How Would You Describe The Allman Brothers Guitar Sound?

Tiny Montgomery

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
8,973
I never listened to Allman Bros after the Brothers & Sisters album. Lots of great music resulted as Trucks and the other virtuoso guitarist came on board; so I'm told. Don't even remember the other guys name, but no disrespect meant. Idlewild South and Live At Fillmore East were the definitives for me. I had their origins album w/Sweet Melissa and Eat A Peach, but Idlewild and Live were The Incredible Magic.

Still nothing else ever like those two albums.... Duane and Betts w/Barry Oakley and Greg's keyboards and singing were just perfection.

I equate the music on those albums as equivalents to The Best Done by Monk or Mingus, and throw Miles into the mix too. Who knows what further heights the group would've gone to had Duane & Barry lived? The Hot 'Lanta opening and segue into Elizabeth Reed is thrilling, remains so no matter how many times I hear it. Of course, might have been just the great mixing job done on the Live album. Couple of songs on Live, I understand, were spliced amalgamations from the 3 days they performed at that Fillmore East date.

Duane and Betts' guitars just "sing" like no others ever have since. It's the greatest jazz fusion, or blues fusion ever recorded. Not a false start or note in the whole performance. There's really NO 2nd rate songs on Live At The Fillmore East. Even the tune-up strumming intro to Reed is about perfect!

Not really that many "perfect" albums out there. Very few that meld two distinct styles into something "new" that is definitively great. There's great sides like A on John Barleycorn Must Die and A on Dave Mason's Alone Together. Hendrix's Experienced and Electric Ladyland are also definitively great and were new then and remain new & fresh now. Not like I've heard everything, but 50's jazz and mid-60s to late 80s contemporary rock I explored in depth or was on the scene for.

The live performance of At Fillmore East remains to my mind the pinnacle of rock for its purity and perfection. I had a great many of Monk's Riverside albums and could appreciate the nuances found in each of his many performances of The Monk Songbook, but Live At The Fillmore was The One Pinacle of their art and genius. Trying to dissect their sound really just fails. Nobody's ever gotten the "feel" or the tone to my mind that equals those Fillmore performances.

About 1990, there was a 3 cd set of Layla released with all the outtakes and jams of that session included. Definitely recommended for every Duane Allman fan.
His name was “Berry Oakley,” not “Barry.”

Gregg spelled his name with two “g’s,” too, but that’s just a spelling issue, not a totally different name, like “Barry.”
 

sturge

Member
Messages
661
The AB band has lots going with two drummers, keys, 2 guitars, vocal harmonies...lots of bands would turn that into sonic mush. I've always been a big fan of how they successfully kept all that in check so the guitar tones fit well with the rest of the mix for portions of song, then 'popped' for those epic dual leads (and often combining keys into those leads as well). They played TOGETHER as good as any band that size ever has.

Today it's easy to get caught up in all the options we have available to shape tones and it easily gets lost in a band that size. I think they first focused on the perfect combination of guitar, amp and speaker for their mix. Then they found that magical spot where a lighter touch/slight volume change provided the perfect clean sound and digging in got them into the dirtier tones without getting lost in the mix. That's as much of an art as playing the right notes and those guys figured it out to perfection.
 

edgewound

Member
Messages
5,659
Like others have said, amps and speakers are a huge part. This old thread has some more detail from people who've done different things trying to nail that tone, but volume is a huge part of it. Many of us have chased tones from those days trying all kinds of processing & gain staging, only to finally realize that it was really a fairly clean sound at ungodly volume.
It doesn’t take ungodly volume. It takes a tube amp and a single JBL. Dickie Betts used Soldanos for a while and still maintained his signature voice.
 

bob-i

Member
Messages
8,774
and w/ Dickey’s sound being bright and clear.
i don’t know a lot re: JBLs and the Allmans specifically, but i will say that those are very grown up speakers. i get the sense that they’re not as popular these because of the advent of OD pedals, which might be a little fizzy through a speaker that detailed. maybe?
Lol at “grown up” speakers. Dickey likes the clarity and brightness of JBLs but you’re correct that they do often sound fizzy with OD pedals. There’s also stability concerns with the big voice coil. When driven with a distorted tone they can move in a non linear way causing voice coil rubs.

The Allman’s played very loud. At the Fillmore I remember commenting to my friend that there were mics in the guitar amps but they didn’t seem to be turned on. The drums and organ sound was mostly from the PA but guitars and bass came directly from the stage.

Another great tone to listen to was Gregg's amazing Hammond/Leslie tone. Gregg was a master at using the Hammond registration (drawbars, percussion, tremulant, etc). There are so many subtle things he did to make that organ sound amazing. Listen to his playing in Stormy Monday, not only the solos, the comping as well. He’d only been playing a Hammond a few years, but he was a master of the instrument.
 

