Joe Perry: Less Gain Rocks!

November 8, 2010 | By | 4 Replies More

Perry_Joe_DAlucite_2009You’ve probably read or heard that even if you like distortion, it’s best to play with as little as possible – a la the Young bros, EVH, Yngwie and many others who like warm tone.

That said, it can be very tough to do that, for the following reasons:

> Playing with a lot of gain can be fun. It’s fluid, notes sustain easily – which makes it easier to cop poses like a rock stah – and it covers mistakes.

> These days most amps have more gain on tap than you and five of your buds could ever need.

> On top of that, you NEED (right?) eight stompboxes running into the front of your amp – meaning fuzz + OD + whatever else + amp = mush (sometimes).

Just in case you’re prone to gain-fuzzland, or you have a tone that gives you wood when you’re rocking out at home but not in a band situation, here’s Aerosmith’s Joe Perry – whom I’m sure has at least eight stompboxes in his rig at any one time – with some tonalicious advice in that regard.

“…when you’re playing live…smaller is better. You don’t need a whole stack of Marshalls to sound good and you may not even need a very loud sound, especially in a small venue.

“What I mean is, it’s not [about] volume. I’ve heard little combos sound louder through a mic and a PA than a big Marshall that’s turned up. It may be loud, but the actual sound that’s going out over the PA may not be that great. It’s better to go with a smaller amp and really get a good sound out of one or two speakers. You get a lot more tone.

“If you’re using amps that are heavily overdriven, it may sound really good when you’re taking a solo and be really easy to play, but it’s very easy for it to turn into mush out in the house, especially if you’re working with keyboards and other guitar players. That’s one of the things I’ve learned, and that’s why my sound is so much cleaner, drier and less overdriven.

“That overdrive may sound great when you’re soloing, but when you start mixing it in with other instruments that are playing in that same sound area, that midrange 2K to 5K range, you lose the definition if there’s too much again. That’s true in the studio and it’s true on stage. It just turns into mush.

“So if you’re having trouble getting heard out there, a lot of it can be in the amount of overdrive you’re using. Many of the modern amps have so much gain, and then people add fuzztones and it just comes out like a wall of noise. If you’re having trouble getting some definition, just plug straight into a cleaner amp, like a Fender or an old Marshall, and if you need a little bit of juice for your solos, just tweak it a little bit with a fuzztone or some kind of boost.”

Or f*** the boxes, spend some coin on a killer boutique amp and just plug right into that. That’s what I do, and I’ve literally never been happier…. More on my rig in the near future.

‘Let The Music Do The Talking,’ live at the House of Blues in Orlando, Fla. on Dec. 2, 2009. NICE tone.


> The above quotes were taken from the 2003 book “Gear Secrets of the Guitar Legends,” which I do not recommend.

Category: Joe Perry

Comments (4)

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  1. Neal says:

    agreed, I like boxes and when I'm playing alone I have a tube screamer, Fuch's Plush drive and an Ox Fuzz. I don't use all three because the tone of the fuzz get's sucked out when I put either of the other two into the mix but the Screamer and the Fuch's can sound great together at lower volumes on a clean amp. So I had a jam last weekend with a buddy (drummer) and once we got rockin' my solos just disappeared. At that point the only thing I needed was the screamer. Everything else just muddied up the tone, the only things making it through was the odd pinch harmonic which tended to hurt more than sound good. I was playing a very clean Fender tube amp and doing everything from old Blues, Tom Petty to Hendrix. Less distortion is definitely better as far as tone is concerned.

  2. jocko says:

    Right, have you seen his stage set up, loads of stacks and he is talking about one lil amp…. funny….. JA

  3. Ben Sp says:

    An Ampeg or Dan Armstrong guitar, the kind with the gig detachable, trade-em-out pickups? A shame the drums sound so board tape-ey. Guitar does sound good though

  4. 'Nother Plucker says:

    I always liked the JPP original version of this tune over the Aerosmith Steven Tyler rewrite, but for some reason this live take doesn’t quite measure up for me. Maybe I miss Ralph Mormon’s Rod Stewart howl. Joe used his fabled Strat with the Tele neck on the record, that in-between tone is all over that album.

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