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Post new topic How Did Ralph Mooney Get Such a Distinctive Tone and Style?
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Author Topic:  How Did Ralph Mooney Get Such a Distinctive Tone and Style?
Tim Heidner


From:
Port Arthur, TX.
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:01 am     Reply with quote

I was listening to Lonesome, On'ry and Mean the other day and just realized that was mostly Moon and only a little bit of Waylon in the middle solo. You can only tell it's a steel if you listen real close, and the tone is nothing like a steel you hear these days, more like a telecaster than a modern steel.
What kind of guitar and pickups and amps did he use?
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Larry Bell


From:
Englewood, Florida
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:24 am     Reply with quote

When we play we all hear a sound in our head that tells us what a steel guitar should sound like. Me, I hear Buddy Emmons on the Black Album, but others hear other stuff as the tone and sound they shoot for. (note that I said shoot for -- you don't always attain it, but it's what you measure what you sound like TONIGHT against -- if that makes any sense)

Moon loved the high notes. He added the high G# to the E9 tuning and used that G# to A (and also G# to G) change as an integral part of his sound at a time when most steel players' E-tuning didn't go that high. Once others (esp Emmons) heard it and adopted it for themselves it became a standard. He cut his pedal steel teeth on a Fender guitar and that biting tone that always cuts through a band was a signature for him. Yes, often more like a Tele than a modern steel guitar sound.

He played a homemade guitar with Magnatone single coil pickups and a Fender in the early days with Wynn Stewart and Buck Owens. That Fender sound kinda followed him regardless of what brand he played thereafter. He played Sho-Bud most of the time I saw him with Waylon and later on played a GFI (designed by Gene Fields who had designed and developed the early Fender steels). It wasn't the guitar that was important, it was that sound he heard in his head, IMHO.

If you want the easiest route to that Mooney West Coast sound, get a Fender 800 or 1000 and play it through a blackface Deluxe or Twin Reverb. Use very little bass and lo mids and enough treble to blister a beagle's ear at 100 yards. That's my take on it.
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Dave Zirbel


From:
Sebastopol, CA USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:43 am     Reply with quote

It's been said that Ralph had his ShoBud pickups wound to Fender specs.

Mooney RULES!! Very Happy
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Dave Zirbel-
Kline, ZB, Fender 400 guitars, various tube and SS amps
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Jim Eaton


From:
Santa Susana, Ca
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:46 am     Reply with quote

All of what Larry said in his post is spot on to explain how you can "try" to sound like Moon.
Bottom line....God gave him that talent and sound!
JE:-)>
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Dave Zirbel


From:
Sebastopol, CA USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:50 am     Reply with quote

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qzctdbSRQI&feature=related
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Dave Zirbel-
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:54 am     Reply with quote

I always loved Mooney's tone, but it could be brutal in person. I remember a guy fleeing from the hall in St. Louis one time, saying, "I've spent my whole life trying not to sound like that!" Laughing

There are still guys who use that tone in the honky tonks of the Central Valley, and patrons there who love it. Maybe it's a regional thing - I don't know - but that Bakersfield sound has always had an ear-piercing treble edge to it. Not just the steel. Remember that the Telecaster was invented here in California too.
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Greg Vincent


From:
Los Angeles, CA USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:56 am     Reply with quote

Looking at that clip, looks like he had his E9 on the rear neck. Is that true?
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Bill Fisher


From:
Oklahoma, USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 8:01 am     Reply with quote

Absolutely true. He told me he wanted to "take a peek" at the pedals every now and then, and couldn't see them when using the far-away neck.

Bill
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Dave Zirbel


From:
Sebastopol, CA USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 8:21 am     Reply with quote

He never had the top two chromatic strings on E9. Smile
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Dave Zirbel-
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Brint Hannay


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 10:02 am     Reply with quote

Love how the director fails to notice who's playing the first half of the end break for the full 15 seconds, only cutting to Mooney just as the break passes over to Waylon. (In spite of the fact that Waylon gestures toward Mooney when he finishes the vocal, turns toward him, then takes his hands off his guitar!)

It's been said many times before, but picking close to the bridge helps in going for a Mooney sound.
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Brett Day


From:
Pickens, SC
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 2:52 pm     Reply with quote

Mooney played a Sho-Bud for quite awhile, then he started playin' a GFI. His setup had his E9th as his bottom neck and C6th as his top neck. Mooney was one of those steel players who had a style and sound of his own. You could tell that Waylon Jennings was a fan of Mooney's playin', because when Waylon introduced the band, he said Ralph Mooney was one of the greatest steel guitar players.

