How to get Eric Clapton’s Guitar Tone

Eric Clapton GearThis is a guest post by Nathan Pieper

Of the many revered giants in the world of guitar, Eric Clapton stands high. With 18 Grammys, his record 3-time induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and being one of the top 5 Rolling Stone greatest guitarist of all time, he is a rarity even among legends, and these are just a few of his extraordinary accomplishments. Before venturing out as a solo artist in the early 1970s, he was involved with several bands including the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos, and over the years he created or helped create an impressive catalog of some of the greatest songs of all time. From his rendition of the classic Robert Johnson song, “Crossroads,” to “Layla,” and the emotional, “Tears in Heaven”, his genius has shined clear for his entire career.

Throughout his career he developed not one, but many iconic guitar tones, and today we will discuss two. The most famous is his “Layla” tone, but we’re also going to talk about his “Bluesbreaker” tone. These tones have inspired countless guitarists and were forged out of the foundations of tone created by some of Clapton’s own guitar heroes, including B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Buddy Holly.

As a major note before we dive in, we guitar players must remember that achieving the exact, 100% replicated tone isn’t technically possible because we are not Eric Clapton; everyone’s playing differs in some way, no matter how minute the difference. However, we can pull off his foundational tone in a few different ways using a few different pieces of gear. Bear in mind that a person can own an original Les Paul ‘burst or a custom shop Strat and have the best amps and pedals, but if they aren’t a good player then the instrument, regardless of price or quality, will not sound good. Even if Eric Clapton played a cheap knockoff guitar, he would still sound good because he knows how to play it. What I’m saying is that practicing and becoming a good player will benefit you more than the most accurate replica of one of his guitars, or even playing Eric Clapton’s gear.

Eric Clapton Gear

First, we will look into the earlier “Bluesbreaker” sound.

Eric Clapton ToneEstablished around 1963-1964 while Clapton was playing with Cream, he had a few different guitars: a red 1963 Gibson ES-335, a 1960 Gibson Les Paul (later followed by the famous 1957 Les Paul Goldtop painted red and named Lucy), a 1964 Gibson SG, aka the” Fool,” and he played them through a Marshall JTM45 and later, through a Fender Tweed Twin. This setup has become extremely desirable over the years because of its famed “woman tone,” and it’s easier to replicate than you think.

One of the things Clapton has said recently about his “Bluesbreaker” years is that he discovered each JTM45 to have a different sound. He later found the Fender Tweed Twins, an amp he said that, unlike the JTM45, had a consistent tone; that each Twin sounded like the last. Just like he found a different amp to shape his tone, it’s possible to replicate his sound without rare and coveted vintage gear. In order to find it, we are going to discuss a few essential pieces, and it’s not as expensive to create the “Bluesbreaker” sound as you may think.

First, we will discuss the amps to use. Marshall does happen to make a hand-wired reissue of the 1960s Bluesbreaker amp, and they do sound pretty good; you can get one for a few thousand dollars. Fender in the last few years also has created a line of vintage-accurate tweed amps just like their original counterparts, and Eric Clapton himself has a line of Fender EC Tweed reissues. They to are hand-wired, sound good and cost a few thousand dollars. If you can afford one, I would highly recommend getting one of Clapton’s EC Tweed Twins, but if 3 grand is too steep, you do have other options.

The Fender Tweed Blues Jr is one of the most solid AND affordable Fender amps of this era, and with some tweaking you can recreate the tone he so famously has achieved. One of the reasons it’s an affordable option for Clapton’s tone is because of the combination of a volume knob and a master control knob as well. With this you can turn up the amp to get that sweet tube breakup, and if you live in a place where loud noise could cause complaints this 15 watt gem is an essential. You also get pretty dynamic tone controls for that excellent touch sensitivity that is also a major factor in this tone hunt. Another option (that just so happens to be another tweed) is the Fender Bassman Ltd. This lacquered-tweed tone machine is also the amp off of which Jim Marshall based his schematic for the JTM45. It is a solid and beautiful sounding tone giant that goes for about $1500 (much less than the Twin or the JTM45), and it helps bring that extra punch, dynamic range and complexity that will be essential for replicating and fitting the last piece of the puzzle of Clapton tone.

Eric Clapton Woman Tone 

The Gibsons that Clapton played during this period all featured the famous and highly prized PAF humbuckers, and when he played he would commonly start with the volume and tone knobs turned somewhere between 6-8/10s, and then he would move them up and down to create his varying tones. With the bridge pickup he would crank the volume and turn down the tone knob to create a throaty yet very smooth and velvety fuzz-like tone. It was this setup that created his “woman tone,” named so because of it’s beauty and, at the time, uniquely powerful sound. His 1960 Les Paul, ES-335 and “The Fool” and “Lucy” crafted this tone, but the common musician (even many professional guitarists) can’t afford the original amps, much less an original 57 Goldtop or 60 LP.

