How to Use the Controls on a Les Paul

Splattle101

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Because a couple of people asked about it, here is the stuff I wrote in another thread about using the controls on a Les Paul. The OP asked how to use the controls to get sounds like Page and other classic players. My reply includes some alternative suggestions on how you might EQ your amp to get a different range of noises, and get a little bit more out of the neck and middle positions.

Hope it's of some use. Here it is:



First, your volume controls do not just control your loudness, but also your level of distortion (‘gain’ or ‘overdrive’). If your guitar has modern wiring, lowering the volume will also reduce the available treble, as if you’d turned the tone down too. If you have 1950s wiring this effect is far less prominent.

Secondly, your tone control not only cuts your treble, it also reduces the amount of ‘space’ your guitar seems to take up in the mix. Turning your tone down can effectively pull you ‘back’ into the mix.

Enough basics. Here’s some pointers.

EQ Your Amp for the Neck
Most of the time you’ve probably set up your amp for a good tone from the bridge. Try this instead and see what happens.

1. Turn all your volumes and tones up to 10.
2. Select the neck pick up.
3. Adjust your amp so you get a good soloing tone for that pickup.
4. Switch to bridge. This will be too bright. Ice-pick through ear territory.
5. Tame bridge with tone control, until you’ve got a good soloing tone.

You now have your ‘boost’ sounds. Now turn the bridge vol down (about 75-80%), until you’ve got a good crunching rhythm sound. If you have modern wiring you may need to turn up the tone a little at this stage. You could now play the rhythm on the bridge, and switch to the neck for the solo.

Solo on Bridge, cleans on Neck
Turn up your bridge tone and vol. That’s your solo sound (ice pick and all). Turn your neck vol down to about 50%. If your amp is any good, that should be nearly clean. If you’ve got 1950s wiring, it won’t be muddy either. You may now play the intro to Since I’ve Been Lovin’ You on the neck pick up. Switch to bridge for the signature lick. Back to neck, or turn down bridge to 50-60%. For a more sensible bridge pick up sound, just turn the tone down a fraction to clip some of the hairs off it.

If your amp is good, it should be sensitive enough to clean up when you turn down, and also to clean up if you back off with your right hand an pick gently. Use both these effects to control your tone.

Middle positions

Leave your bridge in its rhythm setting, then switch to middle. Now turn down the neck to nearly nothing, then slowly turn it back up (to about 50%). Somewhere across this range you’ll hear three fairly distinct tones. It’ll start out sounding like the bridge on its own. Next, it will fill out (i.e. get some extra bass), and it might do this quite suddenly. This is a really useful sound for soloing, because it basically sounds like the bridge pickup, but it’s fuller and meatier without being in any way muddy. As you keep turning up the neck vol it will start to sound more like both pick ups. This can be sort of nasal, but quite good.

Once you get both pick ups to the same vol (~ 75%) you’ve got the classic middle sound. Many people find this a bit muddy, but if you EQd the amp for your neck pick up, you should be OK.
 

Splattle101

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Originally Posted by siore
...
Gotta unlearn my old ways now. You gotta be quick with your hands though, right? What used to be just a stomp of a second, you gotta rush with your fingers. But I think I like this way better, in terms of better tone and being free from messing with the amp and stompbox settings too much.
I'm glad it was of some use to you.
You're right, you do have to be quick with your right hand. But you'd be amazed how proficient you become. Have a look at this vid:

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqAuuIDU2sw]YouTube - BB King / Gary Moore - The Thrill is Gone[/ame]

In this one, Garry Moore's right hand returns to his controls after every lick, as if by reflex. He's riding his volumes all the way home.

Good luck with it, man.

cheers,
Splat
 

Splattle101

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And:

Before I forget again, there's one thing about the middle setting that I forgot to mention. It’s a lot easier to use than it sounds to describe it!

