So you’ve put in your hours, practiced hard, repeated your licks a dozen and one time, yet somehow you still aren’t satisfied with your playing? Believe it or not, the problem could simply be your tone.
As we develop as guitarists, our ears change. This causes us to hear things differently. Licks which we once thought sounded amazing start to sound boring. The bands we used to love now sound childish and juvenile.
A changing ear affects every aspect of your playing. So how can you get a heavy metal tone that will please your ear?
There are guitarists who spend years searching for that perfect tone. Sometimes it is a back and forth battle between amps. Sometimes it is a battle between pedals and pickups.
The first thing you should do is turn all of your guitar amp knobs to noon (pointing straight upwards.) This is known as a neutral tone. If you turned your volume knob to noon as well, you may want to get some ear plugs, or turn it down a bit. Make sure you have your guitar handy, as this will be all about trial and error.
Play an open power chord on your lower strings, and adjust your bass level, treble level, and middle level to taste. For more bite, you will want more mid and treble. For a fuller, deeper sound, you will want more bass. When adjusting your EQ, use minimal turns. This will ensure that you are adding minimal change to the tone, and give you a chance to hear the saturation of the amp.
Now there is another way to find a good heavy metal tone, but it is a bit more geared towards trained ears; listening to your favorite bands. If you envy a band’s tone, you may want to duplicate it.
To pick out their tone qualities, you will need a very good ear, as it will require you to pick up subtle differences, such as low and, high end, and middle range. This may sound like an easy task, but the bass is often mistaken for the middle, and the middle is often mistaken for the treble. It is hard to train your ear to pick out these differences in tone by simply hearing a disc.
We can, however, give you some tips based on different styles of heavy metal. Thrash bands tend to use something called scooped mids, which means that they take out nearly all of their mids on their amp, replacing them with bass and treble.
Progressive bands tend to lay off on distortion and favor a bit more bass with moderate mids and treble. Death metal bands tend to heavily distort their tones, scoop their mids, and blare their treble and bass to give an angry, piercing tone.
The most important thing to do when you find a tone you like is to write it down. Draw a chart and mark the setting, as you never know if one day, you may miss that exact tone. Be patient, and take a lot of breaks; your ear wears down after a while, so don’t push yourself to keep listening to tones all day long.
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