Robin Trower’s Bridge of Sighs Gear

March 23, 2009 | By | 6 Replies More

trower_robin_1975The first time I heard Robin Trower, I had the same thought everyone probably did: That guy sounds like Hendrix. Actually, it may have been: That guy ripped off Hendrix! But man, Robin did it well because his tunes sounded so goooooooooood.

If you don’t have Bridge of Sighs on CD, you must…go…get…it. Right now!

Anyhow, the obvious question for us gearheads is: Did Robin use the same stuff as Jimi to get his sounds? I’d always assumed the answer was yes, and…it mostly is.

Here’s some info from and


Upon leaving Procol Harum to start your solo career, you immediately got into what generally became known as the signature Robin Trower sound. Did a lot of time, effort and research go into creating this?

Robin: Well, it all really started from that very distorted Hubert Sumlin sound, and a track by Muddy Waters called ‘Still A Fool’. I was always trying to make it, right from the moment I’d heard it, you know, that Howlin’ Wolf noise. That’s what it developed into really.

In the early ’60s, I put it through a preamp to get the overload sound. You couldn’t buy an overdrive pedal. I used to put it through a little practice amp and then into a bigger amp to try and get that sound. Eventually I started getting fuzz boxes, when they started making stuff like that. During my early period I had custom-made overdrive stuff because I didn’t like what they were making at the time.


By Bridge of Sighs, he’d fully developed his trademark style of fluid legato lines support by a sustained, overdriven tone and colored by his smart, spare use of effects like the wah-wah, Octavia, and phase shifter — all, not coincidentally, favorites of Hendrix.

Did the comparisons to Hendrix back in the early days ever get annoying?

Robin: No, I can’t say they ever did because it’s obviously a great compliment really. The only thing is, I often wondered if people were missing what I added to it of my own. That was the only other side of it. I definitely felt I had developed into something of my own from the influence. He was one influence, along with quite a few other guitar players. I felt that the main thing I had brought to it was my compositional ability.


Before Hendrix came on the scene, Robin was studying records by Albert King, B.B. King, and Otis Rush. Albert and Otis were both southpaws, so had the natural advantage of pulling downward to bend strings, and all three have masterful vibrato.

Robin continued to develop his sound and his array of gear. By 1977’s In City Dreams Trower was using a modified wah-wah pedal with an expanded sweep and gadgets like the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, which blends stereo flanging and chorus effects.

Robin’s hottest rig was: Strats through a pair of 100-watt Marshall JMP-100 Mark II heads feeding two 1960-B 4×12 cabs, and an big effects chain on the floor: custom preamp and clean booster pedals, a Dan Armstrong Red Ranger treble booster, a Tychobrahe wah-wah, an octave/fuzz Fender Blender, a Uni-Vibe chorus/vibrato, Mutron II phase shifter, and two Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistresses.

He used .10 strings for a slinky, but not slithery, feel. He also tuned his guitar down a whole step for concerts, to D-G-C-F-A-D. And while much of Trower’s playing favors standard blues boxes, chromatic melodies are his hallmark, so think about the notes between the notes of standard pentatonic patterns.


There are some discrepancies as far as what Robin is using on the floor now, but then again he’s always experimenting.

Here’s one: a Jennings or Vox wah, a Tube Works Real Tube Overdrive, a Boss Tremolo and a Fulltone Deja Vibe.

And here’s another: “All of the pedals I use are from Mike Fuller, Fulltone. The wah, Deja-Vibe, the OCD pedal – those are the three main things I’m using at the moment, but I also mess around with a thing called a Fat Boost, which is really good. I don’t tend to stand still for very long. I tend to try stuff all the time. I’m always trying different pedals and setups, you know.”

Also: “I’m using Marshall JCM 900s. For the studio I’m just using 2 2/12s, but I add a 4/12 for live. I also record with 2 Fender Blues Juniors sometimes. I use Ernie Ball strings, 12, 15, 17, 26, 36, and 48, tuned down a whole step.”

