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I Been Up, I Been Down: Gear & Tones


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Billy Gibbons has used almost any guitar and any amp through the years- Telecasters, Les Pauls, and Gretch guitars through all kinds of amps. In this lesson I'm gonna explain to you how I am imitating the tone that you hear on "Tush" and how you can do it too.

A good place to start would be a Marshall type amp. The most authentic models would be JCM 800 or a Marshall Plexi. Those amps gives you that classic blues rock tone, which is just on the verge of being more rock than blues. So dial as much hi-gain as you can before it starts not sounding like blues anymore. That's the trick to this sound!

For all the guitars I'm using a modeled Marshall Plexi amp with the hi-gain set to 2 o'clock and the normal volume set to 12 o'clock. I've also added a little bit of reverb. For the rhythm guitars I'm using my Gibson 335 on the bridge pickup and for the supporting rhythm guitar, and I'm using a different cabinet so they don't sound exactly the same.

For the lead guitar I'm using my Telecaster on the neck pickup and the same basic amp settings. Then I'm adding a distortion pedal similar to a RAT in front of it with the distortion set to 11 o'clock, the high cut set to 3 o'clock, and the volume set to match the bypassed volume. I've also added a very subtle and barely audible slap back delay with the mix set to 8 o'clock, and just one really quick repeat.

Billy Gibbons has his guitar setup so he can both play slide and fret normally, but I personally like to use a different guitar for the slide stuff so I can raise the action with an extension nut and not have to worry about hitting the frets. But that's a personal preference. Some people hit the frets and make it sound great!

The crucial factors for this guitar sound is getting the right amount of distortion and treble, and since every piece of gear is different it's a matter of listening to the record over and over again and tweak whatever gear you have until it sounds as close as possible.

And remember that if Billy Gibbons were to pick up your gear as it is right now he could probably make it sound like him, just from dialing the gear and how he plays.

On the studio version of this song they've also layered a clean guitar adding a jazzy sound to the V chords at the end of each 12 bar form. For this guitar I'm using a clean fender amp with a Leslie simulator in front of it, on the fast setting and just a little bit of reverb. I'm using my 335 with the pickup switch on the middle setting.