"The Woman Tone is produced by using either the bass [neck] pickup or the lead [bridge] pickup but with all the bass [tone] off ,” Clapton explained in a 1968 television interview you can see in the video below.
“And, in fact, if you use both pickups you should take all the bass off on the tone control. Turn it down to 1 or 0 on the tone control, and then turn the volume full up.”
For one of the greatest guitar tones of all time, you need a four-control layout as found on Clapton's Fool SG at the time, and Les Pauls. But there's plenty of other electric guitar models out there that will over a pair of volume and tone controls.
Set your amp’s gain to the track by ear or use an overdrive pedal to get closer to the sustain Slowhand wields. But the original doesn't actually have a lot of it – he just played loud to overcome the gain stage limitations of amps at the time. You'll also need to mimic Clapton's vibrato – no easy feat. It takes time!
But why is it called Woman Tone? Clapton reportedly first used the term during a 1967 interview with Beat Instrumental. The siren-like vocal quality of the tone is likely to be the inspiration, and kudos to Clapton for finding an electric guitar sound unlike any other player at the time.
It's a tone that's iconic enough to now warrant a new preamp pedal named after it, built by Aclam (who have also made pedals based on Pete Townshend's Who tones and George Harrison's Beatles Revolver and Sgt Peppers era Vox UL730). A £299 gimmick? Well no, because as Anderton's Danish Pete and Lee Anderton investigate below, it allows you to get that kind of tone on a Strat for starters.
The video is also an excellent breakdown of the intricacies and factors behind Woman Tone, and you can find out more about the Aclam Woman Tone pedal over at Andertons (opens in new tab).