Jack White's Guitar Gear

The White Stripes - Elephant (2003)

Since the earliest days of the White Stripes, Jack White's guitar gear has centred around old mail-order department store guitars and amps, and very few - but tonally very effective - pedals.

By the time of the White Stripes' fourth album, Elephant, Jack White was set on returning to what he knew best - analogue recording techniques and the guitar gear to match. The entire album was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in London, a studio which prides itself on vintage equipment. In fact, the most modern piece of kit in the studio dates to 1963!

Toe Rag Studios, London - Boost Guitar Pedals

Above: Toe Rag Studios, London

Jack White's Guitars

Jack's main guitar in his White Stripes days was his red 1964 Valco Airline, unofficially known as the "JB Hutto" model after the blues musician who used one, and originally sold at the Montgomery Ward chain of department stores in the US in the 1960s. The body is a fiberglass construction ("Res-O-Glas") with two single-coil pickups.

White also used a Kay hollowbody from the 1950s - perhaps most noticeably on Seven Nation Army, where he not only uses it to play the main riff but also the "bass" part (actually downtuned using his Digitech Whammy) and a screaming slide overdub dosed with his fuzz of choice, the Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi. The Kay has just one pickup, a single-coil in the neck position.

Jack White's Amps

Jack's Silvertone amp, a 1960s department store find - this time from Sears - is preferred by the frontman for its thick crunch courtesy of the Jensen speakers. The Big Muff isn't always required thanks to the gain available from this amp.

A 1970s Fender Twin Reverb was also used when a spring reverb sound was required, as Jack didn't consider the Silvertone's reverb to be up to the job.

Jack White's Pedals

Jack White is famous for his use of the Digitech Whammy, most obviously for the piercing solos which litter the album. While the solos using the Whammy are pitched an octave up, some songs also include octave-down parts where Jack has created faux bass lines, including Seven Nation Army.

The Big Muff Pi is Jack's only other mainstay pedal used on Elephant, and indeed through most of his White Stripes career. It was placed after the Digitech Whammy with the Treble turned up quite high and the Volume usually on max. He initially used an early-2000s reissue of the pedal, but by the time of Elephant it is likely White was using an original from the 1970s.

Jack White's Guitar Gear:

  • 1964 Valco Airline "JB Hutto"
  • 1950s Kay Hollowbody
  • 1970s Fender Twin Reverb
  • 1960s Silvertone 1485 6x10 with Jensen C10Q ceramic speakers
  • Digitech Whammy
  • Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi

Get the sound

To replicate Jack's Elephant-era White Stripes tone, you need a single-coil guitar. You can buy modern-day reissues of the Airline, but the construction is quite a bit different - it will certainly get you the look though! A Danelectro with lipstick pickups would be a good bet, while a Strat- or Tele-style guitar will get you in the ballpark too.

The Fender Twin Reverb is a great pedal platform, while the Silvertone brings Marshall-style crunch, so an amp in either of these camps will be ideal.

There are plenty of alternatives to the ubiquitous Big Muff. The Greenhouse Effects Remedy Fuzz is a muscular fuzz that will work well, while the Fredric Effects Verzerrer can get a wider array of tones from thick overdrive to super-sketchy velcro fuzz - perfect to replicate the White Stripes sound: low-fi blues scuzz!

Ultimately, to sound like Jack White you need to play like him too. Jack White's style is all about minimalist, single note riffing with a mixture of open, bar and power chords. His playing is mostly restricted to the lower frets, using the Digitech Whammy for higher-octave stuff such as his solos. This gives Elephant a unique sound that is at once harmonically rich and thick, yet light on its feet and fluid.

Image credits: jackwhiteiii.com