From the moment you pick up a guitar, you're chasing after the tone of your favorite guitarists -- even if you aren't aware of it. Just think back to when you first started: there's always a certain player or band that first made you think, "I want to do that!" or "I want to sound like that!" Although a goal for many guitarists is to establish your own signature sound, little tone tricks or playing techniques from other players trickle into your own repertoire, whether you read about them in magazines or online, or while playing with a buddy from back home. The enormous effect that "guitar gods" like Hendrix or Van Halen have had on the masses is immeasurable.
Join zZounds as we celebrate the impact these heavy-hitting guitarists have made on the shape of rock 'n roll (and beyond) over the past 50 years with our Iconic Rigs Series. With each Iconic Rig, we take a closer look at the gear that gave a favorite player their voice. After all, with a few tweaks in your own tone -- and a lot of practice -- you could someday be on a list just like this.
While it's simple at first glance, Chuck Berry's "bipartisan" combination of Gibson Memphis guitars and Fender combo amps laid the foundation for generations of guitarists. Berry's catalog is so influential, that his hit song "Johnny B. Goode" was the only rock 'n' roll song to be included on the Voyager Golden Record, sent into space in 1977. Those big barking tones on "Maybelline" and "Johnny B. Goode" were the work of Berry’s gorgeous white 1957 ES-350 T, loaded with Gibson’s then-new PAF humbuckers. Once the ES-335 was introduced in 1958, Berry was an early adopter, and has been seen throughout most of his career rocking a red 335. The marriage of hollow-body Gibsons and high-powered Fender combo amps created one of the most iconic tones of the 20th century.
You might not have a 1957 ES-350 T at your disposal, or be able to require that a pair of Fender Showman combos be on stage at every one of your gigs -- so we sifted through our inventory and found our picks to help recreate Chuck Berry's iconic rig.
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Arguably one of the most iconic guitarists of the last 30 years, Slash has found a way to transcend the label of simply being a great guitarist within the guitar-playing community, to being synonymous with the instrument by the entire public at large. From the unmistakable top hat and low-slung Les Paul to his searing blues-infused rock 'n' roll riffs and licks, Slash has become a ubiquitous ambassador for guitarists around the world. As lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses, Slash's Snakepit, and Velvet Revolver (among many other side projects), Slash's playing style and distinctive Les Paul + Marshall tone has cemented his legacy as a hard rock icon.
If you happen to love aggressive, raw, and unfiltered rock 'n' roll, then you can't deny the influence Slash has had on players over the last three decades.
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Frequently considered by many players and fans as one of the best guitarists of his generation, the late Randy Rhoads combined heavy metal riffs with neo-classical leads, resulting in a unique style that influenced countless guitarists from the '70s through the present. Originally a founding member of Quiet Riot, Rhoads is perhaps best known as the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne's earliest solo material, riffing his way through the Prince of Darkness' first two albums and solidifying his legacy as one of metal's greatest guitarists.
With his trusty Gibson Les Paul Custom, as well as his signature V guitars, Marshall amps, and MXR pedals, Randy helped forge the sound of heavy metal in the '80s and beyond.
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Having shred upon countless stages in behemoth metal act, Metallica, since 1983, Kirk Hammett knows a thing or two about what it takes to achieve blistering tone. From Kill 'Em All to Death Magnetic, Metallica's sound and rigs have evolved, but Hammett's guitar work continues to cut like a knife.
Luckily, thanks to a slew of signature gear, you don't need a toiling guitar tech to nail that screaming "Disposable Heroes" solo. Check out this edition of our Iconic Rigs series and learn more about Kirk's searing thrash-metal tone!
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Look up any "greatest guitarists" list by any publication, and more likely than not, you'll find Eric Clapton somewhere near the top of the list. Forever a blues purist, Clapton has made blues guitar playing his life's calling, resulting in three Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions (solo, Cream, and the Yardbirds) and millions of records sold worldwide.
From Gibson to Fender to Marshall, Clapton has had his hands on a ton of guitars and amps throughout his career. zZounds' Iconic Rigs Series explores the gear you can use to land the classic Slowhand tone!
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After losing several fingertips on his fretting hand in a bizarre factory accident, it didn't seem like Tony Iommi would ever play guitar again. What could have been a career-ending incident ended up fueling Iommi and shaping a playing style that would influence generations of hard-rock guitarists. Widely considered to be the godfather of metal, the Black Sabbath axeman is known for his simple, yet heavy riffing; three-semitone drop-tuning technique; frequent use of dark tritones -- and, of course, for 40 years' worth of heavy music around the world.
You don't need a wall of Laney full stacks to achieve the tone of Tony Iommi (although that would be pretty cool). Read on to learn about a few key pieces of gear that will help you along your way to riffing like metal's elder statesman.
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Though his mainstream career was a flame that burned quickly and brightly throughout the mid-late '60s, the impact that Jimi Hendrix has had on the guitar-playing world is nothing short of legendary. With a unique tone shaped by road-worn Marshall Plexi full-stacks, distinctive "flipped-over" Stratocasters, and the unabashed use of gritty fuzz, wah and modulation effects, Hendrix paved the way for generations of players seeking pure tonal freedom.
You don't have to be a southpaw, or light your favorite guitar on fire, to channel the raw, psychedelic vibes of Jimi Hendrix. Learn more about some key ingredients you can use to achieve the Hendrix tone!
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Eddie Van Halen
As one of the most influential guitarists of the last four decades, Eddie Van Halen pioneered a slew of virtuoso techniques and led the way for super-saturated overdrive. From intricate rhythm playing and tapping to incredibly slick, lightning-fast leads, Van Halen not only helped create an era of highly influential hard rock music, he defined it. Aside from his exceptional playing, Eddie's tone was all about cranking out an aggressive, grind-y midrange with crunchy tube saturation that became his signature sound -- the so-called "brown sound."
While most of us will never have the chops to compete with Eddie's own playing, we can certainly attempt to emulate the guitar hero's sound. Learn more about EVH's famous tone, his signature gear, and how to incorporate his sound into your own.
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Combining unmatched swagger on stage with focused vision in the studio, Jimmy Page has undeniably established his legacy as a member of the highest echelon of rock stardom. Images of Jimmy playing on stage with a Les Paul and Marshall stacks behind him have been irreversibly etched into our minds over the years.
Known as the mastermind behind much of Led Zeppelin's success, Page has experimented with hundreds of combinations of guitars and amps in his quest for the ultimate tone. Since you could probably take an entire college course on the subject, join us as we take a closer look at just a handful of the iconic pieces of gear that Jimmy made famous.
Check out the gear of Jimmy Page »