What is the secret to the Brown Sugar sound?

Discussion in 'Music to Your Ears' started by peteb, Oct 5, 2021.

  1. Tonetele

    Tonetele Poster Extraordinaire

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    Spot on. It's all in the G Tuning.
    Rumour has it that Ry Cooder taught Keith these tuning in 1967 when working with the Stones in France.
     
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  2. guitar_paul1

    guitar_paul1 Tele-Holic

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    Nobody's mentioned the missing bottom string.
    That might have a lot to do with the chord voicing.
     
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  3. Greenmachine

    Greenmachine Tele-Afflicted

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    Just sounds like over driven single coils to me.

    Don't throw any rotten fruit at me please.
     
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  4. bumnote

    bumnote Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    You want the story?
    This guy was there...Jimmy tells the story of recording Brown Sugar and how the back porch was used as a method to test the mix. The argument he had w/ Jagger is funny.


    it was a Twin with JBL's, cranked. It's pre-birthday, so he hadn't gotten Micawber yet as a gift from Clapton yet. Whatever you see on stage for the "Gimme Shelter" film would be what the band used at Muscle Shoals...they recorded it during the 69 tour. Right before they headed to Altmont.
     
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  5. gmann

    gmann Friend of Leo's

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    Keith has always maintained it was an SG. In the interview linked in post # 14, Jimmy Johnson says it was an SG. So, an SG.
     
  6. bumnote

    bumnote Tele-Holic Ad Free Member

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    Found this quote from Jimmy Johnson...

    "Keith was playing a Gibson, but not a Les Paul... I think it was an SG, and as I recall it was black. I remember it had those sharp horns on the cutaways. That's what he played most of the time he was here. Taylor, to my recollection, was playing a Strat. And guess what we came up with for Bill Wyman? Do you remember those Plexiglas body basses that were around then? I checked with David Hood later and he says it was a Dan Armstrong. So to the best of our recollection, that's what it was... Keith played a Fender Twin, and so did Mick Taylor, and they brought those in with them. The loudness on those tracks really came from Keith. I had it put in that back booth and shut the door on it."
    - Jimmy Johnson, 2005

    http://www.timeisonourside.com/SOBrown.html
     
  7. Alamo

    Alamo Doctor of Teleocity

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    If that's the case, could it be that Jimmy Johnson saw the ebony Gibson ES 355?
    I don't recall seening a black SG in Keith's hands.

     
  8. O- Fender

    O- Fender Friend of Leo's

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    It was pointed out to me that part of Keef's sound is when he strums, he's hitting the strings well over the neck, when a lot of us strum closer to the bridge.
     

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  9. joealso

    joealso Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    FWIW - to my ears, it doesn't sound as if Keith uses the full "Keef shape" on the 8th fret to 5th fret sequence. If you visualize that classic "Keef-shaped chord" in open G, I use only my ring finger on the 8th fret suspension and only my 2nd finger on the 5th fret suspension. I use the full shape in all other instances. Sounds better to me, but only on this song.
     
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  10. Greg70

    Greg70 Tele-Holic

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    I was thinking the same thing. I read the original post and I was immediately imagining Keith strumming on a beat up 5-strung Tele and wondering what kind of amp he used. I read the article that someone else posted and was shocked to learn that it was an SG.
     
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  11. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

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    Was he even tuning to Open G yet at this point if he was using the SG and probably hadn't rigged up a Tele with 5-strings yet?

    Most of this song is on the middle 3 strings where there's no change from standard tuning. It can be played convincingly with all the strings in standard tuning if the player is good at muting.

    Keef is obviously famous for "loose" playing so the Open G is important there to play loose and yet not have strings ringing out which don't fit in.

    I think almost any of these Keef songs the tone barely matters. They sound great and they're fun to play and there's no need to agonize over getting the perfect tone. Just go for mildly dirty and don't go for excessive amounts of gain and play it loose and have fun.

    That said I have been playing some of these Stones songs lately on my Reverend with Humbuckers and the humbuckers do sound right on some of the songs so the SG story makes plenty of sense.
     
