Checking Out The Best Rock Mandolin Players of All Time

best rock mandolin players of all time

The guitar has made such a huge impact on all the genres. While it’s mostly associated with blues, rock, and especially metal music, it spread far into other territories of the music world.

However, is it also possible to base rock music, for instance, on some other string instruments?

No, we’re not talking about the bass guitar, but of some of the more “unconventional” choices here. The instrument in question is mandolin. And yes, it’s been used in rock music on several occasions.

rock mandolin

As you may already assume, it’s not exactly the first thing that comes to mind if we’re talking about rock music. This fine instrument goes a way back to the 18th century when it was slowly developed in Italy.

While there have been a few versions along the way, what we refer to mandolin now is actually Neapolitan mandolin. In modern music, it’s also referred to as American bluegrass mandolin, since it found a lot of use in bluegrass music.

The standard mandolin has a total of eight strings, four choruses of two strings, meaning that they’re all doubled with another string that’s exactly the same pitch. These choruses are then tuned in perfect fifths.

mandolin

Its peculiar tone is very fitting in genres like folk, bluegrass, sometimes even country music. But it’s interesting how the mandolin found its place in rock as well.

This is why we decided to go more into this topic and bring you the best mandolin players in this particular genre.

You just need to bear in mind that in almost all the cases these musicians are primarily guitar players and that mandolin was just a thing they decided to do on the side. So let’s dig in and explore it.


rayjackson-large

Ray Jackson

Lindsay Raymond “Ray” Jackson, mandolin and harmonica player extraordinaire, must make this list, if only for his contributions to Rod Stewart’s Every Picture Tells A Story, where he plays mandolin on the popular hit, Maggie May, not to mention Mandolins Wind, and Farewell, from the same album.

Oddly enough, his contributions to Every Picture Tells A Story are referenced in the following way: “The mandolin was played by the mandolin player in Lindisfarne. The name slips my mind.” Well, then!

And, there was some contention here, because even though Ray played the Maggie May’s popular hook, which he made up on the spot in the studio, he was only compensated for the session, which was at the time, only £15.

Speaking of Lindisfarne, this was Ray’s folk rock band which he formed in 1970, and left in 1990, which saw him doing co-lead vocals with Alan Hull, where he was nicknamed “Jacka”.

Ray also played mandolin on Jack the Lad’s third album Rough Diamonds, as well as on Chris de Burgh’s debut album Far Beyond These Castle Walls. 

The man is a consummate mandolin player, but the inescapable Maggie May will probably always be what he is best known for, despite the fact that he vamped it on the spot at the time.  Incredible!


tommy shaw mandolin

Tommy Shaw

Next, we take a look at a renowned musician from a classic rock band. Although not the founding member of Styx, Tommy Shaw has been one of the band’s crucial parts since the mid-1970s.

We’ve all heard his great guitar skills, vocals, as well as songwriting talents. However, Shaw is an extremely versatile musician and has played with other bands as well, including Damn Yankees and Shaw Blades.

We also got the chance to hear him do a few solo albums. And he’s also a skilled mandolin player as well.

Although not that often present in their music, Styx implemented this fine instrument in their legendary song “Boat on the River.” This is a true example of how mandolin can work in such settings.

In case you don’t think it fits rock music, just take a listen to the aforementioned hit and how it fits in. You’ll be surprised.


jimmy page mandolin

Jimmy Page

Of course, Jimmy Page is a musician who needs no further introduction.

Starting his career in the 1960s, he honed his craft by playing as a session musician. And this was far from a simple task back in those days, as resources were pretty limited and guitarists were supposed to deliver good stuff right there on the spot.

However, his creative side was not really developing there, so he eventually formed a band with Robert Plant, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones.

Led Zeppelin was not only one of the bands to pioneer heavy metal music, but they also heavily experimented with different elements.

Especially Jimmy Page who loved implementing some unexpected instruments. One of his choices was the mandolin, which he used in a piece like “The Battle of Evermore.”

What’s more, Page continued to express his love for this instrument during his other projects.

He even has a very special triple-neck acoustic guitar, with the top part acting like the mandolin. Now, that’s something different.


john paul jones mandolin

John Paul Jones

Although Jimmy Page is often thought of as the creative mastermind behind Zeppelin’s greatest riff, the massive multi-instrumental talent that is John Paul Jones cannot be ignored or underestimated.

Although Jimmy and Robert and especially John Bonham were clearly into the trappings of the rock star life and all of its side-effects, John Paul Jones was the most “modest” member of the band, casually adding new dimensions to the Zeppelin sound behind the scenes, including his amazing Mellotron and keyboard parts, not to mention mandolin.

He even sometimes played mandolin on The Battle of Evermore and sang Sandy Denny’s part.

Over the years, John Paul Jones guested in numerous bands, playing bass with a variety of artists back in the day, like Madeline Bell, Roy Harper, Wings, and later, Lenny Kravitz, Jars of Clay, and Foo Fighters.

Speaking of Foo Fighters, he played mandolin on two of their tracks from the In Your Honour album, “Miracle”, and “Another Round”.  He’s also played mandolin with Gillian Welch, and Uncle Earl, and all female bluegrass group.

Dave Grohl, also having joined up with John Paul Jones in Them Crooked Vultures, is a huge fan of the man, and attests to his brilliance any chance he gets.

Overall, it is clear that John Paul Jones is a mandolin player of note, and definitely worth putting on this list!


richie blackmore mandolin

Ritchie Blackmore

Surprisingly enough, his “rival” from Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore, is also very passionate about the mandolin.

Although a musician that was responsible for shaping heavy metal music, Blackmore too had a fascination with many other music genres.

After exploring his other passion, which is medieval music, he began implementing mandolin in a project like the Blackmore’s Night.

The group’s entire opus combines medieval, folk, and rock music into a very peculiar-sounding whole.

Yes, it does seem a bit weird to see a musician known for blowing up his equipment on stage playing this kind of instrument.

But don’t get fooled – Ritchie is as good on it as he is on guitar. This is exactly one of the best examples of his greatness as a musician and a performer.


peter buck mandolin

Peter Buck

R.E.M. started their career way back in the 1980s. However, it was sometime in the early 1990s when the band really blew up.

And although they’re mostly remembered for their vocalist Michael Stipe, all the other members have their important roles, both in the creative process and their overall sonic output.

Here, we will focus on their guitar player and one of the band’s creative forces, Mr. Peter Buck.

Unlike many other mentions on this list, Peter was way more focused on the mandolin compared to them. In fact, there are whole R.E.M. songs that revolve around this instrument.

The best and the most famous example is probably “Losing My Religion.”

Interestingly enough, the main riff was written by Peter when he was just fooling around on his mandolin.

At that point, this instrument was just a simple way to get him out of the same old routine with guitars.

But it eventually became one thing he’s very well known for, and that’s being a mandolinist in rock music.


mandolin ian anderson

Ian Anderson

It would be an understatement to say that Jethro Tull starter a real revolution in rock music.

The boundaries were pushed, and Ian Anderson led them into some intricate progressive waters, while also retaining some hard rock elements in there.

The band serves as an inspiration to musicians of all styles, even heavy metal. (They even got that unexpected Grammy Award for a metal album, but that’s a whole different story.)

