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Page And His Guitar Controls


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I'm interested in finding out how Jimmy used his Les Paul's controls.  I dont' see him reaching as 

often for volume and tone knobs, as much as he flips the pickup selector on his #1 Les Paul.  Did he

have “presets” established for volume and tone knobs and never moved them very far from those?



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Page used the Volume controls on his guitars throughout every song he played live, constantly rolling the knobs up and down to control his sound.

Every "clean" guitar sound you hear on a Zeppelin live recording (Over the Hills Intro, Rain Song, Stairway intro) is from Page rolling down the Volume control for that pickup. Not all the way down, but enough to reduce the signal hitting the amp, which is what makes it sound less distorted. When he wants the crunch again, he rolls the control back up. 

The Tone knobs are a similar effect, but are more for adjusting the high-end in his sound. If it's too bright, or he wants to deliberately make the sound darker, he would roll back the Tone knobs.

The pickup selector on his Les Paul gave him access to specific tones found in the bridge pickup vs the neck pickup vs the middle setting (both pickups).  Take the song Since I've Been Loving You from the Song Remains the Same Movie. He starts out the intro soloing on the bridge pickup, goes to the neck pickup when the intro moves to the mellow part, and then back to the bridge pickup for the soloing that leads into Plant's first vocal. Throughout the song, it's the Neck pickup for the mellower parts and the Bridge pickup when the playing is more aggressive. Same for Stairway. Neck pickup for verses, and Bridge pickup for soloing. Middle settings were used for things like the Black Dog solo and Over the Hills solo.



Edited by pluribus
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A few years ago I spent way too much time going through all the live footage I could find looking at exactly this aspect of his playing. 

After all that work the simple fact was that, with a few certain exceptions, his most used setting were these:

Rhythm parts - commonest tone was mid position, bridge volume about 7, neck volume about 5. (Exact numbers will vary from guitar to guitar, and depending on amp settings etc)

Clean parts (intro to OTHAFA etc) neck pickup, volume down to about 3.

Solos mostly on bridge pickup, volume up to 10.

Tone controls are a lot harder to gauge, and I didn't see much evidence of him using them mid song, except for specific things like the "woman tone" solo he did in Sick Again for a while (neck pup, full volume, tone down). I suspect that he often had the bridge tone rolled down as a 'pre-set' to tame the treble coming off the amp, but that's just my opinion.

Something like SIBLY is an exception, where he'd use all positions during the solo, and switch to the bridge pup for the picking parts in the 3rd verse. NQ solo also, which tended to feature neck position too.

But really, once you are used to the three "common settings" for rhythm, clean, & lead, then the exceptions will become easier to spot.

A special mention for the beginning of OTHAFA - start on the neck pup, volume low, as the band entry gets nearer roll up the volume to around mid-way, then flick to mid position for the stabs with the band (having made sure that the bridge volume was set high to be ready). The live solo would frequently feature a  mid position sound.



Edited by huw
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