Jimmy Page is one of the most iconic guitarists of all time. He helped to redefine rock music, bridging the gap between British bluesmen like Eric Clapton and Peter Green, and heavy rock guitarists like Slash and Eddie Van Halen. He has crafted some of the most memorable riffs ever written and the image of him on stage with his twin neck SG is one of the most enduring in rock history.
When it came to his tone, Page pushed boundaries in the same way. He took the heavily distorted tones of players from the early 1960s and experimented with them further. In doing so, he created a unique tone that helped to define the sound of British blues and blues rock.
Although Page is not a typical blues guitarist, his playing is rooted heavily in the blues. Just listen to songs like ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You‘, ‘I Can’t Quit You Baby‘ and ‘When The Levee Breaks‘. His tone is also brilliant for blues and heavy blues rock. So even if you are not a huge Jimmy Page fan, there are elements of this rig that you can incorporate in your set up to capture a vintage blues rock tone.
Over the course of his career, Jimmy Page has used a range of gear and effects. He is also an accomplished acoustic player and has used various different acoustic guitars. Here though I’ll be focusing on the key elements of his rig that give him his signature tone. Here is everything you need to sound like Jimmy Page:
Jimmy Page has long been associated with Gibson Les Pauls. When he played with The Yardbirds and during his early Led Zeppelin days, Page used a Telecaster. But he made the switch in 1969, when Joe Walsh (of the Eagles) sold him a 1959 Les Paul. This guitar – which Page nicknamed ‘Number One’ – went on to become his main guitar. He used it for decades, playing it on the majority of Led Zeppelin’s albums and at all of their live shows too.
By the time that Page bought the guitar, there had already been a couple of changes made to the instrument. The most significant of these was the neck profile. The neck was sanded down so that it was much slimmer than a typical 1959 Les Paul neck.
Once in Page’s possession, he made further changes. Some of these – like switching the original Kluson tuners with Grovers – had little impact on his tone. But there are 2 changes he made over the years which are worth noting.
The first of these were changes that Page made to the pickups. The guitar originally had Seth Lover PAF pickups, but Page replaced the bridge pickup with a T-Top Humbucker in 1972.
Secondly, he replaced one of the tone knobs on the guitar with a push-pull knob. This enabled Page to play his pickups out of phase and replicate the ‘mod’ that gave Peter Green his signature sound.
It is not totally clear (at least to me) when this modification was made. And in contrast to Green, the out of phase sound is not a signature part of Page’s tone. But it is definitely worth noting if you are looking to replicate Page’s tone as closely as possibly. And if you are a fan of Peter Green and British blues more generally, then I would consider making the same mod. There are more details on how to do this on a similar article I wrote, on How To Sound Like Peter Green.
Long story short, if you want to sound like Jimmy Page – you need to get a Gibson Les Paul, or a Les Paul replica. And the good news here, is that there are options across a range of different budgets.
If you are more budget conscious, then I would recommend looking at the Epiphone entry level range:
After Epiphone, there is quite a jump up in price, as you get to the standard Gibson range:
Finally, if you are a massive Jimmy Page fan and are looking to spend a bit more, the Gibson custom shop models are also worth considering:
Any of these guitars will set you on the right path to sound like Jimmy Page. But if you do want to get that little bit closer, it is worth investing in a set of vintage wound pickups. You won’t need these if you buy a vintage Custom Shop Les Paul, as they come with vintage wound pickups. But opting for vintage pickups will make a big difference to your tone if you buy a standard Gibson or an Epiphone. Seymour Duncan offer a set of Page inspired ‘Whole Lotta Humbucker‘ pickups, which will definitely help you to sound like Jimmy Page!
Jimmy Page is best associated with Marshall amplifiers. The image of him in front of a wall of 100 watt Marshalls has embedded itself in rock history. And it has resulted in many believing that Page relied solely on Marshalls. Whilst it is true that he used a Marshall 1959 Super lead during many of Led Zeppelin’s live shows, he actually played a range of different amps over the course of his career.
These included amps from brands like Fender, Orange, Vox, Hiwatt and Supro. In fact, a lot of Led Zeppelin’s studio material was recorded on smaller combo amps – including the guitar solo on Stairway To Heaven, which was recorded using a Supro ‘Thunderbolt’ combo amp.
Having said that, if you want to sound like Jimmy Page, I would recommend opting for a British voiced amplifier, not an American one. Jimmy Page’s signature tone is British, not American.
The good news here, is that there are lots of different choices across a range of budgets. The obvious starting place is the Marshall range. Although Page used a 100W Super Lead, I would recommend looking at some of their smaller combos. These will sound better at lower volumes and as a result, will be much more suitable for home use. My top picks are as follows:
Beyond Marshall, I think there are a number of other brands worth considering. The first of these is Vox. Along with Marshall, Vox captured the sound of the British blues rock boom and were used by blues players like Rory Gallagher. Although Page didn’t use a Vox with much frequency, Vox amps are renowned for having a sharp, biting sound. Page’s tone is also sharp and biting, and contains a lot of high end treble. So if you want to capture those similar tones, my top picks are:
Finally, if you are happy to spend a bit more, I would recommend taking a look at Friedman amps. Although Page never used them, these boutique amps have beautiful vintage blues and rock tones. They will definitely help you to sound like Jimmy Page. My top choices would be the Dirty Shirley or the Pink Taco Mini. They are both brilliant amps that will help you get those biting blues rock tones at lower volumes.
