The 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 Gibson.com and ModernGuitars.com:
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.”