What Guitar Does Tony Iommi Play?
Tony Iommi has been playing guitar professionally since 1964 and was the co-founder of Black Sabbath. He is the only continuous member of the band for 5 decades and he composes most of their songs. When he was a teenager he lost the tips of his ring and middle fingers of his right hand in a sheet metal factory accident.
This left his guitar playing style greatly impacted and as a result, he left Black Sabbath and joined Jethro Tull briefly. Before he got around to recording anything with them he rejoined Sabbath (which was still called Earth at that time).
After his injury, his foreman at the factory played him a record of the famous jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt who could only use two fingers due to an accident involving a fire. This was the inspiration Tony needed to find a way to play again. He made himself some false fingertips from plastic, continuing to play left-handed even though many people advised him to switch to a right-handed playing stance.
His original false fingertips were made from a melted down Fairy Liquid washing up liquid bottle melted down and shaped using a soldering iron. He covered these with sections cut from an old leather jacket, these first false tips, caused him some initial problems. He couldn’t feel the strings, which meant he pressed down too hard and he found it difficult to bend strings.
To combat this he started using banjo strings as light gauge guitar strings weren’t available at that time. He also started tuning his guitar to lower tunings (and still does) sometimes as far as three semitones. On the album “Masters of Reality” that lower tuning is apparent in at least three tracks, “Children of the Grave”, “Lord of this World”, and “Into the Void”. Lower tunings also make a heavier sound that is now common amongst metal guitarists but was pioneered by Tony and Black Sabbath.
Tony now keeps a set of false fingertips in a tobacco tin that he carries everywhere with him. One is made from the fingertip of a false rubber hand while the other is made from a harder plastic coated in a piece of leather from an old leather coat.
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What Kind Of Guitar Does Tony Iommi Play?
In 1969 during the recording of Sabbath’s first album, Tony was playing a Fender Stratocaster, when a pick-up failed he switched to his back up 1964 Gibson SG special. From that moment his main guitar became the SG special. It has a sticker of a cartoon monkey on the body so this guitar is known as “Monkey”.
He had the bridge P90 pick-up encased in resin to reduce feedback. Gibson has released a Tony Iommi SG special signature guitar but sadly this doesn’t include any of the extra features like the altered pick-ups.
Over the years Tony has played many guitars including:
- Fender Stratocaster
- JayDee Custom SG (known as “Old Boy or sometimes, number 1)
- 1960s Watkins Rapier 22 (Tony’s first guitar)
- 1963/64 Burns Trisonic
- 2014 Jaydee SG Custom Oldboy Standard
- Custom Gibson SG Special
- Gibson Custom Shop SG (originally called a Les Paul SG)
- Gibson Les Paul Junior
- Gibson SG Floyd Rose
- Patrick Eggle Artist Model Prototype
- 2013 Jaydee SG Custom
- Hamer Phantom GT
- Gibson SG Iommi Prototype (Red)
- Epiphone Tony Iommi G-400 SG
- Jaydee SG Custom (White)
- B.C. Rich Custom Ironbird
- Patrick Eggle Tony Iommi Artist Model
- Gibson Les Paul Standard
- St. Moritz SG “Monkey” Replica
- John Birch Custom SG
- Jaydee SG Custom
- Gibson SG Iommi Prototype (Black)
- Steinberger Gm4s
- Washburn EC29
- 1983 Jaydee SG Custom (with a steel scratch plate)
- Gibson Barney Kessel
- Epiphone Riviera 12-String
- Epiphone P94 Iommi model
Tony’s Acoustic Guitars Include
- Gibson J-45
- Epiphone PR-350C
- Taylor 815L
- Washburn EA30
- Taylor T5
Who Has Tony Iommi Worked With During His Long Career?
Tony has been playing guitar for nearly 60 years and in that time he has worked with many famous artists including;
- Ronnie James Dio
- Brian May
- Roger Taylor
- John Deacon
- Ian Astbury
- Henry Rollins
- Dave Grohl
- Billy Corgan
- Phil Anselmo
- Serj Tankian
- Peter Steele
- Ian Gilllan
- Glenn Hughes
- Kenny Aronoff
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Geezer Butler
- Bill Ward
- Roger Daltrey
- Vinny Appice
- And many more
What Strings Does Tony Iommi Use?
