When you think about the greatest guitarists of all time, who comes to your mind first? Perhaps it’s Slash, Buckethead, Jimi Hendrix, or another rockstar spanning the last few decades. I love all of those dudes, but not all of the greatest guitarists have been around for that long. A prime example of a guitarist who has only found a name for himself as one of the greats is Steve Lacy.
Not only did this guitar player only begin making a name for himself in 2015, but he also performs in a completely different genre that would normally be associated with the greatest guitarists – R&B. Perhaps you’ve never heard of him for this exact reason, or maybe your music taste is as diverse as mine and you’re already familiar with his music.
Regardless of your position, Steve Lacy is a legend and I’m here to spread the word not only about his music but also the guitars and gear that he uses to pull off his signature sound. Read on to find out more about how this guitar hero does it!
Bottom Line Up Front: Steve Lacy is a huge fan of Fender guitars, using models such as the Squier Classic Vibe Strat ’60s, the American Professional II Stratocaster, and even the Limited Edition Adam Clayton Precision Bass guitar to achieve his soulful R&B tones. The musician also uses Fender amplifiers and Boss guitar effects pedals to augment his tone, famously recording this directly into his iPhone through an iRig Pro audio interface and arranging these recordings into compositions in Garageband.
Who Is Steve Lacy?
Steve Lacy is a guitarist from the U.S. born in 1998, making him only 24 at the time of writing – this is crazy, as he is deemed as one of the greatest guitarists of all time at such a young age! He was born in Compton, California, and has been present as a musician since 2013, at the young age of 15!
I first heard about Steve Lacy in 2015 – I was a huge fan of the hip-hop collective OFWGKTA, featuring the likes of Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, and many more. The collective gave birth to some incredible hip-hop and R&B projects, and my absolute favorite amongst them was the R&B band The Internet, founded by Syd (back then she was called Syd the Kid) and most importantly, Steve Lacy.
Considering his relatively short career in comparison to other greatest guitarists of all time, this dude has accomplished a ton of musical achievements. His work with The Internet is impressive enough as it is, but in 2017 the guitarist began to work on his solo projects with the EP “Steve Lacy’s Demo” in 2017, followed by the album Apollo XXI in 2019.
This album was so well received that it was nominated for the Best Urban Contemporary Album award at the 2020 Grammys, and a 2022 album called “Gemini Rights” followed in 2022. He even released a compilation album of lo-fi recordings called “The Lo-Fis” in 2020!
A recent favorite song of mine by Lacy is “Sunshine”, featuring Fousheé. My friends and I were speaking about this track recently – it’s easily his best single so far, and it just goes to show that his music is only getting better and better. Can you imagine what this dude will be producing by the time he’s 30? He’s only 24 after all, crazy!
Well, that’s enough about Steve Lacy’s life and career – let’s dive into the music, specifically talking about his musical style and the kind of sounds he produces with his beautiful guitars.
Steve Lacy’s Guitar Tone and Style
The genre of R&B is not commonly associated with guitars – sure, there are often a few chords going on in the background, but most of the time the genre is dominated by electronic elements such as synthesizers and drum machines in addition to soulful singing. Well, Steve Lacy’s music includes all of these elements, yet he stands out by putting his guitar at the forefront of his music.
Whilst there are tons of nice synths and keyboards in his music, it’s undeniable that guitar chords form the frontier of Lacy’s songs. He’s been known to spend hours upon hours every day writing new songs on his guitar, wearing his heart on his sleeve, and writing gorgeous and heartfelt lyrics to go along with it.
Unlike dudes such as Jimmie Page and Jimi Hendrix, Steve Lacy usually goes for a more clean and smooth guitar tone. This is understandable as both his solo projects and his work with The Internet is much softer and more soulful than the distorted and fuzzy guitars found in rock and metal bands. However, don’t let that trick you into thinking that Steve Lacy isn’t up for experimenting – across his vast portfolio, you can hear a wide range of effects, usually being used in a psychedelic manner.