Talking about Ian Anderson, he’s pretty much built his reputation as a flute player. He’s quite often remembered as that one guy who decided to play flute in a rock band.

However, this was not the only unconventional choice in his music career. The famous Scottish musician is a multi-instrumentalist, and one of his choices is a mandolin.


ry cooder with mandolin

Ry Cooder

Although not reaching the megastardom status as some other of his six-string-wielding colleagues, Ry Cooder is still remembered by the biggest guitar lovers out there.

What’s more, he showed his versatility as a musician by delving into so many different genres. What’s more, he’s also scored Wim Wenders’ 1984 film “Paris, Texas.”

But although his guitar skills are unprecedented, we’d like to point out that he’s also fairly experienced with a mandolin.

But his most famous work on this particular instrument comes from the late 1960s. Back then, he was working as a session musician.

And none other than The Rolling Stones invited him to do his parts on the “Let It Bleed” album. To be more precise, he did his parts on “Love in Vain” from the record.


david grisman

David Grisman

David Grisman comes as the only musician on this list that plays the mandolin as his primary instrument.

He’s one of the biggest names in this world, covering many different genres, including bluegrass, jazz, and folk.

However, he also worked with a few rock bands over the years, lending his talents on studio recordings.

One of his earliest bands was Earth Opera, which focused mostly on the psychedelic rock. However, he’s also known for joining in with Grateful Dead and their 1970 album “American Beauty.”

On it, he performed the mandolin for two tracks, “Friend of the Devil” and “Ripple.”


christopher thron of blind melon

Christopher Thorn

Blind Melon is a very unusual band that came out of that whole grunge and alternative rock movement that emerged in the early 1990s.

Although not achieving the same status as some other bands from the era, they still had some pretty great music to offer.

But, of course, our talk here is about the best mandolin players in rock music. In the mid-1990s,

Blind Melon recorded an album called “Soup” which was heavily inspired by traditional Dixieland jazz.

This is why they decided to include some other instruments in there. So their guitar player Christopher Thorn took up the task of playing mandolin and banjo.

And we gotta say, he really nailed it on this record.


jack white and his mandolin

Jack White

Wait, Jack White? Playing mandolin? That’s right.

While we all know Jack White as a guitar player with a very simple and effective approach to music, he’s also experimented with a lot of other styles and instruments over the years.

And he’s especially fond of his Black Gibson F-4 black mandolin that he implemented on occasion.

One of the examples is “Little Ghost” from The White Stripes’ “Get Behind Me Satan” album.

It’s really exciting to hear such a famous rock musician playing mandolin. Really mindblowing when you think of it.


levon helm mandolin

Levon Helm

You don’t often fund a musician that’s as energetic, creative, and innovative as Levon Helm. What’s more, he also became known for his work as an actor.

However, he’s mostly famous for being the drummer of the Canadian-American band cleverly named The Band.

But the thing about Levon, he was an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist. He was proficient on guitar, vocals, harmonica, and mandolin.

Of course, The Band was very innovative, with the members often trying out different instruments and other approaches.

When it comes to Levon, we can hear his great mandolin work on “Rag Mama Rag” from the group’s self-titled second album.


Rory_Gallagher_&_mandolin

Rory Gallagher

We could go on for days explaining the greatness of Rory Gallagher.

The legendary Irish musician made such a huge impact and has always been cited as the biggest influence, even by the almighty Gary Moore himself.

He was even called up by The Rolling Stones, but just ended up not taking the gig, being confident in his own solo career.

But what people don’t know is that the legendary blues-rock musician was also proficient on the mandolin, as well as a few other instruments.

On occasion, he also played it live, pushing the conventional boundaries of the genre.

A great example of his abilities to implement mandolin as a blues-rock instrument can be heard on “Going To My Hometown.”


Thanks for reading folks!  Did we miss anyone, let us know in the comments!

Also check out:

10 Famous Mandolin Rock Songs

5 Famous Female Mandolin Players

5 Famous Jazz Mandolin Players

Famous Users of Pro Co Rat Distortion Pedal

famous pro co rat users

If we were to look through the history of rock music, it wouldn’t take long for us to realize the importance of particular amps, pedals, or guitar models that made an impact on the genre.

What’s more, one particular piece of gear along with a random accidental decision can be responsible for a total revolution in a genre.

Such an example can be seen with the Rolling Stones and Keith Richard’s use of Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone on the legendary hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

And this wasn’t the only example of a simple compact pedal completely changing the genre.

There are a few great examples, like Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi, and Ibanez Tube Screamer, just to name a few.

But the one that we’re interested in here is the legendary Pro Co Rat.

Many guitar players like to side with one of the clans – overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

Each of these distortion types has its own distinctive clipping process, which results in a different type of tone.

However, Pro Co Rat sits somewhere close to the distortion, but still not that far from the fuzz territory.

We could say that it offers both brightness and chaos of the fuzz effect, while still keeping tightness we can hear with classic distortions.

Offering that unique-sounding heavy tone, it eventually became so widespread that guitarists of many different genres began using it.

But the pedal’s simple controls and special kind of tone mostly won the hearts of hard rock and heavy metal legends.

This is why we decided to take a closer look at the pedal’s history and see who used it over the past few decades or so.


pro co logo

History of the ProCo Rat

But before we begin, let’s find out more about how this pedal came to be and its different versions over the years.

The story begins in the late 1970s, right around the time when rock music was seeing some significant changes. Obviously, this was the perfect time for a new pedal to emerge.

Scott Burnham (pictured below, right), one of the employees in Pro Co, which was then a cable manufacturing company, always enjoyed modifying different distortion pedals.

craig vestal and scott burnham

After a while, he made a decision to try and create his original circuitry. This was a pretty lucrative idea at the time, as distortion pedals as we know them today weren’t that easy to find.

Interestingly enough, this peculiar circuitry came as a result of an accident – Scott added a wrong type of a resistor in there.

Luckily, the resulting tone was more powerful than anything he’d ever heard at that point. After playing around with this new circuitry, he finally came up with the name – the Rat.

Starting its production in 1978, the pedal saw a huge breakthrough in the 1980s.

There were a few different iterations of this original version, but the real change came in 1988 with the release of Rat 2.

About a year later, the company also released Turbo Rat, with a noticeably fuzzier tone.

Years went by and we got more and more different versions of the Rat. These pedals include Fat Rat, You Dirty Rat, Deucetone Rat, Solo Rat, and others.

Needless to say, its peculiar tone made it really popular among the famous guitar players in the 1980s, 1990s, and even in the 21st century.

But the most surprising thing about Rat is that it’s not expensive at all, making it a great choice for beginners or any other guitarists on a budget.

So let’s see – who are these famous guitar legends who used the Rat over the years?


jeff beck playing guitar

Jeff Beck

Ever since the 1960s, Jeff Beck remains up there as one of the most influential guitar players of all time.

But the secret behind his huge yet incredibly subtle tone is not due to some elaborate rig. No – Jeff just uses a Pro Co Rat pedal. Well, at least he did for a significant portion of his career.

Combined with some legendary amps that he uses, like Fender Bassman, Vox AC30, or any of the Marshalls he loves, it produces a really powerful tone.

After all, what else would you expect from such a pedal when it’s paired up with these tube-driven monsters?