To access it for yourself without mortgaging your house is entirely possible. Many of the modern Gibson Les Pauls and SGs come equipped with Burstbuckers or 57 Classic humbuckers, and even if that’s too steep they make both of these humbuckers and sell them separately. Nothing gives more life to an electric guitar than a set of higher quality pickups, and fortunately these American-made Gibsons are great quality. If the Gibsons aren’t cutting it, there are a ton of other classically voiced humbuckers made by different companies, such as Lollar, Semour Duncan, and Klein, and these companies also have pickups for the next Clapton tone we will be talking about today.

eric clapton woman toneClapton has relied on his Tweed Twins since his “Woman tone” days, but around 1968 he had the opportunity to see Buddy Guy in concert absolutely ripping it on a 50’s Fender Stratocaster, and he soon left behind the thicker “Woman Tone” achieved by humbuckers for his “Layla” tone, achieved by his new favorite guitars, the Fender Stratocasters with maple necks. His most famous Strat is a 1956 beauty called “Brownie,” and this sucker was what launched him through his years in Derek and the Dominos. Around 1970 Clapton began a very successful solo career, and he switched over to a bit of a zebra by taking 3 different Strats and putting the best of each into one guitar, possibly the most well known among the guitars he used through the years, “Blackie.” Clapton has gone mostly with Strats since 1968, although he now uses the Fender Eric Clapton Signature Strat, as he has auctioned off all of the famous guitars we’ve discussed. All of this information is useful for understanding his tone, but now we discuss how to get it.

With his Strats, Clapton would almost always place the pickup selector switch between the 2nd or 4th position. With 3 single-coil pickups (originally he used the stock pickups, then in the mid 1980s he used Lace sensor single-coils with his first Fender Signature Strats, today he still uses the Eric Clapton Signature Strat, but with Fender’s Vintage Noiseless pickups), he would be combining the neck/middle pickups or, more often the middle and bridge pickups. Keeping the volume around 6-8 on this series of guitars is what he would do typically to play rhythm, and because he maintained a relatively small setup (often no more than his Strat, Fender Tweed Twin, and the occasional Vox Wah), his Signature series has a 25dB boost button he can push to get thicker tone for soloing. Bearing in mind that the Clapton Signature Strats are close to $2,000, there are other ways to get his “Layla” and “Blackie” tone.

First grab a guitar with 3 single-coil pickups, like a Mexican-made (or even a Squier) Strat. Now it would be good to install some better pickups, like the Vintage Noiseless pickups in Clapton’s guitars that are made by Fender, or Lindy Fralin’s Real 54s or Blues Specials are also good choices. The Fender Tweed Blues Jr and Bassman Ltd are still good amps (he has stuck with the Fender Tweeds for a long time), and the Blues Jr’s have fat switches that do a good job to replicate the boost switch in the Signature Strats. Another good way to get that boost us by using a pedal. Electro-Harmonix has an LPB-1 linear power boost pedal that does a great job mimicking Clapton’s boost, as does the JHS Mini-Bomb Boost. You can also try out the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, or if you’re going for a super high quality transparent overdrive that can also be used as a boost, go the route of the JHS Morning Glory overdrive.

When it comes to mimicking Eric Clapton’s tone, there is a lot of gear out there that can help you pull it off. Just remember that each person has something that makes their tone unique. No matter if you’ve been playing guitar for 5 months or 50 years, it is important to embrace the individuality that shines through in all guitarists, and to keep up the practice. You never know, someday you could be approached and asked how to replicate your tone, just like Eric Clapton! Until then, play on!

How to Sound Like Duane Allman

Duane allman guitar toneThis is a guest post by Colin Wymore

If you scour through any comprehensive list of ‘greatest guitar players’, you will almost always find Duane Allman lingering in the top 10, and with good reason. In his short career, Duane became the go to session player at Muscle Shoals, electrified Derek and the Dominos’ Layla record, and started his own psychedelic blues band with his brother Greg that would captivate the U.S. rock scene in the early 1970’s. Considering he accomplished all this in about 5 years’ time is a testament to Duane’s prowess and it’s no wonder why guitarists everywhere are still trying to capture his sound. So with the spirit of Brother Duane in mind here is a breakdown of how to attain one of the most legendary guitar tones.

Guitars

While Duane Allman is often associated with a ‘57 Les Paul Goldtop, his guitar repertoire was incredibly varied. In his early days and for quite a bit of his session work Duane bounced between Fender Stratocasters, Gibson ES335’s and a Gibson ES355 owned by his brother. In fact, its suspect that Duane actually used an ES345 when recording the first Allman Brothers album so you may want to take that into account when replicating his tone.

Nevertheless, the main sound we hear when we think of Skydog comes from Gibson Les Pauls. Duane started playing a ‘57 Les Paul Goldtop in late 1969 and by early 1970 Duane acquired a second ‘57 Goldtop (he traded the first to co-guitarist of the Allman Brothers Band Dickey Betts for a Gibson SG which he occasionally used live). This second Goldtop would become legendary. He used it during a number of early concerts, the Allman Brothers second album Idelwild South and of course Derek and the Dominos’ Layla. Interestingly, he ended up trading the famous Goldtop for a ‘59 Cherryburst Les Paul that would come to be equally important. This burst is what is heard when listening to the Allman brother seminal Live at the Fillmore East record. Finally, as if that wasn’t confusing enough, Duane acquired another Les Paul (this one a ‘59 tobacco burst he referred to as “Hot’Lanta”) that he used later on the Eat a Peach recordings.

