NEWS: Mixdown issue 181 out now

If you’re in Australia, get to your nearest musical instrument store, studio, CD store or wherever you find Mixdown (for me it’s my local Blockbuster but I digress) and check out issue 181. As well as my ‘Unleash Your Inner Rock God’ and ‘What’s That Sound? – Tony Iommi’ columns, this issue has my reviews of:

Sterling by Music Man AX20
Sterling by Music Man Silo20
Schecter Hellraiser Solo-6
Schecter Classic Solo-6
Randall G3 amp
Ampeg J-20 amp

There’s also a great interview with former Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler, who is heading to Australia to do some drum clinics for Allans Music.

NEWS: I Heart Guitar mentioned in Premier Guitar Magazine

The May 2009 edition of Premier Guitar is out now (you can see it online here) and I Heart Guitar and Guitar Noize both scored mentions in an article about Twitter on page 42.

Follow I Heart Guitar on Twitter! For more on Twitter, check out this great article on Jason Shadrick’s guitar blog, another Twitterer mentioned in the Premier Guitar story.

As many of you probably know I write for a few magazines here in Australia – Mixdown (where I also have an instructional column called Unleash Your Inner Rock God), Australian Guitar, and Australian Musician Magazine – but this is the first time I’ve seen my name in an American magazine, unless you count the time Guitar Player printed my letter about a million years ago, hehe. So I’m hella excited. Thanks Premier Guitar!

Premier Guitar’s email newsletter sums up the new issue perfectly, so here’s what they said:

Welcome to the May issue of Premier Guitar! We’re bringing you a genuine ‘plexi fest’ this month with our exploration of that classic Marshall JTM45 tone via an original (1965!), a reissue and five boutique brands that pay tribute in their own way. We also have interviews with Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham and jazz maestro Martin Taylor. The issue is also packed with a tone-dripping array of reviews—Louder & More, Genz Benz, Michael Tobias Designs and Xotic, to name a few. Plus, some of you have asked us to throw a little more of the less expensive gear into the mix so we’re responding with reviews of an Atomic Guitar Works STD1 ($895), a Danelectro Dead On ’67 ($399), an Eastwood Airline Tuxedo ($849) and Fender’s Road Worn Series ($949).

NEWS: Taylor Guitars Road Show dates

I’ve had a bit of a guitar-crush on Taylor since reviewing a SolidBody Koa for Mixdown Magazine last year, and of course their acoustics have always been great. But man, that SolidBody was something else. Unfortunately the Taylor Guitars Road Show isn’t coming to Australia, so if anyone reading this happens to go, please let me know how it was, so I can live vicariously through you.

Here’s the press release:

Taylor Guitars Kicks Off Third Year of Popular Road Shows

EL CAJON, Calif. – February 10, 2009 – In response to requests from guitar players around the world, Taylor Guitars is poised to bring its award-winning Taylor Guitars Road Show to dealerships across the U.S. and abroad in 2009.

Now in its third year, the Taylor Guitars Road Show is a guitar lover’s dream: a fun, lively in-store gathering that brings enthusiasts together with Taylor clinicians and experts straight from the company’s factory in El Cajon, California. At each Road Show, the Taylor Road Show team shares insights on the company’s guitar making process, including an informative demonstration on how body shapes and woods affect tone. After the demonstration, players are invited to take part in the show’s most popular feature, the “Petting Zoo”: an opportunity to pick up and play a variety of different models, as well as rare and custom Build to Order models. Admission to each Road Show is free.

At select locations, a special Electric Road Show will highlight Taylor’s award-winning electric lineup, including the new and much-raved-about T3 and T3/B, the ever-popular Taylor SolidBody, as well as the versatile, number-one-selling electric/acoustic hollowbody, the T5. Attendees will also have the chance to explore Taylor’s line of acoustic guitars.

The 2009 Road Show tour will kick off in March with multiple dates in California and Oklahoma, as well as an East Coast swing with special stops in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Each Road Show attendee will receive a complimentary copy of Premier Guitar magazine ( and while supplies last, TaylorWare gear and Elixir® strings. Attendees will have the chance to enter to win the grand prize, an opportunity to build their own custom guitar through Taylor’s Build To Order program.

