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Author: Subject: Duane Allman's Tone Quest (Gibson Article)

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  posted on 7/2/2010 at 06:02 AM
Duane Allman’s Tone Quest

Ted Drozdowski|01.20.2009

http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/duane-allmans-tone-quest/

As budding young pickers trying to negotiate the hammer-ons in the introduction of the Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” on the crappy acoustic guitars our parents had gotten us with S&H Green Stamps, my friends and I had a saying: “No pain, no Duane.”

We idolized Duane Allman’s remarkable licks and sound, but no matter how hard we worked on that riff — and others — we could never quite get there.

Little did we know the importance of having the right gear. Duane, however, knew this in spades, and like all truly great guitarists spent his too-few years searching for the right tools to produce the tones he heard in his head.

Although Duane’s best known for playing a ’59 Cherry Sunburst Les Paul or his Cherry SG through a 50-watt Marshall head riding atop a matching 4 x 12 cabinet – the iconic instruments he was photographed playing on stage most often – arriving at that combo took years of real hunting and experimentation, both live and in the studio.

His first notable guitar, other than the Silvertone acoustic he’d swipe from his brother Gregg until he traded a pile of motorcycle parts for his initial electric ax, was a Telecaster with a Stratocaster neck, which then yielded to a ’54 Strat. At the start, Duane was a Fender man, running those six-strings through a variety of that company’s amps. The Twin-Reverb was his favorite. But Duane hungered for more beef, so he drove his signal with a Fuzz Face distortion box. Legend has it he’d only use run-down batteries to power his pedal, believing their low voltage yielded a warmer sound.

Much of his early, pre-Allmans studio work with Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and others was accomplished with that mix of equipment. But when he formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, Duane’s quest for tone kicked into high gear. If nothing else, he needed to step up his game sonically with Dickey Betts as his guitar partner and foil. Dickey already had a fatter, more aggressive sound generated via his Gibson ES-345 and ’68 SG.




So Duane also got an ES-345, soon followed by a ’57 Les Paul Gold Top with PAF pick-ups, and then a Cherry Sunburst Les Paul. He kept the Gold Top’s pickups, however, and swapped them into the Sunburst.

Z.Z. Top’s Billy Gibbons found Duane’s most significant guitar acquisition for him in 1971: a ’58 Tobacco Sunburst Les Paul. He used it on the classic Eat a Peach and The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East albums. As he’d switched to Gibson guitars he also switched to Marshall amps, and those discs in particular capture the thick, buttery, distortion-colored tone that became his signature. Late in ’71 Duane got his Cherry SG, too – from Dickey – thus completing the essentials of his sonic arsenal.

Of course, there are fine points. For example, Duane’s and Dickey’s Marshall cabinets were modified. They were half-open-backed and, instead of the 25-watt Celestion “greenback” speakers that gave Clapton his distinctive Cream-era howl, boasted JBL-D120s for a cleaner sound. Duane also used circular picking to soften his attack and increase his speed.

Then there’s Duane’s beautiful slide technique. He most often played in standard tuning, which begs a more melodic approach. And his choice of a coricidin bottle – too short to cover all six strings at a time – precluded Elmore James–style full chords, so Duane favored triads. He also muted the strings with his middle finger behind the slide, which he wore on his fourth digit, to remove any unwanted or random harmonics.

And speaking of Elmore, when Duane did play in open tuning he typically opted for E (E-B-E-G#-B-E), also James’ open tuning of choice, yielding masterpieces like “Statesboro Blues” and “One Way Out.”

The rest was pure mojo and monster technique. And that can’t be found at a music store, a pawn shop, or even Sotheby’s, so remember: “No pain, no Duane.”


 
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  posted on 7/2/2010 at 10:23 AM
Great article up until :

quote:
He also muted the strings with his middle finger behind the slide, which he wore on his fourth digit, to remove any unwanted or random harmonics.



Everybody here knows Duane wore the bottle on his ring finger and for the most part did most of the muting with his picking hand. As the Fillmore video reveals none of his left hand fingers touched the strings. It's glaring mistakes like these which call into question the correctness of the entire article.

