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Author: Subject: A question about guitar tone

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 07:59 PM
I have a question about “tone”…and I am not a guitar player/musician, just a guy who listens to music and knows what he likes when he hears it. So I hope I am using the correct terminology and framing my question in such a way that the musicians out there can understand what I am asking. And apologies in advance if these are dumb questions. I’m curious about the “tone” (or maybe I should just say “sound”) of Derek’s slide playing compared to Duane’s. I’ve noticed that Derek often times achieves what I would describe as a raspy, screeching, or metal-on-metal grating noise when using his slide. A good example is on “Into the Mystic” at Jazz Fest 2007 starting at around the 3:40 mark. This “raspiness” seems to be a much more prominent aspect of Derek’s sound than it is of Duane’s. Is this what guitar players refer to as a dirty tone (Derek’s) versus a clean tone (Duane’s)? Is this a sound that Derek is intentionally trying to achieve, or is it just an unintended by product of his technique/equipment?

Thanks!

 
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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:10 PM
You've got it pretty much right. Derek plays slide with a less clean tone than Duane, which means the gain is turned up a little more. A guitar amp is essentially a distorted mic, and the higher the gain, the more of that tone is amplified, so it is less "clean" than a direct mic on a guitar would be. Therefore, that "raspiness" is Derek raking the slide up and down the strings in between phrases. Derek also plays with the action low, that is, the strings aren't as high off the fret board, so when he rakes the slide up and down the neck, the strings are likely dead up against the frets as opposed to vibrating and producing a tone.

Does that help?

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:24 PM
quote:
You've got it pretty much right. Derek plays slide with a less clean tone than Duane, which means the gain is turned up a little more. A guitar amp is essentially a distorted mic, and the higher the gain, the more of that tone is amplified, so it is less "clean" than a direct mic on a guitar would be. Therefore, that "raspiness" is Derek raking the slide up and down the strings in between phrases. Derek also plays with the action low, that is, the strings aren't as high off the fret board, so when he rakes the slide up and down the neck, the strings are likely dead up against the frets as opposed to vibrating and producing a tone.

Does that help?


Yes, that's very helpful. I much prefer Duane's cleaner tone, but I love listening to both of these guys..although I must admit there are times (or certain songs/solos) when Derek's "raspiness" is a little too much for my taste and it can actually "grate' on my nerves a bit (pun intended). Follow up question...is it that Derek is trying to achieve a cleaner tone (like Duane's), but he can't because of some limitation of his technique/equipment...or is that tone exactly what Derek is shooting for? In your opinion anyway...I guess only Derek can answer that question.

[Edited on 11/10/2016 by Redfish7]

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:27 PM
Also possible impacts can be the differences in amps, today's technology vs that when Duane played, stomp boxes, settings, etc.

I haven't spent a bunch of time looking at the differences in equipment used by Duane and Derek, but just saying that this could possibly also play into sound differences.

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:35 PM
quote:
Also possible impacts can be the differences in amps, today's technology vs that when Duane played, stomp boxes, settings, etc.

I haven't spent a bunch of time looking at the differences in equipment used by Duane and Derek, but just saying that this could possibly also play into sound differences.


Yeah...it seems like Derek would have the advantage with all the advances in technology and being able to draw upon the vast body of knowledge/experience of all the great guitarists that came before him...but IMHO (and speaking as a non-musician) Duane's tone sounds much better to my ears than Derek's. So I'm thinking it must have more to do with technique than equipment...maybe.

[Edited on 11/10/2016 by Redfish7]

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:35 PM
Also, depending on how much or how little you mute the strings with your palm at the pick end and the side of your hand behind the slide will "dirty" it up or keep it clean.
 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:42 PM
I usually think of "dirty" as the amount of distortion.

I am sure Derek's sound is deliberate. Some players like Derek and Robert Fripp and John McLaughlin do NOT go for the "sweet" tone I associate with southern rock and Brit blues, and before them of course BB KING had the master sweet tone.

I think Derek goes for something more raspy and scratchy and gritty that owes a debt to old acoustic blues, raw field stuff. Listen to Robert Johnson or Son House, that kind of thing.

And he does go smooth when he wants to.

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 08:52 PM
I think Dereks sound has changed since he moved away from the Fender Super Reverbs....although he was still using them when I saw TTB a few years ago. His sound was a little more organic then

In the ABB he used more modern amps with higher wattage....don't know if he uses stop boxes....when you get to play at "Stadium" volume getting a distorted tone isn't that hard. Especially with modern amps that have a master, gain and volume...its essentially having a stomp box built into the amp.....

Duane used mostly Marshalls of the time. They only had a volume...no gain or master so you had to really drive the amp harder to get it to distort without a stomp box....he also used 50 watt amps so they will breakup sooner than 100 watts but they won't cut through as well once they start to overdrive.....

