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How to Get an Allman Brothers Guitar Tone

In this post I’m going to show you how I got a tone to similar to what Derek Trucks, Duane Allman, Warren Haynes, or Dickey Betts might use when playing over an Elizabeth Reed or Jessica style jam.

First check out the video to listen to the tone I was striving for. In my mind it is more of a Derek Trucks type sound with a little Warren and Dickey Sound thrown in. I think for a more Duane Allman sound, you would need to use a Les Paul.

Here’s the video for the Liz Reed style tone.

Here’s the video for the Jessica style tone.

Now let’s take a look at the gear I used to get the tones in the video.

  • Guitar – Gibson ES 335
  • Amp – 1966 Fender Vibrolux
  • Attenuator – Weber Mini Mass
  • Overdrive – Fulltone OCD
  • Strings – DR Pure Blues .010’s
  • Pick – Dunlop Jazz III
  • Shure 57 mic into an LA 610 to Pro Tools LE

Now that you know the equipment used for the tones, let’s dive in a little more and dissect exactly what settings were used and how I came upon this decision. First let me say when I started trying to get these tones about a week ago, I seemed to be getting sounds that were not anything what I wanted. I then spent a few hours playing with the settings and trying to determine why I wasn’t achieving the sounds in my head.

The first thing I did was try to find the right settings for the amp. I tried running the amp around 3, 4, and 5, but it could never quite get the tone I was looking for with or without the Weber attenuator. I then said lets just crank it up and continued to adjust the treble, bass, and reverb until I got something I liked.

Here are the settings I came up with that I liked the most.

Fender Amp Settings

Weber Attenuator

Now I want to talk a little bit about what I think contributed to getting the tone I liked out of these settings.  Since the amp sounded better the more I cranked it, turning the amp up to about 8 really took things to the next level.  I also think that the Weber attenuator took the tone even further actually compressing it slightly more to drive it even harder.  

I think the Weber does a fantastic job of decreasing the volume of the amp while maintaining the tone. I also think it adds a bit of smoothness to the overall sound of the amp. Without the attenuator the amp definitely sounds fantastic, but can also make the amp too large sounding in a live or recording setting. I use the Weber on all the recordings I do for YouTube and my video lessons now. I have also used it live and it is a piece of gear I can not live without. At $100, this is a great tool to have to keep the volume down without sacrificing tone.

Here are the settings I used on the Weber attenuator.

Weber Attenuator Settings

In addition to using the Weber for volume control, when I’m recording, I have built a small box to keep the amp in. These are 2 x 4 Owens Corning panels covered in Burlap sack. Using these 6 panels arranged in a box with a removable top allows me to further decrease the volume so it is not deafening.

Recording Box

recording box

Recording Box pic 2

recording box

Fulltone OCD

Now that I had a nice thick raunchy sound, I wanted a little more compression by using the OCD.  I only used the OCD at about 25% drive.  The picture looks more look 50% I know, but the 0% Drive point has somehow moved since I’ve had the pedal.  I guess since it’s been stomped on and thrown into bags for a number of years.

Also using the HP switch on the OCD seemed to round the sound out much more.  The LP switch seemed to give the tone too much bass and sounded woofy to my ears.  I also found that using the Weber and the OCD will take away some of the treble in the tone of the amp.  After I put the treble on the amp at about 8, things were much more clear sounding. I found this helped the tone much more than increasing the treble on the Weber attenuator or the adding more tone to the OCD.

Here are the settings I used for the Fulltone OCD.

Fulltone OCD

Guitar Controls

The guitar tone controls were on 10.  I am using the neck pickup in both videos.  The volume was on about 2 or 3 for the low dynamics part, and were put on about 6 for the really digging in parts.  Having the volume on the guitar at around 3 -6 had a dramatic effect on the tone.

Micing the Amp

The last piece of the puzzle came when moving the mic around a bit and actually backing it a little further away from the amp.  I found that when the mic was too close to the amp, I got a much thinner sound.  I know all of this is subjective, and you can balance it with a room mic, but I really like the sound of a single 57 a lot of times about 12″ off the amp and around 9″ off the floor directly in front of the right speaker cone.

Micing Amp
Hopefully that answers some questions about getting this type of sound. If you have any questions, please post a comment below. If you would like to learn about playing in the style of Dickey Betts, please check out my DVD or Download, Play Like Dickey Betts

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13 Responses to How to Get an Allman Brothers Guitar Tone

  1. Bruce February 5, 2011 at 9:11 AM #

    John, thanks for the insight on Liz Reed. I’ve been playing around with it for a while but just haven’t gotten anywhere with it. It’s amazing what a little rhythm and speed can do. I’m particularly interested in pick-up tone right now as I’m fixing up a Les Paul style guitar. Bought it in a bushel basket, a project. The bridge pickup is the only one that came with it, a chrome PAF with about 8.6 ohms resistance, researching on which way to go with the neck. When done, I’d like to have it as my slide guitar. A Derek Trucks sound would be way cool.

  2. Taylor September 23, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

    Awesome info. Thanks, John.

  3. chris December 2, 2011 at 5:42 PM #

    thanks john, very helpful infos. what speakers does your vibrolux have? and tubes? still the originals, or did you experiment a lot with (nos) tubes, or just standard new production stuff? thanks, chris

    • John Tuggle January 4, 2012 at 6:09 PM #

      It’s all stock from when I got it. It has Groove Tubes in it. Some kind of Celestion speakers I have never seen before.

      • Hugh Granger May 8, 2014 at 6:16 AM #

        Hi John,
        I’ve got a ’78 Les Paul with Burstbucker II and III pickups.
        I’ve got a ’66 Fender Bassman stack (not combo).
        I’ve got a Boss Blues Driver (BD2).
        Do you think I could get similar tones w/this rig?

