Stevie Ray Vaughan


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08-10-2007, 01:59 AM
There are several threads every day on these forums asking UG'ers how to attain the tone that the great Stevie Ray Vaughan used in his recordings and live performances, which is often referred to by strat users and blues enthusiasts as the ultimate tone you could achieve for this specific genre. I feel that its about time that all the equipment SRV used, the techniques he used, and other elements that created SRV's legendary sound be inserted into one thread.

Stevie Ray Vaughan mainly used two guitars in his work, the most famous one is
"Number One," a 1959 Fender Stratocaster:

Believe it or not, this guitar was once three-color sunburst. Other than being known for being ridiculously beat-up, and of course the signature SRV-laden black pickguard, this 21-fret strat had many original specifications that Stevie preferred, so much so that he almost exclusively played this guitar live.
The guitar had what are now known as Texas Special pickups, manufactured by Fender.

These pickups are intentionally overwound to replicate Stevie's famous tone. It is debatable if the overwound pickups were originally a factory defect or of Stevie's design, but the effect was impressive nonetheless. Modern Tex Mex pickups also replicate SRV’s sound fantastically.

Second up in Number One's lineup of original features is the neck. In order to fit his abnormally massive hands, Stevie prefered a "D" Shaped neck, which is much fatter and taller than standard "V" and "C" shaped stratocaster necks. It is also debatable if this was Stevie's design or a factory mistake.

Third is the guitars hardware and temolo. If you observe all of the screws and tuners and all hardware on the guitar, you will see it is gold-plated. In addition to being gold plated, the tremolo is a lefty- the whammy bar rests on the top of the temolo, instead of the bottom. He claimed it was more comfortable for him.

Stevie's other famous guitar was named "Lenny:"

and was given to him by his wife, who's name was, not coincidentally, Lenny. Either a 1963 or '64, he used this guitar to achieve more clean tones than with Number One, with songs like "Lenny" and "Rivera Paradise." After he broke up with his wife, he re-named the guitar "Scotch." The exact statistics of this guitar are unknown.

Next up in Stevie Ray Vaughans arsenal of awesomeness are his kickass AMPS!

One of Stevie's classic pet peeves is that when he played live, he played LOUD! Many people ask if his gigs could have been less noisy. The answer is simply no, its not possible, the reason being that SRV played on the clean channel (believe it or not, he did!) and cranked it loud enough to create tube distortion, which is a huge benefiting factor to his signature sounds.

Stevie often combined Fender and Marshall amplifiers to create another very original sound. However, at some gigs, he played one or the other. The best way to understand the differences is to check out youtube videos and observe his equipment.

In this interview, he plays Rude Mood at 2:27 with a Marshall Stack amplifier.

In this gig, he plays Rude Mood with a Fender Deville.

In this gig, he plays Little Wing with a mix of both Fender and Marshall.

As you can tell, the Marshall's tone is very bright and full of midrange, and the Deville is very bassy and bright, with little midrange. This makes it very difficult to replicate SRV's recordings while he is using a combination of amplifiers, such as the studio recording of Little Wing.

Reccomended Amplifier Settings
I own a Fender Deville and have messed with it for months and months trying to get the tone, and I believe I've got the general idea, though I cannot say for sure. There is no setting that is definite, of course, each song has its own settings, but here are my reccomendations for songs such as Rude Mood and Pride and Joy-
Clean Channel, volume at a minimum of 5 of 12, no lower or theres no point.
TREBLE - 80%
Midrange - 40%
PRESENCE - 0% (also very important)
REVERB - 20% or around.

With the correct playing technique, the correct pickups selected, strings, etc, the setup I just named will create a tone as close to identical as you can get to this gig-

In addition to the equipment that I just listed, it has been said that SRV used an Ibanez Tubescreamer, or two even. -Thanks, jthm_guitarist!

I find it unneccasary if you have an adequate tube amplifier, but its still been said that he uses it, so I will not leave it out.


08-10-2007, 02:00 AM
While we’re on effects and pedals, Stevie also used Dunlop Crybaby wah-wah pedals in songs with solos like “Couldn’t Stand The Weather.”

Next up to bat? The Pickup Selector, Technique, and Strings!

You can do everything that I have said so far and not sound like Stevie at all if you don’t know what to do with the switch…not to mention if you don’t know what to do with your fingers. But we’ll start off with the switch first.

