, Talking Tone, we sit down with Sean Tonar in his Atlanta-based home studio: SOAL Studios to discuss his band: Story of a Life, his gear, and

Fender Standard Stratocaster


The Stratocaster is known as a versatile guitar, but when you add a humbucker to the bridge, you get an even wider array of tones. Sean replaced the stock humbucker with a Seymour Duncan humbucker from the Slash model Les Paul. This pickup delivers a fat and creamy tone reminiscent of the distortion tones heard on Rush’s Moving Pictures. Sean compliments the tone by using elevens as a his string gauge. This is Sean’s main guitar for his work in Story of a Life.

Fender Twin Reverb


Sean’s Twin Reverb is his workhorse amp. The Fender was used exclusively throughout the recording for SOAL’s debut EP. He dials it in for a sparkly clean tone and uses effects to push the amp into overdrive. The amp provides a great amount of clean headroom, which is fantastic for players who prefer to run various types of effects through it. Sean favors an MXR Phase 90 with his Twin Reverb and Strat.



(Top Row: Left to Right)

Korg Pitchblack Tuner
BOSS Feedbacker/Booster: Used to get solos to hop out of the mix
TC Electronics Flashback Delay: Offers three presets- in this case- slap, long cascade and weird/backwards
Donner Mini Chorus: Used for a wannabe Leslie/rotary sound
BOSS Looper Pedal: Used for the occasional loop

(Bottom Row: Left to Right)

MXR Phase: Real slow to offer a little depth and motion
Electroharmonix Freeze Pedal: Holds a chord infinitely- great for string pad sort of sustained washes to play over
Visual Sound Jekyll & Hyde overdrive/distortion: Sean only uses the left, overdrive side which sounds like the best Tube Screamer ever
MXR Univibe: For wobbly/swirly sounds when phase isn’t enough
Electroharmonix C9 Organ Machine: For non-guitar sounds and color used very sparingly- has several different organs and even a Mellotron flute setting-think “Strawberry Fields”
Vox Wah Wah

The signal starts at the wah and goes through the bottom row (R to L) and then the top (R to L).

Guitar Collection


(From Left to Right)

Fender American “Fat Strat” (2 humbucker model)
Alvarez Nylon String
1982 Gibson Les Paul Standard
Alvarez Steel String
Epiphone 12/6 Doubleneck

The “Fat Strat” did the bulk of the clean rhythms along with the steel string acoustic. Both are on most all tracks. There’s a dash of nylon at the top of “Lucid Dream”. The 12 string was used for the verse melody on “Travelin’ Light”. Most of the remaining leads and saturated melodies on the CD (ebow and otherwise) were done on the Les Paul or the Fat Strat with the Jekyll & Hyde overdrive.  Those were all played through a miced Fender Twin. Acoustic guitars were recorded with condenser mics with a touch of piezo mixed in to taste. Clean electric guitars were mostly the Fat Strat straight into the board.

To find out more about SOAL visit:

Article by: Andrew Hardel & Sean Tonar