Rainbow: Best Rock Strat Tone Ever?

April 12, 2011 | By | 20 Replies More

Blackmore_Ritchie_79_1Is a Strat a rock instrument? Seriously. I’m talking about a Strat with a single-coil pickup at the bridge.

If so, can you name five rock Strat players in 10 seconds? How about five rock Strat players whose tones you’d want to cop?

I can only name two. I’m not dissing Tommy Bolin or anyone else who might be on your faves list, but all I can think of when it comes to good classic rock Strat tone is Ritchie Blackmore and Yngwie Malmsteen. (Hendrix I’m excluding because not sure he fits into the classic rock category – he’s his own genre. Ditto for Beck.)

Both Ritchie and Yngwie, who idolized Ritchie, played/play Strats through Marshalls – loud. And let’s face it, just about anything through a cranked Marshall will sound great.

Both have great album and live tones. But for me, Blackmore has the edge. Notably in Rainbow, and especially in later Rainbow, like the 1979 album Down to Earth.

Not to discount the amazing Purple stuff or the equally great Dio-era Rainbow, I just like the more-aggressive guitar tone on the Graham Bonnet-era stuff. Anyone remember these gems from the early days of MTV:

‘All Night Long’

‘Since You’ve Been Gone’

Here’s a rough mix of ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ without singing, so you can really hear the guitar tone:


Ritchie’s signal chain at that point in his career seemed (as it usually did) to be pretty simple: guitar, boost, amp. But every part of the chain was modded.

> His guitars had pickup and tone circuit mods.

> By this time the boost seems to have been modded boost pedals, apparently two different treble boosters, or maybe the same brand but with different chips. But he had slaved a Vox AC30 into a Marshall before and had a homemade tape-recorder boost (see below).

> The notoriously unreliable Marshall Majors were modded in several ways including an extra preamp tube.

(More gear info here in a previous post.)

However he did it, Ritchie was after a tone in his head and it sounded good! Who’s rock Strat tone beats that? Any opinions, deliver them below….

Blackmore's modded #1 Marshall Major (dawksound.com photo).

Blackmore's modded #1 Marshall Major (dawksound.com photo).


> Here’s an example of how he fooled around with different ways of getting more of what’s now known as gain, from this long and early (Purple era) interview: “I don’t use an Echoplex. I use my own thing. I made like my own tape recorder up as an echo. It gives me an echo when it’s played back. It’s hard to explain. I just overload the input side and I can get my sustain as well. It doesn’t thin out my sound like all the echoes do. Echoes always thin the sound. The way I’ve got this built is to give me the exact same sound that I’ve had if I was actually plugged straight into an amp without all that bloody extra circuit.”

Graham and Yngwie in Alcatrazz doing a tune off Down to Earth

Brian May playing and singing a good version of Since You’ve Been Gone – which was not written by Rainbow, btw.

Category: Marshall, Ritchie Blackmore, Strat

Comments (20)

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  1. jimmy says:

    ummm, in the Alcatrazz video at 1:08 Yngwie is swinging his strat around by the chord ? That is pretty metal!
    I do enjoy Ritchie’s tone very much. Especially on the live Purple stuff… Made In Japan and In Concert 70-72. Cool to hear him click through his selector switch a dozen times through 1 solo.
    Jeff Beck is pretty much a strat player these days and on his recent studio cd’s he gets some amazing tones.
    And lets not forget Uli Jon Roth….. Tokyo Tapes, although not an amazing sounding live album… still has some great lead tones and some gut wrenching tremelo dive bomb’s going on.

  2. mickey69 says:

    i have the live between the eyes vid on dvd, and on the close ups, you can see that the bridge pickup is not a fender. it has all lfat pole pieces. if i had to guess, i’d say it was a quarter pounder. but that’s just a guess.

  3. Gee Halen says:

    I don’t know, I would put some Hendrix tunes there as well. Some of them are almost straight rock.

  4. TX-Joe says:

    I much prefer Uli Jon Roth to Ritchie.
    Any of the early Scorpions albums with Uli completely blow my mind.
    I think he is much underrated and would love to know more about Uli’s guitars, amps and effects from that era.

  5. Jon says:

    No no no – best tone ever.

  6. Ben Sp says:

    Yngwie’s playing one of Eddie’s signature licks at 3:07!

  7. tim w says:

    U don’t know how anyone can ask that question about rock playing Strat players and leave out David Gilmour. Its beyond me.

  8. Doctor V says:

    Gary Moore had some of the best heavy strat tones ever. Check out the video on YouTube of “Shapes of Things” Monster tone.

  9. comrade says:

    What about Fernando von Arb from Krokus?

    Yes, he also plays other guitars (Les Paul, SG, some Superstrats and Explorer likes during the 80’s…), but I always associated him with Strat.


  10. tim says:

    How about David Gilnour???? Nobody tries to get his tone? I build pedals, and the most requested distortion/OD/fuzz request is for an early Muff pedal that gives them a D. Gilmour tone.

  11. cjrebel says:

    Easy – I like single bridges WAAAAAAYYYY better for rock, even hi gain metal as it chunks and cuts at the same time.

