Jeff Beck Guitar strings

Awhile back, I wrote an article extolling the musical prowess of Jeff Beck, and how he’s the full musical package; how he possesses an insane ability to make his guitar sound like nothing anybody else can duplicate. I know that’s a rather bold statement, but all you need to do is a search on Jeff Beck, and watch videos and you’ll see what I mean.

But aside from Beck’s technique and musical sense, there’s a practical side of him that I also appreciate, and what compelled me to write this second article on him. In the latest issue of Guitar Player magazine (June 2010), Jeff Beck talks about the virtues of using a low wattage amp, not only in the studio, but on stage as well. In fact, he said that most of his new album was recorded with a 50′s Fender Champ!

Over the past couple of years, I’ve spoken at length of using low wattage amps and attenuators on medium-power amps to get the tubes working. It’s a real affirmation to hear that someone like Jeff Beck is doing the same. Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview:

“Some people can’t do without lots of volume to get their tone, but I think if you can’t get it without four million watts, something’s wrong. Because a mic doesn’t read volume, it reads tone.”

When asked about whether the small-amp/less-volume concept could work for live playing…

“By using the P.A. to act in the way it was designed – which is play at low level and use all the distortion and whatever else you need, but make sure you don’t come out louder than the side-fill monitors or the front wedges – you can blow the house down, and I’ve done it.”

Beck went on to say that when he played with SRV, he used a 20 Watt Fender Twin, while SRV used “a rig that looked like an amp shop” and Stevie asked him, “What the hell are you using? Are your amps under the stage?” “Nope, that’s it right there,” replied Beck.

Then he went on to say in the interview, “Most of the time, though, you can get away with a couple of Champs – one clean, one distorted – and use the clean one to get more definition.”

The statement that really hit me in the interview was the following:

“The louder the stuff is on stage, probably the worse it’s going to end up sounding. Your hearing goes, your pitch goes, and yo ucan’t really hear any depth of field. If you have to question whether it’s too lout, then it is too loud. The power has to be there, but without the level.

This coming from someone who, over his career, has played HUGE arenas! The more I find out about Jeff Beck, the more I appreciate both his musical genius and his wisdom about delivering that music. Simply amazing.

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