Get the guitar sound: AC/DC, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Lukather


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If you’re anything like us, you want your guitar tone to be as hot as possible. Well, you’ve come to the right place – what better way to improve your sound than by tweaking your amp and rig to sound like a guitarist you love? Today we show you how a few simple knob twists will get you in the same six-string ballpark as three of the guitar world’s greatest: Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, blues-rock legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, and all-round axe slinger Steve Lukather. Let the riffing commence!

We’ll start with everyone’s favorite Australian schoolboy upstarts – but by the way, don’t forget you can nail the sounds of Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Nile Rodgers by checking out our previous Get The Guitar Sound blog right here!

OK, let’s get that right hand going then (quiet at the back!)…

AC/DC

The rock ‘n’ roll circus that is AC/DC may be winding down these days, but make no mistake: those Aussie pub rockers took Chuck Berry’s recipe for rock ‘n’ roll success – a catchy line over a driving backbeat – and added a shot of venom, vigor and high voltage to rewrite the book on lean, mean rock riffery.

The Young brothers may not have invented the formula, but the lusty exuberance and unrelenting, go-for-the-throat savagery of their rhythm and lead work raised the rock riff to an art form.

They bludgeoned their way to chart-topping success and into guitarists’ collective consciousness with all the gleeful abandon of schoolboy delinquents armed with guitars.

We had an awful lot of fun at this photo shoot. Plus it means as well as trying to recreate AC/DC's classic guitar sound, we've also had a go at pretending to be Angus for this pic we shot when we released our official H&K company biography: Into The Blue! Happy times...

We had an awful lot of fun at this photo shoot. Plus it means as well as trying to recreate AC/DC’s classic guitar sound, we’ve also had a go at pretending to be Angus for this pic we shot when we released our official H&K company biography: Into The Blue! Happy times…

Plug and play!

Technically speaking, there’s no big secret to that Thunder from Down Under: break out a guitar loaded with crisp humbuckers, plug it into a tube amp, and push its power stage to the brink of breaking up to get a touch of compression.

Now comes the hard part: play only what’s absolutely necessary, but with the intensity of a jackhammer chewing up pavement.

Lock into the rhythm like a human metronome; stab at those lead notes like you’re plunging an ice pick into a zombie that’s snatching at your main squeeze.

That should put you squarely on the Highway To Hell. And that’s a fine place to be in the Young brothers’ universe.

Oh, and if it’s not sounding right, reach for your gain knob! We explain why that’s so important when channeling the AC/DC spirit here.

 

These are the settings for the main guitar track in our AC/DC video. Ask us in the comments if you want the left and right ones too and we'll add them in!

These are the settings for the main guitar track in our AC/DC video. Ask us in the comments if you want the left and right ones too and we’ll add them in!

Stevie Ray Vaughan

Though departed, this man remains an object of adulation for many who worship at the altar of sizzling blues guitar sounds.

And even those with a foot or other extremities in the pop camp value his tasty tone on the tracks he laid down for David Bowie. The improbable pairing of a redneck blues-rocker and the androgynous Thin White Duke, with a couple of off-the-cuff lead lines played over an amp on the verge of breakup, resulted in a pop song with enough R&B cred to be called Let’s Dance.

I’m talking about none other than Texan titan Stevie Ray Vaughan and his contribution to Bowie’s oeuvre, of course.

Making the blues less blue

Stevie had a wonderful gift for making raw roots blues palatable to more genteel tastes.

Some of his work was certainly radio-friendly enough to get playing time on pop stations. This is why purists may scoff, but Stevie Ray Vaughan was more than just another Lone Star axe-slinger.

He was an ambassador and a rejuvenator of traditional guitar-driven music, a mediator between genres, and a Hendrix disciple.

Our photographer is dating himself here - this is a genuine SRV gig poster from a Saarbrücken show he attended all those years ago...

