Years ago I read a book about guitar effects pedals. Something the author wrote in the intro stuck with me: “Tone is in your fingers.”

He went on to explain: You can buy the same guitar, effects pedals, and amplifier that Eddie Van Halen uses. But when you play that rig, it’s still going to sound like you.

Likewise, Eddie could plug into a crappy Strat/Pignose setup at a pawn shop and you’d still be able to recognize that it’s Eddie Van Halen playing.

Sure, fancy gear can help. But the truth is that your tone comes from you.

I often think of this story when people fixate on gear over content. You know the type: Wannabe designers who want an avalanche of fancy typefaces and Photoshop filters but don’t have anything to say. Amateur photographers who want to debate film vs. digital instead of what actually makes for a great photo. Startup folks that worry more about software and scaling issues then how to actually get customers and make money. They all miss the point.

Aspiring podcasters consantly ask Gary V about the tools he uses. He responds:

It’s not the camera that I use, it’s not the blogging software, it’s not the widgets, it’s not the SEO. It’s the two C’s: content and community…There are so many crap podcasts out there with billion dollar cameras and editing tools for days. It’s about giving from your heart with content you really understand and, more importantly, giving back to the community that supports your show.

Figure out what you have to say that’s interesting and then unleash it. Use whatever tools you’ve got already or what you can afford cheaply. Then go.

It’s not the gear that matters. It’s you and your ideas that matter. Tone is in your fingers.