In 2008, Taylor brought the Road Show to over 146 locations throughout the U.S., Germany and England. The Taylor Guitars Road Show was awarded the 2008 Supplier Excellence Award from Music Inc. magazine in the category of Events for putting “the excitement of the company’s factory tours into retail dealers across the country.”

For more information on Road Shows dates and locations, please visit the official Taylor Guitars Road Show calendar at

CLICK HERE to buy the Taylor SolidBody Standard Electric Guitar Cherry Sunburst (pictured above) from Guitar Center for $1,799.

NAMM 2009: N-Tune Artist Series

A few months ago I reviewed a Legacy Diamond model guitar for Mixdown Magazine, and it came with a very cool feature I hadn’t seen before: an N-Tune on-board chromatic tuner built into one of the volume pots.

This is such a great idea that I can’t believe it’s not standard equipment on most guitars. However, for any players who find the display a little hard to see because their picking hand gets in the way, N-Tune has introduced the Artist Series (endorsed by Ben Bridwell and Band of Horses), which takes the same basic technology and places it within a toggle switch instead. That keeps it much more within your eyeline when tuning, and you don’t have to keep lifting up your hand to check it when making minute adjustments.

Here’s their press release.

Zero Crossing Inc, makers of the innovative N-Tune on-board chromatic guitar and bass tuner, is proud to announce the addition of a special “Artist Series” Edition onboard tuner into its aftermarket product line. This model, previously only available to professional artists and through direct sales to manufacturers, will now be available to the general public through authorized retail outlets.

The new “Artist Series” on-board tuner offers a highly accurate, low profile design, which fits perfectly around a standard three-way toggle switch (rather than beneath the volume or tone knob, like the regular N-Tune models). The kit includes both black and creme colored tuning rings, a specially designed 3-way toggle switch, and a 500k potentiometer that can be easily installed with standard soldering tools. The “Artist Series” onboard tuner retails for $100.00.

N-Tune has chosen lead singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell of the group “Band of Horses”, as its first featured artist. “The N-Tune tuner is amazing!” said Bridwell. “I can easily get back in tune mid-song if something gets knocked out of tune on stage during a performance. It puts tuning convenience at my fingertips anytime, anywhere. I am thrilled to be working with N-Tune as its introductory artist to launch this terrific product.”

We are thrilled to have Ben as the first artist to represent our new Artist Series version of N-Tune,” explained Zero Crossing Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Philip C. Sudore. “Ben’s guitar playing is very unique and innovative.”

For more about Ben Bridwell and Band of Horses, go to:

For more information, visit their web site at

CLICK HERE to buy the N-Tune Onboard Chromatic Electric Guitar Tuner Fender Style from Musician’s Friend.

FEATURE: How to sound like Muse

This is another in my series of ‘How To Sound Like…’ columns from Mixdown Magazine. These columns are fairly general, to give tips on how to get a particular sound without necessarily buying the same gear as a particular player or band.

Muse’s Matt Bellamy is a renowned gadget tweaker, and his custom Manson guitars are filled with all sorts of goodies, including Z Vex Fuzz Factory pedals, MIDI controllers for Digitech Whammy Pedals, Ibanez Edge Pro floating bridges, and all sorts of other mischievous machines of mayhem. Yet despite all the exclusive gadgetry, there are ways of copping the essence of Bellamy’s tone without buying up a whole guitar store effects department and shoehorning it into a boutique custom made axe.

One way of getting Matt’s sound is to use several cascading medium gain stages, rather than one ultra-distorted sound from just an amp or just a pedal. Try plugging an overdrive or distortion pedal into a valve amp, and set the gain or drive controls on each to around halfway. If your pedal has a single tone control, see what happens when you sweep it from minimum to maximum setting. You may hear a sound which is almost like a phaser, as the pedal’s tone clashes with that of the amp, especially towards the higher end of the tone control’s travel. Sometimes this can yield some really cool new sounds, but they may be a bit too grating for a full song, and are best used for effect. Back down around 9 o’clock or so on the pedal’s tone control, there often lurks a sweep spot which enhances midrange while taming treble ever so slightly, and makes the overall sound more complex, thick and reactive. You might even like to try adding a compressor or using several distortion or overdrive pedals at once, all at lower gain settings.

