This month opines how tone is as much to do with ears and fingers as it is to do with gear…
The other side of that is if Jeff Beck were in the next room playing the cheapest guitar through the most rubbish pedals and amp, you’d still know it was Jeff Beck. This underlines my thought that it’s in the ears and the fingers. Jeff knows exactly how to get ‘his’ tone out of any setup, and of course he plays in a certain way and goes for certain kinds of things. I think we all do, because we can’t hide the essence of ‘us’. But with better gear Jeff would have just sounded like a better version of Jeff.
When it comes to choosing quality equipment it’s the top 10 per cent of difference that we pay for. And it’s that difference that makes us feel better on stage, just knowing you’ve got the best you can afford. It lessens the chances of a rubbish sound and a nightmare gig (so many other factors creep in when playing live that any safety net is good). Plus, who doesn’t feel better with something amazing strapped round their neck, some tasty stuff on the floor and on stage behind you?
At this rehearsal I used my ’52 Reissue Tele through a Fulltone OCD into a Blues Junior for both the Cream and the Hendrix songs, and got tones that were close enough for the devil in me to want to use the Tele for the actual gig. But for authenticity and that feel-good factor, it was my Strat and ES-335. I was going to go against the grain and deploy my Line 6 Helix, but a malfunction between me and my car keys meant it stayed locked in the boot so I used a Matchless King Cobra, an OCD pedal plus reverb and delay. I used the same tone for both the Jimi and Eric parts, and it was simply the different guitars and playing approach that gave each set its own voice.
The gig went great despite nerves making us mess up things up a little, but mistakes are fleeting things and the overall vibe was so good it didn’t matter.
But back to tone and gear. In the end nothing is gospel. It’s all really speculation based on experience and developing a feel for what suits us. And if you came to our gig, thanks so much – I just hope our tones lived up to any expectations.