Jimmie Vaughan has a particular way of playing that most guitar teachers would run away, bleeding from their eyes with horror.
Vaughan has a unique sound. At the core is an uber-authentic 50’s tone that is all Fender and glorious in it’s brownness. He currently uses Made in Mexico (MIM) Jimmie Vaughan Signature Strats relic’d to look like his original guitar he played with the Thunderbirds. From guitar to Boss Temelo to a pair of Grammatico amps made John Grammatico of Austin, Texas – his sound is immaculate.
Jimmie plays flat wounds – starting at 10.5 and up to 50 or 52’s. These are some tough to play strings. Most players use a “round wound” type string like Earnie Ball Slinky’s. He uses plastic hotel room keys cut into different shapes for picks.
But the fingering. He lifts his fingers high off the neck often using a capo to play in multiple keys with the same fingerings. A formally taught guitarist wouldn’t play this way. They pound into students to play “efficiently” by keeping the fingers close to the strings. A lot of “jazzers” actually rest their fingers on their fretting hand on the strings giving instant access to a note or to a mute.
But not Jimmie. His fingers fly up and around with his thumb crossing over the top and with great buoyancy in his wrist movements. Inefficient? Yep.
Inefficient in the best way possible! The way his fingers hit the strings and release gives him a very specific tonal characteristic in his playing and phrasing. In other words, his “inefficient” left hand is a big part of the “Jimmie Vaughan Sound” and that’s what makes him a master.
It’s often been said that to be a master, your playing should be instantly recognizable from note one. Stevie. Freddy. B.B. T-Bone. Combined with your tone, one can instantly know it’s Santana or Satriani – just as someone can instantly know it’s Jimmie when he gets it on at C-Boys regularly in Austin, Texas.