Visit Jeff Beck’s official website


David-Gilmour playing guitar

David Gilmour

If you were to hear David Gilmour’s guitar tone for the first time in your life, you’d never assume that he would use a high gain distortion pedal.

However, he has quite a history of using some pretty heavy stuff, like Big Muff Pi, or even Boss’ HM-2 Heavy Metal that’s mostly known for its use in those more extreme genres.

Another one of these examples is Pro Co Rat.

To be more precise, Gilmour used the famous Rat 2 version. You could see this particular pedal model in his live rig, most notably for the legendary “Pulse” live album.

Knowing that his tone still retains some of the more refined and softer traits, this proves that Pro Co Rat is actually a very versatile pedal.

Which is really a surprise for a device that only has three basic controls. When put in the right rig, it can add that much-needed sustain and attack without ruining the warmth of the tone.

Visit the official David Gilmour website


robert fripp playing guitar

Robert Fripp

King Crimson’s creative force, Mr. Robert Fripp, is one of the most innovative musicians of the 20th century.

Although he’s a guitar player, it’s really hard to just look at him as a regular 6-string rock star.

In fact, he even reinvented the approach to the instrument with his technique, theoretical knowledge, and the practical implementation of both.

Interestingly enough, Fripp is a Pro Co Rat user.

But he’s also known for using EHX Big Muff Pi, so the accent on the overall sustain and “thicker” tones are something he’s very fond of.

And these are just some of the reasons why he inspired so many guitar players in metal music.

Visit Robert Fripp’s website here


john scofield playing guitar

John Scoffield

Looking more into the “old school” side of guitar-based music, we also have Mr. John Scoffield on this list. And this is yet another of these “unexpected” mentions.

Nonetheless, this, once again, proves how Pro Co Rat can be versatile. In many cases, this depends on the other pieces of gear, but Rat is capable of creating very unique tones in almost any setting. And having such flexibility is what makes one pedal so great.

So whenever you hear John Scoffield play with distortion on, there’s a high chance he’s using the almighty Rat.

And if you still haven’t gotten the chance to listen to Scoffield’s music, then you’re missing out a lot.

Visit John Scoffield’s website here


joe perry playing guitar

Joe Perry

Now going over to the classic rock and hard rock territory, we have Aerosmith’s main axeman and one of the Hollywood Undead members, Joe Perry.

Joe is pretty well-known for his extensive collection of many different guitars, amps, and other gear.

Some very valuable pieces can be found in his collection. But even with such a vast and impressive arsenal, he still often used a Pro Co Rat pedal in his signal chain.

This is one of those guitarists that that’s more expected to stumble upon on such a list.

After all, Perry is one of the guys who developed and defined hard rock and heavy metal music.

Therefore, Rat was an obvious choice for a distortion pedal back in the day.

Visit Joe Perry’s website here


james hetfield kirk hammett playing guitar

James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett

And there’s no surprise to see Metallica frontman James Hetfield and lead guitarist Kirk Hammett in here.

Pro Co Rat was an indicator that the music was changing. At the same time, Metallica were one of those bands who were actually changing the music with their unique approach to songwriting.

With the birth of a faster and heavier movement in metal music, a pedal like Rat is an expected choice.

After somewhat of a turbulent start, the band finally got the chance to enter the studio and record their debut album “Kill ‘Em All.”

In order to get that dirty tone that still retains all the tightness, James and Kirt used the Rat. And the results are more than impressive, we must say.

To this day, the album is praised for its innovativeness and especially its raw and powerful guitar tone.

Visit Metallica’s website here


kurt cobain guitar dress crown

Kurt Cobain

The late 1980s and the early 1990s saw another significant change in the world of rock music.

Slowly, but surely, the stereotypical songs about sex, partying, and other superficial issues were replaced with more serious topics reflecting on the society and an individual’s place in it.

And with such a different artistic approach also came the change in the guitar tone as well. It became darker, grittier, and more in the vein of early heavy metal from the 1970s.

However, both glam metal and grunge guitarists used the Rat, which just further proves that this pedal was extremely potent and versatile.

That’s exactly why a grunge legend and an impeccable songwriter like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain decided to use one of these.

Visit Nirvana’s website here


dave-grohl-guitar

Dave Grohl

Although first getting the spotlight as a drummer, Dave Grohl also became known as a great guitar player, singer, and songwriter.

And knowing he was in Nirvana with Kurt Cobain, it’s only obvious that he’ll use the same distortion pedal.

The somewhat fuzzy distorted tone of the heavy rhythm guitars you can hear on some of the Foo Fighters’ songs is actually due to Pro Co Rat.

As Dave himself explained, he uses this pedal when he’s layering rhythm guitar tracks in the studio. Knowing what Grohl’s music is like, this pedal is a perfect choice for it.

Visit the Foo Fighters website


nuno bettencourt playing guitar

Nuno Bettencourt

Emerging around the same time when the grunge movement started shaking up the world of rock music, Extreme kicked off their career as well.

Although doing something that’s a bit different compared to grunge, they too relied a lot on some heavier tones.

This is exactly why their lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt opted to use the Rat back in the band’s early days.

And even years later, Nuno still uses this legendary pedal. As he explains, he can’t go without a Rat when playing through any of his Marshall amps.

Just thinking of how awesome this particular combination is, we completely understand Nuno’s decision.

Visit Extreme’s website here


graham coxon guitar

Graham Coxon

Blur is one of those bands that blew up in the late 1990s thanks to just one hit song.

In their case, it was the legendary “Song #2,” featuring that easily recognizable riff by Graham Coxon.

Being their creative and sonic force, Coxon was really conscious of his guitar tone. In fact, he’s one of the biggest pedal freaks of all time.

And in his signal chain, he often uses the Rat as his main dirt box.

And if a pedal maniac such as Coxon loves this pedal so much, that just speaks about how great it is.

Visit Blur’s website here


peter buck playing guitar

Peter Buck

It’s a little weird to see R.E.M. and their guitar player Peter Buck on this list. While most of the guys in here are known for heavier tones one way or another, one wouldn’t think that about Buck.

Nonetheless, the famous musician really loves the tone of Pro Co Rat. One of the most famous examples is R.E.M.’s entire “Monster” album.

Released back in 1994, there’s a whole lot of song parts where Buck recorded through the Rat.

Again – another example of how this pedal finds use in almost any subgenre of rock music.

Visit R.E.M.’s website here


Thanks for reading our list of the most famous Pro Co Rat guitar pedals users.  Did we forget anyone?  Let us know in the comments!

Visit the Rat Distortion website here

Also check out…

David Gilmour Guitar Setup And Rig Rundown

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James Hetfield Guitar Setup And Rig Rundown

Graham Coxon Guitar Setup and Rig Rundown

Our Favorite Albums That Use Proco RAT Distortion Pedals

Graham Coxon Guitar Setup and Rig Rundown

The 1990’s were the time of significant changes in rock and metal music. The rise of grunge and alternative rock movement opened up new horizons and completely changed the game for the coming generation of musicians.

One of the bands that made a huge breakthrough later during the decade was Blur.

blur 1991

Fitting into the alternative rock category, while also keeping some of those Britpop and indie rock traits, they paved their own way to success.

The biggest breakthrough came with their somewhat unusual but really catchy “Song 2″ that, by now, everyone knows as one of the most influential rock anthems.

