While most of the music that really thrust him into the spotlight with the likes of Cream and Derek and Dominoes leaned more towards Rock, at his core, Clapton has always been a Blues player. This showed in his early career as well as the majority of his solo career. Like Jimi Hendrix, for example, the line has always been blurred between Rock and Blues with artists like Eric Clapton.
What Kind Of Guitar Does Eric Clapton Play?
These days, Clapton is generally most well known for playing a Fender Stratocaster, which is what he’s mostly been playing since the late 1960’s.
Clapton hasn’t been very creative at named his Strats. His first Stratocaster, Brownie, is a sunburst finish, so it’s mostly brown. Brownie is a 1956 Fender Stratocaster that Clapton used to tour for awhile towards the end of his Cream days before using the guitar on his first solo album (Eric Clapton) and again on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs with Derek and the Dominos. Clapton eventually auctioned off Brownie in 1999 for nearly US$500,000, donating the proceeds to his drug and alcohol charity.
Despite being played on some iconic album, Brownie isn’t even Clapton’s most famous guitar. His main guitar, which is also very creatively named, is called Blackie because it’s black. Blackie is a bit of a Franken-Strat as it’s made up of three Stratocasters made between 1956 and 1957. Clapton stopped playing Blackie back in the 1980’s as it was having neck problems. He finally auctioned it for charity for nearly US$1 million in 2004, again donating the money to his drug and alcohol charity.
These days, Clapton usually plays the Eric Clapton signature Stratocaster made by Fender. It’s made to his specs and presumably similar to Blackie.
Despite being known as a Fender player for most of his career, Clapton was pretty loyal to the Gibson Les Paul, especially during his days with Cream. Beyond the Les Paul, Clapton also played a 1964 SG (which he called “The Fool”) while with Cream. So if you’re really looking for a similar tone to Cream, skip the Strat and look for an older SG, if you can afford it!
What Kind Of Amp Does Eric Clapton Play?
Eric Clapton has never really been known for one particular amp, but he has had his fair share of different amplifiers.
Depending on what exact tone you’re going for, you may want to know the Clapton used a 1962 Marshal Bluesbreaker was when he played with the Blues Breakers. He then went on to play a Marshall JTM45/100 when he was with Cream and Blind Faith.
When Clapton went solo and started playing Fender guitars, he moved to Fender amps as well, mostly going for a Fender Twin Reverb.
What Effects Pedals Does Eric Clapton Use?
I had to read this in a few sources to believe it, but Eric Clapton doesn’t generally use guitar effects pedals, beyond the occasional use of a Vox Wah or a Dunlop Crybaby.
Instead of relying on pedals for overdrive and distortion, Clapton prefers to make the guitar amp do all the work, pushing a good amp to its limits to get the sound he wants. I can’t find a source here, but I do recall reading a story of Clapton recording at full volume with the amp on the other side of the studio from the microphones in order to get the right overdriven sound for his guitar.
We don’t all have the money to buy a great tube amp to push to the limits, nor the blessings of our neighbours to play at full volume though, so you’ll likely need to rely on a good overdrive pedal with a bit of distortion to get a similar sound to Eric Clapton.
If you’re really pushing for the Eric Clapton tone on a Fender Stratocaster, you’ll also want something to boost your mid levels. Clapton’s signature Strat has a mid-boost built in, so unless you have that specific guitar, a pedal will get a similar effect.
And That’s Eric Clapton’s Gear
It’s actually interesting to find out that Clapton isn’t a big user of effects pedals. This just goes to show how much control he has over his tone through just the understanding of the instrument alone.
So, if you want to sound like Eric Clapton, you can probably do so with a Strat and a half decent amp. But you’ll also need to have some decent guitar skills. Good luck!