NEWS: Dave Mustaine cuts his hair!

In news sure to shake the metal world to its very core and cause small children to cling tearfully to their mothers, as their mothers cling frantically to the nearest traffic sign to steady themselves from collapsing in a heap, Dave Mustaine has posted on the official Megadeth forum that he has CUT OFF HIS HAIR.

Here’s an excerpt from the post. CLICK HERE to read the rest (you must be registered to see the forums though).

I have decided to get my hair cut in Scotland!

I guess there isn’t much to shaving your head, but I am afraid to get my haircut away from my regular stylist. However, I found a great shop in Glasgow. Right now, I imagine all of that hair sitting piled up on a strange floor in Scotland. If you live here in Glasgow, go check it out and ask for Derrick!

C-ya tomorrow (really since there is no bangs in my face anymore).

On the left is an artist’s impression of what Dave might look like with short hair. I for one applaud Dave’s new look and I’m sure he’ll do a great job replacing Leno on the Tonight Show from June 1.

LESSON: How to sound like Andy Summers

Recently packing out enormodomes for the Police reunion shows, Andy Summers has done it all, from 60s psychedelia to 70s punk, to fusion and jazz. Those who caught Summers on his 2000 jazz trio tour like I did (with Toss Panos from Mike Keneally’s Beer For Dolphins on drums, woo!) would have seen him playing dizzyingly complex lines on a Gibson ES-335, but as great as his jazz skills may be, he’s held in the most high esteem for his classic work with The Police.

There was some controversy over Summers’ tone when The Police first surfaced. At the time, Eddie Van Halen was revolutionising the guitar by cranking a Marshall and playing guitars fitting with just a single humbucker and a volume pot, with the occasional effect thrown in, usually just to emphasise a few notes in a passage (like the flanger sweeps in ‘Unchained.’ Summers, in comparison, was criticised by some corners of the guitar community, including Van Halen himself, for just playing “Flangy chords” (a criticism EVH would later retract in admitting he was influenced by Summers on the Van Halen III track, “Dirty Water Dog”).

Throughout his time in The Police, Andy Summers’ most visible guitar was a 1961 Fender Telecaster with an alder body and maple neck, although he also played a Fender Stratocaster and a variety of Hamers. The guitar was heavily modified when Summers bought it in the early 70s. Modifications included a high output humbucker in the neck; a brass bridge plat and bridge saddles; an inbuilt preamp and overdrive; a phase switch; and Schaller tuners. The bridge pickup was mounted directly into the body instead of to the bridge plate, a modification which some believe adds more fullness, resonance and sustain to the tone.

Summers used Marshall half stacks, despite being a predominantly distortion-free player. The added toughness of a cranked but still clean Marshall allowed his sound to cut through the mix in a way unattainable with a pristine, hi-fi sounding rig.

For effects, Summers favoured Echoplex tape delays, and a variety of chorus, delay and flanger pedals. To attain a Summers-like tone for yourself, try running single coil pickups on individual settings for the sharper stuff like “Roxanne” and “Bed’s Too Big Without You,” or in combinations for that zingy “Walking on the Moon” tone. Try to retain some edge and toughness – don’t let the tone get too pretty. Keep your amp’s preamp gain low but don’t be afraid of the power valve overdrive created by cranking the amp. One way of keeping the sound from being too ‘nice’ is by using the chorus and flanger into the amp’s input, whereas traditionally they might go in an effects loop or towards the end of a signal chain into a very clean tone.

If you’re working with a modelling device, make sure you select models of tape echo, Marshall Plexi, and more analog styles of chorus rather than more electronic-sounding ones. If you can move effects within the signal chain (either in a modeller or with real pedals), try the chorus as the first effect, perhaps even into an overdrive pedal with the gain control turned right down and just used as a tone shaping device. Also try some light compression – I prefer the MXR Dyna Comp but there are other more transparent models out there too.

CLICK HERE to buy Andy Summers music on eMusic.

CLICK HERE to buy the Line 6 MM4 Modulation guitar effects pedal from Musician’s Friend for $249.99.

CLICK HERE to search for Fender Telecasters on eBay.

This article originally appeared in Mixdown magazine.

FEATURE: Metal 101 – face-melting guitar tones

There’s nothing more satisfying in the world of guitar than chugging out a heavy, doomy riff with the tone of the gods. But there are so many variations of the metal guitar tone – where to start?

Let’s have a look at a trio different styles of metal, and how the music influences the general setup.

CLASSIC METAL Chances are, if you’re playing less distortion-drenched heavy rock, or metal with a bit of a 70s twist, the sound you’re hearing in your head is a Gibson Les Paul and Marshall stack. This kind of rig can be assembled on a budget, but if you spend big money you’ll probably feel better about yourself, and bragging rights are fun.

For this kind of tone, it’s more about the impact of the note than the level of distortion. Try keeping the gain at moderate levels rather than boosting the hell out of it, and maybe jack your guitar strings up a few millimetres. This will add bottom end to the tone and allow you to really dig in. All that extra wallop will make for a crushing, crunchy, natural metal tone. It’s important to let the sound breathe, as this type of music has a lot more open space than later, ‘chuggachugga’ metal, so don’t go overboard on the preamp or pedal distortion. Some is good, a lot is too much. Crank your amp to get that punch and grind.

THRASH Good old thrash. Oh that it were 1987 again. The main feature of this sound is that scooped mid, tightly compressed tone perfected on Metallica’s Master of Puppets album. To get this sound, try an EMG active pickup (the ‘81’ model is a good place to start), run it into an amp with the midrange turned down, and try using higher wattage speakers which won’t distort easily – let the distortion come from the amp and/or pedals rather than the speakers so you can maintain the bass frequencies so important to this sound. To get the perfect level of distortion, start with turning your gain all the way up, start chugging out on the open E string, and slowly dial the gain back until you find the sweet spot where there’s still a good amount of edge, but that fizzy sizzle between notes disappears. Also, try running rackmounted compressor and BBE Sonic Maximizer units in the amp’s effects loop to get that superior chug.

The technique is just as important as the gear for a classic thrash sound, so don’t be shy to pile on the palm muting, and pepper your playing with lots of little grace notes, slides, percussive chugs, and other fun and demonic stuff like that.

DIMEBAG The late great Dime deserves a section all by himself. His distinctive tone was the end result of a whole bunch of elements but aspects of his sound can be achieved with relative ease and a handful of bucks. 

Dime favoured Bill Lawrence pickups early in his career before moving on to Seymour Duncan, with whom he designed the Dimebucker pickup. If you don’t have access to either of these, any high output pickup will do, or you can try to cheat and raise your pickup as close to the strings as you can without it getting in the way of the string’s vibration.

True Dime tone can only be achieved by scooping the heck out of the midrange. The best way to do this is with a graphic EQ in the effects loop, set for a harsh “V” curve. Next, run the EQ into a noise gate to tighten up those power metal stop-start rhythms. Again, high efficiency speakers will help transfer more of that glorious low end. Dime always had his tech turn off the noise gate when he played a solo, so keep that in mind so you don’t end up chopping off the sustain of longer notes while you’re wailing away.

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