But the band wouldn’t have the reputation that it has today if it wasn’t for guitarist Graham Coxon.

Now, he is not your typical guitar hero rock star, the kind that spawned from the 1980s after Van Halen blew everyone’s heads off. Pretty much a reaction to it.

graham and damon

Since he began his music career in the late 1980s and the early 1990’s, Coxon is more in the vein of grunge guitar players, with just a hint of other elements in there.

But above all, he’s a very versatile musician, multi-instrumentalist, and – above all – a great songwriter, having written a ton of songs with Blur and also a lot of cool solo stuff.

In his teens, Graham was already well acquainted with a few different instruments. Aside from the guitar, he also played the flute, drums, and saxophone. There were a few bands he was a member of, but it was only in Blur (originally called Seymour) that he found success and fame.

However, as you may know, we’re all huge guitar gear nuts over here. So what we’re really interested in is tone and how he got it.

Coxon has a pretty exciting and – dare we say it – somewhat unconventional collection of guitars, pedals, and amplifiers.

There’s some stuff in his arsenal that’s pretty unique. But it’s not like you’d expect anything less from a musician like Coxon. So get ready and let’s dig into it.


Guitars

Like we said, his guitar collection over the years has been pretty interesting, and we can even find some unusual stuff in here.

So let’s start with his Fender Telecasters that he’s so well-known for. The one that’s been with him for so many years is his 1952 Tele.

Even if we ignore Blur’s greatness, this is a very valuable instrument with all the original parts and original cream finish from its production back in 1952. Graham used this one all throughout his career.

Here’s Graham talking about his experiences with Tele’s.

There are a few other very valuable Fender Teles worth mentioning here. For instance, there’s this one that Graham is referring to as being made back in 1969, although some sources claim that it’s 1968.

This is not unusual for guitars from the ’50s and the ’60s. Either way, this is yet another wonderful cream-colored instrument.

graham coxon telecaster

But what makes it interesting is the ash body, rosewood fingerboard on maple neck, and Gibson’s vintage PAF humbucker on the neck position. The bridge features a regular Fender single-coil.

Among other Teles, we can also find his 1972 Deluxe, which is the guitar he used extensively during the band’s 2009 reunion.

Also worth mentioning is midnight blue Tele, but not much is known about this instrument.

Now, since he’s become known for these guitars, it was only a matter of time he’d make his signature Tele with Fender. This instrument is based on a classic ’69 Telecaster.

Visually-wise, the only significant difference is in the pickguard. What’s a little unusual is the fact that it has a humbucker pickup in the neck position, Seymore Duncan’s SH-1.

Meanwhile, the bridge position is the classic vintage-styled single-coil by Fender.

As for Fenders in general, Graham is also a huge fan of Jaguars and Jazzmasters. He also owns a few of these instruments.

graham coxon jazzmaster

There are also plenty of other interesting electric guitars we should mention here. There’s a small collection of Gibson Les Pauls that Coxon has been using over the years.

One of his earliest LPs is the black Custom one. This guitar has been used both live and in the studio, most notably on Blur’s 1997 self-titled album.

Graham also owns a ’56 Goldtop ’56 reissue with two P-90 pickups.

We can also find a tobacco sunburst one, but not much is known about this instrument, except that it had a black pickguard that has since been removed.

While we’re at Gibson guitars, there’s also an SG that dates back to 1962, back when these were called Les Pauls.

graham blur

To make things more interesting, we decided to cover some of his unusual guitars here. One of the examples comes with his Fender Coronado 12-string.

It’s not a type of instrument you’d see that often, and it looks like a mutated Gibson 335 with a twisted Fender headstock.

There’s also stuff like Rickenbacker 330, Burns London Sonic, and a few others, although he rarely uses these instruments.

graham coxon burns

As for acoustic guitars, he has one great custom piece built by Ralph Bown, his OM model.

Graham used this guitar both live and in the studio for quite a while now. It’s a very unique instrument and includes an L.R. Baggs M1 pickup.

There’s also an inevitable Gibson acoustic guitar in there, a piece like J-160E. He also owns a Martin OM-28V.


Amplifiers

When it comes to guitar amps, Graham Coxon’s setup has never been really that exciting.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but there’s only a handful of amps that are worth mentioning here.

For instance, his main amplifier is his Marshall 1959 SLP.

graham coxon marshall amps

You can usually see him using two of these on the stage, paired up with the ’69 Marshall cabinets, each bearing four 12-inch speakers.

In this setup, however, Graham quite often used an attenuator for each of the amps.

The one he’s fond of is Marshall PB100 Power Brake, and it goes between the amp head and the cabinet. This way, he reduces (or “soaks”) the power from the amp before it goes into a cabinet.

marshall power brake PB100 Attenuator

As we said, nothing else is really that exciting, or at least we don’t know enough to share all the details.

It is known, however, that he has used plenty of combo amps. Some claim that he has used Orange rocker 30 and a classic Marshall 1962 Bluesbreaker.

As you can see, he’s pretty much a classic straightforward Marshall guy. Nothing really exciting, but it gets the job done.


Pedals and effects

But contrary to his amp setup, Graham’s pedalboard has always been really exciting.

He is, after all, a bit of a pedal junkie, and has relied more on effects rather than amps in shaping his tone. There’s a lot, so we don’t know where to begin.

Let’s go with distortion pedals first. And what a better way to start than with the legendary ProCo Rat 2.

He’s been using this one quite a lot, and you can sometimes even find more than just one of these in his live setup. It’s a simple yet really effective distortion.

In addition, he’s also used another version of the ProCo Rat pedal, the company’s well-known Turbo Rat.

proco-sound-turbo-rat-144575

This one is a little harsher-sounding compared to the standard ProCo Rat, although it features pretty much the same control configuration.

Since Blur is so-well known for their “Song 2,” we can’t help but mention the DOD FX76 Punkifier pedal. And this is a rather unusual one.

The Punkifier is both an overdrive and a fuzz, which is really weird as overdrive features soft clipping and fuzz has an extremely harsh clipping process. All in all, you’ll never be able to find a pedal like this one.

Another unusual one is the old Shin-Ei FY-2 Companion Fuzz. Produced back in the 1970s in Japan, these are pretty rare to find these days.

Back then, they were pretty innovative. However, these are pretty straightforward and feature only two simple controls for volume and gain.

It’s not completely certain what he used FY-2 for, but it clearly shows his great interest in vintage-oriented stuff.

Of course, it’s literally impossible for a guy like Graham to go without the classic Boss DS-1.

boss ds-1

This simple piece can be found on many pedalboards even to this day, both with amateurs and professionals. Just a classic piece.

T-Rex Mudhoney Distortion is another one we could see and hear Graham use over the years.

While not exactly the “mainstream” choice here, the pedal is as creamy-sounding as its name would suggest.

There’s also the Mudhoney II version, although Graham has been using the original model for quite some time now.

With so many different distortion pedals in there, it’s only obvious that there’s supposed to be a noise gate somewhere.

Of course, it’s not like Coxon is a hard-hitting heavy metal player, but fuzz and classic distortion pedals can get a little “messy” here and there.

For this purpose, Coxon’s choice is Boss NS-2. It’s a fairly versatile and useful example of a noise suppressor.

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

While we’re at it, Graham is a huge Boss pedal fan. Aside from the aforementioned pedals by the legendary company, there are a few worth mentioning as well.