MikeMcK

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
5,149
It doesn’t take ungodly volume. It takes a tube amp and a single JBL. Dickie Betts used Soldanos for a while and still maintained his signature voice.
According to an interview he did around then:

"I'm playing through two of the Soldano 100's and standard Marshall 4x12 cabs with 12 inch JBL Lansing speakers. My Soldanos are completely stock and I really love them, because they have a great vintage tube sound and they're extremely reliable on the road."

A 100W SLO into a 4x12 can be loud by itself. You double all of that because that rig isn't cutting it, it's gonna be really loud.
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,832
Just to be clear, though I would also love insight into how to get near that sound without cranking such powerful amo if possible, I am most interested in how you would describe the sound.

To me, it is somewhat treble based, but not ice pick. It definitely has sag as a string hit hard changes from more bass to treble, but there is just a hint of crunch, but definitely not overdrive sound in there.

It mostly clean...but with some kind of drive and the drive part is what I’m trying to figure out.
The drive you are referring to is output tube distortion. Duane used his fingers, no pick, into a 50 watt Bass Plexi up very loud...and of course it was his technique....making every note count in the present....and hitting those notes with just the right force, making each note count equally....technique is a big part of it...
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,832
According to an interview he did around then:

"I'm playing through two of the Soldano 100's and standard Marshall 4x12 cabs with 12 inch JBL Lansing speakers. My Soldanos are completely stock and I really love them, because they have a great vintage tube sound and they're extremely reliable on the road."

A 100W SLO into a 4x12 can be loud by itself. You double all of that because that rig isn't cutting it, it's gonna be really loud.
and Soldanos don’t hit their stride till they’re on 6 or 7! And they are actually 135 Watts rms amps...frickin loud. I sold mine cause there was no venue I could play it in..(and I was blowing up Greenbacks in my 4/12 Marshall cab)
 

TB72

Member
Messages
1,452
I would describe the tones as "Dynamic".

It's a bit of a broad term, but it feels like the most fitting. Depending on touch, pickup selection, and varying their volume and tone controls, both Dickey and Duane had a wide range of flavors between clean and scream.
 

edgewound

Member
Messages
5,659
According to an interview he did around then:

"I'm playing through two of the Soldano 100's and standard Marshall 4x12 cabs with 12 inch JBL Lansing speakers. My Soldanos are completely stock and I really love them, because they have a great vintage tube sound and they're extremely reliable on the road."

A 100W SLO into a 4x12 can be loud by itself. You double all of that because that rig isn't cutting it, it's gonna be really loud.
There’s no way in hell he played that loud on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Doc Severenson. Master volumes and/or attenuation were most likely used.

Concert halls, ok, but not TV.

It also does not take 200+ watts to get that flavor of tone. I get it with 27 watts through a single E120.
 
Last edited:

RupertB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,316
Just to be clear, though I would also love insight into how to get near that sound without cranking such powerful amo if possible, I am most interested in how you would describe the sound.

To me, it is somewhat treble based, but not ice pick. It definitely has sag as a string hit hard changes from more bass to treble, but there is just a hint of crunch, but definitely not overdrive sound in there.

It mostly clean...but with some kind of drive and the drive part is what I’m trying to figure out.
To my ear, it sounds like an amp that doesn't have a hot signal hitting the preamp but is turned up enough to get the power section really cooking. The result is a tone that has all the artifacts we enjoy from a cranked amp (eg. sustain, bloom, great harmonic content) but doesn't have the distortion character that so many have to use (and over use) to get those at lower volumes.

I've heard a lot of players trying to get this sound. The best representation I've ever heard was when I caught Greg Germino & Jason Barker playing with a band in a Durham NC pizza joint, nearly 20 years ago. Both were playing through Greg's "Club 40" amps, him with a LP and Jason with a Briggs (not sure of the model). Thing that floored me was that the amps were unmic'ed & the volume was pretty reasonable. Plenty of "cut" but never got too treble-heavy nor overwhelmed the mix.
 

2HBStrat

Member
Messages
41,283
I never listened to Allman Bros after the Brothers & Sisters album. Lots of great music resulted as Trucks and the other virtuoso guitarist came on board; so I'm told. Don't even remember the other guys name, but no disrespect meant. Idlewild South and Live At Fillmore East were the definitives for me. I had their origins album w/Sweet Melissa and Eat A Peach, but Idlewild and Live were The Incredible Magic.

Still nothing else ever like those two albums.... Duane and Betts w/Barry Oakley and Greg's keyboards and singing were just perfection.