If there’s anything to take from this it’s that to get a guitar tone on par with Duane’s your going to need a Les Paul. Fortunately for your wallet it doesn’t have to be a ‘57 Goldtop or the recently released Duane Allman signature series from Gibson. However, you should definitely seek out a vintage style Les Paul. Gibson has a number of Traditional and Standard VOS guitars (vintage original specification) that are ideal. At the very least use some type of Gibson or Epiphone with humbucking pickups. The bulk of Duane’s incendiary tone comes from humbuckers that offer a thick tone and low noise.

Note: While Duane played a number of Les Pauls one thing remained fairly constant: his pickups. Duane liked the PAF humbucker pickups in his famous ‘57 Goldtop so much he swapped them out and put them into the ‘59 Cherryburst. So if purchasing a vintage Les Paul isn’t an option (and it isn’t for many of us) you may want to consider simply purchasing some vintage style humbuckers and incorporate them into your current setup.

Amplifiers

Duane allman rigIn terms of amplification Duane had two setups, one for playing live and one for recording. When playing live he used two 50-Watt Marshall Bass heads (model 1986) along with Marshall 4×12 cabs. In addition, his cabs were half-open-backed and sported JBL-D120 speakers (although it’s possible he switched out the speakers for Cerwin Vegas or even mixed them). This combination produced a pretty tremendous tone for the time. The 50-Watt Marshalls broke up early and allowed for more distortion than larger amplifiers. That in conjunction with open back cabs let his sound bleed and fill the stage more than closed backed cabs that just shoot sound in one direction. In the studio Duane most often used a blackface Fender Twin Reverb with the Allman Brothers and used a Fender Champ for Layla.

For the contemporary player trying to replicate Duane’s tone there’s a number of directions that one could take in terms of amps. The essential idea is you should look for an amp that can break up to significant distortion levels relative to the room you’re playing in. Smaller rooms mean smaller amp. Obviously you could be authentic as possible and run through dual 50-Watt Marshall Bass or Lead heads. However, since most of us won’t be playing the Fillmore anytime soon some type of Fender provides the best option. Fenders like the Tweed Deluxe or Tweed Twin have the capability of breaking up into Marshall territory at lower volumes. Similarly, a blackface Fender Twin with an overdrive pedal (e.g. Fulltone OCD or TC Electronic Mojo Mojo) would serve nicely. For the price conscious player a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe is a very versatile amp. It has 2 overdrive channels that can get a pretty thick tone like Duane’s.

Effects

Duane was a pretty straightforward player. It’s thought he may have used some fuzzboxes in his early days when he was playing Stratocasters but by his time in the Allman Brothers it was just guitar and amp: Les Paul + Marshall = Tone. Can’t argue with that equation. Duane Allman technique and playing styleWhen he was using fuzzboxes he liked to run them on worn out 9v batteries, presumably to make the effect less harsh.

Technique

The final step in getting any legendary guitar tone lies in how that individual approached the guitar in terms of technique. Van Halen had his tapping, Hendrix his dive-bombs, and similarly Duane had his own unique approach. For one, Duane regularly switched between standard tuning and slide guitar in which he used open e tuning. Look to replicate Duane’s slide licks on songs like Statesboro Blues and Dreams by damping strings with your slide hand and plucking the strings with your fingers sans pick. When Duane wasn’t playing slide he used a hybrid picking technique, plucking the strings with both the rounded edge of his pick and his middle and ring fingers. Part of Duane’s big round tone can be attributed to the fact that he didn’t use the sharp edge of his pick, which allowed for a much softer attack.

In summary, there may not be a straightforward recipe to capture Duane’s guitar tone since his equipment varied from year to year. Your best bet is a Gibson Les Paul with vintage PAF style humbuckers plugged into a Marshall or a Fender Tweed amplifier. After that, it’s all about style and developing your technique to sound as close to Duane as possible…but remember: there will only be one Skydog.

How to Sound Like Slash

slash guitarsThe cat in hat, Slash is recognised worldwide. A devotee of the Les Paul and Marshall set up, his combination of bombastic riffs and fiery licks has seen him recognised as one of the most popular players of the last 20 years. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that his name has been featured across a wide surplus of gear that spreads over a wide range of prices.

Guitars:
In terms of axes, there’s no shortage of slash signature models on the market. If cash is no shortage and budgeting’s not an option, a Gibson Custom Slash Signature model can set you back anywhere from £3000 upwards. As there have been many different incarnations of the custom shop Lesters they’re available in a wide range of finishes such as tobacco burst or butterscotch, and shouldn’t be too difficult to hunt down. Degenerating slightly in price, Gibson USA has also produced a multitude of different Slash signatures. Although they’re not quite the luxurious fine-crafted items of Gibson’s Custom shop, the Gibson USA models are still excellent instruments that offer great quality. The Lesters will set you back anywhere between £1800-£28000 depending on the model, but all can achieve Slash’s gargantuan tone with ease. Some hunting online will reveal some of the older models, but the Rosso Corsa and Vermillion Red models could likely still be found at a handful of retailers. For those trying to achieve Slash’s guitar tone on a slightly looser budget, an Epiphone signature model is the way to go. They offer identical specifications to the Gibson USA models, as well as the Seymour Duncan alnico II pros found on all of the USA models for a fraction of the price. Again, a short hunt online and £600 later, and you could be a step closer to achieving that tone. For those that already own a good Les Paul and just want to get a touch closer to Mr.Hudson’s tone, adding Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Slash humbuckers is a superb way of doing so. The pickups are based off of the alnico II pro pickups found in Slash’s main studio guitar, otherwise known as the Derrig Les Paul, but have both a hotter wind and older school appointments such as a wooden spacer. A final point of notice is that all of the guitars mentioned built before 2011-2012 feature just regular Seymour Duncan alnico II Pro’s, whereas any of the instruments constructed after this period boast the signature editions.