Category: Electro-Harmonix, Fulltone, Marshall, Mutron, Robin Trower, Strat, Tube Works

Comments (6)

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  1. garbeaj says:

    There is no mention of the actual effects that Robin used on Bridge of Sighs. What type of wah, fuzz, amp model (probably Marshall, but what model?) The Shin-Ei Univibe goes without saying…I think I hear an auto-wah/envelope following filter, and I think it may be the Mu-Tron III as Stevie Wonder was using it on the clavinet at the same general time frame as Bridge of Sighs…but at any rate, there is no information on Robin's Brisge of Sighs set-up that we don't already know…

    • pat says:

      Well, as the article says it was released in 1973. So there really was only one model out there at the time (for loud rock bands, anyway) -Until very recently Robin was known for using 100 watters live- therefore, it was more than likely an early 70’s Superlead,wouldn’t you think? Unless, perhaps he still had a mid-late 60’s plexi kicking around, but I’m quite sure he was using the metal-face Superleads. If I remember correctly from an old Guitar Player interview back then ( I have been a major Trower fan since his days in Procul Harum) he was using a small amp output as a pre-amp into the big Marshall. This can be very hard on amps, so I wouldn’t try it unless you have a tech check it over and do some mods, particularly concerning input/output interfaces and impedances.

  2. Dean Mullen says:

    Every olde pic I see pre-Long Misty Days never shows the pedals well enuff for ID. In an olde Circus interview I have he just refers to ‘boosting the front of the amp’ and of course the Univibe itself. He also mentions that he ‘messed about with the Fuzz Face’ only on the first album. One pic I have from the Long Misty Days tour shows clearly a Jen/Vox/Thomas Organ type wah. The other two pedals accompanying the mystical Univibe on the board look like project-boxed items (but so was his ‘In City Dreams-Victims Of The Fury’ board). By the wah sound on ‘Bridge Of Sighs/For Earth Below/Long Misty Days’ it’s obviously an Italian style wah. Period. Doesn’t have that aqua-flap thing the McCoys have, but still is a great reference for THE SOUND. Remember that the same company was churning these out en masse for a lot of different companies on demand. I remember having an argument years ago with a guy about Jimi using a Cry Baby, and those ridiculous ads in the 70s didn’t help, he showed me the Jimi pic shot from behind with the Jen Cry Baby with the logo at the toe of the rocker pedal, I rolled my eyes, then the next time I saw him I showed him the same looking pedal, pointing out it was the same as the nonworking Italian Vox 846 I owned at the time). So, from that pic I see a box before the wah (probably a boost by his later arrangement), another after the wah (I’ll guess whatever distortion he was using at the time), then the Univibe. Doesn’t mean that’s the order as wired, but I see at least four boxes on the floor during that period, and all the live recording up till ‘In City Dreams’ reveal nothing but wah, univibe and distortion/overdrive. I emailed RT years ago right after the site went up about the early pedals and got a reply from Sutton to refer to the 1980 Guitar Player interview, which only refers to the ICD-VOTF board. Thanks a lot. Point in fact, given the live recordings from the day including the BBC and Grey Whistle tracks, his ‘Bridge Of Sighs/For Earth Below’ sound Trower openly rewards to Fishers engineering. The sound on those two albums are indescribable. Wow.

  3. Richard slattery says:

    Around 1974-76 firmament or alembic preamp for a little while.

  4. Brian says:

    The first time I saw Mr. Trower, back during the 1985 tour, I was standing against the stage directly in front of him, and looking over his pedals. He was going from his Strat into a VOX wah, IBANEZ TS-9, DUNLOP Uni-Vibe, BOSS CE-2, then into his MARSHALLs. All the pedals were powered by batteries and they were just wired together on the floor, with no other power source or pedal board. I was a bit surprised to see the DUNLOP pedal on the floor. What a sound he had. Still, even now, he sounds great – even though his equipment has changed, his sound has remained very much the same. His equipment is easily acquired. Perhaps, we should simply spend more time in focused practicing.

  5. cousin jake says:

    i opened for trower back in the 80’s. he was using a boss ce-2. [I couldn’t believe it either] but he had the same sound as on bridge of sighs

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