From modulation effects such as flangers and phasers to delays, echos, reverbs, and more, Steve Lacy is no stranger to guitar effects pedals. In terms of the tone itself, I generally find that Lacy tends to focus on chords with brief licks and flourishes, as opposed to high-pitched solos and rapid riffs.
For this reason, he tends to stick to a more mid and low-frequency heavy tone, with far less emphasis on the high end. He does of course switch pickups, adjust his tonal controls, and fiddle with his effects pedals to achieve different tones in live performances, but in general, he sticks to a warm and oaky timbre.
Steve Lacy’s Guitar Gear
Now that we’ve taken a brief look at the history of Steve Lacy, the wonderful things he has achieved, and his sonic profile, let’s take a more detailed list of exactly how he pulls this off. We’re going to be talking about amps, guitar effects pedals, and most importantly, guitars!
Steve Lacy’s Guitars
Any guitarist will tell you that there are a ton of different contributing factors to a guitar tone – there are the amps, the effects pedals, the P.A systems, and even smaller things such as the cables and plectrums. However, any guitarist will tell you that the number one contributing factor to tone that simply cannot be compromised upon is the guitar itself. So, let’s take a look at the guitar collection of Steve Lacy to get to the bottom of how he achieves the wonderful sounds that he does.
The first guitar on this list of Steve Lacy’s guitars is a personal favorite of mine – the Fender Squier Classic Vibe Strat 60’s. This top-shelf guitar features an excellent build quality, solid materials, reliable electronics, and a fantastically vintage vibe, so it’s no surprise that Steve Lacy chose this guitar amongst others. It’s also undeniable that Fender has an incredible reputation for producing 10/10 guitars consistently, and it’s great to see guitarists such as lacy recognize this.
Whilst Lacy has never officially come out to claim that he has used this guitar, it’s pretty clear that he has due to the artwork of his single “Dark Red”. On this single cover, Lacy can be seen crouching on one knee whilst holding this guitar in a way that makes it seem very special to him. It’s a classic guitar, and you simply cannot beat it for R&B tones.
- Fender’s brand reputation is second to none
- The Squier Classic Vibe Strat 60’s has a vibe that perfectly suits R&B styles
- Excellent build quality and reliable electronics
- A very reasonable price
- Whilst this guitar suits R&B and soul perfectly, it would probably stand out a bit strangely in a rock or metal concert
The last Squier guitar that I mentioned was a very humble purchase from Steve Lacy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of his first guitars considering the price. However, after the fame that OFWGKTA brought The Internet, Lacy and crew came into some decent money, so it’s not surprising that he purchased a Rickenbacker 330 Electric Guitar. It’s undeniable that this guitar is pretty darn pricey coming in at at least $4,000, but its features make it stand out massively.
For starters, the body style is very similar to something that Prince would play, and I wonder whether this was exactly the reason that Lacy intended to represent considering their stylistic crossovers. The frets have been known to feel like no other guitar allowing fingers to glide across them with unmatched smoothness, and the warm tones fit R&B styles perfectly.
It’s clear from this guitar that whilst Steve Lacy does produce all of his music on a portable and budget setup (more on this later), he recognized the importance of spending money on a guitar that has a standout tone. I love that.
- A truly stunning guitar body that reminds me of the custom guitars of Prince
- Perfect tones for R&B music
- Frets that supposedly feel frictionless and an absolute pleasure to navigate
- The price is simply unaffordable to the average guitar player
It can often be difficult to source the exact guitars that a musician records and performs with, but occasionally a gem will come out that reveals all. A classic example of this is the Fender Spotlight Youtube channel’s video on Steve Lacy, specifically showcasing his use of the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster.
Have a quick watch of this video and you will quickly see that this isn’t just a sponsored advertisement with product placement – Steve Lacy seems completely at one with this stunning guitar. He states in the interview that it felt completely natural to pick up, and this is interesting as it is exactly what Fender set out to do with this guitar – not only create something with a balanced yet versatile tone but a guitar that was comfortable and facilitated natural music flow.
Lacy is clearly a fan of Fender guitars, but it would appear that he has a particular soft spot for this American Profession II Strat.
