Guitar Heroes

Angus Young

PUBLISHED: 27 October 2020

READ TIME: 2 MINS

Angus Young performing on stage playing guitar

Photographer: Calder Wilson, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Angus Young is an Australian guitarist in the hard classic rock band AC/DC. He's best known for his schoolboy outfit, Gibson SG, duck-walking and thumping blues-inspired riffs.

History

Angus started his journey into guitar when getting hold of a cheap acoustic purchased second-hand. He eventually got a Gibson SG in 1970 and played it until it had wood rot from so much sweat! After playing in different groups he eventually began AC/DC with his brother, Malcolm, in 1973. The name AC/DC came from seeing the phrase on the back of their sister Margaret’s sewing machine.

Angus Young is a ferocious guitar player. His style combined with an iconic schoolboy stage outfit brought AC/DC to the spotlight, who formed in 1973 and released multiple albums through the 70’s, 80s and beyond. Their album ‘Back In Black’ received both commercial success and critical acclaim, selling 50 million copies. Since the 70s the band have regularly toured across the globe and have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"I eventually came to the conclusion that the Marshall 100W stack was the best way to go." Angus Young

Angus Young performing on stage

Harry (Howard) Potts, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Angus Young in his famous schoolboy outfit performing on stage

Photographer: Calder Wilson, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gear used

Angus is synonymous with Gibson SGs in different forms, in particular 68-70 SG standards, and Angus even has his own Gibson signature SG based on this model. In terms of amplifiers he’s relied on Marshall full stacks throughout his career. Primarily using a 4-input 1959 Super Lead 100 Watt Plexi head, JTM50 and 1960AX/BX cabinets, loaded with Celestion G12-65 speakers.

Angus Young in his famous schoolboy uniform playing guitar

Detroit - 17 November 1983: Angus Young, lead guitarist for AC/DC (Photo by Ross Marino/Rock Negatives)

He’s also used the JMP2203 on ‘Let There Be Rock’ with Celestion G12M speakers. Angus Young uses very little in terms of pedals, but one that has become synonymous with him is the Schaffer Vega Diversity System, a wireless system that contains a preamp which adds colour and thickness to his sound.

'Huge power comes from his picking hand and he's not afraid to hit a huge chord.'

Playing style

As many others did in the 60’s/70’s, Young was influenced primarily by blues guitar players such as B.B. King and Chuck Berry. This style led him to learn different blues licks in the major and minor pentatonic scale. Many AC/DC songs gravitate towards power chords in the root and fifth position. A stereotypical AC/DC riff would be focused around the chords E minor, G, A and the pentatonic scale in the first open position. Hammer-ons are super important to nailing Angus’ style (see: Thunderstruck below, sometimes played with just the left hand, or both) but the most important aspect of his playing is the power and energy he expresses. Huge power comes from his picking hand and he’s not afraid to hit a huge chord.

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