Playing super fast licks isn't everything, but great tone sure is! There are some truly great guitarists with a tone so unique music fans can easily identify their playing simply by sound. So let's take a look at five guitarists known to play Gibson guitars, each with their own distinctive tone, and how they go about getting their sound.

B.B. King

89 year old blues master B.B. King got his moniker from the name he used while DJ:ing in Memphis under the moniker “The Beale Street Blues Boy.” King has been playing his black Gibson ES-355 - nicknamed Lucille, for the better part of his career. When you hear B.B. play you're struck by his amazing vibrato, and it's all in the guitarist's fingers! King explained to Guitar Player that he came up with his vibrato style when trying to emulate the sound of a bottleneck slide: “Trying to get that effect is what started me working on my vibrato, which is kind of like a steady pulse, pushing the string up and letting it go without losing control of it. I try my best to make my left hand trill evenly without any effort. Of course, a great deal of practice is necessary before the hand attains the dexterity required to move smoothly enough to get that vibrato. I want to make it just like my heartbeat, something I don’t have to think about at all.”

Jimmy Page

Jimmy Page has been a Les Paul man since Led Zeppelin II. In fact, Slash has said that it was Page's choice of guitar on that album that made him choose the same model! In an interview with Guitar World Page talked about “Ramble On” and how he achieved the long sustained notes during the solo interlude: “I used the neck pickup on my Les Paul and backed off on the treble knob on the guitar, and ran it through the sustainer Roger Mayer made for me years before. When I was recording it, I was thinking in terms of making a sound sort of like a string arrangement.”

Angus Young

AC/DC guitar god Angus Young has kept it simple throughout his long career. For Young, it's all about using a Gibson SG and a Marshall amp, and pushing it to the max, getting the sound you want without the use of a pedalboard. In a rare 1984 interview with Guitar World, Young talked about getting a good tone out of his guitar-amp setup, and it seems that he's going for a much cleaner tone than you'd might expect: “Also, if you're playing it right, it's going to sound right somehow. I mean you gladly turn down if it's going to sound good. I mean it's not like, 'I have to have a wall of amps and a candelabra on top.' If you hit a chord and it's distorted, you clean it up. It's all what you hear. You fiddle around until you get a good sound. For me, I prefer the sound to be clean if I can get it clean. If you can get that natural distortion, fine, because I don't believe in boxes that sustain. And I don't believe in pushing the hell out of the amps because they become muddy and whooshy.”

Billy Gibbons

ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons’ most famous guitar is no doubt his 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, lovingly named “Pearly Gates.” Gibson Custom have even made a replicas of Gibbons’ beloved instrument. Part of the uniqueness of Gibbons’ tone comes from his choice of guitar pick - a Mexican peso coin. It helps Billy enhance his pinch harmonics, which are a big part of his sound. But it’s not all “Pearly Gates” for The Reverend Willy G. - in a Guitar World interview he talks about the guitar that was the backbone of the 1996 album Rhythmeen: “That was the fine work of a detuned '55 Goldtop running through a modified Marshall 100, in conjunction with Marshall's JMP-1 preamp. The two amp sources working together created a curious organic delaylike effect that we still use in our studio today.” If you’re interested in a Goldtop, perhaps you should check out the Billy F. Gibbons Goldtop.

Leslie West


Mountain guitarist Leslie West have created some great riffs and songs over the years, but none as big as “Mississippi Queen” from Mountain’s first official studio album Climbing!. West used two Les Paul Juniors during the time of recording the album, a 1956 single-cutaway, as well as a double-cutaway. In an interview with Guitar Player West spoke of how he got that classic tone from his LP Juniors: “It always felt like the guitars were trying to jump out of my hands,” he says. “And the controls didn’t do much. Between about 1 and 6 the volume controls would give you a clean tone, then around 7 to 9 the sound got a little dirtier—but when you turned them up to 10 you’d get this extra blast of sound. I usually played with the tone controls fully open, because you didn’t get much variation when you rolled them back, unless you rolled them all the way off.”