Rogues Gallery – How Do We Get Our Sound?

Hello again from Rogues Gallery – The Not So Traditional Barn Dance Band based in the Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire Boarders.

From time to time we get asked what do we mean by “Not So Traditional” – well the music is Traditional (which we love and want to keep alive for the next generation) but our choice of instruments we play it on is much more contemporary. Electric guitars, bass and drums. Now we don’t have anything against the traditional instruments used for barn dance bands – fiddles, melodeons and accordions, in fact some of our guest musicians use them (and they do a great job!).  So why do we use the electric guitar for the lead instrument?

Well there are several parts to the answer. Firstly – we just love the sound! Also, Barn Dances by their very nature are lively and raucous affairs and the electric guitar can retain its clarity and still be heard above all those people enjoying themselves. The electric guitar sound can also be modified by adding a range of effects (such as echo, chorus etc) to add colour and texture making it a versatile sound palette.

So how do we get our sound? Now we don’t for one minute profess to be original and we openly admit we owe our choice of instruments and amplification to some of the “greats”. The Rogues sound was once described by Paul Swinton (record and video producer) as “The Shadows play Ceilihd music”. Now the secret of the Shadows’ sound was the use by Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch of the Fender Stratocaster which gives a wonderful bright zingy clear tone. This sound has inspired a whole generation of guitarists from Eric Clapton to Brian May to Mark Knopfler.

Another great British guitarist who was also inspired by the Hank Marvin Strat sound was Richard Thompson of Fairport Convention fame. Back in the late 1960’s, early ’70s he started playing traditional fiddle tunes on a Fender Strat. This was ground breaking stuff and spawned a long list of guitarists and bands such as Graeme Taylor, Jerry Donahue, Simon Nicol, Martin Carthy, Bob Johnson to use the Fender Strat for Traditional music. Aside from Fairport Convention other great bands to check out are – Steeleye Span, The Albion Band and The Home Service.

Now the other common thread among all these musicians is that they used Fender amplifiers – often Fender Twin Reverbs but more often than not Fender Deluxe Reverbs. The Deluxe is a lower powered amp compared to the Twin (about 22 watts versus 85 watts) but gives a wonderful warm compressed tone that “break ups” when pushed in to very musical distortion. Just listen to Richard Thompson’s “Shoot Out the Lights” to hear this classic combination of a Start and a Deluxe (“When I get to the Border” is also another excellent example). The other two features the Fender amps have is built in Reverb and Vibrato (actually Tremolo as the volumes is modulating not the pitch but who am I to correct Leo Fender!). Both of these feature just add lush textures to the sound making them ideal for music where full rich tone and clarity are called for.

So in a nut shell – The Rogues Gallery sound is a Fender Strat (using position 2 on the selector switch – bridge and middle pickups on; this has an almost “acoustic” hollow tone to it) and a Fender Deluxe Reverb. So there you have it! By the way, if you want to learn the tunes contact Colin via the links to his teaching web site – he’ll be happy to share the knowledge.

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