Joe Bonamassa is widely regarded as one of the top tier blues and rock players to date, bringing a breath of fresh air to the blues with his laser precision technical playing and musical mastery of the neck. Check out the top six things we learned during Joe’s episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory. We’ve provided the timestamp for each segment as well, so you can follow along.

#1 – He still hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for guitar (0:35)

Guitarists can get burnt out or jaded after a lifetime of gigs and practice, but Joe has retained the drive and inspiration that all guitarists start with to this day:

“I’ve been around guitars, in guitar shops; played ’em, sold ’em, bought ’em, it’s defined my life for the past 35 years. I love it and I wake up every day excited to play.”

#2 – Guitar is a family affair for Joe (1:02)

“My father gave me my first guitar for Christmas. I thought it was Santa Claus, but it turned out it was my mom and dad. My father played guitar, he was in bands, and he always let me play his guitars when he knew that I needed my own. My father also ran a shop in the 90’s, so I kind of grew up in a guitar shop.”

#3 – He had to haggle for strings (2:21)

In the early days of Joe’s career as a touring guitar player, he’d find himself needing to stretch his dollar as far as it could go to keep the show on the road:
“Back when I was making $50 a night touring in a van I would go to music stores and try and haggle and buy a 10-pack for 30 bucks, y’know? Because I knew the dead cost of a set of strings. 30 bucks is half a tank of gas in a Ford Econoline van!”

#4 – Tips on string gauges (2:57)

“I prefer the sound of a Les Paul with a set of 10’s. I think they sound better with 10’s by ear and they just have that thing–that classic sound that I heard on records was a 10. Unfortunately, with the way I play, I need some more resistance, especially live. […] the 11’s bark through the amps harder, so it hits them harder in the front end.”

#5 – He doesn’t use a pedal board (3:22)

Many guitarists choose to use a variety of effects, as they can enrich and color your sound in numerous ways. Hearing Joe talk about creating his rich tone using a bare bones set up lets you know you can still sound great with minimal pedals.
“Now I use, pretty much, a natural overdrive, I don’t use a pedal board. It’s just 2 pedals taped to the floor. And then most of the sound is derived through the amplifiers.”

#6 – Its not the gear; its the intent (4:11)

“You don’t have to have a five-figure vintage guitar, you can do it with a $20 Squier. It’s the intent; its not the gear, its the intent. When you play, you play with bad intentions. When you play, the soul of the music has to come out.” 

String Theory

Watch every episode of Ernie Ball: String Theory at our website, featuring such players as Kirk Hammett, Chris Broderick, Kurt Vile and more. You can also enjoy some of Joe’s most popular songs in this Spotify playlist.

Guitar Strings

Joe Bonamassa plays Ernie Ball Regular Slinky electric guitar strings. Do you? Try a set.

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