For instance, he uses the classic DD-3 Digital Delay. It’s the classic choice among Boss lovers, even though it has a shorter maximum delay time.

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay Guitar Pedal Review

Speaking of Boss delay pedals, there’s a rather interesting old unit somewhere to be found in his pedalboard.

The one we’re talking about is the DM-2, which is the company’s famous analog delay from the 1980s.

These kinds of delay pedals relied on the so-called “bucket brigade devices” to store the signal and repeat it. This results in somewhat of a saturated and even slightly muffled repeated tones.

Again, another example showing how Coxon is into older stuff.

Going over to other Boss pedals in his inventory, we can also find the VB-2 Vibrato, PN-2 Tremolo and Pan, BF-2 Flanger, TR-2 Tremolo, and even the RV-5 Digital Reverb.

The PN-2 is a rather interesting one.

Despite having only a handful of controls, there’s so much stuff that you can do with it.

As you might have suggested, it’s capable of delivering stereo output that shifts the signal from one channel to another according to set speed and depth. Otherwise, you can use it as a regular tremolo.

Then we have some pretty exciting stuff by Line 6. Most notably the FM4 Filter Modeller.

There’s actually a lot of stuff that you can do with a filter pedal, but this thing brings it to a whole new level.

The FM4 is practically closer to a synth pedal as it replicates some classic old synths. It comes with mindblowing 20 factory presets, as well as 4 user presets.

All in all, it’s really fun to use. Not really surprised to see this one in Graham’s collection.

Another one of those complex series of Line 6 pedals is DL4 Delay Modeller.

There’s just so much stuff that you can do with it, anything from standard delays and echoes, up to wacky bouncy stuff.

What’s more, it can also replicate some analog and lo-fi stuff. Who could have thought that a delay pedal would offer you so much creative freedom?

But from all the delays in his collection over the years, nothing can really beat his Akai E2 Headrush. It’s not an easy one to find, which is really a shame.

This pedal does so much stuff, anything from simple delay up to very complex looping. With it, you can also replicate some of those vintage tape-based echoes.

However, its biggest strength lies in all the looping features and overdubbing.

Talking of weird delay pedals, he also used Carl Martin’s EchoTone pedal.

Released in the late 2000s, it’s kind of similar to DeLayla XL, although EchoTone is a little bit more versatile.

It operates with an additional switch for two different delay times and another one for tempo of repeats.

We may as well stop there, since Graham’s bag of guitar pedal tricks does run very deep.  From album to album, he’s a bit of a kid in a candy store, trying out various things on various tracks. 

This is made all the more exciting by the fact that he’s not afraid of layering guitars on top of one another, to get exactly the effect he wants for any given song.  

This is why we love Graham, as he was and is, to a large extent, the sonic architect of Blur, although everyone involved in that band brings their own brand of genius to the mix.


Conclusion

If you aren’t your typical shredding rock guitar hero type of guitar player, but love sheer inventiveness when it comes to guitar playing and especially songwriting, Graham Coxon is definitely someone to check out. 

He’s played on some of the world’s biggest stages, delivering quirky riffs that are both melodic and mosh-able to tons of fans around the world, which is a big reason Blur is so beloved. 

In other words, he’s just your regular affable brit, but with a huge knowledge of guitars, guitar history, pedals, and so on.  So definitely worth diving into to see what he’s up to at any given time.  

Have you given him a listen, or used any of the gear he uses?  Drop us a line below.

BONUS: Some great video interviews with Graham Coxon


A Beginners’ Guide to Guitar Pedals

beginners guide to guitar pedals

The world of electric guitars opens up new horizons of expression in music. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that it’s one of the most popular instruments out there. After all, there are so many different things that you can do with an electric guitar, making it a very potent musical tool for almost all of the genres that we can think of today.

The fact that it’s an electric instrument that sends a signal to an amplifier opens up new ways for further altering and improving its tone. With the development of guitar effects, guitarists worldwide were given a new tool that would help them to more easily convey their artistic message.

So it’s not unusual to know that many guitar players have dedicated their time and effort in building elaborate pedalboards. Some of them even feature very complex loops and even external controllers to create different combinations of sounds.

huge guitar pedal board

If you’re new to guitar pedals, some things might get a bit confusing. Well, you’re definitely not alone in this, and even the most experienced guitar players have been there. After all, with so many different pedals and effects, it does get difficult to keep up with how things work.

With all this said, we figured we could help clear things up for beginners and do a detailed guide on guitar pedals. We sorted them out by categories, explaining what these effects do, and how adjusting their parameters affects your tone. At the end of this guide, you’ll have a better understanding of guitar pedals and enough knowledge to start building your pedalboard.


Tuners

Peterson Stomp Classic Strobe Tuner

Tuner pedals are not effects, but we still need to include them in this guide. Essentially, they are like regular guitar tuners, only in the form of guitar pedals that you can put in your signal chain.

What’s important to note here is that they have a display or an array of LED lights along with a display so that you can easily see when the open string hits the desired note.

They’re nothing fancy, but they serve their purpose for live settings. You just hit the footswitch, mute the tone, and tune your guitar. That’s it!

However, tuner pedals usually have buffered bypass, which can serve its purpose in the signal chain. Essentially, they can balance the signal and sort things out, but that’s a whole other discussion that we’ll touch upon some other time.


Filters

DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter review

Up next, we have filter pedals that serve the purpose of filtering out certain frequencies in your tone. This means they can also pronounce certain frequency ranges of the audible spectrum by filtering out everything else. One of the examples of filter pedals is the wah-wah.

Wahs can change the peak frequency, pronounce it, while everything else stays the same or gets filtered out. By moving its rocking part, wah pedal sweeps over the spectrum. We also have automatic wah pedals that change these frequencies according to the input signal, or the dynamics of your playing.

Other types of filter pedals are “static” and keep the tone according to your parameters. As a result, they can emulate some quirky synth tones. An example would be Line 6 FM4. However, these are usually more advanced “toys” that you don’t exactly need as a beginner.


Equalizers

eq700

Just like your guitar amp has a 3-band equalizer with bass, middle, and treble controls, there are standalone pedals that can further shape your tone.

The simplest form of an EQ is a tone control on your guitar, and the most complex examples would be things like 30-band EQs or parametric EQs.

EQ pedals for guitar usually have anywhere between 5 and 10 frequency ranges that you can control using sliders. By turning the pedal on, you change the tone according to the set parameters, and then go back to the original tone when it’s turned off.

This is pretty useful if you need to change the tone for a certain section of a song, like pronouncing mids for a solo. MXR’s M108S is a good example of a 10-band EQ pedal.


Boosters

Fulltone Fulldrive2 MOSFET Overdrive Boost review

We could say that these are the simplest types of pedals out there. All they do is boosting the guitar signal without creating distortion in their circuit. If you need a slight volume boost without changing your tone, they come in handy.

However, they are also very useful with tube amplifiers or other tube pedals and devices in your signal chain. Tube amps tend to “break” their tone and cause that “natural” or “organic” distortion when reaching their limits.

A simple booster can help you achieve that vintage-sounding distortion with a tube amp or another tube-driven pedal.