Brett
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David Ellison


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 2:54 pm     Reply with quote

I used to think it was playing through a Fender amp that got him that sound, but when I saw him with Waylon Jennings in the late '80s, he was playing through a Peavy and still sounded the same. I like that kind of sound... it doesn't sound shrill to me, it just sounds soulful. I heard some later recordings when he was playing the GFI, and to me he didn't have the same sound anymore.
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David Ellison


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 3:09 pm     Reply with quote

I think a big part of his sound was picking and blocking as far back as possible. By having the edge of my right hand right where the strings meet the changer, I can get that sound where the notes are almost more muted than completely blocked... it sounds very Mooney-like when I play those rolling, single note licks.
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Craig Stock


From:
Westfield, NJ USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 4:36 pm     Reply with quote

Always Thought Mooney was very Cool. Waylon always said 'Play it Mooney" so you know he appreciated him.

The funny thing about the video is that Moon is in the dark the whole time. I guess they couldn't afford another spot light at the time.
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ebb


From:
nj
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 6:05 pm     Reply with quote

Quote:
His setup had his E9th as his bottom neck and C6th as his top neck

that was how curly chalker had his setup who moon told me was his idol

moon had a open g tuning on his front neck like an extended dobro
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Johnny Cox


From:
Cedar Creek, Tx.
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 6:22 pm     Reply with quote

The question "How did Ralph Mooney get his distinctive tone and style?" He did not get it, he created it, as did Buddy and Hal and Curly and Jimmy and John and all the masters. Those guys were innovators of the pedal steel guitar, they created the instrument and it's tunings, pedal set ups and sounds. Mooney's tone was in his hands and his heart not his pickups. None of the masters of the steel guitar's sound is in their guitar or amp or pickup or rack, it's in their hands, their heart and their years of dedication. If you want a good sound plug your guitar in your amp and practice it's what worked for Lloyd and Weldon and Doug and Pete and Dickey and Tommy and Tom and I could go on. My Two Cents Smile
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ebb


From:
nj
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 6:31 pm     Reply with quote

amen
and ditto with their fore bearers bob dunn, leon mcauliffe, noel boggs, joaquin murphey and many more
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Dave Zirbel


From:
Sebastopol, CA USA
Post Posted 9 Aug 2011 7:30 pm     Reply with quote

Read the fourth comment by Chas:
http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=1758730&sid=3ff3f1fc8b739540fb37e330c3f66732

Maybe that answers half the question. Smile
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Dave Zirbel-
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Tim Heidner


From:
Port Arthur, TX.
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 8:56 am     Reply with quote

Johnny Cox wrote:
The question "How did Ralph Mooney get his distinctive tone and style?" He did not get it, he created it, as did Buddy and Hal and Curly and Jimmy and John and all the masters. Those guys were innovators of the pedal steel guitar, they created the instrument and it's tunings, pedal set ups and sounds. Mooney's tone was in his hands and his heart not his pickups. None of the masters of the steel guitar's sound is in their guitar or amp or pickup or rack, it's in their hands, their heart and their years of dedication. If you want a good sound plug your guitar in your amp and practice it's what worked for Lloyd and Weldon and Doug and Pete and Dickey and Tommy and Tom and I could go on. My Two Cents Smile
Hey Johnny, if tone is in the hands and the heart why do you have so many different guitars and amps listed in your signature??
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Jim Hollingsworth


From:
Princeville, Kingdom of Hawaii - USA
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 9:32 am     Reply with quote

It's the old adage:
How many guitars do you need? Just one more!!!!

Jim
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Dave Mudgett


From:
Central Pennsylvania
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 9:51 am     Reply with quote

Quote:
He did not get it, he created it ...

Bingo!
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Brint Hannay


From:
Maryland, USA
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 12:51 pm     Reply with quote

Johnny Cox wrote:
He did not get it, he created it

And he used certain tools to create it, whether by design or by happenstance, and the characteristics of those tools contributed to the sounds we hear from him, both in and of themselves and by the sound they were feeding back to him (and, in the case of the guitar, the physical capabilities and the feel of it) influencing the creative thoughts and feelings he expressed.


Last edited by Brint Hannay on 10 Aug 2011 12:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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bruce fischer


From:
florissant, mo. 63031 USA
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 12:54 pm     Reply with quote

Amen, johnny cox!
jimmy day played my msa student model steel once and it was jimmy. its in the hands and the heart.
unfortuneately he didnt leave any licks...........
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b0b


From:
Northern California
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 2:02 pm     Reply with quote

I think he just played what he liked to play, instead of copying other players. I'm glad he did!
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Kevin Hatton


From:
Buffalo, N.Y.
Post Posted 10 Aug 2011 2:52 pm     Reply with quote

Ralph Mooney's tone on his GFI was NOTHING like his tone on his Sho-Bud, which was also different from his Fender. Totally different.
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