I am in the process of playing R.E.M. songs with a group of friends, and I want to play them the way Peter Buck did. I think the process of figuring out how and what he did is fascinating, and my idea was to start a blog to not only document this process, but to try to engage in a sort of dialog with others that might have the same interest–because even when you think you have been playing something correctly for 30 years, you find out that it was actually played a different way. And it is helpful to exchange information with others to that end. So this is a blog and a topic that is for that very limited audience!
Now here are some things I have learned searching around the Internet about Peter Buck that you might find interesting if you are into Peter Buck, his guitars, gear, and how he played:
Peter Buck | Equipment
- Juice Goose Rackpower 300. Details: Rickresource Forums
- Two Ibanez UE400 units (not sure why two)
- Furman Rack Mount Power Conditioner
- Dual Avalon U5 high-voltage DI-preamps
Settings on UE400:
“Picking, Pickups, and Strings:
Peter notoriously uses 13 gauge Dean Markley strings on his guitars, with the action a little high. Does this affect his sound? Oh yeah. That’s not even the kicker, though. Live, Peter uses both pickups on his Rickenbacker. . . . In the early days, Peter did not know how to alternate pick, so his arpeggios were entirely down or upstroked, depending on which direction he was going with his hand. It was like a “sweep.” He adopted the more traditional style later on.”
“They’re red Dunlop nylon .73 mm – I know he’s used yellow ones as well, as a friend got some in the 80s. What thickness these yellows are I don’t know. I don’t even know if Peter uses the .73 mm all the time, or just on acoustic, or whatever. I only use them when people say: oh, want to be like Peter Buck, eh?
Funny thing is I already arrived at .73s myself without knowing he used them – they’re not too thick, not too thin.”
Dean Markley strings (custom set):
..013 Plain- Swedish Steel
..017 Plain- Swedish Steel
..026 Wound- Nickel Steel
..036 Wound- Nickel Steel
..046 Wound- Nickel Steel
..056 Wound- Nickel Steel
Note: The above string info was actually listed by someone at Rickenbacker who was setting up Buck’s guitar
There was a question awhile back about what type and gauge strings Peter Buck uses on his Rickenbacker 360 Jetglo. This response was posted to the alt.guitar.rickenbacker Newsgroup in April 1999. It’s a rather heavy set consisting of:
1st – .013 Plain- Swedish Steel
2nd – .017 Plain- Swedish Steel
3rd – .026 Wound- Nickel Steel
4th – .036 Wound- Nickel Steel
5th – .046 Wound- Nickel Steel
6th – .056 Wound- Nickel Steel
These are Dean Markley individual strings. His guitar was at the factory so that he could have a new instrument set up exactly like his old one, using the string set listed above.
Peter Buck plays a custom black Telecaster: a Rickenbacker 330 hollow-body “for rhythm and more rock ‘n’ roll loud stuff; and a Fender Telecaster thin-line with an t-hole. He also has a Guild electric-acoustic, and a Rickenbacker 360 twelve-string. The studio amp is a Fender Twin Reverb; onstage Buck uses a Simul-Class Mesa Boogie with a Sa/Boo 4×12” speaker cabinet. He likes heavy-gauge Dean Markley strings, “.013 at the high end, .058 at the low end. The thicker the strings are, the more resonant tone you get, like an acoustic guitar. I put new tuning heads on; I use Gotoh, and Schallers are pretty good.” He doesn’t use his Ibanez 4001E effects unit that much. There’s fuzz on “Feeling Gravitys Pull”; a chorus effect “I have on every once in a while to get that little ringy sound, and a compressor I use only if I want to get feedback or noise.” His acoustic guitars are “cheapo Yamaha imitations.”
History Of R.E.M., “Fables Of The Reconstruction”, By Scoft Isler, Musician Magazine, Photography by Steve Marsel, July 17, 1985
Peter Buck has only two main guitars, a Rickenbacker 330 and 301 [is this supposed to be a 360?] both dated 1981, that he puts through a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier with two JBL speakers. He also uses a 12-string ’81 Rickenbacker in the studio and has a 1981 Gretsch Chef Atkins Tennessean at his disposal. Besides the Twin Reverb, Buck has a Marshall amp that he sometimes borrows from his producer Mitch Easter to make a more heavy metal racket. As for effects, he has only one- an lbanez VE400 [sic–should be a UE400] pedal that he uses live though he isn’t too sure what it actually does.
R.E.M. Hits It Big With “Murmur”, 07.12.84, Musician Magazine
Yeah. I was playing a Telecaster in 1980; it got stolen out of my house. And there was a little music store in town called Chick Piano; they had a blond Rickenbacker 360 with flat-wound strings. That was my main guitar until 1981, when it got stolen.
I went to a shop in Hartford, Conn. and asked if they had Rickenbackers. They pulled this black 360 out; I played it, and it was in tune. That’s the one that’s been on every R.E.M. record except the first single, and I bring it to pretty much every session I do.
It’s still the guitar I go to every day. It has real clarity of tone. It’s sitting in a stand at the foot of my bed. I like playing guitar in my pajamas. I’ve got three other guitars in my bedroom: a ’43 Gibson; a 1960 Rickenbacker that I got from Reverb; a Goldtop. They kind of rotate to the bedroom, and if I’m really working, I’ll go down in the basement to avoid everyone.
The Pedals are:
- Planet Waves CT-04 tuner (top left, barely visible)
- Fulltone Fat Boost
- Roger Mayer Voodoo Vibe
- Ibanez UE400 Foot Controller
- Maxon AD-999 Analog Delay
- Keeley Katana Boost
- Proco Rat 2
- JuiceBox Power Supply (under the Fulltone Fat Boost)
Some R.E.M. Links