Gary Moore has a searing guitar tone, perfect for heavy blues and blues rock. Learn everything you need to recreate his beautiful tones
From the moment I first heard ‘Parisienne Walkways’ I have wanted to sound like Gary Moore. He has a fiery blues tone that is powerful and intense, yet full of soul. It is a beautiful tone that will serve you well as a blues guitarist, regardless of whether you are a huge Gary Moore fan, or just looking to improve the quality of your lead guitar tone.
Gary Moore played a fundamental role in the evolution of the blues. He took the traditional blues form and fused it with heavy rock, shred guitar, and glam rock. In a totally unique way, he combined the core elements of the blues with these very different genres.
In doing so, Moore helped to revive the blues during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He garnered the praise of fans who had no prior allegiances to the blues and set the stage for modern guitarists like Joe Bonamassa.
Over the course of his 40 year career, Gary Moore used a lot of different gear. And his tone at different points is reflective of this. In this article then I’ll focus on how you can replicate the classic Gary Moore blues tones, from albums like Still Got The Blues and After Hours. I’ve outlined all of the equipment Moore used during this period, and how you can recreate the same tones to suit your budget.
Without further ado then, here is everything you need to sound like Gary Moore:
Throughout his career, Gary Moore played almost every guitar imaginable. This included a Fender Stratocaster, a Gibson Firebird, a Hamer Explorer, a Fender Telecaster, and various different Ibanez guitars, amongst others.
For the most part however, Moore relied on Gibson guitars. His go-to guitar was a Gibson Les Paul. And for those songs where he wanted a ‘warmer tone’ he often opted for a Gibson ES-335.
When it came to Gibson Les Pauls, there were 2 different models that Moore used. The first of these was ‘Greeny’ – the iconic Les Paul previously owned by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac. Moore originally acquired this in the early 1970s, having befriended Peter Green a few years earlier.
‘Greeny’ is one of the most famous guitars in the world. It has been played on some of the best British blues albums of all time and is famous for its amazing tone and the mystery and story surrounding it.
When Peter Green was playing with Fleetwood Mac, guitarists puzzled over how he achieved his tone. His guitar had the power and bite of a Gibson Les Paul, but the definition and clarity of a Fender Strat.
Gary Moore and Joe Dantzig (the founder of Hamer guitars) eventually discovered the secret to this tone in the early 1980s. They deconstructed the guitar and discovered that the magnetic polarity of the pickups was reversed. This meant that when both pickups on the guitar were selected together, it produced an ‘out of phase’ sound similar to that of a guitar with single coil pickups.
That ‘Greeny’ was one of the main guitars that Gary Moore used during his career is noteworthy then, as it allowed Moore to produce tones that are not possible with a regular Les Paul. We will look at how to recreate this element of Moore’s set-up below.
The second guitar that Gary Moore used extensively during his career is also a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. Nicknamed ‘Stripe’ – the guitar was in many ways similar to Greeny, although it had a much heavier flamed top finish.
It also had a regular pickup configuration – and so didn’t produce the out of phase sound, like ‘Greeny’. Moore bought the guitar in 1988 from musician and collector Phil Harris, who later said of the Les Paul:
If there was a Gary Moore Les Paul that was about Gary, – it was that guitar… Stripe remained with him until the very end, and I feel actually quite humble that I had the pleasure of selling him that guitar
The guitar was basically stock – apart from the tuners, which were replaced with Grovers – and the frets, which were replaced with larger frets.
The 1959 Gibson Les Paul
Given the key role that the 1959 Gibson Les Paul played in Moore’s career, I would recommend going for a 1959 Gibson Les Paul, a ’59 Les Paul replica, or a vintage style Les Paul. Original ’59 Les Pauls in good condition typically cost well over $125,000/£100,000. And although the Gibson Custom Shop released 2 slightly different replica versions of Greeny in 2010 and 2015, as well as 2 Gary Moore Custom Shop Les Pauls based on ‘Stripe’, these guitars are both hard to track down and expensive. In the case of the ‘Greeny’ Custom Shop models, such is the build quality and legacy of the guitar, that even second hand versions of these replicas start at around $5,300/£4250 on sites like Reverb. Unfortunately then, those options are beyond the reach of most players.
