Warren Haynes is one of the worlds most popular guitar players and I have been very fortunate to study under him at a weekend workshop in an intimate setting with a very limited class size. I found him to be very personable, open and I have tried to take his concepts of tone and playing into my teaching and playing philosophy. One of these concepts concerned the his choice of instruments and gear. He explained that he tried to find a voice or tone that he loved and used it to build his signature so that when people heard his music that it would be recognizable. His choice is based on the fat tone of a Gibson Les Paul driven to a creamy overdrive. This seems to be an overused description but in my mind his playing and tone are what triggers that choice of words and would be one of my first choices to play someone for an audio definition. That is not saying that he is limited by any means or corralled into a single tone by choice when it comes to his body of work but by and large his main choices for guitars are Les Pauls and his Gibson ES-335.
He told me that when playing with the "Allman Brothers Band" he felt that the expectations, and what fit into the bands overall sound, was the Les Paul but when he played with "Government Mule" he felt much freer to expand and experiment since the expectations and the bands musical philosophy were different. He still wished to and does play within the boundaries he sets for himself and a recognizable tone.
Below is a link to an interview from "Vintage Guitar" magazine, one of my favorite publications. Please take note of his choices of equipment used in the making of "Gov't Mule's" latest album. I really like how he was able to grab off the wall some different guitars to create different tones that are appropriate to the song. For all of my students, take note of that concept.
Finally, the bottom of the page has a link to a "You Tube" video of the two guitarists today that define what is a Les Paul "creamy overdrive", Warren and Joe Bonamassa. This is a great video and I really hope that you will take some time to watch it.
For my students: Joe is playing a true 1959 Les Paul "Burst". This year and model of guitar commands the highest price on average that I am aware of and for good reason. I believe Warren is playing a '59 RI from the Gibson Custom shop. I know that this is not his signature guitar because I have had a chance to see it up close and the back of the headstock has a large "P" on the back for prototype. Check out Joe's guitar straplock. It is a rubber gasket that comes from a stopper from a "Grolsh" beer bottle. Get some yourself! They are cheap and they work. Next watch Joe's hand. When he is using his fingers to pick the strings (for a softer tone) you can see the top of his pick sticking out of his hand. Pay close attention to how they both make full use of their guitar's control knobs. These guys do not believe in "set it to 10 and forget it". Listen to the great solo work with the "call and respond" interaction of two lead guitarists. This technique is a whole lot of fun to play. Listen to how they LISTEN to each other which is critical to make this work and to make it work as well as you see here. Watch how the entire band is listening to each other and watching each other. Listen to what creates the variety, interest and building the intensity and power of the song. Volume, speed, tone changes, all of these are used to create tension and cool music. Listen to the differences of the tones of the two guitars and see if you can identify what makes them different. Let me know next time you see me. Till then,
by Robert Gundry