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Glenn Tipton

Glenn Tipton
Glenn Tipton
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Glenn Raymond Tipton (born 25 October 1947) is an English Grammy Award-winning guitar player and songwriter. Often noted for his complex playing style and classically influenced solos, he is best known as one of the lead guitarists for heavy metal band Judas Priest.

Tipton was born on 25 October 1947, in Blackheath, West Midlands, to Olive and Doug Tipton. He attended Olive Hill Primary School when he was about five years old. His brother, Gary, was a guitar player for a local band called the Atlantics. Early on, Tipton was taught to play the piano by his mother.

Tipton learned to play guitar at age 19 with his first guitar being a Hofner acoustic guitar. He would then play on a Rickenbacker until he was able to afford a Fender Stratocaster. This guitar would become his main live guitar until it was stolen at a show. Tipton soon bought a black Stratocaster and, later, a Gibson SG afterwards with money he received to replace his old guitar. Both of these guitars can be seen when Judas Priest played on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975.

Tipton lives in the village of Romsley, Worcestershire, in the West Midlands near Birmingham, England and has a state-of-the-art recording studio built next to his home. During the 1980s he also bought a property in Spain. He is or was married and has two children—Karina and Rick—born on 1981 and 1986, respectively, both of whom were featured on his solo album Baptizm of Fire Tipton and fellow guitarist K.K. Downing are long-time tennis players and also both of them took up golf during an early 1980s American tour with Def Leppard

Tipton's first band was Shave Em' Dry, which became Merlin, which became the Flying Hat Band. This band soon broke up due to management issues. In May 1974, Tipton joined Judas Priest. This was during the recording for Rocka Rolla, so Tipton quickly added his guitar parts to the album. On Sad Wings of Destiny, Tipton showed off more of his guitar work on songs like Tyrant, Dreamer Deceiver and Victim of Changes. Tipton also presented his own songwriting on the songs Prelude, Epitaph and The Ripper. He frequently played keyboards on the early albums, although those were no longer featured on any songs after Hell Bent For Leather. He is credited with introducing a more metal sound to the band with those songs, as Rocka Rolla was composed of largely blues rock and psychedelic songs left over from the band's former frontman Al Atkins. Although Tipton wrote the lyrics for The Ripper, Epitaph, and Prelude shortly after joining Judas Priest, producer Rodger Bain rejected putting them on the first album as being not commercial enough. From then onward, Halford and Tipton would be the band's principle songwriters with occasional contributions from Downing.

The year 1980's British Steel was Judas Priest's commercial breakthrough. This album combined the band's trademark heavy metal sound with pop-style song structures and hooks. United and Breaking the Law were some of Judas Priest's first guitar-driven songs not to include any solo sections. Judas Priest quickly shot to rock superstar status during the 80s with their albums Point of Entry, Screaming for Vengeance, Defenders of the Faith, Turbo, Ram It Down and Painkiller.

Rob Halford would leave Judas Priest in 1992 and the band would separate. Judas Priest would later return with Tim "Ripper" Owens in 1997. This new version of the band recorded the albums Jugulator and Demolition. Both of these albums experimented with new sounds that distinguished them from the records with Halford. Around this time, Tipton released his first solo album, Baptizm of Fire in 1997. The follow-up album Edge of the World was released in 2006. In 2003, Judas Priest would reunite with Rob Halford and release Angel of Retribution in 2005 and Nostradamus in 2008. In 2010, Judas Priest announced their Epitaph World Tour, which is to be the last major world tour, which would also be their first tour without original guitarist K.K. Downing, and the first to feature his replacement, Richie Faulkner. The band later retracted this announcement, and released their seventeenth album Redeemer of Souls in July 2014, as well as supporting the album with a world tour.

Tipton is known for his complex, classically influenced solos, and he has a unique guitar-playing technique. Many of his solos are very difficult to transcribe, and his playing is notable for his double lead guitar trades with fellow Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing. Tipton's solos have maintained a consistent style for most of his career, but he has continuously incorporated new techniques into his playing over the years as he has developed as a guitarist. The usual arrangement on Judas Priest songs featured Downing playing rhythm guitar and Tipton solos, although the two would alternate places and some songs such as "Burnin' Up" and "Screaming For Vengeance" feature riffs and leads by both guitarists. Starting with Judas Priest's fourth album, Stained Class, Tipton began to dominate the band's songwriting, especially on the more commercial tracks which almost exclusively featured his guitar leads. Following the release of their sixth album, British Steel, most songs in the live set lists were Tipton's. On the whole, his solos feature in almost 60% of Judas Priest's total catalog.

