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EVH Brown Sound

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by Stanford Guitar, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    Lots of things contribute to EVH's brown sound, but one thing I've noticed is he often tunes his B string and sometimes the high E strings slightly flat relative to the other strings. It makes a big difference in the sound of chords when playing VH stuff, you have to play around with it to get the flavor just right. Lots of the recordings to my ears have likely been sped up or slowed down in production as the overall tuning is somewhere between concert pitch tones, pretty common on lots of recordings pre auto-tune era.

    I'll post some sound samples a bit later.
     
  2. swervinbob

    swervinbob Tele-Afflicted

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    This is a great interview. He talks about how how he tried stuff to lower the voltage of his Marshall to make it quieter before finding the Variac.

     
  3. knavel

    knavel Tele-Meister

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    I thought this thread was going to be about the apparently little known secret of EVH's sound, a brown(sound) face Fender Bandmaster head that according to the media he used during the time of the first three Van Halen albums.

    https://wgsusa.com/blog/eddie-van-halen-secret-amp-fender-bandmaster

    What is the meaning of "brown sound" as it's used in this thread?
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
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  4. kookaburra

    kookaburra Tele-Afflicted

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    Interesting link, but it doesn't say that he recorded with the Bandmaster. Seems he used it for writing songs, and for smaller clubs.
     
  5. Thoughtfree

    Thoughtfree Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    Re pitch variation on recordings - I recall an early EVH interview where he said that he never bothered with a tuning reference in the studio - he'd just get in tune with himself wherever the guitar happened to be pitched, then the bass would tune to him, and they'd go for it.
     
  6. knavel

    knavel Tele-Meister

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    You are right - no wonder I failed my Evelyn Wood speed reading course. I've corrected what I said to conform to the article.
     
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  7. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

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    FYI... it is common to flatten the B string a few cents. Many guitar players do that. Actually, many strings are often compensated.

    I don't believe that contributes to his "brown sound" in any way, but it is an interesting observation.
     
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  8. Fretting out

    Fretting out Poster Extraordinaire

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    I always thought it was his variac use and the “bomb” that held everything that helped contribute

    There’s also an echoplex
    9F684C02-A2E5-442D-9235-29FB7B001614.jpeg


    I saw this picture in Guitar World years ago and always thought it was badass
     
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  9. kookaburra

    kookaburra Tele-Afflicted

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    Your link did get me thinking that I miss my old Bandmaster, so there's that! I really never did give that amp the attention it deserved.
     
  10. Marc Morfei

    Marc Morfei Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Flatten the B string? Huh? Can someone elaborate on this?
     
  11. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    It's a term EVH used in interviews in describing his rich warm sound
     
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  12. codamedia

    codamedia Poster Extraordinaire

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    Look up "compensated tunings", "offset tunings" for guitar.
    Peterson (the tuner company) calls them sweetened tunings.... each instrument has variations.

    None of this is new... it's been around a long time and there is a lot of info available about it.

    James Taylor has a great "tuning" video on You Tube that takes this idea to the extreme although it's geared more for acoustic. It works for him, his tuning (and playing) is beautiful.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
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  13. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

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    I flatten my B string on my Martin just a pinch to make a ( first position) D chord play in tune.

    Headstock tuners are a godsend for doing this! ( among other uses, like quick, slide or drop tuning changes)
     
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  14. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

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    JT is downright manic, or adamant about this!
    BUT, he sounds like James Taylor, which is just about perfect! So he has the cred.
     
  15. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    The Brown Sound is elusive. I’ve gotten close to it a few times with different combinations of gear, but have found it not as easy to nail as some other famous guitar tones.

    It’s got a unique bottom end, complex mids and some very accented high frequencies, but it’s not harsh or ice picky. It cleans up exceptionally well when he rolls back the volume, without getting bassy or muddy.

    His technique also plays into - you can’t ignore that in this discussion. You could plug his guitar into his rig and play early Van Halen tunes and it wouldn’t sound the same without his attention to dynamics, intermixing a heavy attack with an amazingly fluid legato style, his sense of rhythm, etc.

    The “brown sound” started disappearing for me around the “1984” album. That was basically the same rig and guitar, but it’s cleaner and more in your face at the same time. Probably mostly due to a change in production techniques, mic placement, etc. But the sound starts to change at that point. Then when you get to the 5150 era (the album, not the amps - those came later) he starts experimenting with heavier use of chorus effects and starts scooping the mids more. The sound then evolves on down the line with the switch from his Plexi to the SLO-100 and then the 5150, 5150ii and 5150 iii amps.

    Funny - the 5150 is one of my favorite amps and has really solidified itself as a modern metal platform, which is the furthest thing from a “brown sound” you can get ;). Super versatile amps!
     
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  16. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm not sure what a few cents is, I've never owned any kind of tuner (my son does have one on his pedal board so I will investigate)! But he sometimes tunes his B and sometimes high E an 1/8 to 1/4 step down from what would be considered in tune with the other strings.

    I have noticed many other guitarists doing this...ie The Cure, John Frusciante, Tony Rice, and Hendrix (who would tune his low E slightly flat of E-flat to compensate at high registers).
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2020
  17. etype

    etype Tele-Afflicted

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    I had no idea he invented wax potting of pickups and also tab notation was developed because his music couldn't be described with traditional musical notation!!!

    Wow, I am so surprised no one disabused him of those notions.
     
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  18. drmordo

    drmordo Tele-Afflicted

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    In another thread there was a pic of his pedal board, and in the early days he had a always-on eq pedal set with a upside down V peaking at 800hz.

    I tried it after I saw that pic, and I have to say it is absolutely key to the Brown Sound.

    Now I just need to learn some of Eddie's licks! I haven't finger tapped since the 80s!
     
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  19. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    Cool! I didn’t know this, but I’ve used a GE-7 as a lead boost in the effects loop for some time with an 800hz boost, roll off of the lower frequencies and sometimes rolling off some highs, depending on the guitar and my mood. Not exactly an upside down V, but a similar concept.

    I think a lot of guys did a boost around 800hz in the 80s to push solos to the front of the mix. Furman parametric EQs were popular in the LA metal scene back then, from what I’ve read.
     
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  20. bluescaster72

    bluescaster72 Tele-Holic

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    I have done this since the beginning over 30 years as a guitarist flattening the B string some .and usually the high e string as it makes the chords sound sweeter . It also can compensate for less then perfect intonation. It just sounds better to my ear. I do this for acoustic guitar as well. you really can't intonate an acoustic at least not easily . It Balances everything out .
     
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