Bellamy is not shy about cranking the midrange to emphasise a solo or melodic section, such as that snaking melody in “Plug In Baby.” One way of doing this is to use a graphic or parametric equalizer. Another, far cheaper way is to simply turn your guitar’s tone knob all the way down. With a clean sound, this will usually just muffle the tone. With a distorted one, you’ll get a round ‘honk’ which almost sounds like a wah wah pedal left in a stationary position. The effect is even more powerful if you’re using a Strat-style guitar with a separate tone control for the middle pickup. Combining the wide open bridge pickup with a tone-tweaked middle pickup retains the high end and pick attack while still giving you that bold, vocal midrange quality, and can make it sound like the guitar is feeding back, but completely controllable.

As for the whammy pedal freakouts, you can either fork out for a Whammy pedal, or you can simulate the effect by wearing a ring or one of those tiny half-sized slides on one of your picking hand fingers, and whizzing it up and down the strings. With a little patience you’ll be able to play melodies and accurately drop down on pitches which would be otherwise out of the range of a regular guitar.

FEATURE: How to sound like Metallica

The new Metallica album, Death Magnetic, is out and depending on your point of view it’s either the best thing they’ve done since the black album, or the worst thing they’ve done since St Anger. Let’s look back at some of Metallica’s classic rhythm tones and how to get them without raiding the bank.

For this era of the band’s tone, try a Marshall-style amp with a goodly amount of power valve distortion. Passive pickups and a mahogany bodied guitar will get you close (and if you’re after the higher gain Ride The Lightning tone, add an overdrive pedal with the treble reduced slightly), and don’t go overboard with reducing the midrange: in those days there was still a bit of upper midrange crunch to the tone. Of course, one of the most important things to consider is picking technique. Most of the time, James Hetfield picks with solid downstrokes (unless it’s the fast triplet stuff), and there’s an art to striking the perfect balance between pick attack, palm muting, and fretting hand phrasing.

For this tone, scoop the hell out of the midrange and run a compressor in your effect loop. James multi-tracked the rhythm guitars so if you’re really dedicated to nailing that sound but you’re only one guitarist, take this into account. Set up a stereo rig if you can, and add light chorus or a slight pitch shift detune effect. Even a very quick delay will do if that’s all you have available.

This tone is similar to Master of Puppets, but is tigher, sharper and way more compressed at the mixing desk. I’ve had good results running a BBE Stinger pedal (which is no longer made, but the Sonic Stomp is similar) in the effects loop to separate the bass and treble frequencies a little more. There’s also a bit of upper midrange bark in there (despite the scooped midrange at the amp), which was probably added at the mixing desk.

For this sound, active pickups and a chunky tone are in order, but don’t go overboard on the distortion. While there is a decent amount of gain present, if you pile on too much you’ll lose definition and power on riffs like ‘Through The Never’ and ‘Of Wolf and Man.’ There’s heaps of overdubbage on this album, so the same ‘Master of Puppets’ effect tricks apply here.

The tone on these albums is more like an evolution of the Kill ‘Em All era tone, but recorded better. The level of gain is a little reduced compared to the black album, and the midrange creeps back up. James and Kirk both played rhythm guitar on these albums, unlike most of the earlier albums where James tended to record all the rhythm guitars. Try passive pickups for some extra warmth – something more vintage-style rather than top metal guitars.

Really? Ok. High gain and lots of it. Town-tune and just kinda flail away. Save your energy for the next album.

On Death Magnetic, Justice-style compression meets black album grind, but without the hi-fi chorusing effect created by the latter’s severe multitracking. Once again the gain isn’t as high as it might initially sound, because those notes really need punch and power. The treble is reduced a little bit to more Load-like levels and the midrange sits somewhere around 9 o’clock on the dial. Like the first 5 albums, this one depends a lot on pick attack, so if your technique isn’t up to scratch, it might pay to run some picking drills because no matter how close the tone is, you won’t sound like Metallica unless you play like Metallica.

Photo: Ross Halfin

NEWS: Mixdown 176 out now

Just a heads-up, Mixdown 176 is out now here in Australia, featuring my interviews with Michael Angelo Batio and Erik Mongrain, as well as reviews of the Krank Krankenstein + and Revolution +, Fishman Loudbox, and a bunch of Roger Mayer pedals.

There’s also my ‘Unleash Your Inner Rock God’ instructional column, and an article on how to sound like Tool’s Adam Jones.
There are also interviews with Yngwie Malmsteen and Adrian Belew, but I didn’t do those. Dammit.