Jimmy Page has never used that many guitar pedals. Ultimately his tone came from pairing a very high quality guitar with an equally high quality amp. He then played that amp at a high volume and pushed it hard. This is what gave him his signature overdriven tone. Then on occasion and to achieve specific sounds on particular songs, he added a few choice pedals into the mix. These were as follows:
In addition to these, Page also famously used a Tone Bender Professional MK II fuzz box and an Echoplex Tape echo. Neither of these pedals are still in production, but if you are after authenticity, you can pick both up second hand on sites like Reverb. If you would prefer modern replicas of those early pedals, then when it comes to fuzz, I would recommend opting for one of the vintage voiced fuzz pedals I wrote about on this article here.
For the Echoplex, the best option is the T-Rex Replicator. This is crafted with vintage tones in mind, and will definitely help you to sound like Jimmy Page. The pedal also comes with chorus built in, so saves you from having to add an extra pedal to your board. At around $750/£600 – the Replicator is at the higher end of the price range. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, then the Dunlop EP103 Echoplex is a brilliant option in a lower price bracket.
Using Pedals to Sound Like Jimmy Page
Although Jimmy Page used only a small number of guitar pedals in his original rig, I think you can get a lot closer his tone by adding some additional pedals to your set up.
Like many of the early blues and rock guitarists, a big part of Jimmy Page’s sound comes from his cranked amp. When you push an amp in that way (especially a 100W Marshall!) it produces a beautiful and rich overdriven tone. It is is the sound of electric blues and blues rock. For many of us, getting that sound is a challenge. To push an amp, you have to crank the volume. This isn’t always an option when there are neighbours to consider. And here I think pedals can play an important role.
For although Page didn’t have an array of overdrive or distortion pedals, modern options can help you capture those Marshall tones at much lower volumes. In addition to some of the pedals listed above then, there are 2 other types of pedal I would recommend if you want to sound like Jimmy Page:
Boost/Pre Amp Pedals
The first of these is a boost or pre-amp pedal. These are great for the blues, as they will push your amp and help you to get those cranked tones, but at lower volumes. The best option to sound like Jimmy Page is the Echoplex Pre-amp. There are however a huge range of options that will also work well and most of these are fairly inexpensive. Some alternative options to consider are the Xotic EP booster, or the Friedman Buxom Boost.
To get the most out of these pedals, set your amp up so that it is already slightly overdriven. Then set your boost pedal at the appropriate level, depending on how much gain you want in your sound. You can then decide either to have the pedal as an ‘always on’ pedal that helps thicken up your sound, or to use it during specific parts of a song when you want to sound louder or want a more overdriven tone.
‘Amp In A Box’ Pedals
The second option, is to go for an ‘amp in a box’ guitar pedal. These are guitar pedals that are modelled to sound like a specific guitar amp. Although not as accurate as the real thing, these pedals will help you get quality guitar tones for a very affordable price. There are a number of guitar pedals out there all modelled after early Marshall amps. Many of these sound amazing and will help you get those Jimmy Page tones without having to buy a 100W Marshall stack. Some of my top recommendations are:
- Tone City Golden Plexi Overdrive
- Friedman BE-OD Overdrive Pedal
- Dirty Shirley Overdrive Pedal
- Wampler Plexi-Drive Deluxe V2
These pedals make a great option if you don’t have a British voiced amp, but you want to sound like Jimmy Page and capture those British blues tones.
Volume & Tone Controls
The final part of the tonal puzzle, is properly utilising the controls on your guitar. Very few players use these properly, but they make a huge difference to your tone. If you want to sound like Jimmy Page, there are 2 things to keep in mind when it comes to using your volume and tone knobs.
Firstly, I would recommend being conservative in how you use your volume control. When you roll your volume control off, you lose a bit of sustain. Sustain is a key part of Page’s sound and so you don’t want to kill any of the natural sustain from your guitar by killing your volume too much. If you do want to manipulate your tone or alter the gain then, I would recommend using your pedals or changing the levels directly on the amp.
As a second point, I would advise playing predominantly on your bridge pick up with the treble cranked quite high on the guitar. Page’s tone is sharp and biting. His notes are clear and crisp, and that is really a key part of his sound. If you roll the treble off or switch to your neck pickup, you lose a bit of that bite. So as a general rule, keep things quite simple here.
Some Closing Thoughts…
Well there we have it, everything you need to sound like Jimmy Page. Of all of the musicians that I’ve covered to date, I would argue that Page’s rig is one of the most ‘simplistic’. He relied on a number of key components, which provided the foundation for his tone.
If you implement some of these components in your rig, not only will you capture those classic Led Zeppelin tones, but you’ll have a setup that will be perfect for playing heavy blues and British blues rock.
Good luck, and let me know how you get on in the comments!