Part two – BB King’s sound – Chicago Blues

Chicago Blues came from Chicago Illinois and developed the delta blues by drawing upon a band environment (typically drums, bass, piano, guitar). One of the key men in Chicago Blues is BB King and in part two of our series on how to get a great Blues Guitar tone we’ll take a look at how BB Kings gets his sound.

King started his recording career in the 1940’s and has gone onto influence a plethora of artists from U2 to Eric Clapton – he has a number of classic tracks (“Thrill is gone”) and classic albums (“Live at the Regal”) to call upon. Today at the age of 81 – King continues to play live to a raft of adoring enthusiasts.

King is famous for his guitar “Lucille” – Typically Lucille has been a Gibson 335 of which King has been a close associate over the years. There have been many “Lucilles” over the years and King has played many different guitars throughout his long career, including various Fenders, Gretsch and Gibsons.) These days Gibson produces a BB King signature “Lucille”. A semi hollow body electric with two humbucker pickups.. Gibson also produce BB King signature guitar strings which he is also a user – King uses .010 to .054 gauge.

Today’s Gibson “Lucille” is that familiar 335 shape – semi hollowbody but with no sound holes (King has played 335’s with f holes over the years) – King opts for no sound holes to avoid feedback – the guitar also features a varitone switch which allows King to dial in the right tone that he requires. Gibson’s “Lucille” also features stereo output. Pickups are Gibson’s standard 490R and 490T humbuckers.

King’s amp of choice is a Lab Series L5, a solid-state 2×12 combo. When on the road King opts to rent his amps in each town he plays where L5’s aren’t available he’ll opt for Fender Twin Reverb.

Effects wise it’s pretty easy – BB King doesn’t generally use effects; his sound comes from his guitar, his amp and his technique – on a typical tube amp – look to boost everything but the mid range – and dial back down on the guitars volume and tone pots until your able to produce an approximation.

To get that BB King sound – look at his technique –he shows great use of vibrato and picking style incorporating slides and bends. He incorporates some classic riffs and his style is one of accompliment rather than rhythm (King doesn’t play rhythm) his style incorporates that classic call and response blues technique that is so apparent within classic blues.

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