This article series is about the tools of popular guitarists and bassists. What are their favorite guitars or basses and how is it related to them? This time with Jabo Bihlman (Grinder Blues, Jabo Bihlman Band and The Bihlman Bros.).

Photo credit – Christoph Huber

I get a ton of positive feedback on the sounds I’ve been able to get on both Grinder Blues records, but I’m especially happy with all the sounds on ‘El Dos’.

I use primarily Fender and Reverend guitars.  I’ve got two ’73 Strats, one of which I’ve had modded to the Fender Powerhouse pickup configuration.

In Grinder Blues we tune down to C standard and the only guitar that will really tolerate that kind of abuse is my Fender American Standard Telecaster.  That thing is amazing!  It gives me the hollow, jangly fender tones that I love so much but with the heavy low distortion that drives Grinder Blues. For slide guitar I use my Reverend Double Agent exclusively.  That guitar has every possible tone I could want for slide with a humbucker in the bridge, a P-90 in the neck and a blend knob.  You can blend the pickups to induce a little more humbucker to the P90 and vice versa.

As far as strings go, I use 11s on both guitars, which seem to give me the tone I want while still keeping good tension on the neck.  When tuning down that low, it’s critical that guitar has a good balance without the strings becoming too loose.  11s seem to do the trick. I use the Dunlop Pyrex 212 slide.  Sometimes I use a 215 if I’m trying to cover all the strings at once, but the 212 is better for single string work. I like the short slides because they’re not so cumbersome and I can still fret without my hand going into a spasm!  I play behind the slide a lot, and the shorty 212 also makes that more comfortable.

The amps are used on El Dos were an original Budda Super Drive 30 2×12 and my Avery Amps Jabo 45.  That Budda is one of the most amazing amps and I bought it new from Andy Brauer in Chicago many years ago.  The Jabo 45 is basically a hybrid amp between at JCM 800 and a JTM 45.  Ragnar Avery put a switch on the back that enables me to basically switch from one amp sound to the other.  It’s really versatile.  I’m trying to get him to put that switch in a pedal for me.  I like 30 – 45-watt amps primarily.  Anything more than that is just un-needed volume in my case.

As far as pedals, I’m still an analog guy.  Although European travel is a little tougher with a huge and heavy analog pedalboard.  Even though I’ve tried to pare it down, I still need the Pedaltrain Pro for size.  I may look into a bit of a fly rig pedal configuration for the fly in shows.

For my main distortion tone, I use an Aleks K Productions Hot Ice.  It’s the most true to amp distortion pedal I’ve ever come across and I can’t live without it!  I used to use only the second channel on my amps, but I’ve gone to the Hot Ice because of its versatility and magic tones. For basic overdrive I use a Love Pedals Kalamazoo, one of the originals.  That thing is beautiful and also very versatile with a lot of usable variation.  It has a Hi End knob that really sculpts the sound on the, well…as you might expect, the hi end. For the amazingly lush Phaser tones I use the Option 5 Destination Phase.  Best phaser I’ve ever used. In the studio I use the Snarling Dogs Whino Wha.  In my opinion the best wha ever.  I love to get a long sweep and that pedal goes very low and not so high that it becomes ear splitting.  I use the low side probably more than full on and it just sings down there.  On my board I use a Dunlop wah because the Whino is just too damn heavy.  It’s pretty good, but I still prefer the Whino. For delays, reverb and special FX I use the Line 6 M9.  It’s compact enough to fit on my board, can run 3 effects at once and the delays are sweet.  I like to use a little slap back on my overall tone, around 190 ms I think, then I can add a longer delay for leads and clean parts if I want.  The reverbs on that pedal are also quite nice.

On my solo project I tend to use more experimental tones sometimes and for that I go with fuzz pedals.  I use a Suhr Rufus Reloaded and Electro Harmonix Muff Triangle.  I’m partial to the triangle because it is so versatile.  The Suhr tends to be a bit hi endy, but works well with my Foxx Roxx Octron 3.


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