Ry Cooder Tone: Gear, Thumb, Tuning or All of the Above?

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by coot tone, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. coot tone

    coot tone Member

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    Anyone out there attempt to emulate Ry's tone? I've not had luck using my thumb, my guess is that guys like him and Mark Knopfler probably have callouses as hard as picks, anyway. I'm trying to get his tone using a Tele or Strat with vintage style single coils-not Oahu or Teisco pickups...I'm guessing the thumb and the tunings have more to do with it, anyway.

    But man, I wish I had a Coodercaster!
     
  2. Strung Up

    Strung Up Member

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    Yikes, I'm not as expert on Cooder's tone through the years as others are, but I can offer this: add ears to the 'all of the above' equation and you're on the way. His ear for detail and nuance in every aspect of music he's listened to and recorded is pretty impressive.

    Which leads me to suggest, that although SOMEWHAT tangential to tone, sooner or later, if you want to emulate his styles, you're going to have to play thumb and fingers (callouses just come naturally, and are the least of your worries compared to accurate syncopation).

    Amp-wise, his most recent live outings sported a blackface and a tweed. Depending on what era, I think once you've got a small, cathode-biased, class-A amp cranked, you're in the ballpark.

    Pickup-wise, look at some of Jason Lollar's one-off stuff, find a partscaster, and experiment.

     
  3. mikefair

    mikefair Member

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    Oh man, there's an understated brilliance to everything he plays. I was trying to play along to a CD one time - pretty simple sounding stuff. The notes he plays just weren't anywhere on my guitar.
     
  4. Blue Light

    Blue Light Member

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    Brother, that nails it. I love Ry Cooder but he's a magician. Just yesterday I was playing "The Thing That Makes Her Rich (Makes Me Poor)" and it wasn't one of his most outlandish bits but the whole package of the song, the rhythm, the backup singers, the driving guitar, his vocals -- I was just astonished all over again at what he was delivering at his peak.
     
  5. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    I usually play with my thumb, but I don't sound anything like Ry. I can do a pretty good imitation of his tone circa Paradise and Lunch, but to my ears that's totally different from his sound on Into the Purple Valley. Gear is definitely a big part of it, especially his affinity for small cheap amps, but I think the magic ingredient is in his fingers.
     
  6. coot tone

    coot tone Member

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    I think that sums up my feelings as well as any statement about Ry I've ever read. Those notes are not on my guitar, no matter how I tune it!!!
     
  7. Captain Midnite

    Captain Midnite Member

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    Try the G tuning that Keef stole off Ry. It'll get you a lot of his licks.
     
  8. Mandoboy

    Mandoboy Member

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    Rhythm, touch, vibe, rhythm, feel, rhythm, space between the notes, rhythm, musicianship! :bow
     
  9. coot tone

    coot tone Member

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    It's funny, I use 5 string open G a lot when playing Stones stuff, but it never morphs into Ry licks. Guess I need to put that low E back on!!!:jo
     
  10. Griz

    Griz Member

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    :agree
    Yeah, bare-handed is a great way to play. Once you get over feeling naked without a pick, the expressive possibilities will have you saying...

    PICKS? We don't need no stinking picks!

    You won't necessarily sound like Ry Cooder, though.
     
  11. dunara

    dunara Member

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    That's the one! The live version that's on the 'Crazy 'bout an automobile' 12" single with John Hiatt in the band is unbelievable! The passage where he duets with Keltner is one of my favourite bits of guitar playing ever.....
     
  12. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    I never try for that sound ... sometimes hit it anyway for a note or two. It's not only the gear and the way he plays, it's the way he thinks musically, the way he supports the rythym and the song at all times while commenting and soloing.

    What I would rather emulate from Ry is the emotion with which he plays. And his sense of humor. He could be playing a one string whatever and it would probably be no different.
     
  13. Ogre

    Ogre Member

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    Don't discount the soul that RC imparts to all of his playing. That cannot be dissected or imitated.
     
  14. sahhas

    sahhas Member

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    no ry c expert, but try playing w/ fingers vs using pick-u can get different tones/sounds w/ just bare hands. It's fun 2 experiment i think, i've been fascinated w/ blues/folk sounds/textures. S---
     
  15. coot tone

    coot tone Member

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    Yeah, there's not doubt it's a sum of all the parts, mostly his soul and mind. It's such an exquisite sound. I was playing John Hiatt's "Bring the Family" CD for my daughter and her financee last night...if I could capture the sound, feel, and tone of any guitar playing on any record, it might just be that one.
     
  16. Blue Light

    Blue Light Member

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    "Slide Area" is also a real tuff album. Not sure how well known it is, but he's blistering hot on that album.
     
  17. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    the soul and syncopation/ rhythmic sense he brings to his playing is unique & other-worldly ... on top of his other gifts ... a tough package to capture, to be sure.
     
  18. Curly

    Curly Member

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    I've never tried to emulate him ... don't think I could ... but Paradise and Lunch is definitely one of my all time favorite discs.

    his playing does have a lot of syncopation, like so much of the New Orleans music.
     

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