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February 06, 2017


The Gear of Sonic Youth: Saluting Lee Renaldo!


If you didn't know, Feb. 3 is the birthday of Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo.  As one of our favorite bands company wide, we thought it fitting to do a brief rundown on what made their sound so unique!

Trying to encapsulate even a snapshot of Sonic Youth's rig is akin to shoving your entire wardrobe into a piece of carry on luggage.  Sonic Youth uses a lot of gear.  I mean a hell of a lot of gear.  There have been websites dedicated to the cataloging of such, and it is an endless, dark rabbit hole.  (For more in-depth info check out the awesome Sonic Youth Gear Guide!)

That said, let’s take a quick look at some of the more iconic, and even esoteric gear selections Lee Renaldo and Sonic Youth have made through the years.  


Fender Jazzmaster

If one guitar stands out among Sonic Youth’s endless arsenal of instruments, it’s the Fender Jazzmaster.

Guitarists Thurston Moor and Lee Ranaldo’s appreciation for offset guitars is in no small part responsible for the resurgence of offsets today.  They’re flexibility in tone, tinny chime and ease of modification (who doesn’t love a mastery tremolo?) made them the perfect choice. 


Peavey Roadmaster

Thurston Moore was rarely seen without a Peavey Roadmaster Tube head and an array of cabs.  Proof that the most expensive amp, isn’t always the right one!  At 160 watts of tube power, its one of Peavey’s loudest and heaviest amps ever made.


Marshall Plexi 100 watt

On the rare occasion Thurston wasn’t plugged into a Peavey Roadmaster, he was probably tearing through one of his Marshall 100wt heads



Fender Super Reverb

Considered a classic today, there was a time when the lumbering, cumbersome 4x10 combo was deemed too much for touring groups.  Good thing Lee Ranaldo’s was modified with even heavier and larger speakers!  Be it accessibility, or the buckets of reverb built in, the Fender Super Reverb has been a mainstay in Ranaldo’s tone to this day.




Fender P-Bass

Bassist Kim Gordon had as much of a gear addiction as any of the other members.  Though she’s been known to play a variety of instruments, the tried and true P-Bass got the lions share of stage time. 



Turbo Rat

One of the more defining aspects of Sonic Youth, is their very sparse use of effects pedals.  On the occasion they did need something amps couldn't provide, Sonic Youth turned their (shoe) gaze to the Turbo Rat.


Happy Birthday Lee!  May your day be full of reversed guitar tracks, droning tape effects, and cake!

Brad Althouse
Brad Althouse