Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Chuck Berry Tone...

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Phil_tre, Sep 6, 2011.

  1. Phil_tre

    Phil_tre Tele-Holic

    Oct 31, 2010
    Eastern Canada
    Hi !

    Is it possible to get close to the Chuck Berry tone
    with only Tele single coil size pickups ? Witch one would
    you suggest ?

    I know, Chuck was playing through a Dual Showman
    with a Gibson ES-350 in the '50s and I understand I
    will never get that sound out of my Vox or Blues Jr
    and a Tele.

    I installed a SD Lil'59 a couples of weeks ago and to my
    ears, it's not that far away, but it's not clean enough and
    some high mids are missing...

    Any suggestion is welcome, but I would like to stay with
    the Tele single coil size... I will not route my axe for P90...
    Or should I ;)

    Thanks !


  2. imsilly

    imsilly Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2009
    A lot of Chuck Berry's tones were created on single coils. He used P90 (which are a type of single coil pickup) equipped guitars in his early years. Add a moderately clean Fender amps and you have his tone. You won't hear a Dual Showman amp on his 50s stuff because they didn't exist back then.

    I've seen him in clips and in photos using tweed, brown, blackface and silverface Fender amps. Also other things like large Gibson and Marshall amps. My favorite sounds of his were cleaner ones on things like big Fenders.

  3. metalicaster

    metalicaster Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 5, 2011
    I'm a wanderer...
    Chucks tone won't be found in the pickups alone.
    They are an important part but so is:

    Guitar construction
    Body/neck/fingerboard woods
    String gauge
    Amp settings
    Recording technology

    So what ever Chuck uses is what you gotta use

    Unfortunately, pretty expensive/pointless to try and exactly copy a certain guitarists tone, mainly because it's impossible to replicate another players style exactly and playing style is why Chuck Berry will sound like Chuck Berry even on an EMG'd Ibanez into a 5150

    Just rock and roll man!!

  4. Ringo

    Ringo Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 16, 2003
    Memphis TN
    EQ pedal?

    You might be able to get closer to what you're after if you use an EQ pedal, that could help you dial in the tone you want.

    And be sure to play out of tune like Chuck does:)

  5. doc w

    doc w Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 9, 2011
    I think a good sound to use would be the middle position on your Tele. You can't really fake that big fat Gibson sound (or his later ES sound) with your setup, but the middle position will detract the least. However, it is more important in my opinion to learn his licks. He got "his sound" of a quite a few different guitars and amps. Take a really close look at exactly what he plays and where he plays it on the guitar.

    If it is JUST the tone you want and not the whole package, then you are going to have get a different guitar.

  6. Donelson

    Donelson Tele-Afflicted

    May 31, 2011
    Nashville TN
    Hate to bum you out but you need a hollowbody f-hole axe to get the Berry sound. You can sure come close though with a tele or other solidbody. I suggest turning your amp's treble knob way down, & hitting the guitar hard, with a clean regular sound. Avoid "overdrive".

    Good luck! That's a sound all electric guitarists should pursue.

  7. sean001

    sean001 Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    Gilberts, Illinois
    p90s are a big part of the equation. I find I can get a fair approximation of Chuck's tone using the "Eldred - mod" position on my Esquire. A lot of it is also right hand attack and the rare drummer who gets it. Get swinging like him and suddenly it is WAY easier to sound like him

  8. SirJackdeFuzz

    SirJackdeFuzz Friend of Leo's

    Jan 18, 2007
    South Africa
    If you have to use a Tele then try the TR90's : Tele P90's - scroll down.

    You choose the amount of windings with his pick ups (between 7.5 & 9 K)

  9. Ben Harmless

    Ben Harmless Friend of Leo's

    Mar 10, 2003
    Allston, Mass
    Okay, no.

    I'm just gonna throw a wrench into this discussion - which is not to actually argue with any single point that's be made here, which are all valid for their own reasons. Seriously, I agree with all the points.

    Except... this is a tone you can't buy. Don't bother trying - that's not how you get there.

    The way I see it is this: Chuck didn't have a tone - he had a style.

    Chuck is known for abusing musicians coast to coast. He doesn't have a band, he just asks for one wherever he goes, and a promoter goes out and finds three or four folks that can learn all his songs - 'cause he doesn't tell you what he's gonna play either.

    Then he rolls in, plays a bunch of songs in different keys than the band is used to, collects a check (prolly prefers cash) and he rolls out.

    My point is that I'd give it a 97% chance he's playing through a house or rented amp too. And you know what? It still probably sounds like him every time.

    I know a tele-pickin' cat from around my area who can do a killer Chuck with nothing but his fingers and some quality single coil tele pickups.

    Nobody sounds like Chuck. If you want it, then you gotta play like Chuck - and you can - he was a groundbreaker, but he ain't Hendrix.

  10. barncat

    barncat Tele-Holic

    Dec 9, 2008
    cazenovia n.y.
    If you're talking about the guitar tone on the original recordings, I suspect the Chess brothers production had a lot to do with that. Left to his own devices , he's usually out of tune and his tone in my opinion isn't that great.

