Jimmie Vaughan is one of our all time favorite guitar players. For us he defines the style of Texas blues with his passion for style, tone, timing, haircut, rythm, everything! His music and unique playing style is recognized by a growing audience who has gotten tired of all the new fast playing blues rockers. You’ve heard many of those who plays fast and loud, have learned all the licks but just throw them around with no sense for timing. For Jimmie it’s all about less is more. A lot of great musicians have invited him to play on their albums and concerts. You owe yourself to listen to Jimmie’s guitar on John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom on the album with the same name. Texas blues guitar meets Chicago blues at its very best. Few can put together a guitar shuffle like Jimmie Vaughan and make the guitar sound so cool and real together with bass and drums. His signature tone is recognizable in just a few notes. It is not just what you play, but what you don’t play. There are similarities to the style of T-Bone Walker where you need to stay away from hard bending, intense shaking, long notes, funky chords and jazz scales. Stick to the basics. Never try to sound like anyone else, just do what you’re supposed to do.
Jimmie’s amp tone is not very unlike his younger brother’s, but it’s stripped from effects and has minimal or no reverb. The tone is more mellow and creamier with more mids. It’s more of a brownface tone, and not the scooped blackface character. Due to Jimmie’s playing style, involving mostly single strings and no pick, his tone appears to be clean and clear. But in fact there is a lot of tube amp distortion. You can hear it once he plays a chord involving several strings. The early TBirds albums were recorded with Fender Bassman, among several amps. You could therefore seek amps with 10″ speaker configurations (Bassman, Super Reverb, Vibrolux, Vibro-King++) where the speakers are of vintage type; meaning low wattage, uncolored, smooth, warm, snappy and firm lows. Low wattage 10s are very touch sensitive and dynamic, which is what you need when playing with your fingers with the guitar plugged right into the amp. You could aim for Jensen P10R, Eminence Legend Alnico, vintage CTS and those kind of speakers..
Jimmie’s tone require mostly that you push the amp hard into both power amp and preamp distortion. The Fender Bassman has no negative feedback loop resulting in more power amp breakup and a rawer tone with highs and mids. It is worth trying to lower the amp’s clean headroom opposite to increasing it (as for SRV). This can i.e. be done with 12AX7 phase inverter tube and higher impedance in speakers than in OT. Increasing the preamp gain by pulling V1 and disconnecting the tremolo circuit will also give you a thicker and creamier tone. Hot pickups are good since they push the preamp section hard, and as mentioned earlier you need to match the guitar to the amp and experiment with the EQ controls and bright switch. Turning the bright switch off will most likely bring you closer to a Jimmie Vaughan tone rather than having it on, but this depends a lot on your guitar and speakers.
We’re not focusing on playing techniques on this site. However, this is essential when playing in the style of Jimmie Vaughan. Using a capo and fingers in stead of a pick are main ingredients in his signature licks. When using a pick, i.e.on a twelve bar shuffle in A or E, one should try to rest the right hand on the tremolo bridge while attacking the strings over the bridge pup. He often uses the middle or bridge pickup and rarely the neck pickup, but when he does he offers a serious sounding tone.
Here is a video demonstrating a texas shuffle inspired by Jimmie Vaughan:
Here is another, the solo of Wait on time:
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