When you walk into a guitar shop, chances are there will be a sign in the area designated for trying out guitars, that says ‘no Stairway to Heaven’ on it.
This might be a silly example, but it’s little things like this that really paint a picture of just how influential Led Zeppelin was, and what kind of impact this band has had on the course of modern rock and metal music.
The main driving force behind this legendary band are two guys. One is Robert Plant with is voice that was just out of this world, and the other is Jimmy Page.
The way Page played, and still plays guitar is considered to be revolutionary for the time frame we’re talking about.
He’s a type of guitar player who has both the technical know-how and impressive creative capacity. His riffs, solos, and licks are among the greatest ever played on electric guitar, period.
Our task today is to find out what type of gear Jimmy Page used and still uses, and how that gear impacts his sound. We will look into his guitars, amps and effects pedals.
Hopefully, by the time you are done with this article, you will have a better understanding of what hardware lies behind Led Zep’s tone.
Now let’s take a listen to one of the many, many great Zep tunes, this one from Physical Graffiti – the classic Trampled Under Foot.
Most important part of every guitarist’s setup are their guitars. Jimmy Page has a very distinct taste when it comes to the axes he plays.
Most Led Zeppelin fans will instantly recognize his affection for Les Pauls and Stratocasters. That is no surprise considering that his inventory of guitars mostly comes down to these two models.
With that said, there is one guitar that is truly special both to Page and to us. It’s his 1959 Les Paul Standard he named ‘Number One’.
This guitar is followed by two more Les Pauls that are designated as ‘Number Two’ and ‘Number Three’, but the first one is still the most notable.
In essence, it’s a regular 1959 Les Paul Standard, which is pretty special in itself.
Once Page ordered this Les Paul, there were a number of modifications done to it.
Most notably, the neck was sanded down for more speed and playing comfort. Page, a Telecaster man until that moment, took the ‘Number One’ and swapped the tuning machines along with pickups at a later point in time.
His ‘Number Two’ and ‘Number Three’ were mostly based on this customized Les Paul since Page was so impressed by what the guitar could do.
Aside from these, Page also used some pretty weird guitars. There’s the 1970 Gibson EDS-1275 Doubleneck guitar that he liked to pull out specially for Stairway to Heaven.
The most unusual axe he ever used is the 1967 Vox Phantom XII 12 String. This thing has the most unusual body shape and general feel to it among all of Page’s guitars.
In terms of amplification, the hardware list is almost as colorful as it is with his guitars. Naturally, his selection of amps dictated a large portion of his tone, which was nothing unusual back in those days.
One of the first amps he ever used with Led Zeppelin is the Rickenbacker Transonic combo.
This monolithic unit was with Page during their first US tour, only to be used for a number of occasions afterwards. Next notable amp is the Hiwatt Custom 50 and Custom 100.
This was his main choice from 1969 to 1971. Both of these were slightly modified according to his own taste, however it’s fair to say that he didn’t really change to core of the sound. Rather, his customizations gave these amps an edge of sorts.
One of his favorite amps has got to be the Marshall SLP-1959 Super Lead. This was an old school Marshall stack that had 100 Watts of power and two channels.
It was one of the first amps to come with an overdrive. He used this configuration extensively throughout 1975 and later on as well.
When it comes to more unusual amps, Supro Thunderbolt is the first thing that comes to mind.
This was the amp that Led Zeppelin’s first album was recorded on, including portions of Stairway to Heaven.
Page’s affection for this particular Supro never went away, and it’s something he still likes to use today.
Effects pedals you could find on Jimmy Page’s pedalboard developed from a pretty simple setup in his early days, to a more complex configuration later on. One of the earliest pedals he ever used was the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone.
This thing had a pretty raw tone, which definitely went along with Jimmy’s style back in the day.
One particular type of effects pedals Page really loved was the wah. He owned a number of Vox models which could probably represent the evolution of their whole line in a chronological order.
Notable examples are the Vox Crybaby Wah – the original one developed by Thomas Organ Company, Vox King Way and Vox Grey Wah.
Aside from these, you could see a number of MXR models, including the M101 Phase 90 and a number of Maestro Echoplex pedals.
Speaking of which, his Echoplex EP-3 is something he keeps using to this day.
Jimmy Page, just like most guitar players of that time, relied heavily on their choice of guitars and amps. That was how they formed the core of their tone. Page’s sudden jump from Fender to Gibson is considered to be the pivotal point in his career.
Those Les Paul humbuckers had all the girth and width he wanted, which resulted in some of the most epic riffs known to man kind. If you are interested in achieving a tone similar to his, you should start with the Les Paul Standard.
If possible, make it a 1959 model although those are considered to be a true piece of treasure. However, even the new one will work as long as you get the electronics right.
Hopefully, this article helped you understand the hardware behind Led Zeppelin’s tone and how Jimmy Page formed his gear.