Dick Dale, who was most famous for pioneering surf rock, has died at the age of 81. He had a unique approach to guitar technique and paved the way for sonic innovators of the future.
In Dick Dale’s lifetime, he played an influential role in the development of surf rock, pushed sonic boundaries and created a sound all of his own.
Dale’s approach to his instrument was anything but textbook. He was a lefty – but instead of restringing his Stratocaster so the heavy strings were on the bottom, he just left it as it was. The angle of the bridge pickup was therefore reversed, helping his trademark staccato playing cut through the mix.
That technique was further enhanced by his preference for monstrously heavy strings. When you consider regular gauge ranges from approximately 0.10 – 0.46 (lightest to heaviest), Dale went for 0.16 – 0.60!
Beyond the guitar itself, he worked with Leo Fender to develop an amp to keep up with his insatiable thirst for volume. This journey ended up with the creation of 85 watt “Showman” model, with the dual version housing two “15 drivers.
And of course, we can’t forget reverb – in particular the metallic ring out of the spring reverb tank. This sound became the ultimate companion for Dale’s trademark twang and a definitive hallmark of the surf rock sound.