In contrast to Downing, Tipton's solos tend to feature a more melodic, legato blues rock sound, making use of harmonic minor scales, Aeolian mode, pentatonic scales and techniques such as sweep-picking arpeggios, legato picking, tremolo/alternate picking, hammer-ons and pull-offs, and the solos often showcase both accuracy and aggression. However, like Downing, his playing sometimes emphasizes speed rather than precision, and Tipton has been known to occasionally use pinch harmonics and dive bombs in his solos (for example, on Invader). Tipton also has a trademark 2-strings bend/whammy dive screams for ending the solo, as evident in solos like All Guns Blazing, Heavy Metal, Demonizer, Bullet Train and Ram It Down. In 1978, Tipton began to incorporate tapping into his playing, which Downing promptly did as well. In the mid-1980s, both guitarists started to use the complex technique of sweep-picking, which can be notably heard on the title track of their 1990 album Painkiller. Both have continuously used these techniques ever since.

In 1997, Tipton released his solo album, Baptizm of Fire, featuring a host of well-known musicians including Billy Sheehan, Cozy Powell and Don Airey, among others where he showed his technical guitar playing abilities.

Tipton quotes : "It goes without saying that I love playing and performing heavy metal, and have for most of my career. Going right back though, I've listened to a lot of early blues players, and I think the first band I saw live that really made an impression on me, was The Spencer Davis group . I remember going to see them play at an all-nighter at Birmingham Town Hall. Steve Winwood was a great all round vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player and I remember trying to learn 'Georgia' on the piano after I had seen them play. They had great songs like 'Keep on Running' and although you could try and categorize them as blues or R&B, they really had their own sound going for them, mainly due I believe to Steve Winwood".

Other early influences were Hendrix, Deep Purple and Zeppelin. "I still can't believe where Hendrix came from. OK Seattle maybe but he just suddenly appeared, as if from nowhere, this black guy playing guitar in a way no one had imagined it could be played. He was more than a genius in my eyes, someone very, very special. I loved early Purple and the combined sound of Organ and guitar gave them a very powerful sound, again unique at the time. As for Zeppelin, what can you say, 'Whole lotta Love', 'Communication Breakdown', 'Black Dog', and the epic 'Kashmir' again a unique band with great songs. All these bands formed an impression on me going back to those early days.

"I liked the early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer. I thought Peter Green was a great white blues player and song-writer. He not only penned such greats as 'Green Manalishi' and 'Oh Well' but more delicate compositions such as 'Need Your Love So Bad' or 'Albatross' I saw them several times and it was great to watch them perform songs like 'Stop Messin' Around' or songs featuring slide guitar such as 'Dust My Broom'.

"As I've said before, as a guitar player my main inspiration was Rory Gallagher. I saw him play in Taste many times and he really inspired me, not just musically but also in the amount of energy and feel he put out".

"I've always loved the Stones. They have so many classic songs such as 'Jumping Jack Flash', 'Honky Tonk Women', 'Sympathy for the Devil', 'Brown Sugar', or their earlier stuff like 'This Could Be The Last Time', 'Paint It, Black', 'It's All Over Now' the list goes on and on. The Stones have great attitude and that rebel quality that's so appealing. I recently saw them at the Isle of Wight festival and they were as good as ever after all these years".

"As do many people, I think the Beatles were a great band. We were all lucky that fate put these guys together in our time. It totally amazes me that they came up with such an abundance of classic songs in such a relatively short amount of time. The Beatles changed everything. To start with they were the first band to write their own material. They were so prolific and the endless melodies they invented will live forever".

Tipton is a big fan of soundtrack music, something that is evident in listening to Judas Priest's metal opera Nostradamus. "I love people like Hans Zimmer," Tipton told Attention Deficit Delirium. "Some of the stuff that they do is incredible." (He's a big fan of the Gladiator soundtrack.) "One day when I'm good enough to, I wouldn't even call it a film score, but do music for film, I'd like that opportunity. It would be really exciting for me to do. Whether that will happen or not, I'm not sure. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to do something like that as long as it were something that I liked or had respect for visually."
Judas Priest performing at Sauna Open Air in 2011. Glenn Tipton (far right) is playing on his signature Hamer model.