slash amps and rigAmps:
In terms of amplifiers, it’s unquestionable that Marshall is the premier choice when trying to achieve Slash’s tone. For those on a higher budget there are three main options. The first of these is the Marshall Silver Jubilee head that was used by Slash on the Use Your Illusions albums as well as the following tour. Unfortunately, locating one of the silver boxes of joy can be a rather troublesome affair, as given that the majority of their owners don’t want to depart with them, it’s understandable that their price range expands from £2000 upwards. The closest option to the Silver Jubilee is the JCMSLASH. The first signature model Marshall ever, the JCMSLASH is a limited edition amplifier that is based on a Silver Jubilee, though with a touch more gain on offer. It’s pretty much been featured on all of Slash’s post Illusions albums, and so if you’re looking for the grind and grunt of Snakepit or the raunchiness of Velvet Revolver, this is arguably the amp to go with. In terms of achieving Slash’s most legendary tone, the highly coveted sound of Appetite for destruction, there are two ways to go. Seemingly the most popular way of doing this is modifying a pre-existing amplifier such as a JCM800 or JMP. The obvious benefit of this option is that it’s a relatively cheap way of altering your current amp to get it closer to the legendary tone of appetite. The tweakers over at Voodoo Amps offer ‘AFD’ modifications that range from some small adjustments to full on amp makeovers.

The second way to go, when searching for an amplifier that offers the legendary tone that is appetite, is Marshall’s AFD100. The AFD100 is two channel Rock n’ Roll monster, specifically designed by Marshall and Slash to achieve the AFD tone. In terms of an all in one amplifier that achieves Slash’s tone, this is the probably the best option as it provides channels dedicated to both it’s namesake and Slash’s post appetite tones. Again, this amp shouldn’t prove too difficult to find with some searching online. They’re also a great deal cheaper than a Jubilee or JCMSLASH, given that they were produced much more recently, and cost anywhere between £800 – £1500. Guitar Tone Talk has also review the AFD, which can be found here. In terms of cabinets, when attempting to replicate this particular sound, Celestion Vintage 30s are with out a doubt the way to go. Any cabinet equipped with these should suffice, though a 4×12 like the Marshall 190AV is ideally a better option as it offers more depth and bottom end. For those with less to spend, Marshall’s discontinued Vintage Modern range is worth a punt. It’s the amp used by Slash towards the end of Velvet Revolver and can fetch anywhere upwards of £450 online. Marshall also offers a full production run 5watt version of the AFD, known as the AF5. The smaller brother to the AFD100 has similar characteristics to its counterpart, but in addition boasts a clean channel as well as Vintage 30 speaker. At £586 the AFD5 is an excellent way of achieving the sound of appetite at both bedroom and wife friendly levels.

slash pedalsEffects:
It’s unquestionable that a good wah is necessary for achieving Slash’s tone, especially when considering how prevalently one has been used by the rocker throughout the years. Dunlop offers a Slash signature model (yes another signature product!), which is likely the best option to go with in this scenario given that Slash uses it himself. Interestingly enough, there’s two incarnations of the SL-wah. The first of these is SW95 which offered a hot-rod red finish, as well as a built in distortion circuit. The second Crybaby to bare the axeslinger’s name is the SC95, which offers a lower response frequency and a more classic voicing. Considering that the SC95 is the wah currently being used by the guitar hero, it’s likely the best option to go with, although both will leave the wallet £159 lighter. For those on a budget, Dunlop’s standard Crybaby is the friendliest option. It offers a classic voicing, but at £69 it hardly breaks the bank. For those really gunning for Slash’s sound, it’s worth taking a look the MXR Slash octave fuzz. It’s not exactly essential for getting a grip on this tone, but it does provide an additional outlet to Slashville. The stompbox is essentially a Way Huge Swollen Pickle with the addition of both an octave up and an octave down. It’s the pedal featured on a number of the tracks from Apocalyptic Love, and is really the best option for getting that grinding octave sound that is used by Slash on occasion. For around £150 the MXR Slash Octave Fuzz is hardly a steal, but it does provide an extra touch of authenticity and gusto in the quest for Slash’s tone.

Though a little bit more complex than just a good Marshall and Les Paul, Slash’s tone is certainly not one of the hardest sounds around to achieve. Combine this with the vast range of signature gear parading about the market and it’s a winning formula for a highly achievable guitar sound, regardless of budget or preference. Unfortunately, finding a suitable top hat could prove a lot more difficult…

How to get Robby Krieger’s Guitar Tone

Robby Krieger guitar toneRobby Krieger, legendary guitarist of The Doors is known for some of the most memorable guitar playing of all time. Who could forget his great solo on Light My Fire or his eerie eastern-inspired playing on The End. Lets take a closer look at how he achieved his signature sound.

