How Did They Get That Tone? Part 2: Experimentalists

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

Guitar Tone Series Part 2: Raw and Experimental

If you missed the first article, The Clear Blues, we discussed the quintessential blues guitarists and what made their sounds. In this, the second article in the Guitar Tone Series, we explore the tones of the more experimental guitarists of the 1960s and 1970s who took off from basic blues and created something entirely new.

Jeff Beck

Mr. Beck doesn’t always get his due. After replacing Clapton in The Yardbirds, Beck took the band from their blues roots into a psychedelic, highly experimental sound that exceeded the progress of any other British Invasion band (yes, including “them”). To this day, he keeps it simple; he uses stock guitars, a few pedals, and readily-available amps. Like Clapton, it’s Beck’s fingers that provide most of the magic. Most of the “effects” you hear on a Beck recording are nothing more than his perfected finger placement.

Recommended Recordings: YARDBIRDS (aka ROGER THE ENGINEER)-The Yardbirds; TRUTH-Jeff Beck Group; JEFF BECK’S GUITAR SHOP-Jeff Beck

George Harrison

Now, on to “them.” Heavily influenced by Eric Clapton and Carl Perkins, The “quiet Beatle” eventually achieved accolades for his versatility and rich tonal scale. But because of the advanced song crafting of John and Paul, and their dominating position within the group, Harrison’s contributions often were unfairly overlooked at the time. As the Beatles were breaking up, George was coming into his own as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist with classics like “Something,” “Here Comes the Sun,” and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” He used multiple Fender, Gibson, and Gretsch guitars with Vox amplifiers.

Recommended Recordings: TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS, ABBEY ROAD, REVOLVER, PAST MASTERS-The Beatles; ALL THINGS MUST PASS-George Harrison; VOLUME ONE-The Traveling Wilburys

David Gilmour

Often imitated but never duplicated, the legendary Pink Floyd vocalist and guitarist has been using his unique vibrato style since joining the band in 1967. He uses mostly Stratocasters, although for his famous solo on “Money,” he used a custom guitar with a four-octave range to hit those screaming notes. Although he comes from the same blues-based school of guitar as Jeff Beck, he uses a wider range of effects equipment to produce the multitude of sounds he has created, both with Floyd and with his solo work.

Recommended Recordings: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON, WISH YOU WERE HERE, ECHOES: THE BEST OF PINK FLOYD-Pink Floyd; DAVID GILMOUR, ON AN ISLAND-David Gilmour

Jimi Hendrix

In his all-too-brief time with us, Hendrix released four classic albums that redefined rock. He used Fender guitars and surprisingly few effects pedals to achieve his sound. Although his sound was often distorted, he could also play quite lightly when the situation called for it. He is another guitar god whose fingers (and teeth…and backside…and hair…) were his secret.

Recommended Recordings: ARE YOU EXPERIENCED, VOODOO CHILD, HENDRIX IN THE WEST

Conclusion

Every renowned player has a tone that you can achieve. With a bit of research, you can find out what he or she uses to get their signature sound, and work towards achieving it. Read on to the third part of this series to learn more about the edgier sounds of Grunge.

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