In case you missed it, back in 2020, Jimmy Page went on record and described his setup for recording one of the most classic riffs of all time, “Whole Lotta Love.”1 Page spoke of taking advantage of an abandoned Vox Super Beatle head, plugged into one of his Rickenbacker Transatlantic cabinets. He doesn’t mention the specifics of either model, but it narrows things down. There was also a recent illustrated book which corroborates this statement, where we do in fact see Page in the studio with a Vox head sitting on top of a Transatlantic cabinet.2 Additionally, there is also some footage of Page describing the Tone Bender fuzz effect as having a massive influence on this recording.3
Combining the VG 302E Amplifier with the VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet, and adding the FZ101B Fuzz for just a little flavor, we were able to unlock that unmistakable zipper-like fuzz that Page achieved. We voiced the cabinet to capture more of the room, and added an alternate option for those looking to blend in some studio reverb. We think you’re really going to dig the results. Here’s a quick demo!
But things wouldn’t be complete without talking a little about how that riff was played. There’s a real groove to how Page strums, almost to the point of imperfection, all to maintain a loose feel. Here’s what the main riff looks like on paper, with the additional variation during the intro (it’s really fun to play).
There are a few things to take note of:
We’ve highlighted the strumming pattern to help inform how we think this riff was played. Page’s hand was essentially constantly strumming back and forth in rhythm, never stopping. This back and forth rhythm helps accent down strokes, as well as provides a deep, infectious groove. The track really swings.
Also note that Page bends B-notes (E-string, 7th fret) up on down-strokes. He pulls into the D-note (A-string, 5th fret), which creates a much more interesting feel than if we just play a straight B-note. It has a stronger push-pull rhythm.
Lastly, there is a harmonic that accompanies the D-note by letting your index finger connect with the D-string on the 5th fret. It’s further accentuated by playing this with an up-stroke. Since the harmonic is hit first with the pick, it’s very present in the mix.
This is the core tone. A slight fuzz, more ambience, and the combination of a Vox amp with Celestion speakers. It’s unmistakable. To our ears, it’s a zipper-effect. The way the fuzz makes the guitar sound like a zipper is being pulled up, or down. So pull away!
- VG302E Amplifier
- FZ101B Fuzz
- VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet
Though potentially not accurate, we threw in an extra preset for lead that we used on the sample recording you hear. It’s a fun combination of an older fuzz with traditional Vox speakers. It certainly cuts through the mix. Enjoy!
- FZ100A Fuzz
- VG 2x12C 30W ’67 Cabinet
And there you have it. One of the heaviest riffs ever recorded, right underneath your fingertips. Add some fuzz for a zipper-effect, get your picking hand into a steady groove, and hit those bends and harmonics to help this riff swagger. This song is a testament to artists who look for new sounds both with the equipment they use, but also on the fret board as well. Despite having just twelve notes, phrasing and articulation can be infinitely variable. Along with AmpStamp, the power is yours. Go forth and rock!
1 Astley-Brown, Michael & Bird, Chris. “Jimmy Page reveals the amp he really used to record Whole Lotta Love” Guitar World, Future plc, 6th November 2020, https://www.guitarworld.com/news/jimmy-page-reveals-the-amp-he-really-used-to-record-whole-lotta-love/.
2 Page, Jimmy. Jimmy Page: The Anthology, Genesis Publications, 2020, p. 136.
3 Page, Jimmy, performer. It Might Get Loud. Sony Pictures Classics, 2008.