  11. rp1138

    rp1138 Tele-Meister

    Dec 4, 2009
    Sacramento, CA
    You're also going to need his hands.
    I don't mean that in "the tone is in your fingers" way.
    I mean it in the "my god, that man is huge" way.
    There's a pic of him on the cover of the recorded versions Chuck Berry song book for guitar. He's holding that big old Gibson hollow body by the neck, and it looks like he could stretch out his fingers and reach from the first all the way to the twelfth fret.

  12. Badabing

    Badabing Friend of Leo's

    Oct 13, 2009
    San Marcos, Ca
    This is not a Dig..I am a HUGE fan of Chuck Berry's

    So I went to see him about 2 years ago when he came to town and his playing was HORRIBLE! It sounded like he didn't even know how to play guitar!
    Has anyone else seen him lately...was it the same kind of playing when you saw him?

  13. Stratburst

    Stratburst Friend of Leo's

    Mar 31, 2009
    That's the story I've been getting from people who have been seeing him for the past 20 - 30 years. Chuck Berry's a cheap ******* who refuses to pay the salaries decent musicians require. The last time he had a worthy backup band was 1986 for the Hail, Hail Rock n' Roll movie, when Keith Richards deliberately hunted up top-notch musicians to play with him. Even then he was a dick to them and the filmmakers.

    But Ben doesn't mention that Chuck will often try to strong-arm the promoter for more money at the last minute, and then stiff his backing musicians at the end of the night.

    I once heard a story that he pissed off his old friend Carl Perkins so much at a gig that Perkins wanted to work him over with a G&L ASAT. Luckily for Chuck, Carl's wife managed to talk him out of it.

  14. Mr_Martin

    Mr_Martin Tele-Holic

    Sep 21, 2009
    Cologne, Germany
    Chuck Berry on a Tele:


  15. mabley123

    mabley123 Friend of Leo's

    Aug 21, 2011
    ashland kentucky
    i read an article one time by keith richards. he said chuck ws the hardest person to please and to play with that he ever met.

    if you did not do a down stroke when it was supposed to be down stroke he would know it and stop during rehersal and chew richards out.

    he said it was a nightmare.

  16. sean001

    sean001 Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    Gilberts, Illinois

    Also you gotta play in the correct keys. Johnny B Goode for instance is NOT in A as so many people do it. People assume the speed of the machines was off but Chuck often played in Bb or Ab or whatever. Those are piano and big band keys and that was where Chucks roots are. Johnny B Goode is in Bb. It makes a big difference.

    Also as was previously stated, Chuck had huge hands. He plays Bb at the first fret on the A string and F at the first fret on the E string. He rarely moves far up the neck when playing rhythm. That is part of getting his rhythm sound.

    Yeah Chuck is terrible now...he's 80 something years old. He wants to get paid and go home. I guess he has been that way for most of his career. Doesn't diminish what he created though.

  17. sean001

    sean001 Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    Gilberts, Illinois
    In case it hasn't been seen. Here is the famous clip of Chuck being a pain in the *ss during Hail Hail Rock -n- Roll. The first minute is Keef talking about it then the action really starts.

    Once they get going though, there is no denying what an infectious talent Chuck is. The amount of swing still makes my heart beat faster. Like Keef says, it ain't the rock, it's the roll.

  18. sacizob

    sacizob Friend of Leo's

    How can one fret make a "big" difference?

  19. billd13

    billd13 Tele-Meister

    Oct 10, 2008
    Ashton, IL
    A guitar does sound different from one key to another even one half step. Try tuning your guitar down a half step and see what an "E" chord sounds like. I can hear a difference between the same chord form played on the 5th fret or the 6th fret. Also remember that the strings of the day were at least 12's if not 13's and they do not sound the same as 9's and 10's.

    As an aside, through 1958 I was on some of the same tours or shows with Chuck as well as a bunch of others. At that time we were all using 50 watt Tweed Twins-the biggest thing available. As I remember Chuck played either a blonde ES345? Switchmaster or a red 335.

  20. sean001

    sean001 Tele-Meister

    Mar 17, 2003
    Gilberts, Illinois
    One fret makes a HUGE difference when we are talking about really getting it right as far as tone and vibe. Playing the right inversions and positions gets you the right strings ringing and the right strings not ringing.

    Play Johnny B. Goode in A and you can get all kinds of garbage ringing if the rhythm player decides to play the first position A chord. Do it in Bb and all that goes away. It tightens everything up.

    Try it and see, you'll like what you find.

    You're a Buddy Holly fan right? Most people play That'll Be The Day at the fifth fret with a D bar chord and it's OK. Put a capo at the 5th fret and play an A chord and suddenly...instant Buddy. You gotta play like them if you wanna sound like them. Not busting chops, just trying share stuff it took me years to figure out. I love Chuck so I love talking about it and helping guys get authentic.

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