Neal Schon’s Early Journey Gear

August 2, 2010 | By | 2 Replies More

I have a few buds who still laugh at me for digging Journey. I think it’s the Steve Perry, Jonathan Cain-driven “Don’t Stop Believin'” stuff that gets them laughing because after the chuckle they’re always like, “Neal Schon, great player.”

“F-in A right!” as they say, or used to, in Patterson, N.J. Neal is a stellar player, possessed with the rare combo of chops and feel, not to mention the ability to write good pop and rock riffs and tunes. And the oldest Steve Perry-era Journey was rock and blues-rock, not pop. Great stuff. (Wait a minute…. Am I a Journey apologist?!)

The problem with tracking down what Neal used in 1980 (the Departure album) and before is that Neal is a known gear lover and tone-chaser. The guy would experiment with just about anything. I remember watching some very early Journey shows on TV – just after the advent of cable TV – where Neal changed guitars about 10 times.

From photos and videos, as well as his time with Santana starting when he was just 15 – according to Neal, Clapton asked Neal to be in Derek and the Dominoes a day before Santana asked him to come aboard – it’s obvious that Neal favors Les Pauls. Even now he uses custom-built Lesters.

So that was his preferred or most-used model of guitar (he used several), along with a ’63 Strat, but certainly wasn’t his only one. In addition to Strats, he used other brands of guitars and seemed to play anything effortlessly.

Amp-wise, it’s tough to tell. He used a Marshall here and a Fender there – Hiwatts later – but it appears that his preferred amp on record and live in roughly ’78, ’79 and ’80 was…the Peavey Mace.

The Mace, no longer produced, had a solid-state pre-amp and not two, not four, but six 6L6 power tubes, just in case anyone in that era still valued their hearing.

If the Mace sounds familiar, it’s the same amp used by the Skynyrd guys back in the day.

Check out these two vids that feature an early Neal with Peavey amps, though it’s hard to say for sure whether they are Maces. Great playing too.

End of “Feelin’ That Way,” Live, 1978

“Any Way You Want It,” In the Studio, 1980


From the July 1982 Guitar Player mag:

> Infinity album: ’63 Strat, rosewood neck, Gibson PAF in the bridge. “Lights” was the Strat into a Marshall plexi.

> Departure album: ’63 Strat on neck position for “Walks Like a Lady” through a Peavey Mace which was on very low; “Precious Time” was with a Peavey doubleneck, with the short-scale 12-string tuned regularly but an octave higher; “Line of Fire” was a black Les Paul through an Electro-Harmonix Hot Tubes distortion pedal into the Mace.

More on Neal coming up!

Category: Electro-Harmonix, Les Paul, Neal Schon/Journey, Peavey, Strat

Comments (2)

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  1. @kentsandvik says:

    Check out the Neil Schol/Jan Hammer collaborations such as Untold Passion the LP. Me thinks Neil is even better with such rock-jazz collaborations.

  2. Vini says:

    For the escape like sound I use a modulated delay and specially tweaked plate reverb. Can hear on demos at
    Eq out a lot of the low end to verb to get that sheen
    Prs guitar into boss comp into a cranked mess mark 4 & Mesa cab w 30w celestions . Live w/o verb here

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