The good news, is that there are a lot of vintage Les Paul reissues and replicas out there across a range of budgets.
In the lower price range, these Les Pauls tend to be tribute style guitars, or guitars modelled after a specific decade. Then if you go up to the Custom Shop level, you can find guitars that are built to replicate models made in a specific year. This typically requires higher quality, bespoke made parts and manufacturing techniques. And both of these incur extra cost.
So with that in mind, the best option outside of the Custom Shop is to look at Tribute and ’50s style guitars. These are vintage style models that do a great job of recreating the features of a ’59 Les Paul, without the higher price tag.
In the lower price range, I would recommend going for an Epiphone replica.
After Epiphone, I would recommend one of the cheaper Gibson Tribute or Studio models.
Beyond that, if you can stretch to it, then there are some brilliant Gibson Les Paul options.
Finally, if you are looking to spend a bit more and make an investment, then there are some beautiful Gibson Custom Shop models out there.
All of these guitars will help you to sound like Gary Moore. And with a few further tweaks to your pickups and set-up (see below for more details), you can get even closer to Moore’s tones.
When it comes to choosing pickups that will help you to sound like Gary Moore, there are 2 different routes to explore. The first of these is to fit your guitar with out of phase pickups.
Although Gary Moore is not famous for his out of phase tone in the same way as Peter Green is, he did use Greeny extensively throughout his career. So if you are a big fan of both Gary Moore and Peter Green – and you are looking to recreate an out of phase sound – then my recommendation would be to look at out of phase pickup options.
When pickups are out of phase, you get a unique sound when you select both pickups together. The tone becomes somewhat ‘scooped’ and is sonically more similar to that of a guitar with single coil pickups.
Out of phase options
The great news is that there are some brilliant out of phase pickup sets available. These are all ‘Peter Green’ style pickup sets that have their polarity reversed. There are not a huge number of these signature style pickups out there, but some of my top choices would be:
- Bare Knuckle PG Blues Pickups
- Lollar Peter Green Style Imperial Humbuckers
- Throbak PG-102 PAF Humbuckers
- Seymour Duncan ‘Greenie’ Pickups
In 2010 – when Gary Moore’s Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul was released, he fitted his guitar with Bare Knuckle PG Blues Pickups. Moore only played that guitar for a year before his death, so he didn’t use them extensively. But if you are looking for authenticity, those pickups would be a great place to start.
The other option that will help you to get closer to the out of phase tone is to modify the pickups you already have in your guitar. This does require some skills with a soldering iron, so if you aren’t comfortable making alterations to your guitar, I’d recommend taking it to a guitar tech who can do the job for you.
With the magnetic polarity of your pickups reversed, you’ll get that beautiful out of phase tone when you set your pickup selector to the middle position.
Out of phase alternatives
The second route to explore, is that of buying a set of vintage style humbucking pickups. These are pickups that aren’t out of phase, but which will help you to capture the sounds of a regular vintage Les Paul. These are ‘underwound’ pickups that have a lower output and a more vintage sounding tone. As Moore said in his own words, when speaking in an interview about the stock pickups from his ’59 Les Paul:
I think there’s something about the pickups from that era. I don’t know why, but there’s just something really good about them.
So if you are looking for beautiful vintage tones, some of my top choices here are as follows:
These pickups won’t help you to recreate the out of phase tone that Moore sometimes used. They will however help you to recreate the tone on a range of his most famous songs. After all, in ‘Stripe’, Moore’s pickups were stock. And this was the guitar he used on songs like ‘Still Got The Blues’.
In 2000, the Gibson Custom Shop released a Gary Moore Signature Les Paul, which came fitted with Gibson ‘Burstbucker’ Pickups. Moore used these during the early 2000s, but also played with Thomas Holmes pickups and spoke highly of them, as well as of the pickups made by Lindy Fralin.
Across the course of his career, Gary Moore played a number of different guitar amps. These included amps made by Hiwatt, Soldano and even Fender.
