How to Play Like Joe Perry: 5 Tips
The Aerosmith lead player has one of the most distinctive six-string vocabularies in American classic rock. Here are five tips for dialing up and dishing out the Perry sound, heard on blockbusters like “Walk This Way,” “Dream On,” “Some Old Song and Dance,” “Mama Kin” and more.
• Dial it in: You’re gonna need a high gain amp or a very classy distortion box to get in the right neighborhood. Perry’s Marshall based tone comes from an amp head pegged this way: master volume at seven, pre-amp (gain) at nine, bass at six, mids at seven, treble at 10 and presence at eight. That’s all about crunch and cut. And having a wicked — as Joe would say — Gibson Les Paul ups the ante.
• Blend scales: Perry’s solos walk between major and minor scales, so blend as you wend. To get your ears adjusted, check the solo in “Walk This Way” — a classic example blending the minor third, major third and flat fifth for maximum impact.
• Slide it open: Perry uses a variety of open tunings on Aerosmith numbers. A favorite is a variation on open D, the famed D-A-D-G-A-D that players from Delta bluesman Skip James to Jimmy Page have employed over the decades. You can play these strings as whole chords, using the low three strings or top four, or alternate between individual strings to create melodies. Perry’s slide of choice is his ceramic Boneyard signature model.
• Choke the bends: Blues based guitarists have employed bends since they first hefted six-strings, drawing on the sounds of the African music that is the genre’s roots. Perry frequently chokes his bent notes before they hit their crescendo. It’s a great way to punctuate licks and put his brand on the technique.
• Swagger: Attitude is an important part of Perry’s magic. Check out the way he slashes at his guitar’s strings, how he wears his instruments low at the hip and swings it by the neck. In Perry’s case, looking cool and playing cool are inseparable.