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.

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Cartoon Stars Who Also Rock

Even if you’ve dedicated your life to the rock, chances are that most of us still need a day job. For some that means guitar teaching. For others it’s working in a studio, or as a luthier, or in a guitar store. But while most of us clock on, sit at a computer and zone out for eight hours while we daydreaming of riffs and picks, a select few musos clock on in the wonderful world of animation. As a kid who obsessed over both guitars and cartoons, I can think of no cooler double life than that. And here are six fortunate folks who have lived that double life.


Some of us know Billy West as the voice of Phillip J Fry and Zap Brannigan on Futurama. Others know him as Ren (and occasionally Stimpy). Others still know him as the red M&M. And my four-year-old knows him as the voice of Ellyvan, the blue elephant with wheels on Jungle Junction. West is also an accomplished guitarist, leading a band called Billy West and The Grief Counselors, and if you listen to the commentary tracks on the Futurama DVDs, you might catch him sneaking in some guitar-related trivia (including complimenting the animators on the hand-sync of a scene involving psychedelic folk troubadour Donovan). Check out this video of West talking about his various voices – Fry, Hubert Farnsworth, Dr Zoidberg – and groove on one of my personal favourite Fry moments here.

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NEWS: New Jane’s Addiction song for download

Head on over to Jane’s Addiction’s website to download a new song by signing up to their mailing list. The track is the final mix of “End To The Lies” from their forthcoming album The Great Escape Artist. The album will be released in August. Playing bass on the album is Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio. Duff McKagan was with the band for a while and helped write some stuff for the new album but it didn’t work out and Duff’s about to release a new album by his band Loaded.