The main key to the Robby Krieger tone is of course his choice of guitar, which was for the most part either a Gibson SG Special or a Gibson SG Standard. Unlike most SGs being made today, Robby’s had a Lyre vibrato system, giving him access to creating some eerie-like pitch bends. Gibson has made some Robby Krieger signature SGs which may be difficult to find, but would be the closest you can find to original ’60s SGs. A cheaper way to do it would be to use a  regular SG-style guitar and change out the pickups for vintage spec pickups. Legend has it that Robby used the SG Special on the first two Doors albums, which were equipped with P-90 pickups. Later when he started using the SG Standard, those had humbuckers.

robby-krieger-gibson-sgWhen it comes to amps, The Doors had had an endorsement deal with Acoustic amps, though in various interviews, Robby has noted how terrible they sounded. The best way to get his tone in my opinion would be to use vintage Fender tube amps such as a Twin Reverb and cranking the volume up. Having the amp set really loud was essential to his tone, as he used his guitar’s volume to control output easily allowing him to go from cleans to distorted tones in a moments notice. A cranked amp also added feedback and harmonic textures that really make solos come to life and just cannot be done in a low-volume setting.

Robby didn’t really use many pedals with The Doors except for a fuzz to get lead tones on songs like When the Music’s Over and Five to One. The exact fuzz he used was a Maestro Fuzztone FZ-1. These are however no longer made today, but can be had from eBay for $300-$400. Some boutique builders also build clones if you are looking an option slightly cheaper. And of course, many fuzz pedals out there can cop similar tones if dialled in right. Just gotta experiment.

Finally, the main secret to Robby Krieger’s guitar tone is in the way he plays. Coming from a flamenco background, he was accustomed to playing with his fingers rather than a pick. As well, he grew his fingernails quite long which I feel is a big part of his tone. Much of his soloing incorporates a lot of hammer-ons and pull-offs which is essential to his sound. He also played slide to get those really eerie sounds. Trying minor open tunings really nails that vibe as heard on the song End of The Night.

So that’s it, all in all a Gibson SG, Fender tube amp, and a fuzz pedal are the main pieces of equipment needed and then playing with your fingernails and learning his playing style will get you the rest of the way.

Getting the tone: Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page Guitar ToneThis is a guest post by James Abel

A man that needs no introduction, Jimmy Page is arguably one of the most influential writers, producers and players the world has ever seen. His work with David Coverdale, Paul Rogers and of course being the founding member of the biggest Rock n’ Roll band of all time, provides him with a truly monumental status among the legends and kings of guitar heroes. Though when it comes to capturing his sound, Page is possibly one of the hardest players around to land a finger on. Not only is he often secretive over the gear he has used through the years, he’s also used so much different gear it’s difficult to point to a definitive set-up. With that said, this article will aim to cover both the maestro’s earlier tone, as heard on Zeppelin I and early television recordings, as well as the tone Page is more associated with, that’s right you guessed it, a Les Paul and a Marshall.

Early Tone:

During the early years of Zeppelin, page was often spotted using his trusty Fender Esquire, or the axe that is known as many by the ‘Dragon Tele’. Either way, when attempting to capture Pages early sound, a Tele that features vintage voiced pickups is a good way to go. A hunt around on eBay can see you pick up a Fender USA Tele for around $1000 depending on the year or model. Other models that could well be suited to wetting your appetite for all things early Page, include Fender’s 50s, 60s Jimmy Page Teleand Baja Telecaster models, all of which reach in around the $1000-$1300 region. For those with a slightly juicier wallet, re-creating Page’s Dragon Tele shouldn’t have you scratching your heads too much. It may be a good idea to start here with a Fender 60s Custom Shop Tele. After that, finding a luthier to apply Page’s famous artwork as well as a silver foil scratch plate shouldn’t be difficult at all. In all honesty though, you hardly need to be a professional artist to have a crack at it yourself. In terms of amplifiers, when it comes to the early page tone, two are often mentioned heavily in books and online. The first of these is the relatively well-known Supro Thunderbolt. Pushing a Telecaster through the Thunderbolt should hit the nail on the head. The cutting, biting sound heard on Communication Breakdown or the droning riff of Dazed and Confused should really hit home here, with the Thunderbolt providing enough valve driven goodness to leave you having kittens. Getting hold of an original Thunderbolt can cost you anywhere between $1600-$3000, and with some hunting around should not be too difficult to locate. The other amplifier that seems to pop-up with regards to Pages’ early sound is the Vox Super Deluxe. Originally designed for the Beatles, the amplifier earned the nickname ‘Super Beatle’ or the ‘Beatle’. For those interested in purchasing a ‘Super Beatle’ the price generally ranges from $3000 upwards, however they’re slightly Jimmy Page Supro Ampless difficult to locate than the Thunderbolt. For fans on a budget, a small valve amp like a Marshall Class 5 or Vox AC4 should get you swinging in the right ballpark. It’s no secret that Page had a soft spot for low wattage amps and both of the above should get you into the general area. In terms of stomp boxes, two or three are real obvious choices; the first of which being the Vox Wah. Finding an original version of this pedal can be more than difficult, and so looking into purchasing Vox’s hand-wired Wah should certainly not be pushed aside. For those with less cash to spend it’s worth looking into both Vox’s standard Wah, or Dunlop’s trusty Crybaby. The second pedal that is a must have when acquiring Page’s early tone, is an overdrive. The first Stomp box that leaps forwards here is the MKII JMI Tonebender. Using a Tonebender to push the input of the amplifiers mentioned above will really help you to gain that gorgeous saturation that has some real clarity when using single coils. If you fancy picking up a Tonebender, JMI offer a large range of re-issues that hit in around the $300 mark. Early effects guru Roger Mayer also offers his take on the overdrive that he originally built for Jimmy, under the guise of the ‘Page 1’. Although this is not a reissue of Jimmy’s early overdrive, it should provide you with the general tone you’re looking for. This also weighs in at around the $300 price range.

