So much info I'd posted about Brian Setzer is gone forever
so I feel the need to post today with some "Re-info" on Brian Setzer's tone.
I was attempting to explain to a young Setzer fan, who was asking me "What Drive pedal does Brian Setzer use", that as a general rule, Setzer doesnt use pedals on stage and thus my email response to him here:
I’m trying to share with you that Brian Setzer DOES NOT use a drive pedal. Yes you saw him on the instructional video with a silly little pedal board, but that was the
exception to the rule because around that time of the Straycats reign you can research that The Stray Cats
had dissolved again and he was doing that solo tour with the albums “Live Nude Guitars” , “The Knife Feels like Justice” .
At this point in his career he was playing with Telecasters, Rickenbackers and a custom
Guild guitar that was going to be a signature model. I own one of his guild guitars (you can see the pic on my
So with songs like Radiation Ranch, Burnin on the Cross of love, it was a very 80s sound AND.. he was sitting with Robert Plant of Led Zep, w their band “The Honey Drippers” and he was playing a gibson es-295. So… yes, a pedal board using a tubescreamer, boss chorus, octave and wah pedal were seen with him, and when the Straycats got back together to record one more album (i remember it being “chooo choo hotfish” ooops "Original Cool") he was performing some of his solo tunes with
them and he had the pedal board on stage at various gigs.
(“Rockin by myself” happened in 93')
As a side note, he did an album outside of the BSO w a japanese artist on 13, and in studio he used a supro with a rat pedal and tubescreamer for a couple of song. Also on Wolfgangs big night out he employed a wah pedal for a tune.
Early in the BSO, there was a dunlop trem on stage but was used more for splitter between dual blonde amp rigs.
BUT.. as a general rule when playing live he doesnt use pedals. He doesnt like them.
The sound you are hearing is a very specific set-up, I have spent over 15yrs documenting his sound and this is what he uses:
a) 1963 Blonde Fender bassman 6G6-B amp w high gain 12ax7a preamp tubes, small bottle 6L6 power tubes. 212 closeback bassman cab loaded with Ipswitch England made Celestion Vintage 30s. (NOS JAN Phillips 6L6WGB or NOS Tungsol 5881)
B) vintage RE-301 (not the farty bloated sounding 201 model) space echo
C) 50-100ft guitar cables (I’ve seen slightly shorter cables than 50' btw)
D) Gretsch maple hollowbody w TVjones.com Filtertron pickups (except for the rare use of a 57’ sparkle jet w DeArmond dynasonics)
Now what you need to know about this set up is that The Blonde 6G6-B amplifier has a presence control and a tapped treble control. You’ll notice that the way Setzer places the controls on the amp, he plugs into the normal channel (before the space echo days he plugged into the bass channel and used a boss Dm-2/3 analog delay or Deluxe memory man when on rockpalast straycat tour in europe).
Brian sets the treble control right up past 5-6 (bass around 2-4, vol 5-7) and thats where the tapped treble control opens up a bit more gain, and he usually has the presence control above 8-9 which is not an eq control at all but rather is based in the power section and reduces negative feedback as its turned up (a vox AC30 does a similar thing but those brits have it wired backwards and call it “Cut”). So when this control is opened all the way, it lowers the headroom of the amp and makes the amp more dynamically controlled by the attack of the player and it will overdrive when pushed.
This is further enhanced by tonal characteristic of an all maple hollowbody with the bright and twangy Filtertrons that are low in impedance but have a rising presence in the upper mids. Together it can be an upper mids hammer when it goes through the RE-301 space echo that is colored in its upper mids EQ character as well.
When this specific guitar, and specific preamp (the mechanical tape echo is inconsequential to the inherent tone coloring, except the the effected wet signal/tone of the slapback) punch into the normal channel of the 6G6-B blonde bassman w its higher gain preamp 12ax7a tube, and the amp set as I shared, it increases the saturation of the amps phase inverter and power section. It then
feeds out through the Vintage 30 speakers that have an upper mids bump in their sound and you get an overdrive sound in the higher register of the guitar while the low mids and bass stay clean and woody.
Worth mentioning, the RE301 is created to be a line level effect for keyboards and PA system insert. So to simply plug into it with a standard 15-18 foot guitar cable and the low impedance guitar pickups, sounds like mud. Strangely when you plug in a 50ft or longer cable there is finally an impedance MATCH and the instrument sounds bright and punchy. Voila, Brian Setzer’s sound.
Now, because of this set up with the 6G6-B Blonde bassman.. the player can play clean or dig into the guitar strings and overdrive the amp. Brian Setzer’s sound comes from this rig recipe. its NOT an overdrive box.
Yes I make the Brain preamp pedals and what I am doing is providing a circuit that recreates the RE-301s basic preamp in a small box and giving it really good impedance matching, and great noise reduction with high quality audio components compared to the original, so you dont need the long cable.
I’ve added a bass cut that allows you to dial down the bass, as the real RE-301 space echo does not have a preamp echo on the input and its a full range preamplifier.
You will see a bass and treble knob on an RE-301 space echo but those eq controls are only affecting the “Wet” signal of the reverb, and mechanical tape echo. They are not part of the input preamp that we spoke of earlier. There is a recovery section on the RE-301 with a dB cut boost and I’ve set mine static for best overall performance w a wide variety of amplifiers. Add a good
quality echo pedal after my preamp and youve got your own space echo that is more dependable and affordable than a vintage RE-301.
So based on your picking dynamic you can move from a travis picking finger style with your thumb (tucking the pick in your palm like Setzer) and get the same gritchy clean sound as when you revert back to the flatpick or nashville claw technique.. Brian Setzer controls his clean to overdrive sound with his pick attack and volume control on the guitar, thats it. Occasionally he will walk over to the space echo and turn the input gain up and change the slapback setting longer, when he does sleepwalk or pulls out the flatblack gretsch for a trio rockabilly set.
My Brain preamp pedal will allow you to garner this similar response from your guitar and non master volume tube amp. I do make the Billy Brain which was designed for master volume amps.
I am in no way affiliated w Brian Setzer, FMIC products or Roland.. I am merely a #1 fan of rig that Setzer uses and I make pedals to help guitarists have a dynamic edge to their own rigs! What I have shared is for information purposes!
side note: I original made the Brain Seltzer preamp pedal, and I still do, its just now called the Dynobrain. Same pedal with a few updates to make it work w a large variety of amps and pedals. visit www.thenocturnebrain.com for more info
You may find Mr Brian Setzer playing without his beloved bassman but he is RARELY found without the space echo or his signature gretsch guitar.
more info from a buddy on his blog:
Ps. a nice demo by the amazing Rodney Gene Jr, put a good set of headphones on..dont listen through a stupid phone or lap :)
POST THIS ALL OVER THE EUROPEAN & JAPANESE INTERNET FORUMS!! :) :)
ps. I am very open to correction and will edit as necessary.