Learn Your Craft! A Nod to Keeping it Old-School

For us at TheToneKing.com, there was one moment at the Grammys that really spoke to us. Shortly after Foo Fighters won for “Best Rock Performance,” Dave Grohl marched up to the stage and gave a nod to all of those guys out there who still rock it old school. Check it out!

Rebelliously donning a slayer T-shirt, scruffy beard, and straggly hair, Dave harkened back to the days that the Grammys used to mean something to rockers. Because grabbing a Grammy for serious rockers was always seen as akin to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro – Remember when Jethro Tull won over Metallica for Best Metal Performance? – winning the award was seen as a confirmation of rock’s legitimacy. Rock was the bastard child of the music industry, and when bands like Metallica finally did grab that Grammy, rock told the rest of the industry that it wasn’t about to be ignored.

Most importantly, Dave showed that to reach that precipice. It took sweat. It took practice. It took learning the craft. And real players know what he’s talking about. We here at TTK wanted to take a look at five other bands/players that are following that same dogma. Oh, and of course we’ll take a look at their gear while we’re at it.

1 – Killswitch Engage:

The beginning of 2012 was rough for TTK favorite Killswitch Engage. Howard Jones’ unexpected departure (made official January 4th of 2012) left a lot of fans confused as to where the band was going next. They quickly killed any doubts about the direction of the band when they revealed that they brought back original Killswich vocalist, Jesse Leach, and have already started working on their new album. The album is due out this summer, and we’re totally stoked to hear what the boys have up their sleeves.

Notable Gear:

Guitarists, Adam Dutkiewicz, and Joel Stroetzel, have been known to use everything from Caparison Guitars with EMG pickups, PRS Custom 22s, Hughes and Kettner, Mesa Boogie, Vox, and Peavey 5150s, just to name a few. Probably most notable, though, is their choice of pedals. Old friends of TTK, Maxon, gives Killswitch that punch with their OD-808 Overdrive pedals and AD-9 Pro Delays. Fans of TTK will remember our Maxon OD-820 (The 808’s closely related son) and VOP-9 shoot out. (https://thetoneking.com/maxon-vop9-od820) Apparently Adam and Joel couldn’t choose between the two, so they just use both.

2 – Joe Bonamassa:

OK. Some of you are going to bitch that this guy is more about blues than rock, but I’m not so sure. Take a minute and listen to this guy rip through a solo and tell me he ain’t rock. Joe can trade chops with any shredder out there and still have enough left over to serve up dessert. About to release his 13th studio album this spring, Joe Bonamassa has always kept his tunes honest with great tones.

Notable Gear:

While Joe’s collection of guitars probably rivals that of The Tone King himself, his most notable piece is his freaking signature Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. It takes a pretty good player to be given his own signature by one of the most iconic guitar companies to have ever existed, and Joe Bonamassa is definitely worthy of the honor. His signature Les Paul has a Solid Mohogany body with a curved maple top, rosewood fingerboard with acrylic trapezoid inlays, Burstbucker 2 pickup in the neck and Burstbucker 3 in the bridge, Vintage CTS pots and bumble bee capacitors, and Grover tuners. Basically, Joe’s guitar calls back to 60’s era Gibson but steps it up with some modest improvements.

3 – Orianthi Panagaris:

Orianthi is not a girl who plays guitar; she is a guitar player who just happens to be a girl. What I mean is that while many might try and put her into some sort of ‘girl’ niche, she has proved herself an amazing guitarist without that label. Whether it’s trading licks with Steve Vai or blazing away on her solo albums, Orianthi has shown that female guitar players don’t need to make a big deal out of being female to be recognized. In between touring dates, she’s currently working on a new album for 2012.


Thanks to Carlos Santana, Orianthi is PRS, through and through. Santana brought Orianthi to the attention of Paul Reed Smith, and eventually this led to her own signature series guitar, the PRS SE Orianthi Signature. The SE Orianthi is similar to the Santana model in shape with the 2012 model receiving the new beveled SE carve and push/pull tone control with 3-way blade switch (instead of a toggle with no coil tap) For 2012, they are also changing colors from the original Red Sparkle to a brand new Scarlet Red. The guitar profile includes a Korina back and Maple top, 24-fret wide-thin maple neck with a 25” scale length and ebony fretboard, and a PRS designed Tremolo and pickups.