Classic Tone:

During the latter years of his career, pretty much anyone could tell you that Page is synonymous with a Les Paul and a Marshall. Although a Les Paul is definitely integral part to Page’s sound, the founding member of Zep has been known to use a wide range of amplifiers, including Marshalls, Hiwatts, Oranges and amps built by Pete Cornish. But let’s take a look at the guitars first.

Due to the wide range on offer, finding a Page signature model shouldn’t be too much trouble at all. They will provide you with his famed custom wiring, his suited neck profiles, and all the raunchy, beefy tone his Lester’s exude. However, that does come at a rather painful price, depending on the model and year. A possibly more viable way of getting close to Pagey’s Lester, is to purchase a Gibson Les Paul traditional. The new 2013 model sports a non-weight relived body, as well as Bumblebee capacitors that get you slightly closer to the glory days of Gibson’s golden boy. From that point, you may want to look into having Page style wiring installed, allowing you to phase invert, coil tap and series parallel your way into Page land. Jimmy Page Les PaulIn terms of pickup replacements, Seymour Duncan’s Whole Lotta Humbucker is the perfect option. A set very closely based on the pickups in Page’s number 1, they provide all the width and drive that really makes a non-master volume amp sing. I actually own a set of the pickups, and genuinely believe many people would have a hard time finding a set-up that gets closer to Page’s live tone in the 70’s than a Les Paul, those pickups and a bloody loud Marshall. Another option when it comes to pick-up swapping is Bare Knuckles Black Dog; this is a hand wound pickup that aims to capture Page’s tone. Though if you are one for hand-wound pickups, and would prefer the Whole Lotta Humbucker, the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop also offer a hand-wound version that matches the £250 the price of the Black Dog. Other noticeable axes the Englishman has used include the Gibson EDS1275 used on the live performances of Stairway, Song remains the same and Achilles last stand. For something a tad more out there, getting hold of a Danelectro 59’ reissue will give you the jangly, lipstick fuelled that’s been heard throughout Page’s career. Whether it’s White summer/Black Mountainside, Kashmir or In My Time of Dying, the Dano will give you some of the lesser-known Page sounds at around $500. A very enticing price tag indeed.  In terms of amplifiers it really is down to which kind of Page sound you prefer. During his live performances, including the Zep reunion show in 2008, Page has been known to use several amplifiers at once. If you really do want to go all out when it comes to amplifiers, this is a must when getting to grips jimmy page rigwith Jimmy’s wide and layered sound. A good place to start is with a Marshall 1959 SLP (you can pick up a reissue for around a grand) and combining it with an Orange AD50. Blending the two will help to give you the roar of the Marshall, but the smoother overtones of the Orange providing you with a balanced tone. Adding a Highwatt should get you pretty close to the mark. However, for those looking to use just one amplifier, the Marshall Plexi is probably you’re best bet. You only need to listen to the Heartbreaker solo to realise how much it drips with the swagger of Page. One way in which the SLP can be made to be closer to Page’s own amplifiers, is by increasing the output to 200 Watts and fitting KT88 valves. The added volume and headroom should be enough to give you the clarity when cranked that Page’s tone is synonymous with. When it comes to pedals, the two mentioned above are still a very good bet. However, you may wish to add a few more. A script logo Phase 90 will allow you to get your Kashmir on, while in recent years, the Les Paul toting mastermind has been spotted with a Digitech whammy glued down onto his board.

There are so many avenues of Page’s playing and tone that it would take a novel to cover it. Though, with that in mind, I hope the above article has been insightful of how to get into the general ballpark for one of the world’s most popular players. Whether you desire the early barking Tele fuelled sound of the Yardbirds and early Zep, or the sound of Page’s raunchy, roaring overdriven Les Paul glued low to your hip, there are both high and low budget options out there. With that it mind, when you come to test out some of the above pieces of gear, make sure you don’t play stairway…

Joe Bonamassa: Getting the tone

joe bonnamassa guitar toneThis is a Guest Post by James Abel

Joe Bonamassa is arguably one of the hottest blues players currently on the planet. His virtuosic ability and soaring tone have seen him become a guitar hero to many generations of fans. This article takes a look at how to achieve his guitar tone by spending money like it’s going out of fashion, and for those wife fearing men that are kind to their wallets. But yes, suit and shades are optional.

