Aged Texas Standard
The tone a lot of us are looking for, that is so hard to capture, is the elusive Stevie Ray Vaughan tone. It’s in the hands, no its the gear, no the 1962 Stratocaster… that’s it! These are all correct.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Tone: The Guitar
The first step is to start with the right guitar: a Stratocaster or custom S-style guitar.
Having a guitar with good single coil pickups is a must in order to achieve the SRV tone. Stevie used single coil pickups exclusively throughout his career.
There are many options for the single coil pickup including factory suppliers and hand winders as well.
Personally, I prefer using hand-wounds to capture a specific era of tone. String size isn’t a huge factor, as long as your strings are .010 and above. You want a string you can control. That’s what is most important when you make your string selection.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Tone: The Pedals
As far as pedals go, Stevie was very minimal. He used a Tubescreamer (or sometimes two) to achieve his base tone. He also used a Wah, Octavia and Fuzz Face pedals.
Tubescreamers are not as practical for home playing, they are better suited to a cranked amp, which may not be popular with those who live with you — or your nearby neighbors.
Tubescreamers pull so much bass out at low volumes, that they can sound very thin. Enter the Wampler Clarksdale. This is the perfect alternative, because it has a three-band active equalizer to help get you where you want to be. I also use and recommend the Lovepedal Super Six to get the cranked Super Reverb Tone. These two pedals alone can take you to tone heaven.
Stevie Ray Vaughan Tone: The Amplifiers
Early on, Stevie used two Fender Vibroverbs, Super Reverb and a Fender Vibrotone cabinet. He usually had one Vibroverb and the Super on at the same time. I use a ’64 Vibroverb and a ’65 Bandmaster and it gets me right where I want to be.
Everyone’s budget is not the same, of course, but if you start with something Fender or Fender-based it will get you there. (And it doesn’t have to be a $3000 amp.)
Stevie Ray Vaughan Tone: In The Hands?
Yes, a lot of that famous tone is in the hands — and we are all out of luck there. Stevie could play so violently and aggressively that most mortals could only last a few minutes at that pace. The rest of us just have to do the best we can. After all, his technique and skills were one-of-a-kind.
In the end, we are all going to sound like ourselves and we always will. But we can still have fun developing and stretching and improving our skills. The fun is trying to get there, and remember: lessons go a long way in helping you to develop your own style and your own sound.