Joe Bonamassa plays a gold top Gibson Les Paul
| October 2, 2023 |

Joe Bonamassa’s Les Paul Tone Masterclass

“When I play live, I probably use the volume and tone pots 100 times in an evening”

Few would dispute that Joe Bonamassa is a modern-day master of the Gibson Les Paul. And if you want to sound like him, there’s sadly no substitute for thousands of hours of practice. However, one of the secrets to the Joe Bonamassa guitar sound is in the settings; specifically, the way Bonamassa uses the guitar’s onboard volume and tone controls and their interactivity in the middle position to create an expressive palette of sounds you might not realize your guitar is capable of.

In a new interview with Dinesh Lekhraj on the Gibson Gear Guide, Bonamassa delivers a masterclass in finding the right guitar tone, collecting gear, and unlocking new sounds from your old guitar. And it’s not just the settings; it’s also about reading the room.

“A lot of times, if I want to solo on a bridge pickup sound in a bright room, I don’t go to the bridge pickup,” says Bonamassa. “I keep it in the middle [position] and roll the bass pickup down. You can roll the tone down to five, but I actually like keeping the capacitance all the way up and just blending. To the listener, it doesn’t sound a lot different, but what I feel under my hands and on the pick? It feels weightier.

“Conversely, if you’re a bass pickup guy, you can roll your treble pickup down. You have to read the room. Part of your gig is to know when to use [the guitar] as a weapon and to know when to use it as something that creates a very vocal type of sound. When I play live, I probably use the volume and tone pots 100 times in an evening. It’s just a subconscious, natural thing that I do.”

Elsewhere in the Gibson Gear Guide video, Bonamassa discusses the art of playing with other musicians, how not warming up has improved his phrasing, what to do when you get stuck in a guitar-playing rut, getting outside of the pentatonic blues box, and plenty more besides.

Shop the Joe Bonamassa 1963 SG Custom and buy tickets for upcoming Joe Bonamassa shows here.