The Source of Eddie's "Tone"?
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    Default The Source of Eddie's "Tone"?

    This is a topic that has been discussed and dissected ad nauseum for over 40 years. The point I'm going after here is not equipment related, but influence related. The actual SOURCE. Where did THAT sound come from? In all the years of articles, interviews, YouTube geeks trying to recreate it, and even Ed himself constantly chasing that elusive tone, or "Brown sound", I've never heard anyone ask, "Where does it come from?" I don't know that Ed even really knows. There were vague references to Clapton's early sound with Cream. The thick, "woman tone". I can't say that I ever really heard much of a connection. But, I digress. Beyond that, little else is ever really said. He's just always said, "I have a sound in my head."

    As guitarists, a friend and I have kicked this around for too many years. Not only because it's THE holy grail guitar sound, but because you unavoidably ask yourself how THE HELL someone comes up with that. It's "The Great Mystery". You want to know.

    One night, this same friend texts me...."I GOT IT!"...."I know where Eddie's sound comes from."

    He was home with his toddler son, exposing him early on. Camped out on the living room carpet, playing Diver Down on vinyl for the next generation. That was when the lightbulb went off for him. And, his suggestion is a really, REALLY valid one.

    He was listening to "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) and the clarinet solo smacked him in the face in a new way. The sound of Jan's clarinet...that warm, reedy, woody tone. How it distorts slightly with the playing. THAT'S the sound in Ed's head. Or, at least where it came from. Growing up listening to Jan play, playing WITH Jan at home and even at gigs, as we know the brothers did. As crazy as it sounds, the sound of his father's clarinet may well be the source of Eddie's Earth-shattering "Brown Sound". After suggesting that, I can't un-hear it. I hear it throughout his playing, now. I hear it in everything from "Little Dreamer" to "Secrets". From "Sinner's Swing" to "Summer Nights" or "Big Fat Money". I just hear it and recognize it everywhere.

    Crazy idea? Or astute insight into the greatest guitar sound ever created?

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    That's an incredible and plausible theory. I can dig it.
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    The solo in So This Is Love? always sounded to me like it has a sax/clarinet vibe going on.

    I think you're on to something and I think he would agree with you.
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    I've always loved that Van Halen put a song like Big Bad Bill on an album. But, yeah, I've always thought that Jan probably approached that solo the same way that Eddie would (on the guitar).

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    Sounds like a pretty good theory. He grew up listening to that. If he liked it, stands to reason that the "color" of that clarinet sound was what he was looking to get out of his amp.
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    This is a cool theory. And remember, in the Smithsonian interview, when he was asked if there was one musician that he wished he could play with, he said his Pop.

    It's pretty obvious Jan was a huge influence on both Ed and Al.

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    I hear the jazzy clarinet in his phrasing sometimes, especially So this is love,
    but tone wise, he's way more high octane.

    Ed's guitar tone, was like next level Cream/ZZ Top.

    It was very much based on previous guitar tones, but tweaked & dialed to sound
    like a jet plane.

    He wasn't trying to dial in a clarinet/jazz trip.
    Graver, Walking Ed, refugee from CVH & proud tone chaser...

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    I don't see it either. His playing is inspired by his father but I'm not really hearing the sound angle.
    He grew up listening too and playing rock. Hearing his heroes guitar sounds. I don't think clarinet was in his mind when he was messing with amps, gear and hollowed out bombs. It was more about going where no player had ever been then it was duplicating a clarinet.

    If he wanted a "woody" tone he woulda played a Telecaster.

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    Default The Source of Eddie's "Tone"?

    I donít hear it either guys. Ed grew up on rock Ďní roll like every other kid. Thatís what he emulated. The last thing in the world he was thinking about as a young kid was his fatherís clarinet sound imo.

    The only thing I see that Jan did for Edward and Al was share his love of music with them. I donít hear anything else that would make me think that Ed is emulating his father on guitar.

    In something like So This Is Love I hear a lot more juiced up Clapton than I do a clarinet.
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    Could be a combination of influences including his Dadís clarinet sound.
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    I have read from him that at times he tries to think of a sax player with soloing. I think it was a early 90's interview. I think it could be subliminal but I don't think he is thinking "I gotta make my guitar sound like an alto sax or clarinet." Diver Down to me is the one album of the six pack where the tone is a bit different than anything else. Not sure though if its the production. The whole album kind of has a muffled tone so I think if you had recorded it with Balance production, Jan's tone would sound different too.

    I think Eddie was like many kids. He simply wanted to emulate his favorite guitar players tone. Starting with Clapton with a dash of Iommi and Townsend. Turn it up a bit. Sax likely is far more of an influence with flurry of notes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett View Post
    I don’t hear it either guys. Ed grew up on rock ‘n’ roll like every other kid. That’s what he emulated. The last thing in the world he was thinking about as a young kid was his father’s clarinet sound imo.

    The only thing I see that Jan did for Edward and Al was share his love of music with them. I don’t hear anything else that would make me think that Ed is emulating his father on guitar.

    In something like So This Is Love I hear a lot more juiced up Clapton than I do a clarinet.
    I think they got their sense of swing and more "fluid" tempos from their Pop's jazz influence. Mainly during the six pack years, when they never played to a click when recording or playing live.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brett View Post
    I don’t hear it either guys. Ed grew up on rock ‘n’ roll like every other kid. That’s what he emulated. The last thing in the world he was thinking about as a young kid was his father’s clarinet sound imo.

    The only thing I see that Jan did for Edward and Al was share his love of music with them. I don’t hear anything else that would make me think that Ed is emulating his father on guitar.

    In something like So This Is Love I hear a lot more juiced up Clapton than I do a clarinet.
    Yeah, I doubt Ed was putting on Benny Goodman records and thinking "man, that's great, we should emulate that!"

    Could've happened, but most likely no.
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    It's a valid observation, but I don't think there is any one place it comes from. He's on record numerous times describing the sound as "big, warm, majestic." He's also on record saying he wanted his guitar to sound like Al's snare. And let's face it. His tone, though unmistakable, has never been the same on two records. He constantly tweaks it.

    Personally, I've always thought Ed's tone was very voice-like. So that falls in line with the clarinet/sax vibe. The sax is often described as a voice-like instrument. I would also say Van Halen arrangements are often swing-influenced. If you listen carefully, Hot for Teacher is basically a big-band song played on rock instruments.

    So I see the "horn" connection, just not sure I buy it as a conscious choice.

    TK

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    Eric Clapton is the reason for eddies tone.


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