A couple of days ago I posted a picture of one of my guitars that had a caption mentioning Eric Clapton’s “woman tone”. I don’t think I mentioned anything about why I was thinking of that.
First, Eric Clapton in the 1960’s is a tone chasing guitarist’s role model. Give him a Gibson guitar and a Marshal amplifier and he will make sounds that, if you are smart, you’re going to want to copy. He was innovative and experimental and inspiring. Eric Clapton in the 1970’s and 80’s is the exact opposite. I don’t know of anyone who has ever listened to Money and Cigarettes and said, ooh I wanna sound like that!
Anyway, when Eric was in his 20’s he was probably a little full of himself (people called him god) and sometimes he would do things that were a little over the top. One of those things, in my book at least, was naming one of his guitar tones. Yup. In 1967 while playing with Cream he used a tonal technique on the Disraeli Gears album that he called “woman tone”. Why? I don’t know. It was probably something that in today’s social climate would probably sound unbelievably sexist. I don’t know why and I don’t want to know why.
Probably the best known usage is in the guitar solo from Sunshine of Your Love, which also bears a remarkable resemblance to the melody from Strangers in the Night, but I digress:
Anyway, achieving “woman tone” is pretty simple and even a chump like me can do it. I don’t often, but every so often the spirit of Disraeli Gears will take me and I’ll use it. A few nights ago I was sitting in my room adding lead guitar parts to a couple of RPM songs and without realizing I was going there, I totally went there. One eight bar (or so) solo used the ol’ “woman tone”.
Today there was a “wow, what a small world” moment for me. That Pedal Show, the youtube show that I watch pretty religiously every week and has taught me more about making my guitar sound less shitty than any other source I’ve come across in my 34 years of playing, put out a new episode called “12 Ways to User Your Guitar’s Controls”. One of those 12 ways to uses your guitars controls was “woman tone”.
I am using a lot of quotation marks in this post, and I am using the incorrect punctuation for all of them. Suck it, grammar!
The “woman tone” discussion starts at 13:30 and it sounds better when Mick does it on his ES-335 than when I do it on my Les Paul.
As for the rest of the episode, I had already come up with most of the two-humbucker tricks on my own back in the 80’s. The single coil stuff doesn’t really apply to me as I only own one guitar with single coils and if it weren’t for COVID-19 I would have sold it by now. I use the trick with using the pickup switch and the two volume knobs to go from clean to dirty all the time, and the mixing the two pickups together thing once in a while. The kill switch? I drive Lizardfish nuts with that whenever the opportunity arrises.
Anyway, I just thought it was funny that I recorded a little “woman tone” this week and then saw a tutorial on using it. It’s a small world after all.
In closing, Clapton used it on the leads on this song too. It’s not nearly as popular a song, but it’s a personal favorite.