Reissue versions of both the 1959 Super Lead and the JTM45 heads are still readily available. The JCM 2000 DSL is no longer in production, but you can pick the head up second hand on Reverb for a pretty reasonable price of around $770/£550. Alternatively, you can buy the Marshall DSL 100, which is the company’s modern version of the original DSL amp.
If you want to sound like Gary Moore then, and you are looking for authenticity, any of these amps would make a great choice.
Having said that, there is a significant consideration you have to make with these amps. And that is that they are large and powerful. To get the best out of them, you have to crank the volume. This is what gives you that beautiful, vintage sounding overdrive.
Cranking a 100 watt amp or a Marshall stack produces a huge amount of volume. So if you are predominantly playing at home, in a studio, or in small venues, I wouldn’t recommend one of these amps as my top choice.
Instead, I would recommend opting for a smaller combo or stack. And the great news is that there are options here to suit a range of different budgets.
If you want to sound like Gary Moore but don’t want a big combo or a stack, then there are some brilliant smaller Marshall combos and heads out there. And here I think there are 2 different routes to explore. The first is to look at the DSL range of amps, which are as follows:
Alternatively, there are the ‘Origin’ and vintage range of Marshall amps. These aim to recreate the tones of early Marshalls from the 1960s. Some of my top choices here are well.
Of these combos, there are head versions of the Studio Vintage Plexi, the Marshall DSL20HR and the Marshall Origin 20W. So if you wanted to build a stack, one of these smaller heads could be a brilliant choice. You could then pair it up with one of Marshall’s smaller vintage style 1×12″ cabinets.
Given that Gary Moore played Marshall amps, it makes sense to predominantly look at Marshall options when trying to recreate his tone. Having said that, in more recent years a number of companies have created Marshall style amps, that could also be worth considering. Some of my top choices here are as follows:
Towards the end of his career, Gary Moore did play an Orange ‘Tiny Terror’. This has now since been discontinued, but Orange have released amps like the Micro Terror, which are very similar.
Beyond that though, Moore didn’t use these amps during his career. As such, if you are looking for authenticity, these wouldn’t be my first choice. However, if you want a British voiced amp that will help you to dial in a range of heavy blues tones, any of the above would work well.
Orange and Blackstar amps make great options if you are more budget conscious, whereas Friedman would be a brilliant option if you are looking to spend a bit more and make an investment in your amp.
Over the course of his career, Gary Moore used a whole range of different guitar pedals. In fact he was a particular fan of Boss pedals, and at various times used a whole range of different Boss effects, including distortion, chorus, delay, octave and a flanger.
It is worth noting that Moore used many of these pedals for specific sounds, rather than as a core part of his tone. It is also worth noting that he used many of these pedals slightly earlier in his career – when he favoured a heavier and more rock based sound. Of course, if you are a massive Gary Moore fan and are interested in authenticity, it would make sense to add these pedals to your board. Some of them are been updated since Moore used them. But any of the following will help you to accurately recreate Moore’s set-up.
Although a flanger and chorus are not going to be core effects you need as a blues guitarist, they will help you to create very specific tones at certain times.
Slightly later in his career, Gary Moore also used a number of the T-Rex guitar pedals, including the Moller Overdrive, Twister (which was a Chorus and Flanger Pedal) and the Gristle Luxury Overdrive.
Both the Twister and Gristle Luxury Overdrive have now been discontinued. You can however pick them both up relatively inexpensively on Reverb. So if you want to sound like Gary Moore and are looking for a quality overdrive pedal, you could buy one of these pedals up second hand.
Having said that, I don’t think that either are essential to helping you sound like Gary Moore. When thinking about the classic Gary Moore blues tones, there are a couple of key pedals and effects that you need to consider. These played a more significant part in his overall tone, and are worth considering if you really want to sound like Gary Moore. They are as follows:
The Marshall Guv’nor
Of all of the pedals listed here, if there is one that will help you sound like Gary Moore, it is the Marshall Guv’nor.
Moore famously used this pedal to create his tone on ‘Still Got the Blues’. To my mind that is the classic Gary Moore blues tone. The tones on this song and album are some of the best that Moore produced during his career.