    Blackmore – yes

    David Gilmour – listen to “Comfortably Numb” – Hiwatt on 10 – and a Strat

    HENDRIX – DUH – listen to Woodstock – the fattest goddamn tone – god I want this tone! Also anything on “Band Of Gypsys”…

    SRV – live – Voodoo Child

    GARY F*CKING MOORE – He has one of THE FATTEST guitar tones, ever on “Shapes of Things” and the live video “Emerald Isles” – my god – the guitar sustains for 20 years

    SINGLE COIL in the bridge – JIMMY PAGE – the entire first Zep album and then some

    And let’s not even get into P90’s. I think this short list will suffice.

  12. cjrebel says:

    And, IMHO – Ritchie’s best tone was on “Perfect Strangers”. Wow…

  13. Tim w says:

    Didnt see my first post, that’s why the second. But also; every guitar player in Iron Maiden, Gary Hoey(hometown boy, and ive done setups for him, so i have to throw it out there, plus he screams). And how about the ultimate tone chaser: Eric Johnson. If you go onto any of the websites that you can download patches for digital multipedals; Comfortably Numb, and Cliffs Of Dover is listed 100 times. I cant disagree with this articles premise at all. Ive played off and on for over 20 years, fulltime for the last 6, and while I own several great electrics; Les Paul Standard, 99 PRS Mrcarty hollowbody(last year for the real wide ones), PRS Custom 22, Gibby ES 345, an old Sheraton w/bigsby(the least expensive, but next to my strats my favorite), and 3 strats; a 57 RI, Custom Classic, and one I built from a one piece body, and quartersawn neck (actually, i hand shaped the neck, and took alot from the E.Johnson strat because its one of the best sounding,acoustically, strats made. My main is the ES, but I play my strat more than any other when im not playing with my current band. Solos cut way better than humbuckers, plus with the 11 gauge strings, and longer neck scale, it doesnt do exactly what you want it to like the Gibsons and PRS’s will. Most would think you’d want a more playable guitar, and you do when you’re recording or playing something reheresed. But the best stuff ive written for the electric was done on my strats. That fight it puts up, the fact that when i hit it; it hits me back. that’s when the best of what i have comes out.
    I love my Gibsons and PRS’s, but after playing a strat for a couple hours, they feel like toys in my hands.

  14. guitthumper says:

    Joe Perry used a lefty strat with a tele neck alot during the early days of Aerosmith, as well as on the underrated first Joe Perry Project record, “Let the Music Do the Talkin’.” I’d say that’s some serious rock tone.

  15. James says:

    Fat classic rock Strat tones…how on earth could you leave out ROBIN TROWER – the tone on Bridge Of Sighs has to be one of the most monstrously thick, fat and utterly delicious Strat + Marshall (with a hint of Univibe) tones ever recorded!

  16. Innerspace says:

    Rock strat players?

    Several have been mentioned allready, but I’ll give you two more, who both know/knew how to get a great rock sound out of pretty much stock strats:

    Rory Gallagher, Irishman, who sadly isn’t with us anymore, but who released a good few albums of hard blues based rock from the 70s through to his death in the 90s. In the early seventies, he was in hard rock pioneers Taste. Was famous for playing an early sixties sunburst strat that, as the years went by, was so heavily worn there was hardly any finish left (perhaps even more so than Stevie Ray Vaughn’s number one…).

    Marc Ford, played with southern hardrockers The Black Crowes from the second album onwards for a number of years. He’d play different guitars, but quite often, you’d see him with a strat, even on the heavier numbers.

    Oh, and come to think of it, Larry “Rhino” Reinhardt (Who also was in Iron Butterfly, of course…) can be seen making good use of a ’59 slab board strat (nerd info: transition model with an 8- screw guard) through Marshall Super Leads on that great footage of Captain Beyond at Montreux…

  17. ralf says:

    Caspar Broetzmann, head of “Broetzmann Massaker” is playing a Strat straight into 100W Marshalls. However, he is not a classic “blues” oriented rock guitar players but more of a noise oriented, explorative composer. His father Peter Broetzman is one of the main figures of the european free jazz movement in the seventies. That must have had a big influence on him.

  18. Joe says:

    It’s late and I’m tired but did I just read this thread and no one mentioned Eric Clapton? lol He’s not rock??? I mean you guys have to be kidding me.

    Definitely also disagree with saying Hendrix should be excluded. Since when isn’t Hendrix classic rock?

    I’d count Beck in this list before I’d count SRV, if you want to really be a stickler on the “rock” thing.

    I as well also find it pretty shocking the original poster forgot Gilmour. Gilmour as God of Strat tone is probably only next to Hendrix and Clapton on a Most Obvious Best Rock Strat tones list, I’d tend to think, before Blackmore, individual/personal tastes aside.

    Being that the original post spoke about “tone” and not necessarily who you would be likely to associate most identifiably with strats, you could add Jimmy Page who largely used a strat for Presence, Joe Walsh, who played a strat for the most part while in the Eagles, and always achieved great rock tone.

    Probably beginning in the late 70’s and definitely into the 80’s bridge-humbucker equipped guitars and Super-Strats predominated over rock. If one wants to consider Bryan Adams “rock,” then I supposed you could add him. He always had pretty sweet “classic rock” type tone if you think about it.

  19. Steve Cook says:

    Audley Freed. Specifically the album Brother from Cry of Love. I defy anyone to show me tastier playing and a more killer example of huge strat tone. Apologies to Richie Blackmore and David Gilmore.

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