Guitars

For those with some cash to spend, it’s worth trying to hunt down one of Joe’s signature model Les Pauls. These can generally be found on Ebay for anywhere between $1500 to $4000, depending on whether you purchase a studio or custom shop model; they also all feature the classic appointments found on a Les Paul. All of Joe’s signature models prior to 2013 featured Gibson’s Burstbucker pickups, whereas the most recent models have the Bluesman’s signature Seymour Duncan models. Both of these are great for getting that creamy and wide Bonamassa tone, but it has to be said that his signature set does possess a marginally clearer tone with more of a bell-like quality. So if you can find one of his Lesters from 2013 it’s worth the tears from the wallet and wife as you will find yourself a step closer to JoeBoe’s sound. For those that want the Bonamassa tone but don’t fancy a signature model due to the name on the headstock, or because gold’s not their colour, fitting new pickups on a Custom Shop model or USA model is worth a punt. A Les Paul without chambering is preferable as it will help to keep the sound dark and tight, much like Joe’s. If you do go down the route of pickup replacement, sourcing a set of Joe’s signature pickups can be both an expensive and difficult task due to the limited number available. Gibson’s Burstbuckers, as mentioned earlier, are perhaps a slightly better option as they cost a fraction of the price and are still pretty damn close to the mark. For getting close to Joe’s searing tones on a budget, it’s worth taking a look at replacing the pickups on an Epiphone Les Paul. Burstbuckers are the definite option here due to the extravagant price of the Seymour Duncan custom shop pickups.  Another option that’s worth a look at is Vintage’s V100MRJBM. At $599 it’s not too painful on the wallet and is essentially an unauthorised take on Joe’s signature models. Either way, both would be fine options when attempting to capture JoeBo’s tones at a low price.

Amps

Marshall DSL100s and Silver Jubilees are good options here. Although the latter proves harder to find, and is a lot less caring to your pocket, it’s a one way ticket to Bonamassaville and will give you the gorgeous bell-like, creamy, hot and sustaining tone Joe is known for. Joe’s also been known to heavily use DSL100s and so for a cheaper and more easily sourced alternative the DSL is a superb option. If you can afford both, then go for it. Combining the two really will get you close to Joe’s tone, it will also help to thicken the sound with the two amps support each other. Loading cabinets with EV200s, Joe’s speaker of choice, can also help put you in the Bonamassa ball park. Their ability to handle high power ratings will help give you that clarity his sound possesses. For those on a budget, look no further than Marshall’s new for 2013, DSL40C. The amp is the little brother to the DSL100 and provides all of the whopping tone in a practical and more affordable combo.

joe bonamassa rigFX and other bits

Joe’s main pedal board tends to consist of; a Dunlop Bonamassa Wah, Lehle ABY switcher, Way Huge Pork Loin, Dunlop Bonamassa Fuzz Face, TS808 Tubescreamer, Boss DD3 and a Hughes and Kettner Leslie simulator. If you really do have cash to splurge then cloning this pedal board should be no issue, as each pedal can easily be purchased. However, if you’re on a budget then the essential tools for Joe’s tone are a Tubescreamer, a Wah and a Fuzzface as he is generally never seen leaving home without these. Dunlop produces cheaper alternatives to Joe’s signature gear such as a standard Wah or the pedal board friendly mini germanium Fuzzface, which will see you shelling out $100 and $150 respectively. Finding a Tubescreamer for a good price is far from difficult as the little green gems can go for as little as $75 on Ebay. If you’re on an even tighter budget, and are after a Bonamassa in a box, the Way Huge Pork Loin is the best option. Weighing in at a reasonable $199 it produces ounces of the creamy, soft top end that is recognised in Joe’s sound. Another way of getting the Bonamassa sound is changing your pick. Joe’s pick of choice is the Dunlop Jazz III which is also favoured by, that’s right you guessed it, Eric Johnson. Yep, go figure! Nevertheless using this pick is a quick way of reducing some of the top end in your sound, a tonal feature that is synonymous with Joe and is also a cheap and cheerful way of getting closer to his sound. If you own a Les Paul wrapping the strings over the end of the stop-bar, as well as installing nylon saddles at the bridge can also get you closer to Joe’s tone. The modifications reduce the angle and tension on the strings causing them to sound somewhat darker and softer, they also help to get that juicy sustain that oozes from Bonamassa’s axes.

Hopefully it’s easy to see that Joe’s sounds can be achieved regardless of the size of your wallet. Whether you want an identical rig, or a cheaper one that gets you pretty darn close, Joe’s sound is available in many shapes and sizes.

Paul Simon’s Guild Acoustic Guitar

Back in the ’60s, Simon and Garfunkel were one of the best acts around. Though their setup was very simple, two voices and an acoustic guitar. During this time, Paul Simon was using a Guild acoustic guitar (the F-30 Special) which produced the most perfect acoustic guitar tone that I can think of. Warm, balanced, and extremely responsive.

Sometime in the ’70s and later, Paul Simon played many different acoustic guitars. Though something seemed lost in his acoustic tone I feel. Nothing sounded quite as beautiful as his Guild guitar. Take a listen to what it sounds like:

This has led me to become very interested in Guild acoustic guitar. I believe they are a real competitor to Martin and Gibsons.

Here are some pictures Paul Simon with his Guild:

paul simon's guild

Paul Simon's Guild 2

Paul Simon's Guild with George Harrison

How to get John Mayer Tone

john mayer toneWhen you think of amazing guitarists, it’s easy to think of the legends from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. But today, in this generation, a man by the name of John Mayer came onto the pop scene with real talent. Influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan and B.B King, Mayer naturally displays a very bluesy kind of playing. His guitar skills coupled with an undeniably sweet sounding tone gives him a very likeable sound. You know what I mean, it’s that bell-like strat tone with its glassy, piano-like texture. So lets talk about how you can get John Mayer’s guitar tone.