It was not uncommon for Stevie to switch his pickup selector around several times in a single song, but the tricky thing is he almost never did the same thing twice; he was constantly innovating, so it is yet again quite hard to replicate. We are now entering the fields of speculation. Here is an example from Pride and Joy-

Stevie’s selector sounds like it is always in the middle position when he begins Pride and Joy. However, once the beat commences, his tone completely changes as he plays the 12-bar blues riff. The best way I can replicate this is to switch to the 2nd to the forward most position, alas the Neck and Middle pickups, once the intro ends, and switch back to the middle pickup selector for the lead and solos. This is merely my own way to replicate his tone with my own guitar, you will have to innovate and experiment yourself if you wish to find how to accomplish this on yours.

Next up is his Technique! I am not going to pretend to say I can play like him, and I’m not going to say that I can tell you how. But I can tell you what I have learned from experience.

In my opinion, muting strings is the single-most important thing you must learn to do if you wish to play Stevie Ray classics. Not palm muting, but finger muting on the fretboard. The reason behind this is that when Stevie wants to play a single note in the post-intro of Pride and Joy, or throughout the chorus of Rood Mood, and many other tunes, he doesn’t just strum the string, he strums all six, and he does it for the thump the other strings make. Watch his hand when he performs. He is not picking single strings unless he is playing solos; and even then, he sometimes doesn’t…but instead his arm is strumming as if he were playing chords on an acoustic. And THAT technique in itself will get you THE Stevie Ray Vaughan tone if you can do it correctly, regardless of what your amps are set to. Unless you’re plugged into a Spider III.

Lastly for this section…his Strings. Stevie played .13s constantly, but sometimes switched out the high e for an .11 when his fingers were roughed up. His strings were GHS Rockers, which aren’t super common anymore…but the next best thing I have happened upon that sound fantastic for SRV is a set of GHS Boomers. I play these in .11s, and they replicate the twangyness very well.

I would like to end the informational part of this thread on a high-note, with a bit of advice that will complete your SRV image. Whenever you bend a high note, make sure you make an orgasmic face!

Thank you for reading this thread, and I hope that I helped the greater community by writing this article. Please feel free to point out mistakes, suggestions, comments, or anything!

Long live the memory of Stevie Ray Vaughan!
October 3rd, 1954 – August 27th, 1990

08-10-2007, 02:08 AM
All right, good info. Also, he switched out the fret wire in all of his guitars to a very big gauge to handle bending those thick strings.
Also, I've heard from a few sources that he used two tubescreamers.

08-10-2007, 02:16 AM
Wow! That was great, I'm a huge SRV fan, so I appreciate this!

EDIT: What's even better is that I own a Fender DeVille!

08-10-2007, 02:18 AM
All right, good info. Also, he switched out the fret wire in all of his guitars to a very big gauge to handle bending those thick strings.
Also, I've heard from a few sources that he used two tubescreamers.

Gotcha, thanks bro.

08-10-2007, 02:18 AM
All right, good info. Also, he switched out the fret wire in all of his guitars to a very big gauge to handle bending those thick strings.
Also, I've heard from a few sources that he used two tubescreamers.

i've heard he used two wah pedals duct taped together also.

08-10-2007, 02:28 AM
Nice article.

08-10-2007, 02:32 AM
i've heard he used two wah pedals duct taped together also.
What would be the point in that? Would it double the wahhage?

08-10-2007, 02:33 AM
What would be the point in that? Would it double the wahhage?

Aww cmon man, you could'a gone for "double the wahhtage." ;)

I'm not sure what the hell the point is but hey, its not out of the question is it? The man knew what he was doin', no debates there.

08-26-2007, 07:31 PM
This is fantastic. Nice job!

Soul Power
08-26-2007, 08:43 PM
Sweet, thanks, bud! :cheers:

08-26-2007, 08:52 PM
awesome read :cheers:

08-27-2007, 03:31 AM
I don't think he ever used a DeVille. I'm pretty sure he just used a Deluxe Reverb. A few other HUGELY important things...

-He was known for using a Dumble. Good luck with this. If you can even find one, they go for between 15-20k just for the head.
-As someone said, he did use huge frets. I'm pretty sure he had bass frets installed on his necks, in fact.
-He also used insanely heavy strings. He often used 12's or 13's, but he was known to once use a set of 18-70. I'm not kidding.

08-31-2007, 05:58 PM
This Is The ****ing Thread Man !! Yeeaaah

09-01-2007, 06:53 PM
Read somewhere that two wah's gives the sound of imitating voices, (far better than a single)

09-23-2007, 08:09 AM
He played a vox wah not a crybaby, I think. I played a vox wah and I thought it sounded a lot like his use of it.