Then there's just Duane was Duane and Derek is Derek and you simply can't sound like each other.......even if you use the same guitar and amp....we are all different and it comes out in musicians in "tone"...phrasing....etc

 

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  posted on 11/9/2016 at 10:27 PM
As a guitar player who learned to play in early 70s around the time Duane played and died. The difference is imho amp and effects pedals compared to today. Duane played his Les Paul direct into the amp as I remember. His tone was a compilation of guitar, amp volume and sound of the concert hall. If I remember Duane used 50 watt Marshall plexi that actually a bass amp with a modification. We all know he used a glass slide. So add those facts with slide pressure, volume, where Duane plucked the strings and what pickup or pickups were on you get his sound.
 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 07:27 AM
I am glad this topic came up. I have been wanting to start a guitar tone thread here lately but just have not gotten around to it. Some excellent responses that I totally agree with being a guitar player myself. So many factors come into it and I think a lot of people are always on the hunt for that "tone". Tone also comes from the heart and soul, that plays into it quite a bit along with the technology/hardware factor.

I like Derek's tone, seems natural, organic and non processed. I am more of a just plug and play, guitar ,cord, amp and really do not use effects, that's the way I prefer it. I Rarely use stomp boxes. I have a wah, eq(for boost) and a Danelectro grill cheese I use in tandem with my wah on one song I wrote and that's it. I have a reverb on my amp that I tweak just a little to fill the sound out.
My amp just has the standard low mid high eq.

If you are looking into playing, don't feel that you have to break the bank in buying "high end,name gear". Some people have that illusion. Its nice if you can afford it, but there is some great stuff out there that you can get without giving up your first born so to speak.

[Edited on 11/10/2016 by jszfunk]

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 07:49 AM
Nice post goldtop! Thanks!

quote:
I think Dereks sound has changed since he moved away from the Fender Super Reverbs....although he was still using them when I saw TTB a few years ago. His sound was a little more organic then

In the ABB he used more modern amps with higher wattage....don't know if he uses stop boxes....when you get to play at "Stadium" volume getting a distorted tone isn't that hard. Especially with modern amps that have a master, gain and volume...its essentially having a stomp box built into the amp.....

Duane used mostly Marshalls of the time. They only had a volume...no gain or master so you had to really drive the amp harder to get it to distort without a stomp box....he also used 50 watt amps so they will breakup sooner than 100 watts but they won't cut through as well once they start to overdrive.....

Then there's just Duane was Duane and Derek is Derek and you simply can't sound like each other.......even if you use the same guitar and amp....we are all different and it comes out in musicians in "tone"...phrasing....etc

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 08:13 AM
Just to follow up regarding tone, there are also fine details such as finger pressure (neither Derek or Duane use a flat pick while playing slide in order to deaden unused strings), slide pressure, hand position, etc, that contribute to tone before you even plug a guitar into an amp. If you heard Derek or Jack or Dickey play an electric guitar without an amp, their tone would still be unmistakable.

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 08:19 AM
"Tone" also refers to the amount of bass, middle and treble settings on equipment, and instruments. "Tone color" is what you would call the specific sound of the instrument - raspy, smooth, thick, thin, twangy, metallic. The tone color of a trumpet is different then a sax, guitar, piano, etc.,etc. Duanes' tone color was very smooth and melodic.
 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 09:54 AM
quote:
Also, depending on how much or how little you mute the strings with your palm at the pick end and the side of your hand behind the slide will "dirty" it up or keep it clean.


This has always been my impression of why Derek's slide sounds "dirtier," not so much amp settings as because more strings are being heard.

I think he's muting a lot less than Duane, so you're hearing what I'll call background noise of the other strings.

Never knew that about his low action settings, of course that would come in to play on this theory as well.

[Edited on 11/10/2016 by cmgst34]

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 10:18 AM
From what I have seen on line, Derek does not use any effects pedals and plugs directly into the amp. With the ABB he used Fender Concert amps which I believe are 60/65 Watts and have 6 10" speakers. PRS made an amp that was a direct copy of the 50 watt Marshall Duane used at the Fillmore, the only difference was the modern components, he used that the last few years with The Allman brothers Band. With the TTB he is using small Fender amps. I believe his differences in tone are based on his use of the controls on the guitar, his attack, and his technique of sliding into and out of notes and phrases.
 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 10:50 AM
Thank you learned a lot reading the posts about my favorite musical tones...
 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 02:08 PM
My brother coined the term "fuzzy volcanoes" when describing Derek's sound and I agree. When Derek starts to go up the mountain top, he slides his slide down the frets and back up again without the strings muted like taking a big breath between each crisp pure phrase. When he gets back up to play the next lick, the non played strings get muted again and it's pure bliss. The volcano is erupting and each phrase is lava shooting out and each "breath" of sliding down and back up with all the fuzzy noise is the churning lava before it gets ejected from the mountain.

A great example is 1:30 - 2:30 of this clip.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBbRrvJt8G8

There are a few people out there who can't stand Derek's sound and I think it's the fuzzy volcanoes that they can't stand. I, on the other hand, LOVE IT!

