Glenn Tipton

Groupology

  • Judas Priest
  • Glenn Tipton

Jurassic

Watch Glenn Tipton in Action at the bottom of this page!

Famous / Infamous for

Being one of the founding fathers of Speed Metal. Judas Priest made their mark by speeding up the heavy riffs and rhythms of existing hard rock and playing them with a more metal and less blues rock sound. Sure, Sabbath came first, but where Sabbath rhythms were plodding and hypnotic, Priest focussed on fast, repetitive, driving rhythms that spawned the term "headbanging." Judas Priest in genaral, were also largely responsible for defining and toughening up the heavy metal image with leather and spikes. As Judas Priest, Glenn Tipton, KK Downing, and Rob Halford were responsible for some of the greatest heavy metal songs and albums ever. While they've always tried to stay current, they have never deviated from their heavy style.

Despite being one of the most influential metal guitarists ever, Tipton has never even placed in any best guitarist polls.

Influences

Obvious: Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Jimi Hendrix

Tipton and Downing belong in a small, select group of players (such as Angus Young, Kiss, and Rudi Schenker) who were around in the 70s, but were defining what metal would become in the 80s. Both are 70s stylists who had enough chops to hold their own in the 80s metal era.

Not-so-obvious: The Beatles, Robert Johnson

Strengths

Riffs: Riffs are the key to great metal songs, and nobody is better at riffs than Priest.

Teamwork: Glenn is the consummate team player, and he is very comfortable in this role.

Relevance: Throughout his nearly 30 year career with Judas Priest, Glenn has managed to stay on top of new techniques, tones, and gear while still maintaining his own identity. His lead work never sounds dated. It's constantly evolving.

Attitude and Melody: Glenn is the melodic half of Judas Priest's guitar duo. His solos almost always have a melodic hook. A song like Beyond the Realms of Death is a great example. His playing reeks of attitude.

Evolution: Where Priest is different is from their contemporaries is that they continue to evolve and push themselves, so that they don’t sound dated even now. Put on their first CD, and then put on the later ones, and there’s growth and progression. Recently they’ve headed in a heavier direction, incorporating a more "death metal," extreme overtone in the post-Halford era. It's not what they do best, but it is current.

Weaknesses

As with Accept, there isn't a whole lot of stylistic versatility in Judas Priest's back catalog. If you don't like head banging metal, forget it. You won't find pretty ballads or stylistic departures on any Judas Priest album.

Tone

Glenn's tone is your basic humbucker through a Marshall tone. Compared to Downing's tone, Glenn's tone is warmer, with more bass and lower mids. This lets both guitarists play the same parts yet remain distinct in the mix. Tipton's classic sound on albums like British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance, and Stained Class was obtained using 50 watt, non-master Marshall heads with EL34 output tubes, and a Range Master treble boost — the same device Brian May uses to kick his AC-30's. During this period, Glenn also employed a MXR Distortion +, Phase 100, and digital delays, as well as an old Maestro Echoplex.

In the late 80s, around the time of the Turbo album, Priest began incorporating guitar synths and abandoned the Marshalls for what sounds like a Scholz Rockman (Turbo, Ram it Down). Starting with the comeback album Jugulator, Glenn switched to Rocktron preamps, the Rocktron Intellifex for effects, and Crate heads and cabs.

Glenn's used SG's, a Strat with two DiMarzio Super Distortion humbuckers, and various Hamer models including a few he helped design (see above photo). Most of his guitars are equipped with Kahler tremolos. Glenn uses very light strings and picks — string gauges are .009, .009, .014, .022, .034, and .038. Take that! All you heavy string pussies!

Guitar Style

Glenn is the more melodic of Judas Priest's guitarists. His style is drenched in blues-based phrasing and owes a huge debt to Peter Green. Glenn claims to not care too much about scales and modes: "I like freedom. I like feel." However, a quick listen to Judas Priest's catalog shows that he relies a lot on the Aeolian minor and pentatonic scales. In the 80s he began incorporating more sweep arpeggios into his solos, but he's never been one to shred ala Malmsteen, although he can motor when he wants to. Glenn's solos are improvised in the studio, but he reproduces them note for note live.

Glenn employs a lot of downstrokes and legato in his more melodic passages. He relies on a variety of picking techniques for the faster stuff — some alternate picking, some hammer-ons and pull-offs, and sweep picking. His style is very fluid — basically the style of a blues based player like Peter Green on steroids.

Vibrato:

Medium speed, medium width — similar to Peter Green's but not quite as fast.

Glenn Tipton in Action

Recommended listening

Judas Priest

Glenn Tipton

Profile By John Walker. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.