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FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / BB Kings tone

Contributing Member


Praise him with the strings
Oct 9th, 2011 08:53 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

BB has a very unique tone he gets with his 335. I have tried all types of combo pedals. amps. guitar settings, and still not quite there.

I know I don't have his fingers or heart, and I know want to copy BB exactly, just the tone sound I love. Does anybody know what setup he uses? Amp & settings, front or back pickup, and tone, pedals, etc? Or is it just all BB magic :-)

Thanks -Z

Contributing Member

That chicken

is WRONG, baby.
Oct 9th, 2011 11:30 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

He was playing through LAB solid-state amps for years. I have not seen him live in at least 10 years so I don't know what he's using these days.

Ask this in the Misc section, and you'll find someone that has.

Contributing Member


Praise him with the strings
Oct 9th, 2011 02:59 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Ok, thanks!



Oct 11th, 2011 04:56 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

So you are looking for post-60s BB tone. Still, I think, the 00s tone is cleaner than before, at least on records.

strings are Gibson 10s.

Used to play Twin Reverbs. Fully open. Bass at 5 or 6; treble at 7 or 8; verb at 2.

I think the Lab series is still in use. His 2nd guitarist was using an old Fender last time I saw them.

I think always on the middle position "both pickups" on the switch, and the Varitone on the full (so not using the Varitone).

geoff f


Dec 10th, 2011 10:04 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Dec 17th, 2011 12:53 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

weelie is close--he's accurate on the amps up to the late '80's/early '90's when he switched over to LAB series.

But he does vary the pickup selections on the guitar. I think he even uses the varitone on occasion. The quintessential tone is both pickups on, but you can find neck or bridge pickup by themselves if you listen to enough.

I think most of his magic came w/the Fender amps, though some of his early '90's stuff like Live At The Apollo, and Blues Summit feature great tones and may be a mix of Fender and LAB.

And it's not a huge deal, but he plays a 355, not a 335. The varitone switch, and also just the ebony board offers different tones. Since the '80's he's had his Lucille model, no F-holes. I've heard him say the guitar is solid. I'm not sure that's true, but they are very heavy.

Contributing Member

Columbia, SC

Dec 19th, 2011 05:48 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

seems to me you just need a couple humbuckers, crank up the amp, and then try to do the BB vibrato.

Contributing Member

Arlington, VA

Take me to the (Potomac) River!
Dec 21st, 2011 02:45 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I have watched him less than others, but he often plays with both pickups on and adjusts tone with the volume pots.

Try setting both to about "6" and then ramping up one then the other. Granted, this does not address his base "tone" but it is a technique that he uses.

Next question, does anyone really like his "tone," as opposed to his playing?

DiploStrat (Who will now duck.)

Contributing Member

New England

Dec 21st, 2011 07:02 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I wasn't going to respond to this because I thought it was going to get moved, but since it is still here...

The ebony fingerboard is a HUGE part of the sound. If you've only played rosewood board semi hollows, then the first time you pick one up with an ebony board it is pretty shocking, and you say "THAT'S IT!". If you ever see a Lucille for sale somewhere, be sure to try it out just to have an idea.

Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Jan 2nd, 2012 02:36 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic


It depends on the tune. Sometimes his tone is real thin, lately it's been pretty distorted, but his tone in the '70's and '80's and even thru the mid/90's was really really good.

For example 'Thrill Is Gone' is kind of thin, even though I like his notes, but many tunes from the same time period sound terrific.

Contributing Member

Cincinnati, USA

Jan 3rd, 2012 09:05 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

On Live in Cook County Jail, the tone really changes with the dynamics and gets very thin when he turns the volume down. Listening to it recently, my first thought was his treble bleed cap must be too large. But more likely, there is no treble bleed cap and it's just the Fletcher Munson curve in action.

Tyrone Shuz


I'm all in!
Jan 3rd, 2012 11:51 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I noticed that too, amphead, but boy when he turns it up, it sounds FAT! How Blue Can You Get starts out really nervous, thin, and noodly, and after about two rounds in the intro, the switch comes on and the whole band is on fire, and BB is just killin'!

Contributing Member

North of Philly

Solid state = solid sound+light weight
Feb 27th, 2012 08:39 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I read an interview once(maybe Guitar Player) in which he talked about using two amps, one set for max treble, and one set for max bass, at the same time.

Since the guitar is stereo I inferred that each PU went to its own amp bridge to treble, neck to bass.

Then again my recall could be faulty.

Contributing Member


Praise him with the strings
Mar 8th, 2012 01:51 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

I think many of you hit the nail on the head. The Ebony board. I have played many different necks and there is a difference!

I don't want to emulate BB and go after exactly what he's doing, I play my own tone. I just really like his as was wondering his setup. Thanks all for the great input!

Power Trio

West Virginia,

Mar 9th, 2012 07:11 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

i think much of that is done through the sound boards. Ive seen BB many times and although he doesent move around any more his tone changes
withoout him appearing to do anything.

Ive got a Pro rev reissue and with an LP using
decent HB's and a medium cap .33
with the neck and the amp up to about 4.
if I roll back the tone to say 3 and the vol to 5 it comes cloes to his fat. with that set up theres no pedals invloved either. just a nice fendery clean amp and guitar.

i saw buddy guy many many times and was 4 ft from him a few times and while he walking though the auduance playing clean and thin all of the sudden it gets fat and dirty and he was no where near his pedals or controls.. again sound guys must have something to do with it unless its all
Johhny cockeroo :)

FWIW if you like fat as a treat listen to Otis Rush Live in Europe imo that tone is as fat as fat can get.

I know he like the old bassmens (which im not fortunate enuf to have) but he also used a strat on the CD. I can get close to his fat with the same set up i use for BB and add some light OCD
as a boost

its all trial and error, yull know what works and dotn work after a while

(This message was last edited by Power Trio at 07:21 AM, Mar 9th, 2012)

FDP Forum / The Chop Shop / BB Kings tone

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