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 02:47 PM
quote:
My brother coined the term "fuzzy volcanoes" when describing Derek's sound and I agree. When Derek starts to go up the mountain top, he slides his slide down the frets and back up again without the strings muted like taking a big breath between each crisp pure phrase. When he gets back up to play the next lick, the non played strings get muted again and it's pure bliss. The volcano is erupting and each phrase is lava shooting out and each "breath" of sliding down and back up with all the fuzzy noise is the churning lava before it gets ejected from the mountain.

A great example is 1:30 - 2:30 of this clip.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBbRrvJt8G8

There are a few people out there who can't stand Derek's sound and I think it's the fuzzy volcanoes that they can't stand. I, on the other hand, LOVE IT!


Thanks. That's exactly what I was, probably unsuccessfully, trying to allude to in my post. Absolutely he grinds up and down the neck during what would otherwise be empty spaces.

 

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  posted on 11/10/2016 at 04:57 PM
Duane's guitar always jumps right out at you, slide or not. Derek's sound can be more muddy because of the SG and because he always plays with his fingers. I find his playing pops more with the Firebird, or even the Goldtop, and wish he would vary his guitars a little more for that reason.

As he has gotten older and better he noodles less and has become a more expressive, to the point player which very much suits him. I was not fan of his earlier noodling, as I felt it just didn't go anywhere, he has transcended that tendency. He is remarkably good at playing dirty, even savage rock licks along with stellar slide and I have come to appreciate his playing without a slide more and more.

But. He better not stop laying the glass inspired emotion.

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 08:27 AM
The biggest factor of all is the tuning. Derek plays open tuning while Duane did not. Much different sounds and very different players. Warren's slide style and sounds are much closer to Duane.

Gear will affect the sound but Derek has that sound before the power is even turned on.

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 08:48 AM
CanadianMule put down the Labatts down. Duane didn't play in open tuning?!?! That's what he started out playing in. I believe that only just before his death did he start experimenting slide in standard mostly because he didn't dig the downtime retuning caused. Actually I believe the live IMOER is the only example of his standard slide skills. I will concede to the experts. Derek specifically learned open E because of Duane and since he didn't know any better was never constrained by the limitations of the tuning.

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 10:40 AM
quote:
The biggest factor of all is the tuning. Derek plays open tuning while Duane did not. Much different sounds and very different players. Warren's slide style and sounds are much closer to Duane.

Gear will affect the sound but Derek has that sound before the power is even turned on.


quote:
CanadianMule put down the Labatts down. Duane didn't play in open tuning?!?! That's what he started out playing in. I believe that only just before his death did he start experimenting slide in standard mostly because he didn't dig the downtime retuning caused. Actually I believe the live IMOER is the only example of his standard slide skills. I will concede to the experts. Derek specifically learned open E because of Duane and since he didn't know any better was never constrained by the limitations of the tuning.


The opening slide tunes Duane used Open E....One of my version of LAFE you can here him down tune after Done Somebody Wrong....Dreams....Mtn Jam...standard tuning


This was the usual set lists around 71 until his passing....or some variation of those 5...live they were all done in Open E
Statesboro Blues
Trouble no more
Please don't keep me wondering
Done Somebody Wrong
One way out

Derek plays everything in open e

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 10:40 AM
quote:
The biggest factor of all is the tuning. Derek plays open tuning while Duane did not. Much different sounds and very different players. Warren's slide style and sounds are much closer to Duane.

Gear will affect the sound but Derek has that sound before the power is even turned on.


Not quite right. Derek does play almost always in open E. Duane started playing slide in standard tuning. His early slide session work ("The Weight", "Down Along the Cove") is in standard tuning, as was his solo on "Dreams" since he was already playing in standard.

According to John Hammond, he taught Duane about open tunings, and Duane started using them on songs like "Statesboro Blues", "Done Somebody Wrong", Johnny Jenkins' "Rolling Stone", etc. The story goes that Dickey got impatient waiting for Duane to re-tune his guitar in between songs on stage, so he gave him his Gibson SG, and Duane kept that in open E, and his Les Paul in standard. That's one of the reason why you see a lot of those slide songs together on set lists in 19070/71.

Dickey continued to play slide in open E, though Warren and Jack both play pretty much exclusively in standard tuning. Open tuning doesn't affect the "fuzzy volcano" sound as much when the strings are dead, but it does allow for a uniform chord to be dragged up and down the fret board with the slide, whereas, in standard tuning you can really only do that with typically 3 strings at a time.

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 10:42 AM
Yo, Redfish --- I'm like you -- I don't know anything about music (unless you count air guitar, of which I am a master) or about tone, so I can't give you a scientific answer. But I can give you a great example -- listen to Brent Underwood's remarkable animation on "OK, the Allman Brothers Band..." You have different guitarists from different ABB lineups all playing Statesboro Blues and you can really hear the difference in their sound or tone. You can also hear why that, despite all of the great guitarists this band has had over the decades, Duane is still the best. Here's a link to that video: http://www.jambase.com/article/animated-video-allman-brothers-band-statesbo ro-blues.

If that link doesn't work, just Google it. ... Pax...

 

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  posted on 11/11/2016 at 11:04 AM
Porkchop Bob I'd bet the house ... and the camper ... "Down Along The Cove" is in open E.

 

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