The original Marshall Guv’nor pedal is no longer in production, but you can buy an original on sites like Reverb for prices starting from around $270/£200.
You can also buy the Marshall GV-2 Guv’nor Plus on Reverb. This was a pedal based on the original Guv’nor which Marshall produced for many years. This pedal has also since been discontinued, and isn’t quite so easy to find second hand. But if you are able to find it on Reverb, it is likely to be for a very reasonable price. I have seen it for prices as low as around $80/£60.
If you don’t want to buy a pedal second hand, then I would recommend the Wilson Effects Sparkling Blue. This is regarded to be a fairly close replica of the original Guv’nor pedal. Although other alternatives have been produced over the last few years – the Mojo Hand FX Magistrate and Danelectro Daddy-O – being 2 of the most notable, these have also been discontinued and can only be bought second hand.
I suspect this is partly because of the popularity of ‘Amp in a box pedals’, which I cover in more detail below. If you want to buy your pedals new, then one of those might be your best option. But any of these pedals will help you to sound like Gary Moore. Specifically they will help you to recreate the tone on albums like Still Got The Blues.
Ibanez tube screamer
The next pedal you need to look at when trying to sound like Gary Moore, is the Ibanez Tube Screamer.
Moore used the Tube Screamer throughout his career. He predominantly used the TS9, but later also came to use the TS10. You can easily pick up reissues of the TS9, but the TS10 has been discontinued. As such, if you are looking for a TS10, you will have to look at sites like Reverb. The prices here start at around $350/£300.
The combination of a Tube Screamer, Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amp is not necessarily a combination you would perhaps expect. Famously, Stevie Ray Vaughan paired his Tube Screamer with a Fender Stratocaster and various different Fender amps. It is this pairing that produces the ‘classic’ Tube Screamer sound. Fender guitars and amps are famously lacking in the middle of the dynamic range, or the ‘mids’. The Tube Screamer boosts the mids disproportionately, and thickens up the tone of a Fender Strat and Fender amp combination.
Gibson guitars and Marshall amps don’t have the same problem. By adding the Tube Screamer into the mix with his Marshall and Les Paul, Moore pushed the combination to its breaking point. He added more distortion to his sound, as well as the sustain that was a characteristic part of his tone.
Amp in a box alternatives
If you want to sound like Gary Moore and you are looking for authenticity, then I would recommend looking at the specific pedals that he used during his career and which are listed above. If you combine these with the right amp and guitar, you will be well on your way to recreating Moore’s heavy overdriven blues tones.
Having said that, buying all of the individual overdrives and distortion pedals that Gary Moore used will incur significant expense and take up a lot of space on your pedalboard. So if you want to sound like Gary Moore, but don’t want to buy so many individual pedals, it might be worth considering an ‘amp in a box pedal’. These are individual pedals that aim to produce the tones of classic amps.
In this case each of these pedals aims to produce classic Marshall amp tones. of Some of my top choices here are as follows:
There are a huge number of these types of pedals out there, many of which aim to produce classic Marshall tones from different periods. If you want to sound like Gary Moore and create a range of vintage blues tones, I would recommend looking at one of these pedals that is based on an early Marshall amp, like a JTM45 or a Plexi.
Gary Moore’s tone has a lot of depth and sustain. Just listen to a song like ‘King of The Blues‘, or to his cover of ‘The Messiah Will Come Again‘. Each note rings out and sustains long after Moore has finished playing.
This largely comes from his guitar, the high volume of his amp and his distortion and overdrive pedals. And of course his technique also plays a big part. But Moore also added delay pedals to his rig, and this added a depth to his sound.
Delay pedals are not that commonly used in the blues. They are more typically associated with alternative or progressive styles of music. But in fact adding a delay pedal to your set-up and using it in a subtle way can really improve your tone.
When you use a delay pedal, the sound of your playing ‘decays’ gradually. Rather than ending abruptly, the sound of each note fades out slowly. This adds a depth and richness to your tone.