Compressors

boss-cs-3-compression-sustainer-pedal-review

Compressors often get overlooked, which is quite a shame as they are pretty useful. The proper name for them would be dynamic range compressors as they turn up the volume of quiet parts and keep the louder parts quieter.

Of course, you’re able to set parameters and intensity of this compression. They can also boost the signal when needed, but the main purpose is to keep everything in check and prevent anything from popping up in the mix.

This is why they’re very useful for bassists and rhythm guitarists.


Expanders, aka noise gates

Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor Pedal review

An expander is the opposite of a compressor – quiet parts get quieter, and louder parts get louder or just stay at the same volume.

This effect is perfect for dealing with high gain distortions that tend to add that hissing sound when you’re not playing. While it can’t filter out the hissing during your playing, it does keep things quiet in between the notes.

They usually have just one control that sets the threshold at which the effect is activated. They’re simple to use but still require some experience to implement properly without soaking up your tone.


Pitch-altering pedals

digitech-whammy-pedal-re-issue-with-midi-control

This is where the fun stuff begins. Pitch shifters can alter the pitch of your whole output or add one or more intervals to what you’re playing.

For instance, the famous example here is the Digitech Whammy that can alter the pitch of your tone as you rock the moving part of the pedal back and forth.

Kind of like a wah pedal, but it changes the pitch. You can hear this one in Rage Against the Machine’s famous song “Killing in the Name.”

Octaver pedals are also pretty common on pedalboards, and they usually have settings to add two additional tones to what you’re playing, one and two octaves below.

They can find uses in lead sections or anything that doesn’t involve playing more than one note at a time. Boss has some great Octaver pedals, like the OC-3.

We also have harmonizers that add the desired interval above or below notes that you’re playing. These can either work chromatically by adding a fixed interval (i.e. major third) or diatonically where they work “smart” and accommodate the intervals according to the scale that you’re playing.

To use these “smart” versions of harmonizers, you need some basic music theory knowledge. Examples of harmonizer pedals include Boss VE-2, Boss VE-8, TC Helicon Harmony, and many others.


Distortion

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

Now we get to the most important part of every pedalboard – distortion pedals. In the world of guitar, the distortion effect is divided into three categories, which are overdrive, classic distortion, and fuzz.

They create this effect by intentional boosting and clipping of the signal. Different types of clipping create different types of distortion.

There’s something for everyone’s taste these days, and the most attention is usually dedicated to finding proper distortion pedals for certain styles of music and playing.

Some of the famous examples include Ibanez Tube Screamer with all of its variants, Boss DS-1, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, MXR M75, the legendary Klon Centaur, Pro Co Rat, and many others.


Modulation

mxr-m134-stereo-chorus-273109

Modulation effects include everything that adds the copy of your signal, alters it a little, and blends it in with the unprocessed signal.

The most famous modulation effect is the chorus that adds a very short delay and alters the pitch up and down according to the set amplitude and speed.

We also have flanging and phasing, which are in some technical ways similar, but in practice produce completely different effects.

Most of the modulation pedals have a “mix” or “blend” control that determines the ratio between unprocessed and processed signals.

There are also depth and speed controls, along with a few other things. Strymon has a great chorus pedal called Ola. MXR has the M134 stereo chorus that’s pretty great too.


Atmospheric effects: delays and reverbs

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

To keep your tone more interesting, you should think of different “atmospheric” effects. After all, you can’t keep it “dry” all the time. For this purpose, we have delay and reverb pedals. Both of these add repeated copies of your tone to create an illusion of a bigger or smaller room.

Delays add simple repeats according to set parameters. You can control the time distance between these repeats, the number of repeats, and the mix between the original and repeated signal.

It’s the classic echo effect. In some cases, pedals also have separate EQ controls for shaping the tone of the repeated signal. There’s anything from the simple stuff like the MXR carbon copy, up to very complex pieces like the Empress Echosystem.

Reverbs also repeat the signal, but in a more “shimmering” manner, giving the impression of one prolonged atmospheric continued repeat. It’s as if you’re playing in a large hall or a cathedral.

They also include blend or mix controls, just like delays. Strymon’s Big Sky is a great example of a very spacious-sounding reverb.


Volume pedals

morley-volume-pedal

While they could be the most boring part of one pedalboard, volume pedals should be an essential part of every signal chain, especially if you’re playing in a bigger band or an orchestra.

They’re pretty simple – you use them to control your output volume. They have a rocking part that you use to turn the volume up or down. There’s usually the “minimum volume” switch that sets the volume when the pedal is at its minimum position.

There’s a common misconception with beginners thinking that the volume pedal can do the same thing as the booster pedal. The thing with volume pedals is that you’re reducing the volume to the desired level. You use it when you’re supposed to keep quiet in the mix.

There are high impedance and low impedance volume pedals, but we’re not going to get too much into technical details about this. Low impedance pedals are more common and they go at the very end or near the end of the signal chain. Ernie Ball has its MVP volume pedal that’s very reliable.


Expression pedals, tap pedals, and sequencers

8StepProg-large

Some of the effects we mentioned usually support connectivity with external control sources. For this, we have expression pedals, which are just multi-purpose potentiometers in the form of a pedal.

Automatic wah-wah, certain modulation pedals, or even delays can work with an expression pedal, but only if they have a separate input jack for it.

On their own, expression pedals do nothing, although many volume pedals also have the expression pedal functionality.

Tap switches work the same way, it’s just that they have one control switch that sets the tempo of the effect. For instance, you connect it to a delay, and when your delay pedal is turned on, tap the switch pedal twice and the tempo of your repeated tones will be set according to the tempo that you tapped.

Sequencer pedals are a bit more complicated, and they’re definitely not something that a beginner would use. It’s a complex controller that has a sequence of adjustable steps.

It controls any effect with the expression pedal connectivity feature, but it does nothing on its own. An example here would be the well-known Electro-Harmonix 8-Step Program Analog Expression Sequencer.


What’s the correct order of pedals in the signal chain?

First off, there’s no such thing as the “correct” order of pedals. There are, however, some standards in arranging your pedalboard that may help you get the clearest tone without any unwanted noises or hisses.

This is the usual order, but you’re free to experiment. The whole thing is open for discussion.

From guitar to the amp, it goes like this: tuner – filter – EQ – compressor – boost – pitch altering – distortion – modulation – volume pedals – delay – reverb. Volume pedal can also come after the delay and reverb.

We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Tony Iommi Rig Rundown

iommi

There’s hardly any musician out there that’s as influential to metal music as Mr. Tony Iommi.

Widely considered to be the one individual who created the entire genre on his own, it was his riffs and songs he wrote with Black Sabbath in the late 1960s and the early 1970s that brought him the fame he has today.

tony iommi

While it is somewhat debatable on who started heavy metal, it is a fact that without Iommi the modern rock music wouldn’t be as big as it is today.

What’s more, the style he developed can also be heard in many other music genres today, with even mainstream pop sometimes including metal-sounding riffs.

His main strength lied in his writing abilities, implementing elements like tritone the way no one did before him. The riffs were so great that they sounded heavy even played on an average acoustic guitar.

However, in order to achieve their true potential, Iommi had to find the perfect guitar tone. Not the easiest task back in the old days when standard guitar pedals weren’t a thing and achieving distorted tone was extremely difficult.

Nonetheless, Iommi managed to make his tone huge.  You can hear this tone back in the early Sabbath days during their blistering early sets like this one.