Guitar

While John Mayer plays a variety of guitars, his mainstay is a Fender Stratocaster. Really, any strat will do the job, but if you want to nail his sound, then you want to install a set of Big Dipper pickups. This is a good chunk of his tone right there. If you really want everything to be just like his strat, there is one available made by Fender.

Amps

John Mayer is known to play Two Rock amps, though they are quite expensive ($5000+ US for a Head!). He even has a signature amp by Two Rock that you can get. Also, he uses high-end Dumble and Fender amps in conjunction. But if you want to get this tone without shelling out a ton of money, then I would suggest a decent Fender tube amp that has spring reverb. Part of Mayer’s tone is in his Fender-like cleans with a bit of verb for sweetness. So if you really wanted to do this on the cheap, a Fender Blues Junior could get you almost there. As for dialing in the amp, you want what I refer to as pushed cleans. This is where the tone is very clean when attacked gently, but has great touch sensitivity and a slight distorted texture when picked hard. Experiment with your amp settings.

Pedals

John uses a ton of different pedals and they vary from song to song. Since his pedalboard changes often, some of signatures are an Ibanez Tubescreamer, a Marshall Bluesbreak 1 (Pedal no longer made), an RMC Wah, and many many others. He tends to have a bunch of overdrive pedals, so it is tough to say what to use where. But if there is one to get, then I suggest the tubescreamer. Couple that with the right amp/guitar, and you’ll be getting a lot of his tone right there.

In the end, if you want John Mayer tone, then you got to play like him as well. Otherwise, even if you have all of his gear, it won’t sound like him if you aren’t employing his style. So learn the blues, some r’n’b licks, listen to some BB King and SRV, and you’ll get there!

Paul McCartney’s Bass Tone

One of the greatest bass players of all time was also in one of the greatest bands of all time: The Beatles. Yes, Paul McCartney IS one of the best bass players, something we didn’t realize until playing the game Beatles RockBand. Choosing the bass option allows you to really concentrate on some of the killer bass lines McCartney came up with. He was really that backbone of the Beatles in that regards, and when you listen carefully, you can really feel the warmth and roundness of his amazing bass tone. So lets take a look at Paul’s bass tone and how he got it.

Paul’s Bass: an early 60s’ Hofner 500/1

This bass is the bass associated with Paul McCartney. In fact, when I look at it, I can’t think of anyone else. He used this bass throughout the Beatles famous years, from being on the Ed Sullivan Show, to their infamous rooftop concert on the Apple Building. The Hofner is the biggest piece of the puzzle in Paul’s tone, and really fills that low end. A cool thing about the Hofner is that it is a rather light bass, and pretty compact as well making it a dream to gig with.

Paul’s Amp: Vox Amplifiers

In the early days, he would plug into a Vox AC30, though in late 1962, he switched over to a Vox T-60. Although the T-60 was just not powerful enough to overcome the screams from the growing audiences. So at that point, Paul switched to an AC30 Head with a big bass cabinet sporting Celestion speakers. Soon Paul adopted the AC100 Head to really fill the stage with his bass tone.

So in the end, if you want his bass tone, using a Hofner 500/1, coupled with Vox amplifiers and Celestion speakers will definitely get you there. But it’s Paul McCartney’s bass playing that really attributed to a lot of the sound, so do learn some of his bass lines to get his playing style down, which ultimately leads to getting his sound as well.

How Ravi Shankar influenced some of the Best Guitarists

Ravi Shankar, who died on Tuesday will always be remembered for his virtuous sitar playing. As well, his influence to the pop world in the ’60s was quite notable on the playing and tone of some of the best guitarists including George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and Robbie Krieger.

In 1967, Ravi Shankar was invited to the Monterey Pop Festival to play an afternoon raga. In the audience, Jimi Hendrix watched with concentration. Ravi’s exotic indian scales were coupled with his ability to create peace and oneness in the listener. In much of Hendrix’s later work, you can hear this influence of indian scales. There are even jams that Hendrix later recorded that featured sitars and tanpuras (an indian drone instrument).

If you look at Robbie Krieger of The Doors, there is lots of indian influence. This is most notable in the song The End. His solos have a very indian feel, along with the song having a 4-note mantra which repeats throughout in the composition, much like that of indian classical music. He even makes his guitar create sitar-like sounds in the way he bends notes.

With Jerry Garcia, he was a very experimental player who often mixed up blues, country, bluegrass, spanish guitar, and indian classical into a melodic transcending experience. According to Rolling Stone, he was also influenced by Ravi Shankar.

And of course I don’t even have to say how much Ravi influenced George Harrison. He even became his Guru in teaching him the sitar. George incorporated sitar playing on many well-known Beatles tracks such as Norwegian Wood, Love you to, and Within You Without You. The influence continues on other songs of his like The Inner Light and Krishna Gopala. George and Ravi collaborated on many projects over the years as well.

While Ravi Shankar may not have been the only indian influence to music in the west, he was certainly the one who brought it there. Not just Monterey, he also performed at Woodstock in  1969, and the Concert for Bangladesh in 1971. His own music was so breath-taking and spiritual that it is oddly familiar to even those furthest away from indian classical music. May his music, love, and spirit always live on. Without a doubt, he was one of the most influential musicians of all time.