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  12. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Twin amps have been around since the Tweed era (no reverb in the Tweed amps, as it wasn't even available in the late 50s), Keith actually tours these days with a pair of Tweed Twins goosed with (IIRC) a Tube Screamer or similar OD pedal. But Brown Sugar was most likely recorded with a Blackface Twin Reverb. All accounts say that it was cranked up wide open, and a Tweed would be MUCH dirtier than that if it was pushed that hard. But a Blackface would only get a little bit dirty, which is what I hear on that track.
     
  13. David Barnett

    David Barnett Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Agree, they used Fender Twins at Muscle Shoals. Jim Dickinson, who was there, said Keith borrowed Mick Taylor's SG Std and used a BF Twin turned up all the way, and could be heard up and down the highway.
     
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  14. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    This is so awesome.

    - what we "know". Keef is open G 5 string on a Tele through a tweed man.
    - what we hear: Keef recorded that in open G on a 5 string Tele through a tweed man. It's the classic open tuned Tele through Tweed sound
    - what he used: SG (anyone know buckers or p90s) through a Twin.
     
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  15. Frodebro

    Frodebro Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    I have a profile in my Kemper that nails that sound, but only with the right guitar. Single coils won't do it.
     
  16. Alamo

    Alamo Doctor of Teleocity

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    That SG is still red.
    I sense a glitch in the matrix.
     
  17. drewg

    drewg Tele-Holic

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  18. peteb

    peteb Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks everyone for the replies. Good points all.


    My question has to do with the writing of the song. More from a music theory stand point than tone. But the tone is distinctive and the open G plays a role.


    Here is my breakdown. Like as said above, the d, g, and b strings are at the heart of it.


    76BBB00F-60E6-4F88-B640-037AD2CE0C85.jpeg



    this is my observation.



    On the opening riff, before the g chord is played, and before the C chord is played at the first line of each verse, and before the F chord is played at the second line of each verse and before the G chord starts each line in the chorus, there is a brief (transitional chord) which is the IV chord, of the chord that is about to be played.


    For instance, on opening riff, at the 12th fret, before the G chord is played, the C chord is briefly played first, also at the 12th fret.

    here is why I call it the secret.


    The C chord is the IV chord for the G, making the G the V chord of the C.








    So, instead of just opening with the G chord, there is the brief transitional C chord played first, giving the G chord those special characteristics of being the V chord.



    has anyone seen this before on any other songs?


    the other open G Rolling Stones songs I have been working on are Happy, Before they make me run and Little T&A. None of these songs use this same song writing technique.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2021
  19. beninma

    beninma Friend of Leo's

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    What is your question? Most of these songs Keef is doing his triad thing where he switches back and forth between the 2nd and 1st inversions of two different chords on the 2nd/3rd/4th string.

    The Open G thing isn't that important cause the 6th string is missing and he's not doing a barre chord across all the strings, if you hear more it's cause there's an overlapping guitar part.

    The 5th string being G and the 1st string being D just help by allowing a little more slop/looseness while playing since if you hit them it's not as bad as in standard tuning, but that's a mixed bag, if he's playing a 2nd inversion of C then standard tuning would let you hit the 1st string when you should have muted it and that's sound better than if it was a D.

    I learned Brown Sugar in my first couple years of playing and tuning to Open G helped me a lot cause I wasn't very good at the muting. I haven't played it in a long time, but learned Start Me up more recently and that song is a lot of the same stuff, years later I never bothered retuning for that song as my muting came along to the point it's no big deal to play it in standard tuning at regular tempo and get the muting right.

    In the case of Start me up by that point the extra stuff is just Ron Wood's parts overlapping for sure.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2021
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  20. dkmw

    dkmw Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well, one thing that for sure makes BS unique is that the riff came from Jagger. So it wasn’t like the other songs where Keef originated at least the main riff.

    Sure, he keeferized BS once he got hold of it, but the changes/basic riff came from Jagger. Keef has acknowledged this.
     
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