As mentioned above, Gary Moore used a Boss DM-2 Analog Delay pedal as well as a Roland SDE-3000 pedal at certain points during his career. The Roland SDE-3000 is no longer in production – and although you can buy them on sites like Reverb, they currently start at prices from around $470/£350. I also don’t think it is an essential pedal that you need to sound like Gary Moore.
The Boss Analog Delay however is still readily available and so would be an obvious choice. If you want to consider further options though, then some further options are as follows:
The key to utilising these pedals effectively, is to just add a small amount of delay. You don’t want to wash your sound out. All you need to do is add a small amount of delay to add depth and sustain to your sound.
The final effect you need if you want to sound like Gary Moore is reverb.
Peter Green – Gary Moore’s early mentor – used a lot of reverb as part of his tone. And although Moore’s tone wasn’t so reverb heavy, it was still a key part of his sound.
Over the course of his career, Gary Moore used a range of different reverb pedals. These included discontinued pedals like the Boss FRV-1 ’63 Reverb. However Moore also used the Boss RV-6 Digital Reverb, as well as the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano. Both of these pedals are still readily available and either would make a great addition to your set-up.
If you want to consider further options however, I would recommend one of the following pedals:
A lot of guitar amps have reverb built in. If that’s the case for you, then as long as you are happy with the quality of the reverb, then you don’t have to worry so much about buying a reverb pedal. If your amp doesn’t have reverb though, then you need to add it to your rig.
As is the case with delay, you don’t need to add a lot of reverb to your tone. All you need is a little to soften your tone up. This will help you to sound like Gary Moore, and improve your overall blues tone too.
Strings & Accessories
When it came to guitar strings, Gary Moore always used Dean Markley strings. Specifically, he either played a set of .010-0.52 gauge strings, or .009-.048 gauge strings. Markley no longer seem to offer a set that runs specifically from .009-0.48, but they do offer the following 2 sets, which are either the same or very close to those that Moore played:
Of course you don’t have to opt for a set of Dean Markley strings to sound like Gary Moore. In my opinion the most important factor is to opt for a set of mixed gauge strings. This is because – according to Moore – he felt there was a tonal difference using heavy gauge strings on the bottom. There are a whole range of mixed gauge guitar strings out there, and some of my top choices would be the Ernie Ball Skinny Top, Heavy Bottom (.010-.052) or the Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky (.009-.046) strings.
Finally, when it came to guitar picks, Gary Moore used a variety. When he was in Thin Lizzy he used Herco picks, before switching to Gibson picks later in his career.
Even though he changed the brands of pick he was using though, Moore always played heavy picks. Generally speaking, heavy picks are better for lead guitar playing. They give you a greater element of control and allow you to play quicker. They also allow you to be more dynamic and expressive. With a heavy guitar pick, you can apply a light touch and play softly. And then simply by applying pressure, you can add extra bite and aggression to your sound. This is not true of thin guitar picks.
As such, if you want to play and sound like Gary Moore, I would recommend going for a heavy guitar pick. For authenticity, Gibson Heavy Picks would be my first choice. Ultimately though, a heavy guitar pick, regardless of the brand is a good idea if you want to play and sound like Gary Moore. A set of Heavy Fender Picks or Dunlop Jazz III Picks would also work well.
Well there we have it, all of the gear you need to sound like Gary Moore. I hope that you find this helpful in your efforts to recreate the amazing tones from albums like Still Got The Blues.
The second piece of the puzzle is how to play like Gary Moore. As is true of all of the guitarists I’ve covered in this series so far, the gear they use is only one part of the equation. Gary Moore was an extremely technical player. He had amazing touch and feel and played with total precision at speed. To really sound like Gary Moore, you will need to spend a lot of time working on your technique.
I cover some of the ways that you can play like Gary Moore in this article here. Until then though, I hope you’ve found these suggestions helpful and you enjoy replicating those beautiful Gary Moore tones. And if you’re worried about your technique, just crank your amp and hit that famous bend from ‘Parisienne Walkways’. Playing the blues doesn’t get much better than that…
Let me know how you get on and if you have any thoughts or questions, just post them in the comments!
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