[Edited on 7/2/2010 by Charlesinator]

 

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  posted on 7/5/2010 at 05:48 AM
I think you may be getting caught up on the fourth digit line, which I am reading as his ring finger. Muting behind the slide with the ring finger is also a common slide technique that I believe Duane incorporated quite effortlessly. And I completely agree with you about him usinghis picking hand to do it as well.
 

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  posted on 7/5/2010 at 03:34 PM
Slowhand is exactly correct. The ring finger is the fourth digit. The thumb is the first digit.

 

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  posted on 7/5/2010 at 04:44 PM
It would seem he used his "Greeting Finger' for damping with his left hand since the slide was on his Ring finger

 

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  posted on 7/9/2010 at 08:52 AM
quote:
Slowhand is exactly correct. The ring finger is the fourth digit. The thumb is the first digit.





After consulting wikapedia, I appologize the fourth digit is the ring finger. However, I nor anybody I know refer to the various fingers as "numbered digits." Nobody says, "I'm going to first digit a ride." Also as most pictures as well as the video from the Fillmore reveal Duane's left hand positioning would have made it impossible to damp with any "digits" found there of. (See the pic in the Cherryburst thread here in the Shop Talk Forum. Also note Duane appears to be using a pick as well although I believe that to be an anonmaly especially later on.) Also as someone pointed out when the Gibson article was printed in the AG Forum that there appears to be some disagreement as to what guitar was used when. So as a Duane fan I stand by my original post. Regardless of whether or not the post was flattering, I believe the author should have spent more time researching facts than using a thesaurus.

[Edited on 7/9/2010 by Charlesinator]

 

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  posted on 7/14/2010 at 01:49 PM
I second what Charlesinator is thinking.

Duane was alive such a short time, I kind of feel that none of these columnists saw him live or ever talked to him and do shoddy research. That is why I respect Andy Aledort so much, he is thorough, accurate and actually interviewed Dickey for his Guitar World columns.

I gave up Guitar Player Magazine in the 80's when Arlen Roth had lots of mistakes in describing Duane's slide technique in his column. You can hear on the live recordings that Duane played Open E tuning most of the time for slide, and you can hear him de-tune between the first 4-5 (slide) songs and the first standard tuning song Liz Reed, on every live show I have heard. So I would guess he used one guitar when I hear him detuning from Open E, and when he's quicker to get it tuned perhaps he was playing two guitars and put the SG down and picked up the Les Paul and was just checking the LP quickly to make sure.

Yeah he played standard tuning slide on a couple of songs Dreams and Mountain Jam, but mostly????? cmon. I think Arlen even said Duane Played Open D or Open G on Trouble No More, maybe he did in the studio before he figured out that his niche was Open E, but definitely not live.


 

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  posted on 7/14/2010 at 08:11 PM
Seems to me like splitting hairs. And I didn't point out the "fourth digit" to be Mister Smarty Pants. Whether you try to play Duane's licks in open G, E, D or standard (and I know they will sound different depending on the tuning, even if the notes are the same), it is all of us trying to keep the "Notes" alive; by listening intently to his music, trying to figure out his techniques, his licks, his gear, his tunings. I think if Duane were reading this, he'd tell us all to quit our bitchin' and go pick up a guitar and just start playin'. In fact, that's what I reckon I'll do right now. Peace y'all~!
 

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  posted on 7/15/2010 at 07:31 PM
Hot Dang a SkyDogSys post all because of little ole me? Dude you know more about the Duane's technique than any of them writers. The article where Arlen pissed me off the most was in Musician Magazine where he had some questionable quotes concerning Brother Duane. I'm a huge Arlen Roth fan and believe he was misquoted or taken out of context to provide some interest. Arlen's book How to Play Slide on Oak Press was/is the bible on slide instruction IMO. Also any pickers who aren't aware of Alen's videos over at Gibson.com do youself a favor and check them out. Pat Travers was the one in GP who said something to the effect that "Duane played so friggin' out of tune it's ridiculous." And I like Pat Travers too. Snortin' whiskey and drinkin' cocaine!!!

Slowhand6, I always think of you as Mr. Smarty Pants especially when you're so asutely pointing out my faux pas. And I also agree with you about what Duane would tell us to do. I believe I'll join you Smarty ... I mean Slow.

 

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