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Achieving the Stevie Ray Vaughan sound

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a very influential electric blues guitarist who was considered by many to be one of the greatest before he tragically perishes in a 1990 helicopter crash. While it is impossible to duplicate Stevie’s tone (as you would need his hands), the following guide can help.

The Sound

Stevie Ray Vaughan used one guitar mainly and this article deals with his Number One guitar. It was a 1962 worn down sunburst Stratocaster that had 1959 pickups in it. This would give him a very unique tone. His pickups were stock 1959 pickups, not overwound as mistakenly believed, the late 1950s single coil tone is often achieved with low resistance, mostly in the 5.8k-6.8k range, Alnico V magnets, and 42 gauge formvar wire.

Stevie played with Fenders, and he overdrives the amp quite hard, which is what produces his Texas tone. He also uses very thick guitar strings; he played with string gauge 13, and hit them hard. Like Hendrix, he tuned down a half step to Eb for most of his songs.

The Effects

SRV‘s most famous effect is the Tubescreamer, and he often used two in live settings. He also used a Vox wah and occasionally, a Leslie rotating speaker. The most important part of SRV’s tone is the way he plays rather than the effects.

Playing Like SRV

While it is hard to duplicate SRV‘s playing, he often utilizes he pentatonic blues scale, and has alot of certain licks he frequently uses in many positions. The opening to Pride and Joy shows the normal blues shuffle in E that he uses frequently. This same shuffle is used double time in Rude Mood, which is a hard song to master rhythm wise. The Rhythm has to be properly understood to get closer to his sound. He also displays lots of use of Hendrix style barre chords and double stops for his softer tunes like Lenny and Riviera Paradise. Perhaps his ultimate blues piece is Texas Flood, a slow blues piece in G in which SRV pulls out all the stops. Note the following video in which he plays this piece, he goes from slow to almost-shredding speeds quickly, and also does this move where he turns around and simultaneously undoes his guitar strap and reattaches it behind him so that he plays behind his back. It takes several tries to do this well but it’s a good show-piece.

Equipment Links

Fender ’59 Bassman
Fender ’65 Twin Reverb
Fender 1959 Stratocaster Relic
Fender SRV Signature Stratocaster
Fender 57/62 Pickups
Ibanez TS808 Tubescreamer
Maxon OD9 Overdrive
Vox V847 Wah