4 – Opeth:

Probably one of the most enigmatic bands out there. Depending on which album you buy, you might think of them as one the most hardcore Death Metal bands out there or seventies groove hippie rock. No matter which incarnation of Opeth be your flavor, you cannot deny that these guys can play. I saw these guys play with Dream Theater, and they blew DT away. I’m not saying that Mikael Åkerfeldt is a better player than John Pettrucci, but their tunes really got the crowd going in a way that DT couldn’t pull off.


Mikael has always loved PRS. In addition to a PRS SE Mikael Åkerfeldt Signature Model, he can also be seen playing Custom 24’s as well as a few hollow-bodies. The SE Mikael Akerfeldt is a single-cut style body with 24-fret neck, bird inlays, SE HFS and SE vintage bass pickups, three-way toggle, gold hardware and trem, and Opeth’s wicked looking logo stamped right on the body in gold.

5 – Rise Against:

Personally, I always say that Rise Against is what Green Day would sound like if Green Day ever learned how to play. Chicago born and bred, this band was inspired by punk bands like Minor Threat, Black Flag, and Social D. While they’ve been around since ’99, Rise Against didn’t really hit a vein in mainstream rock until they headlined Warped Tour in 2006. Once Appeal to Reason (2008) peaked 3rd on Billboard, Rise Against became a solid headliner. Their latest album, Endgame (2011) beat Appeal to Reason by debuting number two on Billboard and selling 85,000 copies in its first week. Apparently Dave Grohl agrees about TheToneKing.com’s assessment of Rise Against because he asked Rise Against to join the Foo Fighters on the fall lag of their 2011 tour.


Both guitarists, Tim McIlrath and Zach Blair, are Gibson guys, playing Les Paul Classics, Goldtop Reissues, and Les Paul Standards. While all three models are Mahogany back and necks with maple tops, the Goldtop reissue has a chambered body. And, while both the Goldtop and Standard have Burstbucker pickups, the Classic has 469R/500T humbuckers with high-output ceramic magnets that add more definition for more head-slamming gain.


At TheToneKing.com, we’re all about keeping it real. That’s why we do what we do. And, that’s why these players do what they do. They’re out there every day, perfecting their craft. Whether it’s playing in front of thousands of fans, or in the studio recording their next Billboard hit, these players have worked their asses off to get to where they’re at. Like Dave said, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about working on your craft and keeping it real. Just like the old-school.

Dave at the Grammys:


Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic

By the way, speaking of keeping it real. Researching this article reminded us of an old TTK favorite video of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic throwing his bass up in the air and trying to catch it with his face at the 1992 MTV music awards. Just a reminder that sometimes you’ll take a few bruises in the name of rock and roll.


Comment below … Let us know your favorite bands that are keeping it real!

Killswitch Engage: Title track from The End of Heartach (2004)


Joe Bonamassa: Title track from Ballad of John Henry (2009) 


Orianthi: “Highly Strung” featuring Steve Vai from the album Believe (2009)


Opeth: “The Drapery Falls” from their album Blackwater Park (2001):


Rise Against: “Satellite” from the album Endgame (2011)


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Filed Under: FeaturedCommentary / Editorials

About the Author: Marc published his first novel Becoming in 2010. It’s a kick-ass book with monsters and dreams and stuff, and you should buy it. Since then, he’s written thousands of articles for TheToneKing.com, many of which have been picked up for circulation by manufacturers and other news outlets. His next book, Drugs and Pancakes, should be available early 2014 if his alcoholic editor can find time to work on it in-between destroying his liver and screaming about punctuation. He graduated from Roosevelt University with honors, which means that he’s not as dumb as he looks. He’s been playing guitar for over 25 years, which is almost twice as long as most of his students have been alive.

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