Why do I not sound like my idol?

Ask the DudeSome guitarists might think “Stevie Ray Vaughan uses an Ibanez Tubescreamer – when I get myself a Tubescreamer too, I will sound like him.” Or “Eric Johnson is using a BK Butler Tube Drive for his lead tone, by using the same pedal I will also create exactly this sound.”

But unfortunately this (mostly) will not happen. Of course, both of these guitarists use exactly these pedals and on the internet you will find countless information about stars and their gear but the sound does not only come from the pedal (and also not only from the fingers) – it is an interplay of many aspects and the right setting.

The amplifier

Crucial for the sound of Jimi Hendrix was that he always played his fuzz pedal into a Marshall amp with the volume pot in full clockwise position.
If you go and get yourself a “Hendrix Signature” fuzz for your clean amp you might create an interesting sound but you will never sound like Hendrix.
Although the setup of many guitarists seems to be pretty simple, all parts are mostly perfectly matched.

The guitar

The setting of the volume and tone pot of the guitar also matters.
Especially Hendrix, Bonamassa, Johnson and similar guitarists never turn these pots to full clockwise position.
By turning the volume pot a little into counterclockwise direction you will be able to reduce the volume and also the treble in a certain way.
Thereby you can for example easily produce a rhythm sound and by turning the volume pot on you will get a punchier sound for a guitar solo.


Legendary overdrive pedals like the Ibanez Tubescreamer or the BK Butler Tube Driver won’t sound really well in front of a clean amplifier.
The first one sounds some kind of sticky and compressed while the second one gets shrill and sharp.
That’s the reason why both of these overdrives are mostly only used as a booster to compress and emphasize the mids in a certain way.
Eric Johnson for example uses a Tube Driver with the pots of the bass and the treble turned into full counterclockwise direction.
With a low degree of distortion the volume of the signal will be raised lightly.
If you use the pedal with exactly this setting and the tone pot turned in full clockwise direction in front of a clean amplifier there will be no way to sound like Eric Johnson.
But if you use the Tube Driver in front of an already overdriven amp and wind the tone pot of your guitar down you will get a really smooth sound with lightly boosted mids and less treble.

It is also interesting that Johnson produces the rhythm by using a Fuzz Face and the lead tone with an overdrive pedal.
This makes clear that the adjustment of the volume and the tone pot of the guitar is decisive for the sound.

It is the same with Jimi Hendrix.
Watching a video one of his live concerts you will find out that he constantly controls the pickup selector switch, the volume and the tone pot of his guitar.

It is always the interaction of all components (in conjunction with the corresponding style of play and talent) that creates the sound of a famous guitar player.
Only by using a signature guitar, a certain pedal of a special amplifier you will never archive a desired result.