- Sometimes you just cannot beat a classic Stratocaster
- The American Profession series is designed specifically to provide intuitive play and comfort
- Balanced yet versatile sonic profile
- Whilst the price isn’t insanely high, $1,500+ is still a lot for
beginneror even intermediate guitarists to spend
Steve Lacy’s ability to write R&B classics is impressive enough as it is, let alone his fantastic guitar playing skills. However, as if this wasn’t enough, the guitarist is also an exceptional bass guitarist, although he is very modest about it. Believe it or not, he played the bass across the entirety of his debut album “Apollo XXI”, not even recruiting help from one of the many musical friends in his social circle.
For this album, Lacy used a truly interesting bass guitar – the Fender Limited Edition Adam Clayton Precision Bass. This is yet another example of the guitarist’s love for Fender guitars, and another sign that he’s not afraid to splash the cash for a truly impressive tone. It’s punchy and clean, and I’ve heard it’s an absolute pleasure to play. He even performed basslines on this bass guitar for a few songs on his debut tour. What a multi-instrumental legend!
- Another example of Fender smashing the ball out of the park with a beautiful guitar
- Impressively punchy bass tones
- Expensive yet not overpriced in the slightest
- Used for the bass recordings across the entirety of “Apollo XXI”
Steve Lacy’s Studio Equipment
When analyzing the guitar gear of a guitarist, I would normally start by discussing the guitars, then move on to the amplifiers and guitar pedals. I will certainly be covering these elements shortly, but for Steve Lacy, I’ve decided to make an exception and move straight on to his studio equipment.
This might seem unusual, but the reason I am doing this is that it is a truly unique setup that I have not come across ever before. We’ll take a look at the details now, but to summarize it, it’s a fully portable, minimal, and LoFi approach.
Audio Interface: The iRig Pro
If you’re reading this as a music producer, you should already know all about audio interfaces. They are small pieces of hardware that allow you to connect instruments and microphones to your laptop or desktop computer, facilitating professional recording sessions.
These are typically something such as a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 or an Onyx Blackjack, and they plug straight into computers via a USB port. However, Steve Lacy is no normal music producer – he recognizes the value of portability and convenience over professional standards, deciding to record his guitar, bass, and other instruments directly into his iPhone.
He achieves this through a bit of kit called the Apple iRig Pro – it’s a tiny audio interface that connects straight to his phone, allowing him to record guitar chord sequences, licks, basslines, vocals, and just about anything else he wants to record. This is crazy – it means that he could be recording on an airplane, a hotel room…. Literally anywhere!
I have massive respect for this choice, it gives him a ton of flexibility and helps to destroy the expectations that you must spend thousands of dollars as a producer. Fair play!
- Fits directly into an iPhone, allowing you to record guitar parts anywhere
- Tiny, making it highly portable – it can fit in your pocket
- Inexpensive, helping guitarists on even the tightest budget to make tunes
- Steve Lacy pulls this iRig Pro off perfectly, but for most producers, it won’t have enough features or functionality for professional recordings
I’ll be moving back to guitar amplifiers and effects pedals in a moment, but for now, let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that Steve Lacy is known for using GarageBand as a DAW. Again, for any producers out there, this will seem crazy. GarageBand is a basic, user-friendly DAW that comes free with Apple computers, and most producers won’t use it for any longer than a few hours before searching for something more advanced such as Ableton, Logic, or Pro Tools.
However, Lacy has been known to stick to using his iRig Pro for recordings, exporting these files to his Mac, and putting together songs in Garageband.
Once again, this is bonkers… it’s strange to even describe GarageBand as a DAW as it’s so basic, so the fact that Steve Lacy uses it as his professional composition tool is crazy. Fair play though – it just goes to show that it’s not the tools that you use, but the way that you use them. It’s a very similar situation to how some of the best-ever guitarists had cheap and broken guitars to learn on. If you have true talent, it will shine through whatever gear or software you use, and perhaps you will even thrive on its simplicity.
