That 1973 Sound
 (As explained by Daniel S )

 

Your question is what equipment did Mick Taylor use and how did he get that sound?

Mick Taylor played one of two vintage Gibson Les Paul Standards (circa late 1950's) . He also played a 1962 Fender Stratocaster with stock pick ups. At the time, I think he was using Ernie Ball .009 Super Slinky strings. He used a glass slide for those rare but exquisite times that he did play slide.

In between the guitar and the amp was a Cry Baby wah-wah pedal, and you can sometimes hear this being used on that boot that you mentioned (the King Biscuit Flower Hour recording from 1973). You can hear the wah-wah on "Midnite Rambler". You can also sort of hear it on the first solo to "Jumpin' Jack Flash" (that's not really a solo on the first section, but it sort of is).

You can hear the wah-wah set to a certain position but not pedaled on "Heartbreaker". The wah-wah is set to bring out the low midrange sounds (pedal on, but in the "up" position).

Taylor's amp was an early '70s Ampeg SVT (300 watts) into two Ampeg V-2 speaker bottoms (each sealed but ported cabinet had four 12" Altec Lansing speakers).

Most of the tone that you hear comes from a combination of Taylor's guitars and also the magic something that occurs between a seasoned player's fingertips and strings. I say "seasoned player" because to have some control over your pressing down on the strings takes a little time to develop. The strings kind of become an extension of you, and you have to have "the feel". You'll know it as it starts to develop. Meantime, worry about exact bends and precise vibratos.

There is no cheap way to buy that type of equipment. My experience is that the closest you will get to that guitar sound in a currently made guitar is the Les Paul Classic. Next in line is the Les Paul Heritage series. I think that even on Ebay, bit of these go for about $2000 and up. From what I have seen, bids that close with final prices lower than these are those bids with "reserve not yet met" meaning that there is no sale.

You do not "need" one of these high volutin guitars, per se. You can get by with a decent fender Mexican made Stratocaster (less expensive than the American made beauties) or even a good Hernandez Strat (these are guitars that play well, sound good, and have good value for what you pay, believe it or not).

As for an amp, here's an inexpensive and little-known trick: go to ebay and find an Ibanez Tube King distortion stomp box. NO SUBSTITUTES. I have been playing for more than thirty years and I am very specific. This stomp box will enable you to dial in a Taylor-like sound better and closer than anything else. All you need is a halfway decent amp. The better the amp, the better your sound.

But even if you are plugging into a solid state Peavey you will get rich tone. Currently I am plugging into a 20 watt Mesa Boogie Subway Blues. Prior to that I was using a Peavey, just because it was small and fit into my living room. My Ampegs are not really suited for my living room playing.

So when I tell you that the gold is in the stomp box more than it is in the amp, I know from cheap experience. This Ibanez Tube King may cost you between $75 - $135 depending on how the auction goes.

If you can get a tube amp, that is really the best. Between the tube amp and the Ibanez Tube King, you will be able to dial in some decent tone, just like what you want.

Here is the big mistake that too many players make: what you hear in a recording and what you hear from your amp will always be different. Try it. Put a mic up to your amp and record your playing. Play it back. What gets fed through the mic, processed through a board and striped on tape or hard drive is not what the cilia in your ear are grooving and shaking to. So, do not chase the tiger. Instead, get a good sound out of your amp by dialing in the right combo of amp settings and Tube King settings, and go with that.

Notice carefully in a Mick Taylor sound from that era that you can always hear the tone of the guitar (hear the woods of the instrument) regardless of how distorted the sound. The key to that is use plenty of distortion if you want, but don't use too much. And do not be afraid to roll back the volume on the guitar.

When you bend a string, listen carefully to not just the note, but the overtones of notes that ring with that note, giving that note its tone.

Practice scale runs and finger exercises. Practice slow bends (up and down, but watch out for going sharp when bending up because that will always sound bad). Pick the string with deliberate strikes. You are almost scraping the side of the pick (Fender tortise shell Extra Heavy) against the strings. Better yet, learn to cup the pick and pluck the strings, gripping the pick between your thumb, index and middle fingers (thumb-forefinger/middle finger opposition, as the pediatric physical therapists might say