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Wes Montgomery Guitar Rig

Wes Montgomery Guitar Equipment

This page is about the guitars and amps that Wes Montgomery used throughout his career. He was not interested at all in guitar equipment, he saw his guitar as a tool to do the job.

 

 

Keep in mind that Wes Montgomery played with his thumb rather than with a guitar pick and this is a major characteristic in his guitar sound. He used the fleshy part of his thumb, not his nail, and played only down strokes for single note lines and up- and down strokes for chords. He once tried using a pick for some weeks, but it never produced the sound he liked, although it enabled him to play faster than with his thumb.

I included links to some online music stores for those products that are still available today. Make sure you compare prices, there can be a big difference.

 

How to Play Jazz Guitar in the Style of Wes Montgomery

 

 

Guitars

Gibson L-5 CES

During his entire career Wes Montgomery played almost exclusively on a Gibson L-5 (cutaway electric spanish) from 1963. He wasn't really interested in equipment. In his own words: 'I got a standard box. I don’t never want nothing special. Then if I drop my box, I can borrow somebody else’s.'

Gibson produced this guitar since 1922 and is still in production today. It was the favorite rhythm guitar in big bands. The L5 was the first Gibson guitar with f-holes.

Gibson made 3 custom guitars for Wes Montgomery, but they only had 2 differences compared to standard L-5's: 1 pickup instead of 2, which was placed upside down.

Wes Montgomery used heavy gauge flat wound guitar strings.

Other guitarists that use the Gibson L-5: Tuck Andress and Pat Martino.

Wes Montgomery Gibson L5

 

Other Guitars

  • Wes Montgomery played a Gibson L-7 on the recordings of The Wes Montgomery Trio (1959). The L-7 was loaned to him by Kenny Burrell, together with a Fender Deluxe amp.
  • Gibson L-4 with a Charlie Christian bar pickup
  • Gibson ES-175
  • Gibson ES-125D

Strings

Wes Montgomery used Gibson HiFi Flatwound strings on his guitars going from .058 to .014.

 

Guitar Amps

Wes Montgomery never really found the amp that sounded the way he wanted it to.

 

Fender Super Reverb

Wes Montgomery used a Fender Super Reverb in his early years. This tube amp has 4 10 inch speakers.

Fender Super Reverb Amp

1965 Standel Super Custom XV

In his later years Wes Montgomery played this Standel amp.

The Super Custom XV has 2 channels, a normal one and a reverb/vibrato one.

The amplifier has 70 watts RMS and a JBL speaker.

Standel Amp

Fender Twin Reverb

After the Standel, Wes played on a Fender Twin Reverb.

Standel Amp

 

The Thumb

Wes didn't use picks, he used his thumb for picking. He had a corn on his thumb, one sound he got from the soft parts of his thumb, another more edgy one from that corn. His thumb was double jointed, he could bend it all the way back to his wrist.

 

Some Misconceptions

There are some misconceptions about Wes Montgomery's playing and gear:

  • It is commonly thought that Wes played with his tone knob rolled off. This is not true, he was always trying to get more treble from his pick-up to compensate for the mellowness of using his thumb.
  • Some sources say that his guitar amps were modified so they had a better response time. This is also not true.
  • It is said that Wes never played unplugged. This is also not the case, he practiced unplugged a lot.

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