        • John W. Tuggle May 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM #

          Hi Hugh,

          I’m sure you can. I would start by rolling off a lot of the bass on the bassman.

  4. john smith June 20, 2012 at 3:59 PM #

    It’s been the summer of ‘Live at the Fillmore’ around here, listening to it over and over. [Last summer was Van Halen] I think you really captured the essence of the tone here, even though they aren’t known for playing 335s. But heck, a ’35’ will do ANYTHING.

  5. James July 30, 2012 at 10:44 AM #

    I noticed that your OCD settings are almost the same as Trower’s RTO in this video (2:50):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj3nwpCfZOA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  6. Aaron Howell January 3, 2013 at 7:25 PM #

    Providing your amp settings are dialed in sufficiently, one thing I noticed unbelievably was how much more of a quack tone you get from using the les paul. I was using a start style off brand for all slide work. After effin around with my LP classic and overhauling truss rodd relief, pickup height, pole piece orientation, new strings and of course tuned up to ope e. There was a great dynamic coming through with my playing.

    This might help you understand what Im saying… Ok Trucks always uses the sg through a 64-65 Super Reverb right? In this number he is playing Duanes 57 Goldtop and if you fast forward to 6:02 maybe you can hear what im talking about

  7. Aaron Howell January 3, 2013 at 7:26 PM #

    Providing your amp settings are dialed in sufficiently, one thing I noticed unbelievably was how much more of a quack tone you get from using the les paul. I was using a start style off brand for all slide work. After effin around with my LP classic and overhauling truss rodd relief, pickup height, pole piece orientation, new strings and of course tuned up to ope e. There was a great dynamic coming through with my playing.

    This might help you understand what Im saying… Ok Trucks always uses the sg through a 64-65 Super Reverb right? In this number he is playing Duanes 57 Goldtop and if you fast forward to 6:02 maybe you can hear what im talking about

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=hxaineCMv38&NR=1

  8. Merv April 20, 2014 at 10:43 PM #

    Hey John you do a great job of nailing the playing styles and tones of all the ABB guitar players.
    I don’t normally leave comments and I’m certainly not critiquing what you do but I just felt it was worth mentioning my own experience in finding those tones.
    I have almost an identical guitar setup to you……..335 SG and a fender pro reverb amp with a OCD and a zendrive for overdrive, while this set up sounds really great I have only ever gotten close to the ABB guitar sounds, never nailed it.
    I guess it’s worth mentioning that I’m certainly not fanatical about getting their sound or anybody else’s for that matter, I tend to be happy as long as I’ve got a good sound coming out of the amp.

    Anyway recently I picked up a Marshall 1974x, the first gig I took it out on was a blues gig and the first number was Stormy Monday. I was playing the SG with the amp cranked up full and the guitar volume rolled back to clean up the sound, no pedals just guitar straight into the amp. The amp is only 18 watts so is perfect for small to medium size gigs, when solo time came I turned up the guitar and the best ABB guitar tone I have heard came flying out of that amp, I just grinned from ear to ear, pure DIckey Betts.

    So my suggestion to anyone trying to get that sound would be get a Marshall, plug a gibson or similar into it with no pedals and turn the thing up, if you play the sort of gigs that allow you to crank a 50 or 100 watt then great, but, if like me most of your gigs are small to medium size grab one of the small hand built Marshalls and you will be sorted. The ABB guitar tones are really quite simple, old style Marshalls turned up, GIbsons guitars, and a whole lot of soul.

    Thanks again John and keep up the good work

    M

  9. Merv April 20, 2014 at 10:46 PM #

    Hey John you do a great job of nailing the playing styles and tones of all the ABB guitar players.
    I don’t normally leave comments and I’m certainly not critiquing what you do but I just felt it was worth mentioning my own experience in finding those tones.
    I have almost an identical guitar setup to you……..335 SG and a fender pro reverb amp with a OCD and a zendrive for overdrive, while this set up sounds really great I have only ever gotten close to the ABB guitar sounds, never nailed it.
    I guess it’s worth mentioning that I’m certainly not fanatical about getting their sound or anybody else’s for that matter, I tend to be happy as long as I’ve got a good sound coming out of the amp.

    Anyway recently I picked up a Marshall 1974x, the first gig I took it out on was a blues gig and the first number was Stormy Monday. I was playing the SG with the amp cranked up full and the guitar volume rolled back to clean up the sound, no pedals just guitar straight into the amp. The amp is only 18 watts so is perfect for small to medium size gigs, when solo time came I turned up the guitar and the best ABB guitar tone I have heard came flying out of that amp, I just grinned from ear to ear, pure DIckey Betts.

    So my suggestion to anyone trying to get that sound would be get a Marshall, plug a gibson or similar into it with no pedals and turn the thing up, if you play the sort of gigs that allow you to crank a 50 or 100 watt then great, but, if like me most of your gigs are small to medium size grab one of the small hand built Marshalls and you will be sorted. The Dickey Betts, Daune Allman guitar tones are really quite simple, old style Marshalls turned up, GIbsons guitars, and a whole lot of soul.

    Thanks again John, love the site and keep up the good work

    M

  10. lazybones July 24, 2014 at 10:53 PM #

    Fantastic work John. I’ve worked on quite a few of your Youtube lessons.

    When discussing DB’s tone there is one thing that gets overlooked. One of the band’s major beefs with him was the insistence on insane stage volume. Apparently he refused to switch to the 50w Marshall because he wanted to feel the speakers against his legs.

    The key to DB’s tone is LOUD. I’m thinking of building an amp isolation box too!

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