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In The Studio: Recreate The Setups Of Classic Guitar Gods

Dialing in that sought after sound

By Jon Chappell May 9, 2013

To acquire "The Recording Guitarist" from Backbeat Books, click over to www.musicdispatch.com.

Guitarists are constantly seeking their own sound or unique voice. However, producers often resort to giving instructions like, “Give me a raunchy blues sound à la Stevie Ray Vaughan,” rather than “Give me something wholly original that I’ve never imagined before.”

It’s not that producers are unimaginative or that they deliberately want to mimic another guitarist’s sound; it’s just that categorizing sounds saves a lot of time and gives you a point of departure.

Often you’ll hear producers requesting that a guitarist get an “early Van Halen sound,” or a “Hendrix rhythm sound à la ‘Little Wing,’” or a “Dimebag Darrell over-the-top-solid-state-distortion” sound.

These are perfectly legitimate requests, and will come as often as the ones involving instruments and amps—as in, “Give me that Les-Paulthrough- a-Marshall sound, will ya?”

With that in mind, here are the setups of 14 well-known guitarists, from slide master Sonny Landreth to neoclassical god Yngwie Malmsteen. Keep in mind that these are only guides to one guitarist’s particular sound.

This is not the only sound that a particular guitarist produces, but the one he has used for a significant portion of his recorded work, and the one we associate with his “classic” sound.

Dimebag Darrell
The late Dimebag Darrell was the poster boy for the heavy metal ethos, and never made any apologies for his piercing solid-state distortion sound.

Like Hendrix, Darrell went first into a wah pedal (either the Dunlop or the DigiTech were on, but not at the same time), and then into another pitch shifter (the PS-3) before hitting the gain-shaping distortion box, the Boss DS-2.

After going into an MXR pedal–based graphic EQ (set in a “V” shape, as all good metal guitarists do), Darrell passed his signal through a rack containing a parametric EQ (for any final tone shaping before the amp stage), an MXR Flanger/ Doubler (his only time-based effect), and then through the Rocktron Guitar Silencer as his noise gate.

Dimebad Darrell. Click to enlarge.

The gain on Darrell’s amp was rarely set to anything but 10, and the presence and bass were goosed while the treble and mids were cut, which kept the sound from becoming too brittle.

Kirk Hammett
The unique setup of Kirk Hammett’s wah pedals is the result of Metallica’s performing logistics.

The band usually sets up different “performing stations” when they play, and at various times during the concert they simply rotate around to the next area. But this presents a problem when you have to have access to your effects at all the various locations. So

Hammett devised a rig where the wah pedals act as mere controllers (allowing for longer low-impedance lines to run between them), while the brains of the wah sit in the rack offstage.

Kirk Hammett. Click to enlarge.

Hammett uses two preamps, the Marshall JMP-1 and the Mesa/Boogie TriAxis. These feed Mesa power amps, which drive three Boogie 4✕12 cabinets.

Hammett also uses a Mesa Dual Rectifier, but instead of relying on one head to drive three cabs (or employing three amp heads), he will load down the speaker out with a 300- watt speaker (which is buried offstage somewhere), while a load box takes the line-level signal and delivers that to the three power amps.

This has the effect of normalizing the amp output with the preamps’ output and gives a relatively consistent signal to all three tone-shaping devices.


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