I equate the music on those albums as equivalents to The Best Done by Monk or Mingus, and throw Miles into the mix too. Who knows what further heights the group would've gone to had Duane & Barry lived? The Hot 'Lanta opening and segue into Elizabeth Reed is thrilling, remains so no matter how many times I hear it. Of course, might have been just the great mixing job done on the Live album. Couple of songs on Live, I understand, were spliced amalgamations from the 3 days they performed at that Fillmore East date.

Duane and Betts' guitars just "sing" like no others ever have since. It's the greatest jazz fusion, or blues fusion ever recorded. Not a false start or note in the whole performance. There's really NO 2nd rate songs on Live At The Fillmore East. Even the tune-up strumming intro to Reed is about perfect!

Not really that many "perfect" albums out there. Very few that meld two distinct styles into something "new" that is definitively great. There's great sides like A on John Barleycorn Must Die and A on Dave Mason's Alone Together. Hendrix's Experienced and Electric Ladyland are also definitively great and were new then and remain new & fresh now. Not like I've heard everything, but 50's jazz and mid-60s to late 80s contemporary rock I explored in depth or was on the scene for.

The live performance of At Fillmore East remains to my mind the pinnacle of rock for its purity and perfection. I had a great many of Monk's Riverside albums and could appreciate the nuances found in each of his many performances of The Monk Songbook, but Live At The Fillmore was The One Pinacle of their art and genius. Trying to dissect their sound really just fails. Nobody's ever gotten the "feel" or the tone to my mind that equals those Fillmore performances.

About 1990, there was a 3 cd set of Layla released with all the outtakes and jams of that session included. Definitely recommended for every Duane Allman fan.
I wish I could give this post more than just one "like"...

According to an interview he did around then:

"I'm playing through two of the Soldano 100's and standard Marshall 4x12 cabs with 12 inch JBL Lansing speakers. My Soldanos are completely stock and I really love them, because they have a great vintage tube sound and they're extremely reliable on the road."

A 100W SLO into a 4x12 can be loud by itself. You double all of that because that rig isn't cutting it, it's gonna be really loud.
i guarantee you that Dickie Betts didn't use Soldanos on "At Fillmore East"...

The drive you are referring to is output tube distortion. Duane used his fingers, no pick, into a 50 watt Bass Plexi up very loud...and of course it was his technique....making every note count in the present....and hitting those notes with just the right force, making each note count equally....technique is a big part of it...
Duane DID use a pick...anytime he wasn't playing slide he was playing with a pick. Vintage, NOS, or boutique pick?...I don't know about that!
 

GerryJ

Member
Messages
5,000
Newer Members of the ABB have commented in interviews how the stage volume was incredibly (read between the lines: unreasonably ) loud.

But for the album, don't forget the wonderful acoustics present in an old (1920s) 2500 seat Yiddish performance theatre.
 

stevel

Member
Messages
14,624
Referencing nothing more than the radio hits, I've always been horribly confused by their tone. It is full of sustain, yet very clean. Or at least it seems very clean. It is not "scratchy" or "buzzy" like so many other players of the era. It's not "fizzy" or "fuzzy". It seems like it must be overdriven to get that kind of sustain, but yet, I wouldn't really think "step on a distortion pedal" (or OD pedal etc.) when I think of that lead tone.

It's beautiful. Singing, sustaining, and clear and articulate. There are of course some more overdriven elements here and there, but Dickey especially seemed to be a master at this liquidy smooth playing without all kinds of "drive" on it. Ramblin Man is a great example.
 

Rod

Tone is Paramount
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,832
I wish I could give this post more than just one "like"...


i guarantee you that Dickie Betts didn't use Soldanos on "At Fillmore East"...


Duane DID use a pick...anytime he wasn't playing slide he was playing with a pick. Vintage, NOS, or boutique pick?...I don't know about that!
He did? Never thought he did.... ok then...
 

GerryJ

Member
Messages
5,000
One of the unusual characteristics of a really good Les Paul guitar- like they each had- is the sustain. You can hear it unplugged.
That degree of natural sustain actually sounds terrible for most types of music, but it was perfect for what they were doing.
 

Bluedano1

Member
Messages
7,046
What I love about Dickeys tone and it's his touch and technique ( phrasing).as much as gear, is his ability to almost surf on top of a tone that straddles clean and dirty- there is drive and sustain there but it is SO smooth that distortion is not percieved
You hear it on Southbound, Jelly Jelly, Whipping Post, etc. Just knows how to emote
EDIT: I think a lot of what the Allmans did came with knowing how to steer a guitar into great tone, with just amp.volume...
 




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