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Player Spotlight | Robben Ford

Robben Ford Header
Photo Credit:daddario.com

The evolutionary world of social media can further ignite even the most well-respected and historical players into a new realm.

This week's instalment of the player spotlight sees an already established and iconic guitar hero somewhat reinvented and re-energised  through the eyes of a different generation... ... Robben Ford.

To many, Robben Ford is considered a bonafide guitar hero. With a career spanning over three decades he has received 5 Grammy nominations and has a collaborative history with the likes of Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell and George Harrison.

Robben Ford started his musical journey exploring the saxophone at the age of 10 but it wasn't until he was 14 that the guitar really caught on. Born into a strong musical family, his parents were strong influences. His father, Charles Ford, was a Country and Western singer & guitarist before his enlistment into the army, whilst his mother Kathryn Ford was a gifted singer and piano player.

Robben’s fondness of the saxophone was soon to be overshadowed when he first started to become aware of the guitar greats of the time. His first major influence was Mike Bloomfield and his work on the 'Paul Butterfield Blues Band' album.

“I wanted to sound like him.. I wanted to be him!”

(Vintage Guitar Magazine - Dan Forte)

Robben also cites John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers “Beano” album with Eric Clapton as a key development along with witnessing Jimi Hendrix explode onto the scene. With the further discovery of B.B King & Albert King, Robben was now fully infatuated by the guitar.


The solo on Ford's contribution of "Bold as Love" to the Hendrix Tribute Album "Gypsy Blood" is a personal favourite of Lee here at Strings Direct.

Progression, Development and Influences

When we think of Robben Ford as a guitar player, we envision a blues, jazz, funk, soul and rock fusion guitarist that has no boundaries or limitations to his playing style. But, it's clear to see that Robben’s early experiences with the saxophone have influenced his guitar playing giving him his unique expression and guitar vocabulary.

I recall hearing Robben speak about expressive guitar playing and ad lib ability being similar to surfing 🏄‍♂️ . Robben once likened expressive guitar playing and improvisation to surfing;

“You gotta catch that wave”

(Interview 29.06.2013 - http://www.guitarextrememag.com/)

It is of course fully understood that Robben Ford is an astounding and truly phenomenal multi-genre musician. But it's his ability to continually reinvent himself and consistently keep his playing at an exciting and enthusiastic level that has led him into the new age of guitar hero via the social media platforms. It's his relaxed mannerisms and likeable personality that invites people into his playing and larger community.

Moving into the current world of online features, demos and tuition is not for every established guitarist and many shy away from it. However, an essential part of Ford’s career as a musician is his passion and ability for passing on his knowledge and experience. Whilst many players prefer to keep their "secrets" in the box and protect their magic (which is of course very cool and all part of the mystery and romanticism of rock 'n' roll), Robben Ford has embraced educating the guitar community.

His very own tuition site Guitar Dojo and American tuition giant Truefire have been massive platforms for Robben to express himself as a teacher of all things theory and technique. It's here he's really established himself with a huge audience worldwide and is regarded as one of the best educators of guitar . With sixteen online courses in the Truefire catalogue, it's clear to see his commitment to share his pearls of wisdom with a world of players eager to consume.

Ford is also a firm favourite in the fashionable market of Rig Rundowns and demos, as fans and fellow peers salivate as they watch a true iconic player discuss his own guitars and give you an insight into the history of his equipment and ideologies.

Being such a high profile and in demand player Robben has of course seen his share of signature products and endorsements.


A really key demo and endorsement is the Boost pedal by Vertex. An exquisite clip that displays not only Robben’s timeless playing and influential style but caters for the gear enthusiasts market.

Robin is also synonymous with Dumble Amplifiers and has championed them from the very early days before they became the unattainable trophy they are now... the amplifier is an icon in its own right!


“Since 1983, Ford’s main amp has been a Dumble Overdrive Special, serial number 002, which Alexander Dumble made for him that year. (Serial 001 is Dumble’s personal amp.) Ford keeps this sweet baby safe by plugging it into a variable voltage regulator. He runs this Overdrive Special through a Dumble 2x12 cabinet that was actually made for his second Dumble head. The cabinet houses a pair of Celestion G12-65 8-ohm speakers.”

(Rig Rundown - John Bohlinger March 19, 2014)

The other key point of interest and focus here is Robben’s now highly coveted 1960 Blonde Fender Telecaster.

Robben Ford 1960 Blonde Telecaster
photo credit: http://byricardomarcenaroi.blogspot.com/

Robben has been synonymous with many different types of guitars over the years ranging from Gibson L-5’s , Es-335’s, Epiphone Riviera, Fender Stratocasters, to name but a few.

Robben has always stated his first true decent electric guitar to be a Guild Starfire III.

String Simplicity …

Robben Ford String Choice
photo credit: Will Ireland / Future

Robben has been very transparent about the strings and gauge he uses and essentially weighs everything up against consistency and reliability. For such a complex and intricate player, Robben has a simple palate when it comes to strings and has been synonymous with D’Addario for over 20 years.

The situation is pure uncomplicated and off-the-shelf.

D'Addario EXL110 Nickel  Guitar Strings 10-46

The string choice is raw and simplistic along with the set up, Robben has been seen to convey in many interviews that he likes to play with a slightly higher action than people would expect so there is some fight there and resistance.

This of course affects the tension but something Robben points out is key to getting the right amount of Blues;

“you don't want to make it too easy”

Of course we would argue that he makes it look easy... very easy!!


Website - https://www.robbenford.com/

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/robbenfordmusic/?utm_source=ig_embed

D’addario - https://www.daddario.com/artists/guitar/robben_ford/

Vintage Guitar magazine interview - https://www.vintageguitar.com/3401/robben-ford/

Guitar Xtreme Magazine Interview - http://www.guitarextrememag.com/

Truefire - https://truefire.com/educators/robben-ford/e3776

Pedalboard - https://www.guitarplayer.com/news/take-a-guided-tour-of-robben-fords-pedalboard

Vertex - https://www.vertexeffects.com/

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