Our photographer is dating himself here – this is a genuine SRV gig poster from a Saarbrücken show he attended all those years ago…

Even in a lineup of Texas bluesmen as illustrious as Blind Lemon Jefferson, Albert Collins, T-Bone Walker, Freddy King, and Billy Gibbons, Stevie stood out with a base tone that was more or less clean, with oodles of headroom supplied by the usual suspects in the way of blues combos.

A good drive pedal, heavy strings and lots of wrist action!

His penchant for Ibanez Tube Screamers is public record, but his preference – TS808, TS9, or dare I say TS10 – is up for debate.

That said, it really doesn’t matter which green box he liked best. He plugged ’em in and made ’em sing like a heavenly choir of steroid-addled angels.

Besides, his distinctive touch and tone probably had a lot more to do with his choice of hefty strings – he was rumored to go with sets starting at .013 gauge – and the sheer violence with which he attacked the instrument.

That kind of heavy-duty wire will make you battle for every note.

Bending becomes an exercise in masochism, and that struggle was palpable in every riff and chord. Stevie often played as if the next lick would be his last.

A blues legend taken too soon

Perhaps it was with a sense of foreboding that he made his joyful noise.

Stevie indeed played his last licks on August 27, 1990, in the Alpine Valley Music Theater at East Troy, Wisconsin, dying after the concert in a helicopter crash on the return trip to Chicago.

His tragic demised contributed to the legend.

As his eerily predictive musical hero Hendrix once said: “It’s funny the way most people love the dead. Once you are dead you are made for life.”

That may be so, but the true Vaughan legacy is not the mystique surrounding the man; it is the sheer power, deft touch, impeccable taste and divine tone that makes his music so extraordinary…

 

If you want to get those Stevie Ray Vaughan tones, get your amp set up this way first. Then get those thicker strings on your Strat, plug in and fire up a Tube Screamer and you're almost there!

If you want to get those Stevie Ray Vaughan tones, get your amp set up this way first. Then get those thicker strings on your Strat, plug in and fire up a Tube Screamer and you’re almost there!

Steve Lukather

Back in the late 1970s when hair was big and shoulders were getting unnaturally broad and bouncy, a young man arrived on the scene who would give guitar aficionados many a tasty lick to relish in the years to come.

Already an accomplished session player, San Fernando Valley tone meister Steve Lukather hit the big time with Toto.

His lines were intriguingly sophisticated; his grooves tight as spandex.

And his sounds were state of the art, providing a sonic template for a whole generation of guitarists to follow. His timing would shame Swiss luxury watchmakers.

One thing's for sure: there's no way that axe can compete with Steve Lukather's playing in the tastefulness stakes! Yuck. (Photo by Pudimm, used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Weatherman90 at the English language Wikipedia.)

One thing’s for sure: there’s no way that axe can compete with Steve Lukather’s playing in the tastefulness stakes! Yuck. (Photo by Pudimm, used according to the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Weatherman90 at the English language Wikipedia.)

No matter how complicated, even lightning-fast licks would fly from his fingertips with preternatural rhythmic precision. By the early 80s, countless players were trying to mimic his singing, cascading solos, usually in vain.

Rich and melodious, his axe-work put a bold new sheen on that West Coast sound.

Learning those Lukather licks

The fundamentals of Luke’s tone are fairly straightforward: a gainy amp with a creamy distortion channel, some delay and an occasional pinch of chorus. (On the surface of it a lovely effect; but then how does it manage to make so much 80s pop sound so dated? But I digress.)

His technique is another matter, though: there’s no hope of acquiring those chops unless you’re willing to practice ’till your fingers bleed.

 

Here's the TubeMeister Deluxe 20 amp settings we used to get those Steve Lukather tones.

Here’s the TubeMeister Deluxe 20 amp settings we used to get those Steve Lukather tones.

There’s more guitar sounds to come

The journey continues, of course, but progress has slowed somewhat since the 1990s.

Although some true innovators come to mind – Tom Morello, Jack White, Reeves Gabrels, and the like – these more experimental players ply their trade a tad further towards the fringe.

Perhaps the biggest mainstream game changer has been the detuned guitar.

