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How to get Andy Timmons tone
Two or three years ago, a good friend of mine introduced me to the music of a relatively unknown guitarist, Andy Timmons. After a first listen to his then latest album Resolution, I’ve been hooked on his music ever since. The “Resolution” album has garnered amazing reviews both from guitarists and casual listeners - an unbelievably rare thing for an instrumental rock album. Undoubtedly, one of the factors for this is the guitar tone on the record.
A key aspect of Andy's sound are the guitars he uses, as tone begins right here. He mostly relies on his two Ibanez signature models, the AT100 with a maple neck and the AT300 with rosewood fretboard. Both terrific sounding instruments are fitted with jumbo frets and a Wilkinson tremolo which is very much like a traditional strat style tremolo. The pickups on both instruments are two DiMarzio Cruisers in the neck and middle positions, and a custom DiMarzio Andy Timmons humbucker in the bridge. This combination of pickups allows him to get traditional glassy, bell-like tones in the neck and middle positions with the Cruisers, which are single coil sized humbuckers delivering those classic tones without the normally associated hum. The custom humbucker allows him to get very fat tones out of an otherwise unusably bright bridge position as is the case with traditional single coils in that place.
Using only two guitars has another very important benefit. It allows you to know your instrument very well, so you can get the best performance out of it.
Studio vs. Live
There is one very important thing to remember when trying to get Andy’s Tone. That is, his studio and live tones are two completely different worlds. This is true for a lot of guitarists, but in Andy’s case, it’s a little bit more complicated than usual. What’s more, his Resolution tone is just a part of the pallet of sounds he uses live.
The thing that stands out the most about the studio strategy used on the Resolution album is the way the guitars were recorded. Timmons himself is quoted saying “it was quite a process of experimentation and discovery”. Resolution is, in essence, recorded as strictly trio album, meaning that there is just a single guitar part on each track. Of course, getting a tremendous guitar tone was key, as that one track would be all what listeners’ would hear.
Another choice that was made very early on during the production process is that there would be no EQ on the guitar tracks. Everything had to be done using only mic placement with a Shure SM57 microphone going in to a Neve mic preamp.
Amplifiers on Resolution
The majority of the tones on Resolution come from an old Tube Works Tube Driver going into a Tube Tape Echo and into two Marshall heads in stereo. The signal path consists of a 68 Plexi Marshall Super Lead panned hard to one side, and a 79 JMP master-volume panned to the other. The speaker cabinets were exclusively 2x12 and 4x12 Mesa Boogie Rectifier with Celestion Vintage 30s speakers.
Andy’s live tone is simply an amalgamation of some of the effects he used during the recording of Resolution and some more modern equipment that allows him to quickly switch between different tones.
His live rig is centered around two Mesa Boogie amplifiers, a Lone star and a Stiletto Deuce. The reason for this is twofold. To be honest the studio rig is not very flexible and sounds good only at a certain volume level, usually on the verge of breakup. Back the volume off even a bit and you lose that magic. Also, the amps provide only a single channel, so to go from clean to overdrive, you need to change the settings manually. This allows for a great deal of tweak ability, but would be very hard to use live.
For live shows, Andy uses two distinctly different amplifiers. These are the Mesa Lone Star and the Mesa Stiletto. He uses the Stiletto to recreate the Resolution tones, and the Lone Star for that Fender on steroids sounds for songs such as Electric Gypsy. The key here is that both amps have effects loops and that is the feature that enables both amps to be used in stereo.
The effects pedals Andy uses are:
Xotic BB Preamp
He uses this pedal in conjunction with the Lone Star, usually at mild drive settings to get slightly more gainy tones out of the Lone Star’s clean channel, but also to boost the lead channel for a more saturated lead tone.
BK Butler Tube Driver
Used with the clean channel on the Stiletto, this pedal recreates the Resolution tones almost perfectly.
Carl Martin Compressor
He uses this one primarily on the Lone Star’s clean channel to provide more sustain on clean, non overdriven parts.
Know your echo
During the recording of Resolution Andy used a Tube Tape Echo at around 375 to 450ms. For his live tones, for reliability and consistency he uses two Deluxe Memory Man pedals chained together. The delay time on the first unit is 375ms and 500ms on the other. Contrary to popular belief, both delays are not used in a parallel fashion, but are connected in series, meaning that the unit with the shorter delay time feeds the second unit with a longer delay time creating a very interesting echo effect.
Switching system – tying it all together
Connecting all this gear together may seem a bit problematic at first, but is actually very simple. There is a couple of ways to do it. The simplest is using a G System control unit utilizing a dual four cable method and putting the rest of the pedals in the switchers loops. A cheaper method involves making two a/b boxes that split the signal between the two amplifiers and their respective effects loops. The reason for using such involved switching systems is getting both amps to run in stereo. This means that when one amplifier is selected the other is slaved to it creating a stereo effect which is key to getting the right tone.