• DUANE BETTS

Les Paul

I would like to welcome everybody here to the first entry of my blog. I’m really pleased to have this forum to provide all of you some insight into aspects of my life as a working musician that might not otherwise fit into interviews or articles. I hope you enjoy seeing and reading about these “snapshots” from the road and in the studio as much as I enjoy bringing them to you.


The logical starting point is a topic that I get asked about a lot: my guitar. During my nearly 30 years as a guitar player I’ve had the opportunity to play a lot of guitars. The one that I play most often on stage these days is a Gibson Les Paul Dickey Betts signature edition prototype, modeled after a 1957 Goldtop. I’ve been playing that model for almost 20 years, and this one in particular, for about the last five. At first, I had another of the prototypes, but for a while my father played the one I have now, then passed it on to me. Obviously, it’s a guitar I cherish for that reason, but it’s also, simply, a terrific guitar.


The tone and feel of this beauty are ideal for my style, for the sound I hear in my head and want to hear playing night after night. It’s a stock version; I haven’t changed anything on it. A great electric guitar should sound great even when it is not plugged in, and this one certainly sounds wonderful. In my hands, it has that comfortable touch, that familiarity, giving me the confidence to know how it will react time and time again. I think that’s something most musicians would agree is vital in choosing their instrument.


The Les Paul, in general, carries a rep of being a heavier guitar, but this one doesn’t have that drag on the shoulder. On the backside, it’s slightly concave allowing it to rest more naturally against the body without digging in to the rib cage- that’s a nice perk for players who wear the guitar up high like my father.


For my tone, I try to keep it fairly minimalist, manipulating the volume knob for more gain. The guitar has a three-position toggle switch. More often than not, I’m on the neck pickup- occasionally on the bridge for effect- but I’ve also found a middle setting that I like: a combination of the two pickups, taking the bass out a bit, with the treble all the way up, that gives me more cut, like a bell tone.


I’m using D’Addario strings developed in partnership with D’Angelico guitars, gauges .010-.046. Aldynne Glanton, my guitar tech on this tour with the Devon Allman Project, laces on a fresh set about every three shows. I like the “next-day” feel of strings, but after that I start to lose tone.


In our set, often we’ll do some Allman Brothers Band songs, like “Blue Sky” or “Hot ‘Lanta.” For those classics, I’m aiming to keep my approach as honest and authentic as possible. I’m sure a player like Jack White could come up with a version that would be equally different and spectacularly cool, but given my style and the history I have hearing my father and Duane Allman, and for that matter all the great guitar players that have been members of The Allman Brothers Band, that’s the way I feel I can best honor that music.


I know B.B. King had Lucille, and Stevie Ray Vaughan had Lenny. So, lately I’ve been thinking about what I could name this one, but nothing yet really fits. Maybe by the end of this tour I’ll come up with something just right.


See you out on the road.


-DB

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