Joe Bonamassa: "When I play live, I probably use the volume and tone pots 100 times in an evening"

Joe Bonamassa performs at Fox Theatre on November 26, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Joe Bonamassa continues to illustrate what a potent force Gibson Les Paul, SG, ES-335, Flying Vs and Explorers guitars can be – but hugely versatile ones too. Indeed, he's appeared in videos breaking down the sheer wealth of sounds available via the pickup and control combinations at your fingertips from an electric guitar. And it means that to realise that potential he's constantly manipulating them onstage too.

“A lot of times, if I want to solo on a bridge pickup sound in a bright room, I don’t go to the bridge pickup,” Bonamassa tells Dinesh Lekhraj in a new interview for the Gibson Gear Guide you can watch at the bottom. “I keep it in the middle [position] and roll the bass pickup down. You can roll the tone down to five, but I actually like keeping the capacitance all the way up and just blending. To the listener, it doesn’t sound a lot different, but what I feel under my hands and on the pick? It feels weightier."

But there are times that the audience will notice, and Joe stresses the need for sensitivity on when to unleash the guitar beast.

“Conversely, if you’re a bass pickup guy, you can roll your treble pickup down," he adds. "You have to read the room. Part of your gig is to know when to use [the guitar] as a weapon and to know when to use it as something that creates a very vocal type of sound. When I play live, I probably use the volume and tone pots 100 times in an evening. It’s just a subconscious, natural thing that I do.”

In related news, Epiphone recently revealed its latest collaboration with Joe in the form of the signature 1963 Gibson SG Custom.

Check out the Gibson Gear Guide YouTube channel for more videos. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.