There are some fine players out there who know how to come up with gems down there in the sludgy end of the spectrum.

Kids know mud is a fine, fun place to play, and we’ll get down and dirty with it in one of the next episodes.

So stay tuned and break out your rubber boots! Or wellies, if you happen to be in the UK…

And tell us who you’d like to sound like in the comments section – we take requests too!

 

First published: August 12 2016. Most recent update: December 22 2016.

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Leave a comment

Gilleßen on June 1, 2017 Reply

Alles wunderschön anzuhören. Noch schöner wäre es, wenn die Texte in Deutsch zu lesen wären!

Viele Grüße

Walter Gilleßen

David Mc on May 15, 2017 Reply

I love these blog entries. Really looking forward to get a Deluxe 20. I would like to request a couple : Eric Johnson Dirty Rhythm sound or Keith Richards.

Thanks!….Dave

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on May 16, 2017 Reply

    Great calls Dave, we’ll add them to the wishlist 🙂 Enjoy your Deluxe 20 when you get it!

CaseyKasket on April 15, 2017 Reply

When will you Guys do some new Sound-Settings? 🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on April 21, 2017 Reply

    We have some more articles on this topic planned, so hopefully very soon!

Pekka on November 14, 2016 Reply

Hi,
Great stuff and really shows the versatility of H&K amps. I own great great GrandMeister 36. Could you please do something similar or preset list for E.g. top 10 artists / amp combos, so that the list could be copied to an amp via iPad. Please. I am singer / guitarist in few cover bands and would help me a lot and similar players so much. My friend is looking for an amp, so H&K could be it. This list would show the real potential of these great amps to all potential buyers. GM36 is sooo good at many things, but most guys don’t believe it until they hear/see it.

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on November 21, 2016 Reply

    Thanks Pekka! Hmm, maybe we should do this, because it would be pretty useful for a lot of people. We’ll pass on your comments and hopefully at some point we can build up a preset list for GrandMeister players like you (and hopefully soon your friend 😉 ) to use 🙂

CaseyKasket on September 23, 2016 Reply

is there a chance for Ace Frehley/Kiss Settings ? 🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on October 17, 2016 Reply

    Ooh, good one – we’ll these to the list for future articles!

Martin Fredette on September 9, 2016 Reply

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CaseyKasket on September 2, 2016 Reply

Does these Settings work on a H&K Duotone as well???

I love the AC/DC Sound

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on September 2, 2016 Reply

    These settings will work on pretty much any decent amp with the necessary channels and a 3-band EQ, so yes! You may just need to tweak them slightly, as the Duotone has a slightly different base sound to the TubeMeister Deluxe 🙂 Glad you like the tones!

Rob from Australia on August 12, 2016 Reply

Just got my Grandmeister 36 and I am in pre set overload. So many great sounds in the amp itself. Love the AC DC and Hendrix settings. Any chance you guys can do a KISS version, especially from the Alive II album which to me was one of KISS’ best sounds. Love how heavy Calling Dr Love sounds on this album. Great work guys, keep it up!

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on August 12, 2016 Reply

    Cheers Rob, glad you’re liking the blog and you’ve got some cool sounds out of it so far! Hmm, seeing as we work with KISS and Tommy Thayer (he even has a signature H&K amp, the Tommy Thayer Duotone) we should probably do some of their sounds too! We’ve got a cool little shortlist of sounds to attempt for future articles, so we’ll add KISS (specifically that Alive II) to it for the future. Stay tuned 🙂

Ewing Falla on August 11, 2016 Reply

Hughes&Kettner, thank you for answering my prayers and giving me the secret tones lol 🙂

    Hughes & Kettner Hughes & Kettner on August 12, 2016 Reply

    Ha ha, no worries Ewing! And there’s going to be even more to come soon \m/ 🙂

Rob on August 11, 2016 Reply

That Stevie Ray Vaughan tone is awesome guys, cheers for the tips! About to try the Hendrix ones from the other blog now 🙂 Rock on!