Since 1990 Tony has used Labella strings, he uses light gauge strings (8,8,11,18,24,32) using 8s on both the B and high E strings. Specifically;
- For D# tuning – 8,8,11,18(w),24,32
- For C# tuning – 9,10,12,20(w), 32,42
- For Acoustics – 10,12,21(w),26,30,35 tuned down a semitone (Eb).
What Amps Does Tony Iommi Use?
Tony originally used a Laney LA 100 BL amp and over the years craved to hear that same tone again. Eventually after a 30 year absence, he uses an updated version of this amp. He also has a Kemper amp that he uses at home for practice. He has used numerous amps over the years including;
- Marshall JCM 2000 DSL 50
- Laney TI15-112 Tony Iommi Guitar Amplifier
- Laney TI100 Tony Iommi Signature Guitar Amplifier Head
- Marshall 9005 Power Amp 50/50
- Mesa Boogie Mark IIB Coliseum
- Laney Supergroup 100 watt head
- 1968 Marshall 50 Watt Plexi
- Marshall 9001 Tube Preamplifier
- Laney SUPERGROUP LA100BL Reissue
- ENGL Powerball 100-Watt Guitar Amp Head
- Laney TI412S 4×12″ Guitar Cabinet
- Laney Klipp
- Laney Ironheart All-Tube 30W 1×12 Guitar Combo
- Vox AC30 Guitar Combo Amp
- Laney GH 100 TI
Tony has had a long history with using Laney amplification, their factory is situated close to Tony’s hometown.
What Effects Pedals Does Tony Iommi Use?
Considering how heavy Tony’s sound is, he uses a surprisingly small amount of effect pedals. He relies on having his amplifier’s EQs flat with the volume full. He uses;
- Laney Black Country Customs TI-BOOST
- Line 6 MM4 Modulation Modeler
- Boss OC-2 Super Octave
- Ibanez TubeScreamer TS9/808
- Origin Effects RevivalDRIVE Ghosting Overdrive
- Tycobrahe Wah Pedal
- Analogman Beano Boost Treble Booster
- MXR M101 Phase 90
- Boss OD-1 OverDrive
- Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster
- Drawmer LX20 Expander/Compressor
What Pickups Does Tony Iommi Use?
Different guitars have different pick-up setups, but Tony has used single-coil pick-ups, Gibson P90s, twin coil humbuckers all of which are set to Tony’s exact specifications through the way he hears the sounds produced.
What Chords Does Tony Iommi Use?
Tony is a master of the two-note power chords, which he plays primarily on the bottom two strings whenever possible. This makes a heavier sounding power chord than is favoured by other metal guitarists.
What Pick Does Tony Iommi Use?
According to their website, Tony uses Dunlop 0.88mm to 0.96mm picks. Consumer versions available are Tortex greens and Delrins.
What Kind Of Music Does Tony Iommi Play?
Due to an unfortunate accident, Tony began tuning his guitar down using lower tunings. This led to Tony becoming one of, if not, the first guitarists to use drop tunings to increase the flexibility of the strings and create a heavier, darker sound. This makes Tony possibly the inventor of heavy metal.
He plays Blues, rock, blues rock, metal, heavy metal and doom metal.
How To Play Guitar Like Tony Iommi
To play the guitar like Tony Iommi you will need to use very light gauge strings, drop tunings (Tony uses D#,D,C#,and C tunings. You need the amp volume set to max with the EQs flat. Then it’s two-note power chords played predominantly on the bottom two strings while incorporating minor blues and minor pentatonic scales.
Lots of ultra fast riffs, with strategically added hammer-ons and pull-offs plus the odd arpeggio acoustic intro. Plus extensive use of the “Devil’s interval” which is a tritone (which consists of 2 notes that are 3 whole tones apart like C to F# which are not found in any major or minor scale).
What Age Did Tony Iommi Learn Guitar?
It is not documented when Tony began playing the guitar, but he was between 10 and 13 when he got his first guitar (1960s Watkins Rapier 22) and 17 when his guitar career was almost curtailed due to the accident that cost him his fingertips.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tony Iommi uses many different low tunings including D,D#,C, and C# This makes string bending easier due to the loss of the tips of his middle and ring finger of his fretting hand.
Tony did use a Strat early on in his career, but switched to a Gibson SG when a pick-up failed on his Strat while recording Sabbath’s debut album.
The amp Tony used when recording Paranoid was a Laney amp with a Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster boost pedal and a Gibson SG.