Glenn's tone is produced by playing humbucker-equipped guitars. 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 – a device also used by Brian May of Queen. During this period, Glenn also employed a MXR Distortion +, Phase 100, and digital delays, as well as an old Maestro Echoplex. In the late 1980s, around the time of the Turbo album, Priest began incorporating guitar synths. Starting with the comeback album Jugulator, Glenn switched to Rocktron preamps, the Rocktron Intellifex for effects, and Crate heads and cabs. Tipton used SGs and a Stratocaster with two DiMarzio Super Distortion humbuckers as his main instruments until the mid 80s when he started using various Hamer guitars including some signature models, which were used almost exclusively in live performances until 2009 when the Stratocaster and one of the SGs was brought out of retirement for the British Steel 30th anniversary tour. Most of his guitars are equipped with Kahler tremolos. Glenn uses standard-light (10–46) gauge strings produced by Ernie Ball and thin picks. Throughout his career, Glenn has used many tunings, most frequently standard tuning (almost all of the songs written before Rob Halford left the band were originally in E-standard). Ever since Rob Halford rejoined Judas Priest, both Glenn and KK have used E-flat tuning during live shows, while still using standard tuning extensively on studio albums.

Tipton has used numerous guitars over the years. These include a 1960s Fender Stratocaster up until about 1978. During the period from 1978 to 1979, he used a black Gibson Les Paul Custom, and he started using a modified CBS-era Fender Stratocaster with Dimarzio Super-Distortion (humbucking) pickups. For the Screaming for Vengeance tour, he added a chrome pickguard. For this tour, he also played a Gibson SG Special that he spray-painted black himself. The SG also had a chrome pickguard and stock PAF humbuckers. Around 1984, he switched to a Hamer Phantom GT model, which was fitted with one EMG humbucker, a Kahler tremolo, and one volume pot. A signature model of this was developed and sold to public from 1984 to 1986. Tipton still uses this guitar model, but now with Seymour Duncan Blackouts active pickups. In 2009, Tipton took his Fender Stratocaster and Gibson SG Special out of retirement for the British Steel 30th Anniversary tour. As of late 2015, he is now officially endorsing ESP guitars, with his own signature model, the GT-600, which is part of ESP's LTD series of guitars and in terms of shape is modeled after ESP's Viper series of guitars.

He has also used various guitars over the years

ESP LTD GT-600 - using currently
Fender Telecaster – For studio use
ESP Eclipse acoustic – For stage use
Ibanez 7621 seven-string guitar – In the studio for Demolition (Possibly used for the song "In Between")
Gibson Explorer – Could be see on the Classic Albums: British Steel documentary and was used sparingly during the Nostradamus tour
Legends custom-built acrylic Jaguar-shaped guitar – Tipton jokingly admitted that he wanted to make a lamp out of it, but liked the tone of it and was used for recording Demolition),
Roland G-707 synth guitar – was mostly used in the studio, used a Hamer Phantom GT with a Roland Hex pickup for stage use

Tipton has almost exclusively used Marshall Amplifiers. Tipton used Regular Vintage 50 and 100 Watt Marshall heads without a master volume until 1982, when the JCM 800 head was developed. The JCM 800 was used by Tipton and fellow Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing for many years. During the Jugulator and Demolition era, Tipton was endorsed by Crate amplifiers, using their Blue Voodoo heads in the studio and when touring. He would drop this endorsement during the 2004 reunion tour, switching to a large rack unit with multiple preamps and effects processors with a Marshall 9100 power amp.

In 2008, Tipton began using ENGL amps. Of the brand, he comments, "ENGL is the first ampline that I have ever used that not only has balls, but attitude, right out of the box". When he first used Engl amps, he played through the ENGL Midi Tube Preamp E 580 and the ENGL Tube Poweramp E 850/50. For the Epitaph tour, he switched to using Engl Invaders that are modified to use 6L6 power tube.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Tipton used a Pete Cornish custom pedalboard with an overdrive unit, flanger, MXR distortion unit, MXR Phase 100, MXR digital delay, MXR 12-band EQ, Maestro Echoplex, line boosters between each effect to preserve the signal from input to output, and a Rangemaster-based custom treble boost connected to the bass channel of Marshall 50 and 100 watt heads with no master volume.

Around the time of the reunion with Rob Halford, Tipton only used a modified Crybaby 535Q Wah, Digitech Tone Driver, DigiTech Main Squeeze, and a Yamaha midi board controlling other effects and sounds in a rack unit.

Since the beginning of the 2008 world tour, Glenn has gone back to mostly using a rack system, sans the current use of Engl amp heads. He currently uses a Korg rack tuner, Furman power unit, Dunlop Custom Shop Rackmounted Crybaby, Rocktron Intellifex and Yamaha SPX-90 multi-effects units, and a dbx 166A compressor and noise gate.

A detailed gear diagram of Glen Tipton's 2004 Judas Priest guitar rig is well-documented.
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