- Incredibly simple software to use
- Comes free with any Apple computer
- Despite its simplicity, it’s capable of producing bangers, as shown by Lacy
- Crazy simple in comparison to just about every other DAW out there
Steve Lacy’s Amplifiers
After that quick detour to the studio equipment of Steve Lacy, let’s dive back into the guitar-specific gear. Steve Lacy could use any guitar in the world, but nothing would be of use without a top-notch amplifier! Sure, he could plug straight into his iRig Pro and record his guitar raw, but if you’ve ever tried to do that with a regular audio interface, you’ll know it just doesn’t sound right – you need a proper preamp.
You may have noticed already that Lacy is a huge fan of Fender gear, and his amplifiers are no exception to this preference. Firstly, there are several video recordings of Steve Lacy using a Fender Frontman 25R, including the music video for The Internet’s “Smile More” and various studio sessions.
It’s a wicked combo guitar amplifier, and quite humble too – nothing too fancy. He’s also been spotted using the Fender ’65 Twin Reverb amp in a couple of Instagram posts – I prefer this amp personally to the Frontman, but the prevalence of the Frontman would suggest that Lacy thinks otherwise.
The only other amplifier that I can say for certain Steve Lacy uses is the classic Orange Rockerverb MKII 100-Watt Tube Guitar Amp Head. I’m a massive fan of Orange amps for their class tone and unique aesthetic, they simply pair up so nicely with almost any cabinet I have tried. So, it’s unsurprising that Lacy used it during his first solo performance at the Soulection Experience – what a fantastic amp to start things off with!
Steve Lacy’s Guitar Effects Pedals
We’ve covered the guitars, the amps, and the studio equipment of Steve Lacy, so the only thing left to mention is the guitar effects pedals that he uses. Being a producer as well as a guitarist, Lacy pulls off most of his effects and tone tweaks through plugins and VSTS in DAWs such as Garageband. However, when it comes to live performances, he has been seen using a couple of pedals.
The most commonly used pedal that I have seen Lacy use is the Boss ME-80 Guitar Multiple Effects pedal board. This makes a lot of sense, as Lacy uses a ton of different modulation effects, reverbs, delays, and other psychedelic yet subtle effects in his music, and it would be a pain for him to have to lug a ton of pedals to each performance. Whilst many people diss multi-effects pedals such as this, I think it’s just snobbery.
This pedal board has a ton of different powerful effects and allows guitarists to stack up to four effects at once – that works wonders for Steve Lacy’s style, allowing him to apply reverb and delay to a tone-tweaked and modulated guitar sound. That’s just one combination I can think of, but I’m sure he has many more use-cases.
The only other pedal that I have seen Lacy use frequently is the Boss DD-7 Digital Delay, and if you’ve used this pedal, you’ll know why he uses it. I know I said that multi-effects pedals can be more than sufficient, but sometimes they just don’t cut the biscuit when it comes to specialized effects. I’ve come across this problem many times as a guitarist, and it always seems to be Boss that fills the void. You just cannot beat a simple yet effective delay pedal such as this!
Well, that’s everything I have to say about Steve Lacy’s guitars and gear! We covered a ton of information, so let’s finish things up with a quick FAQ to summarise the key information points.
Question: What is Steve Lacy’s Favourite Guitar Brand?
Answer: Steve Lacy owns a ton of different guitars, but he favors Fender guitars such as the Fender Squier Classic Vibe Strat ’60s, the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster, and the Fender Limited Edition Adam Clayton Precision Bass Guitar.
Question: What Studio Setup Does Steve Lacy Have?
Answer: Whilst Steve Lacy generally works in professional studios these days, he has been known to use an iRig Pro as an audio interface, routing it straight into Apple’s Garageband!
Question: What Is Steve Lacy’s Favourite Effects Pedal?
Answer: Whilst the producer generally relies on plugins and VSTs for his guitar effects, he is known to be a fan of the classic Boss ME-80 Guitar Multiple Effects pedals.
That brings us to the end of this guide to Steve Lacy’s guitars and gear! I hope that you now have a better understanding of how this epic guitarist achieves his fantastic soulful sound profiles. If you’re a fan of Lacy, I’d highly recommend you check out some of this kit for inspiration, but don’t forget to apply your own twist to his setup as his setup stands out simply because it’s so individual. Good luck!