While most of the people remember Black Sabbath for the Ozzy era, Tony Iommi kept the band’s legacy over the years, being the sole original member.

Over the years, his music and tone evolved, but you could still hear that it’s Tony. The 1980s and the first half of the 1990s were a bit weird for Sabbath, but there was some great material, featuring his amazing guitar tone.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the original Sabbath reunion and his solo albums, his tone was more in the vein of the older Sabbath stuff.

With all this in mind, we figured it would be a great idea to explore Tony Iommi’s setup over the years and find out more about the secrets behind his tone.

There’s a lot of stuff involved and many of the things are still unknown to this day. So we’ll try to focus on the equipment we know he used, but there will be a few mentions of the unconfirmed guitars and gear. So let’s dig into it!


Guitars

Of course, by now, everyone is aware of his extensive use of Gibson SGs, with these guitars becoming a part of his sonic and visual identity.

However, what many don’t know is that Iommi started his career playing a classic Fender Stratocaster.

TI with guitars from Original Black Sabbath by Steve Tarshis

He used this particular guitar in his pre-Sabbath bands and he also entered the studio to record Sabbath’s self-titled debut with the guitar, but only managed to record one song with it, the “Wicked World.” After the session, the electronics on this Strat died.

Interestingly enough, the famous red 1965 Gibson SG Special was his spare instrument. After using it on the record, the guitar quickly became his number one weapon on choice, with Iommi recording most of the material on Sabbath’s first six albums on it.

1965 Gibson SG Special Monkey

The guitar bares two P-90 single-coil pickups, as well as the “Monkey” nickname due to an unusual sticker. The guitar is currently located in New York City’s Hard Rock Café over at Times Square. A legendary piece.

The next famous early SG is the white 1960s Gibson Les Paul, which was actually an SG before the official use of the SG name. It bears three humbuckers and a Bigsby tremolo. It’s not completely certain whether he used this guitar on any of the recordings, but he’s been seen using this guitar on a few occasions in the early days. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.

white 1960s Gibson Les Paul

In 1975, Iommi got his first custom-built SG by John Birch, a guy who previously modded the old “Monkey” SG. This is a completely black guitar with a steel pickguard, 24 frets, and the well-known famous cross inlays Iommi is now known for. The guitar was used on the recordings between 1976 and 1981.

But the most notable of his SGs is his legendary “Old Boy,” made by luthier John Diggins. The story behind this one is kind of odd and long, with one part of the building process being done on a kitchen counter. As a result, the guitar has that recognizable “rotten” paint job.

iommi old boy

Again, the guitar has 24 frets and recognizable Iommi’s cross inlays on the fretboard. The pickups are custom ones made by Diggins himself, while the bridge is a classic Schaller with fine tuners, something that was pretty innovative for the era. Sometime in the early 1980s, it became his No. 1 guitar.

A lot of other SGs went through his arsenal over the years. There were some Gibsons, including some with Floyd Rose bridges. At one point in the late 1990s, Gibson even made a special guitar for him, but that one got stolen in 2010. The whereabouts of this instrument are unknown at the moment.

But aside from many SG guitars, Iommi also had quite a few different models, some of which were pretty unusual. One of the examples is the B.C. Rich Ironbird Pro, which can be seen in the “Star Licks” instructional video where Iommi shows a few Sabbath solos from the early 1980s.

It’s not certain why the collaboration stopped or whether he used this instrument on any of the recordings. But it is known that he had another B.C. Rich in his collection, the standard Mockingbird.

Iommi also partnered up with Patrick Eggle for a few guitars, one of them being the Tony Iommi Artist Model ñ a double-cutaway guitar with somewhat of a Super Strat-style shape. He also had a few SGs made by Eggle, but he sold them later on to private collectors.

In the 2000s and 2010s, Iommi used his signature Epiphone SG Custom.

signature sg custom

There were a few other odd or unexpected models here and there. He was seen a few times using a Les Paul, quite an unusual sight for Iommi.

At one point, Iommi also revealed that he used a certain Les Paul for some songs on the “Paranoid” album. Other guitars also include Steinberger GM4T, Guild Bluesbird Custom, Washburn EC29, Hamer Phantom, Gibson Barney Kessel, Gibson ES-175, and others.

It has been reported that Iommi played a Burns Trisonic and a Watkins Rapier – both of which are very old and pretty obscure at this point. But these have not been confirmed as there are no photos to prove it.

Now going over to his acoustics, there have been a few notable models in his collection. The latest ones we’re certain of are Taylor 815L and Taylor T5s.

He also had a Washburn EA30 at some point, which he sold to private collections. There were some reports about him using Gibson J-45 back in the early days, probably on “Vol. 4” and “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” albums.


Amps

Aside from his SGs and a few other guitars he used over the years, there were many amps that sculpted his tone.

Unfortunately, there are no official records on what he used in the earliest days of his career, but it is known that he had a certain Marshall 50-watt amp in the pre-Sabbath and early Sabbath era.

When the band went into the studio, Tony switched over to a Laney amp, a brand he stuck with for most of his career.

tony iommi laney amp

The reason behind this switch is that Laney was a new Birmingham-based company that started around the same time as the band and offered Iommi to use some of their stuff.

While it has not been confirmed, it is suspected that Laney LA 100 BL is the amp he played on the first two albums. Then came the third record with this huge bass-heavy tone.

While it’s not certain, some are suspecting he played through a Laney Klipp. This is a fairly rare amp and can go well-over $2,000 if you happen to stumble upon one that’s in good condition.

laney-klipp-100-2324801

However, it is known that Laney Supergroup amp has been a part of his setup up until the very end of the 1980s. But over the years, he liked to experiment here and there, and it’s known that he used the classic Vox AC30 during the “Technical Ecstasy” sessions in 1976. It is also assumed that he went with a Marshall Super Lead 1959 for the “Heaven and Hell” album.

During a certain period in the 1980s, Iommi went on to collaborate with Sunn for an endorsement. This didn’t last for a long time, but there is one photo of him circulating online, holding the Ironbird signature guitar and sitting in front of a Sunn amp.

iommi sunn amp Ironbird guitar

So he stuck with his reliable Laney amps and the company eventually made a special model GH 100 TI for him, featuring the classic “British” EL34 tubes. In 2012, they came out with the final Tony Iommi signature model, Laney TI100 with 6L6 tubes in the power amp.

It has also been rumored that he used other amps during certain periods, like the Mesa Boogie Mark IIB in the early 1980s, as well as the ENGL Powerball during the Heaven and Hell band back in 2009.


Effects and pedals

Just like any professional guitar player, Tony Iommi also had some interesting pedal and effect setups over the years.

However, only a few pieces are widely known. It seems that Iommi was pretty much secretive about his pedals and other effects units, or that interviewers never really dug deep enough.

Going back to his earliest days, there is one particular device that made his tone stand out. Going back to his pre-Sabbath days, Iommi was a member of a blues-rock band called Mythology.

As the era is known for guitarists not being able to find a proper distorted tone, Tony was one of the guys who resorted to using the Dallas Rangemaster Treble Booster.

An unknown friend or an acquaintance of his modded the device, ultimately turning it into somewhat of a full-range booster.

