Peter Green tone

Gear Tips & Advice: Peter Green's classic Gibson Les Paul tone

I have a question regarding blues legend Peter Green. I love his lead guitar tone on the song Stop Messin' Round and would love to know how to recreate it.

I know he's renowned for a Les Paul and assume he's using one here; but how does he achieve that bright, characterful, almost harmonica-like sound that seems to fade/decay quite quickly? I always thought the Les Paul was renowned for its sustaining properties, and there's a lot of loud/soft dynamic range and slight distortion on the guitar part, which implies it was recorded through a very loud amp. But if this is the case, why no sustain? Is it all in his fingers do you think? How would I go about emulating this sound?
Frank Twentyman, Leeds

This is Peter's famous 'out-of-phase' sound, where one pickup has literally been wired out of phase with the other, so when both are selected (the switch's middle position) that hollow, 'honky', un-sustaining tone emerges. Opinion differs as to how and when it happened, and Peter himself seems unsure as to the true facts. Suffice it to say that either the wires from the two bobbins on the neck pickup were wrongly re-connected after a repair, or the magnet was accidentally inserted with the poles in the wrong orientation. It's nothing to do with the fact that the pickup has also been fitted the wrong way round on Peter's guitar – with the adjustable polepieces facing away from the neck; this makes no difference whatsoever to the phasing, but some say it lessens the bass response slightly.

You can hear this famous tone on the aforementioned Stop Messin' Round (YouTube clip below), but also on Fleetwood Mac's Need Your Love So Bad and Black Magic Woman. At the time, Peter was also using a Matamp Series 2000 amplifier a lot. Gary Moore owned the Greeny Les Paul until recently and you can hear it on Jumping At Shadows from his After Hours album.

If you want to achieve this tone yourself; short of a pickup rewire, get yourself to the Bare Knuckle Pickups website and purchase a set of the excellent PG Blues humbuckers (which Gary Moore now uses). You'll need to experiment with the volume and tone controls until you find the exact tone – but the result is well worth the trouble.


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