Artist Series: Tony Iommi

The Sound

Early Iommi on the first couple Sabbath albums is very cut and dry. A combination of limitations such as; a short recording time frame, budget, and the era of much less extravagant recording processes fostered his signature sound.

With limited in-line effects (wah, and boost exclusively is most tunes), the stereo panning, the addition and mixing of wet reverb for some fills, and the overdubbing and delay on certain solos (or portions of solos) were all conducted in post-recording.

The Vibe

Geezer and Tony. Especially on their debut album, Black Sabbath can be argued to be comprised of mostly the interaction between Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi. This dynamic duo is either riffing together octaves apart (which creates that iconic wall of doom), or calling each other in blues improvisation bliss. In tunes like “The Warning”, Iommi is always playing melodic changes based on either Butler’s rhythm, or Osbourne’s vocals. Because of this, I often claim that Black Sabbath (the Album) is one of the best blues improv records ever made.

Tony Iommi’s seemingly simple blues based progressions and improvisation (and the straight and simple recording style) make him a perfect guitarist to study for the beginning player. Yet the subtle articulation, dynamic melodies, and unequaled sonic recognition make him constantly surprising, making the most seasoned and skilled players coming back for more. Tony Iommi was one of my first self-study projects when I started learning guitar, and is always a staple for my beginning to intermediate students when learning to choreograph solos. Even after 15 years of playing and study, Iommi is always a musician I’m happy to learn from.

Ryan CaldaroneComment