Few guitarists in history have based their
sound so much on viscerality as Neil Young.
It is clear that he is not the most technically skilled player that we have
heard in our lives, nor anything like it, but he is probably very high on the
list of those who achieve most intensity and of those who project most
emotional power on each of his solos. Neil Young gives it all, he gives us his
all, and he eschews everything to do with conventionalisms, musical clichés,
styles and all the stupid rules of the music business… he is an authentic
outlaw, and we love that about him. It is not surprising that the 'grunge'
generation, for example, adopted him as a model to follow.
But we are here to talk about how to get close to his sound - and to advise you at the outset that it is not easy. Mainly because if what you like about this Canadian is his acoustic playing we have bad news for your pocket: because his acoustic sound is based on the authentic deities of the six strings with his trio of favourite Martin’s: a 1968 D-45 and two D-28’s, one of them from the early 40s. As you can see we are talking about collector’s items, although as we have already mentioned to you previously in this section you can always start by getting a current Martin, as the reliability of this brand continues to elude globalization, and is beyond all suspicion.
And now we wander into the most legendary terrain, which we so love around here. If you find it difficult to achieve his non-amplified sound, it is going to be even worse to try and achieve his electric sound. If we think about Neil Young’s guitars, perhaps it is his Gretsch White Falcon that he used in the times of Buffalo Springfield that comes to mind - and that he continues using decades afterwards - but we believe that the first image that will spring to your mind will be Neil with his black Les Paul, with a number of modifications.
We are talking of course about his 'Old black', originally a 1953 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop, repainted in black first, modified later with a bridge pickup so as to add a Firebird mini humbucker, and lastly a whammy bar added to the body, which Neil has used to put our hairs on end so many times before. It continues to be incredibly exciting to see him in action with his old guitar on his shoulder, and we can say that because he continues to use it in every concert that he gives.
That’s it on his guitars, but the bad news for your current account doesn’t end here because the power of his distortions and the feedback of his amplifiers he achieves mainly from his old 50’s Fender Deluxe Tweed - that has also accompanied him all his life. But that said, don’t worry, as we can always find a similar model that adjusts to our pockets; to the budgets of poor mortals.
Lastly, and continuing in this search to achieve Neil Young’s sound, it only remains to provide one last piece of advice: forget the eequipment you have, forget your technique, be free, intense and play fuckin’ loud. With that advice you’ll be on your way to sounding like Neil Young.