Ty Tabor

Groupology

  • King's X
  • Platypus
  • Ty Tabor
  • Jelly Jam

Jurassic

Watch Ty Tabor in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Famous For: Big dropped-D riffs. Many Seattle bands credit King's X as the inspiration behind their use of dropped-D and other alternate tunings. King's X has been a critic's and musician's darling since their arrival on the national scene in 1988, but with the exception of It's Love, from the 1989 album Faith, Hope, Love, mainstream success has eluded them.

Infamous For: Early in the band's career, Ty refused to divulge any information on his gear, because he didn't want other players to copy his sound. Live, his amps were hidden behind black tarps and had tape over the logos so that it was almost impossible to tell what they were. Later he owned-up to using old Gibson Lab Series L5 solid state amps for the first four King's X albums.

Influences

Obvious: Ty's an old school soloist who bases most of his lead work on the minor pentatonic scale. He claims to have initially been inspired by Ace Frehley. The Beatles were a huge influence on Ty's songwriting - the droning riffs that Ty favors owe more than a little to the late George Harrison, although Ty plays with a lot more balls and aggression. And though the end result is completely different, the influence of Alex Lifeson is hard to miss if you are at all familiar with Alex's style — droning open strings, lots of arpeggios and open chords rather than barre chords, unorthodox chord voicings, lots of chorus and delay, etc.

Not-so-obvious: Brian May's influence is heard in Ty's soloing, particularly in the phrasing. And while he rarely harmonizes his guitar lines, when he does he will occasionally quote May. It's also apparent from the Platypus projects that Ty has listened to more than his share of prog rock and has chops to burn outside of what he cares to show in King's X.

Strengths

Rhythm playing. Ty's rhythm work defines him. Nobody approaches rhythm guitar the same way he does. It's heavy while at the same time retaining a certain beauty and delicate quality, particularly his early work.

Vibrato. Ty has a nice, slow vibrato. It sounds very smooth and vocal.

Original approach. Name one player that sounds anything like Ty. Can't do it, can you?

Harmonies. King's X has the best three part vocal harmonies in the business this side of Crosby, Stills & Nash. They are also able to execute them live without any additional musicians or backup singers.

Weaknesses

Ty holds back a little too much. He could really drop the bomb on us if he felt like it, but he prefers to hold back and be a team player.

In recent years, King's X has really let me down in the songwriting area. For my money, the first four albums are absolutely essential and were among the top releases of their time. They were innovative, and had some great songs, even though the lyrics were often more than a little obtuse. But the band grew dissatisfied with their failure to breakthrough commercially, and beginning with 1994's Dogman, went with a harder edge approach in order to be more marketable. Many disagree with me (including Andy) but I don't think King's X is a particularly interesting metal band. I prefer the tonal variation of their earlier work.

Vocals. As a lead vocalist, Ty is distinctive, but weak. Again, somewhat like George Harrison, his voice has a high nasal quality. He doesn't have much emotional range in his voice. This works against him as a lead singer but really helps him as a backup singer, because the contrast between his voice and Doug Pinnick's more rough edged vocals makes his parts stand out more. Ty and drummer Jerry Gaskill have the uncanny ability to sound almost exactly like each other on backups.

Tone

The first four King's X albums were recorded with a Strat Elite. The old Gibson Lab Series L5 amps were a huge part of the early King's X sound. Processed with an Alesis Quadraverb for chorus to widen the sound, they produced a tone that was truly unique. It was dirty, but retained definition and clarity. The classic Ty Tabor sound is: heavy, dirty, yet clear, with a good dose of midrange and smooth high end. For effects, Ty has been known to employ chorus, wah, delay, Ebow, and occasionally a Black Cat vibe.

For Dogman, Ty switched to Boogies and a Zion signature strat. His sound on this album was much harder and spittier, with more low end. Since Dogman, Ty's taken the Lifesonish approach of changing his gear for every album. He still sounds like himself regardless. In the studio, he's used everything from Marshall stacks to ART preamps direct into the board. His current setup is a Line 6 Pod Pro into Mesa Boogie power amps and cabs, and his guitar of choice is a Yamaha signature model as well as a Yamaha signature baritone guitar for lower tunings. This setup provides a very modern rock tone — much more distorted than his earlier work, but not as abrasive as the Boogies from the Dogman period.

Guitar Style

Ty's style is very different from just about any other guitarist playing hard rock today. Ty's rhythm work is designed to occupy as much space as possible. He's more of a textural player in the Alex Lifeson/Andy Summers mold than he is a speed burner lead guitarist. As a soloist, he is deceptively simple and makes it sound effortless. As a rhythm guitarist, he has carved out a niche for himself that is unique in hard rock; combining alternate tunings such as dropped D, dropped B, and even dropped A with droning pedal licks to create a sound containing elements of Alex Lifeson, Robin Trower, and (sitar master) Ravi Shankar.

One of my favorite trademark Taborisms (in dropped D) is keeping the 3rd and 4th strings ringing out, he plays power chords on the 5th and 6th strings and move around the pedal tones on the 3rd and 4th strings. It sounds much more complicated than it actually is, and fills up a lot of space. Since King's X is a trio he can use these chords and not step all over the rest of the band.

Ty doesn't rely on a barrage of notes to get his point across. His solos are flowing and use a lot of hammer-ons, pull-offs, and the occasional overbend. He tends to get in, say his piece, and get out. He is primarily a legato player, and although he does use alternate picking, most of what he plays doesn't require it. He relies more on his fretting hand, like George Lynch, as opposed to players like Gary Moore or John Norum.

Most of Ty's solos are melodic and sound thought out. For the most part, they are fairly short although he takes the occasional opportunity to stretch out a little. His solos are intended to complement the song rather than show a lot of chops.

Vibrato: Very expressive and smooth. Slow and controlled, very vocal, almost feminine. Ty's best playing has a sadness about it, and a kind of delicate beauty.

Ty Tabor in Action

Recommended Listening:

King's X

Platypus

Profile by John Walker Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.