How To Capture Michael Bloomfield’s Tone
The next in a series of step-by-step guides to home recording
Michael Bloomfield may not have achieved the commercial success he deserved, but for many of us that little detail doesn’t dampen the enjoyment of listening to his guitar playing. (Check out Gibson Custom's new Inspired By Michael Bloomfield 1959 Les Paul Standard.)
Bloomfield is one of those guitarists who brings the roots of blues back to the guitar. Whether he was playing acoustic or electric, you could always feel Bloomfield’s playing. At times it was like his guitar was talking to you as much as the singing was.
Michael routinely played the clubs in the South Side of Chicago and quickly made a name for himself in that legendary blues scene. It was during this time that he met other players like Paul Butterfield, Nick Gravenites, Charlie Musselwhite and Elvin Bishop.
Those early years were a busy time for Bloomfield. In addition to his time spent jamming with bluesmen, he also ran his own blues club called the Fickle Pickle. It was during this time that Bloomfield was first discovered by the music industry.
CBS executive John Hammond signed Bloomfield to a recording contract, but sadly not much came from the opportunity. Considering his talent, it was entirely more likely that CBS simply didn’t know what to do with Bloomfield after signing him to the deal. Michael was eventually recruited to play in the legendary Paul Butterfield Blues Band, where he made some incredible music. He also worked with Bob Dylan on the Highway 61 Revisited album and played live with him as well. (Read about the short life and deep blues of Michael Bloomfield.)
After leaving Butterfield and moving to San Francisco, Bloomfield spent most of the ’70s playing the odd gig here and there and lending his talents to other musicians in the studio. In late 1980, Boomfield played “Like a Rolling Stone” with Bob Dylan one last time at the Warfield.
Sadly, Bloomfield was found dead of a drug overdose in his car on Feb. 15, 1981.
Bloomfield is best known for playing his 1959 Les Paul Standard Sunburst guitar. Like most great guitars, this one has a story. Bloomfield actually traded his 1954 Les Paul Goldtop and $100 to Dan Erlewine for the Sunburst Les Paul in 1967.
I kept the tone for all three applications (AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, Guitar Rig and Pod Farm) pretty clean, overall. I did use different amp models to achieve the tone I was looking for though.
In Guitar Rig I chose a Hiwatt amp model. This gave me some flexibility to add a little bit of grit to the tone without putting in an overdrive pedal. Even on low settings that added way too much to the sound.
I kept most of the settings for the Hiwatt in the midrange, except the master volume — it’s topped up to give the tone some punch when you really hammer on the strings. Some Spring Reverb to add some depth rounded out the tone.
I took a similar approach in AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix, except I used a Fender modeled amp. Most of the settings are comfortably in the midrange, although I did boost the bass a bit more — I like bass, but you can always turn it down.
I also boosted the gain up to eight to add some punch and I turned the built-in reverb off. I used a separate stereo reverb in the rack instead. You can use the one on the amp if you want, I just like doing it with a separate effect better. I find my tone is easier to manage that way.
In Pod Farm I chose a Fender Combo amp model with the gain boosted to almost nine and the other settings just above the midrange. You’ll find that companies model amps differently, so you can’t set everything the same across applications and come out with the same results.
As with the other applications, I added a bit of Spring Reverb to give the tone some breathing room.
I did do something different with this one. I added a Tube Drive pedal to add some grit to the tone. I kept the settings conservative, but this pedal did a lot for the tone.
Enjoy Michael Bloomfield and have fun with the tones.
Download the Michael Bloomfield Guitar Rig preset here.
Download the Michael Bloomfield Pod Farm preset here.
Download the Michael Bloomfield Amplitube (Jimi Hendrix Edition) preset here.