If you set your neck so it’s basically clean (~ 50%), and then set the bridge to about 75%, that will give you the sounds-like-the-bridge-pickup-but-fuller tone. As I said before, that’s a good rhythm or lead sound.

From that basic position, if you want to get a boost, all you have to do is adjust ONE volume control up to 100%. Either will work. If the bridge, you get the biting sound, if the neck you get the fuller sound. When you’ve finished, simply turn that volume back to where it was.

Simple.

In other words, once you’ve worked out your pre-sets, using the Les Paul this way is as simple as playing a Telecaster.
 

mrpesca

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Gary is a madman when it comes to volume control fiddling. He's the reason they invented volume pedals I believe.:laugh2:
 

PINKBITS

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Gary is a madman when it comes to volume control fiddling. He's the reason they invented volume pedals I believe.:laugh2:
Agreed, I love watching him play. I just sit there :wow:
 

Curlymaple

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Many thanks Splattle! this is one of those...... why didn't I think of that! Dude, you rock, Bro! I was complementing you on one post, but couldn't remember which thread, but anyhow, I did try that set up (my r9 with RS vintage kit) last Saturday for a gig (open air venue) I must admit, you freakin' nailed it. I got bunch of guys coming over after the set and checking out my set up and asking?? Dude, that never happened to me before (i gues I suck:)) like they say, "you got it going on", i felt really good! But I think it will take a little more practice (re learn my habit) if you will...

Thanks again,
Curly
 

diceman

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Killer video.

Thanks for the tips as well - good stuff.
 

siore

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About time! Sticky this thread! Way valuable post for me since I came here. When I chanced about Splat's tip, I was having a hard time dialing in a tone that can go from raunch dirty to pristinely clean at the touch of the knobs. It didn't occur to me how valuable the tone knob is. I thought it was just something to cut the treble.

So the way I approach les paul controls now is, EQ for the neck, roll back the bridge tone. Then I adjust the amp gain so that it's dirty on 10, but I get clean clean tone, even when I dig in, around 2-3 of the bridge volume knob.

This way, I can easily switch from clean to crunch at the turn of the volume knob. Then use the tone knob for more cut if playing with other instruments. Step on an overdrive pedal set to boost for heavier music. With the bridge set to clean, I can further thin out the les paul bridge honk by switching to the middle position, utilizing phase cancellation to my advantage for those funky rhythm comps.

Thanks again Splat. :)
 

LiveOak

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Great post, thanks! I am no Gary Moore, but I also adjust my volume and tone controls all the time while I play. It is true that after a while, it becomes second nature and you don't have to look down at all, just reach and grab the appropriate volume or tone knob and season to taste.
 

snaredrum

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it's so funny that we automatically EQ the bridge pickup, then wonder why the neck sounds odd.

excellent thread. two thumbs up
 

jason_mazzy

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saved this to my favorite section so I can always come back to this
 

Jason

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Sounds like good advice! I admit I just plug in, dial in a tone I like, and hammer away.
 

snaredrum

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stick this, it's the best advice. i've not had my bridge tone at 10 since i read this. i have so much room to play with!
 

Jonathan

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And:

Before I forget again, there's one thing about the middle setting that I forgot to mention. It’s a lot easier to use than it sounds to describe it!

If you set your neck so it’s basically clean (~ 50%), and then set the bridge to about 75%, that will give you the sounds-like-the-bridge-pickup-but-fuller tone. As I said before, that’s a good rhythm or lead sound.

From that basic position, if you want to get a boost, all you have to do is adjust ONE volume control up to 100%. Either will work. If the bridge, you get the biting sound, if the neck you get the fuller sound. When you’ve finished, simply turn that volume back to where it was.

Simple.

In other words, once you’ve worked out your pre-sets, using the Les Paul this way is as simple as playing a Telecaster.
I'm going to try this out. Great advice! Thumbs up Splattle! :slash:
 

jason_mazzy

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call for a sticky again. looks like snaredrum seconded, any 3rds?
 




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