How Jimmy Page Made His Guitar So Heavy On Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’

Epic live performances helped Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin are building a positive reputation for themselves with their massive fan base, even though a concert was like torture for another famous rocker. The band also worked quickly in the studio, but they still found time to experiment with new sounds and techniques. It might not seem obvious, but Page’s heavy guitars on “Black Dog” (and the idle strumming at the start of the song) are due to new studio experience.

Jimmy Page performs in 1971 | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jimmy Page developed an interest in recording techniques before forming Led Zeppelin

Page turned down two invitations to join the Yardbirds before forming Led Zeppelin. He even received a iconic guitar for turning down the job the second time. Page preferred to remain a session musician so he could learn more about recording techniques, such as studio miking. He made his time in the studio worth it.

“As a studio musician, I took it almost like an apprenticeship because I wanted to learn certain techniques from sound engineers,” Page said during a tour of the Fender guitar factory (via Youtube). “I really wanted to know how things were done.”

Knowing his way around a recording studio helped him produce Led Zeppelin’s debut album in an astonishing amount of time. Page got his heavy guitar sound on “Black Dog,” Led Zeppelin IVthanks to an unprecedented approach in the studio.

Page created his heavy guitar sound on ‘Black Dog’ by ditching the amplifier

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As Led Zeppelin’s only full-time guitarist, Page often composed several tracks in the studio to achieve a bigger sound. For example, he plays rhythm guitar under the solo of “Rock and Roll” by IV. Page does the same in the second half of his solo “Heartbreaker” on Led Zeppelin II.

Page used three guitar tracks for “Black Dog”. A Fleetwood Mac song inspired the call and response riff, but the guitar sound was pure Page.

“There are three of Page’s guitars layered in the Led Zeppelin IV blastoff, one of his favorite techniques when building the sonic weight of his riffs,” writes George Case in Led Zeppelin FAQs. “Distortion is pushed to the max through the use of direct injection and compression – the amplifier is bypassed and the instrument is instead plugged directly into the recording deck, where its tones are rumpled in frequency as thick as possible.

The scratched guitar at the beginning of the song is the sound of all three tracks synced up to the main take, Case writes. As a producer, Page could have easily removed those practice strums. He chose to leave them indoors and they provide a moment of calm before the storm.

The guitarist used layered guitars on two of Led Zeppelin’s most epic songs

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Page’s love of studio experimentation and desire to create big guitar sounds came to the fore on two later Led Zeppelin epics.

The 1975 album physical graffiti includes the overlooked gem “Ten Years Gone”. Page called the song her baby because he demonstrated it at home with several guitars layered. He wanted it to be a Led Zeppelin instrumental, but Robert Plant added vocals as his contribution to an overlooked classic.

“Achilles Last Stand” from Presence was another instance where Page’s guitar sound sounded loud due to multiple tracks. Between the layered guitars, the varied effects and his stunning solo, the Presence opener places the page in a different class. No wonder he once said he was on fire playing this song.

Jimmy Page made his guitar heavy on “Black Dog” because he plugged into the recording console and crumpled the frequency to make it thicker. This was just one instance of Page using his studio savvy to create massive guitar tones on Led Zeppelin albums.

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