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Bo Diddley: Gear & Tone


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Bo Diddley

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Before we dive into jamming let's look a little deeper at the tones I mentioned earlier that we're going to need to achieve the authentic Bo Diddley sound!

For the guitar itself you want to go for a vintage old school sound. Bo Diddley was famous for playing his Gretsch guitar. So today I'm playing this Airline that has a similar vintagey vibe to it. It's got p-90 pickups and I'm going to play in the middle position on the pickup selector to really get the most out of the hollow body of the guitar.
And of course the capo is going to add a bit of tonal difference as well since we're now able to have some open strings sort of ringing out while we're still playing rhythmic stuff on the higher strings.

For the amp you want to look for an old tube amp type of sound. It's going to be fairly clean, if maybe just a little bit of volume overdrive. But more clean spank than anything. And it's a pretty equal setting on the EQ here. It's easy for these hollowbody guitars to put out too much bass if you're not careful. So I have the bass set to about 4. Mids are at 7 and treble is at 6.

So Bo Diddley recorded for Chess records and they we're famous for, among other things, a huge reverb sound that they could bring out. And Bo used this in his advantage. You want to dial in a pretty big reverb with a fairly long tail so that the sound lingers for a bit. And you're going to want this because the long tail of the reverb is what will make the tremolo hang in there longer in between what we're playing
as well.

Another thing we're going to use is sort of a tape delay sound. It's very much a slapback delay, sort of 100 milliseconds, or there about. Just to get one or two slaps when we pluck the strings. This will add a lot of extra rhythm to basically everything we'll be playing.

And the final thing, which is almost the most important part, is the tremolo. Bo used the tremolo to add another level of rhythm to the beat. And what you want to do here is set the intensity pretty high, so that it really cuts the sound in and out. I have the intensity on the tremolo set to about 8. And for the timing of the tremolo you'll want to be somewhere around triplets to the tempo of the song. This is going to help immensely in the lead sections as it adds a really cool laid back rhythm to what's already being played.

So all these sounds are going to come together and create a very interesting and fairly complex rhythm sound.