As Iommi explains, he’s not sure what the guy actually did, but it sounded great. This way, Iommi was able to use the clean signal boost and drive tube amps over their limitations and let them create distortion in a more “natural” way.

He used it until 1979 when, apparently, one of his tech guys threw it away, mistaking it for a random broken old device.

Another famous pedal in his arsenal is the very rare and peculiar-sounding wah called Parapedal, made by a short-lasting company called Tycobrahe.

Parapedal

It’s a really obscure piece, but if you actually manage to find one of the original pedals, it can go up to $1,000. There have been some replicas, but Tony Iommi used some of the original old models.

This is what you can hear on any of his solos where he’s using a wah, or in songs like “Electric Funeral” where he used it for the main riff.

As for any other effects, it’s been really hard to confirm anything else. Again, it seems that he’s been pretty secretive about his setup.


Legacy

Of course, it was Tony Iommi’s rumbling tone that helped shape metal music. Even to this day, you’re rarely find anything as heavy as the guitar tone on “Master of Reality.”

While he was inclined to experiment, like with the Vox AC30 in the mid-1970s, Tony was still a fan of huge guitar tones, especially on live shows.

After all, he was the only guitar player in Black Sabbath, so it was up to him to make the sound as big and as harmonically rich as possible.

As a result, he’s still being praised by almost all of the metal musicians today. His legacy can be heard in all of the metal music, none of which would be possible without Iommi’s innovative approach in the earliest days of Black Sabbath.

So it doesn’t come as a surprise that he’s known as the “Riff Lord.”

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We Review the Best Distortion Pedals For Metal

Horns-Simpsons-Drooble

When the gods made heavy metal, as per the gospel of Manowar, one of their first and only tenets, were to play it as loud and wild as (in)humanly possible. Since those early days, cunning minds and champions heavy music have been finding new ways to make their guitar sound louder, meaner and nastier.

And let’s be honest here – very few things in life feel better than when you plug in your guitar, strike that first evil chord and feel the very foundations of earth shake and scream at the tips of your fingers, or when you start laying down a deep, wicked gallop and an evil grin starts creeping up your lips as you something raw and animalistic stirring deep in your belly, and you’re lusting to burst into a full sonic charge, no quarter to be given.

Well, distortion pedals are one of the things that make all this possible.

guitar metal face

Although we’ll be referring to the equipment in question as distortion pedals in the rest of this article, there are a few differences in ways various pedals dirty up your sound, and, technically, distortion is just one of the three effects from the unholy trinity of overdrive, distortion, and fuzz.

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In short, overdrive enhances your fundamental guitar signal without drastic changes, distortion clips the hell out of it, and fuzz clips it so hard that it’s barely recognizable (although when speaking specifically of metal, this one isn’t used that often as it produces a warm, wooly grumble more characteristic of stoner rock for instance).

Of course, there are overlapping areas between the three, but here we’ll focus mostly on distortion and pedals suited the most for aspiring metal ax-wielders. Without further ado, here are some of the best guitar pedals to use for heavy metal…


Electro-Harmonix Metal Muff

MetalMuff-large

The metal successor to Harmonix’ Big Muff Pi has been around for a while now and has proven to be a simple, yet effective solution for metal distortion, all wrapped up in a gorgeous design that just screams metal.

In addition to its name written in spike-y chrome script, you’ll see several knobs that might seem intimidating at first glance, but all are very straight-forwardly arranged and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way around it.

The Metal Muff sports a three-band EQ that helps you manage the gain, as well as a boost mode that really cranks up your signal.

It’s suitable both for gentler distortion as well as producing sounds that might have come from Satan’s own BDSM dungeon, and you’ll find that it works great both with passive and active pickups.

However, if you’re looking for a pedal capable of extreme amounts of distortion, look no further.


KHDK Dark Blood

khdk dark blood

Is there a more metal thing than Kirk Hammett’s signature distortion pedal?

This angry beast is perfect for both fans of Metallica as well as anyone who might be looking to hopefully stand toe to toe to Hammett when it comes to producing killer distorted tunes on your instrument.

The pedal itself looks gorgeous, with a red and black interface with a human heart painted on it. It is perfect for cutting off background noise with an onboard noise gate, but the real treat here is the Doom knob that really brings up that bottom end that Metallica’s sound is known for, letting you wield the powers of metal gods Hammett and Hetfield themselves.

There’s also a Hi/Lo switch which lets you play with two distinct modes – a gruff one for laying the foundation riffs (Lo), and a shrieking one that makes you soar through lead breaks with boosted top-end and sustain (Hi).

A surprisingly versatile treble control is the icing on the cake here. This thing comes with a fairly reasonable price too and is perfect for beginners and veterans alike.


Wampler Triple Wreck

triple wreck wampler

This one may not be a looker like the previous two, but let me tell you, it packs a brutal punch. Straight off the bat, you’re looking at ungodly amounts of gain, which is complemented by – you guessed it – even more gain.

This blasphemous thing was made possible by Wampler’s efficient three-band EQ and dedication to providing smoothly-nuanced gain curves.

Once you plug it in, you’ll realize that, although you’ll have command over more gain than you’ll ever need, the pedal is very easy to temper and lets you play with a tremendous specter of distortion. It’s all about them gainz bro.


Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal

ht-metal-front-view-large

Coming from the company with a hefty reputation of making top-notch amplifiers for headbangers around the globe, the HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is a product of extreme quality and reliability.

This pedal’s cascading tube gain stages and the tube amp response are revered by amateurs and professional musicians alike.

It will provide you with a sound as gritty as Clint Eastwood’s spit, with organic qualities of the excrement to boot – you won’t hear anybody complaining about your sound sounding “too digital“ despite buckets of gain and distortion.

Its vacuum tube circuitry is powered by a 300V DC connection, and the pedal’s numerous features include 3-band EQ, Clean/Overdrive switch, and a tone shape knob, really letting you play with various effects as much as you want.

The Blackstar HT-Metal Guitar Effects Pedal is an all-in-one toolbox, perfect for both garage, studio and stage.


MXRM116 Fullbore Metal

FullBoreDist-large

MRX has been around for ages, and in their case, ‘age’ most certainly equals quality and reliability.

This one gives you an incredible amount of bang for your buck, and really lays down the foundation of your metal sound. In addition to pure distortion, loads of features let you tweak your sound even further.

Although it is (arguably) the least pretty of the bunch, the MXRM116 Fullbore Metal pedal simply emanates with no-bullshit-just-metal big dick energy.

True to its meat-and-potatoes pedal nature, it is fully analog, with a built-in noise gate as well as true-bypass.

Also, this pedal gets the job done with underpowered single-coil guitars as well. If you’re looking for a really heavy, industrial metal sound, this is as good as it gets.


Conclusion

Distortion pedals are essential tools for any musician intent on wreaking some heavy metal havoc. And after all, there’s no reason not to use one – they’re tremendous fun, and you’ll be able to experiment with your sound like you never could without one.

Besides, not only will having a reliable pedal be a must-have if you ever decide to take your music to the stage, but it will also encourage you to take a stroll down that path as you realize how easy and fun it is to produce sounds that the gods of metal themselves would be envious of.

Each of these five is more than a solid pick, and any musician is bound to find one that suits his taste and budget the most. I hope that you do too.

Recommended Rig Run Downs

John Frusciante Rig Rundown

Have you ever had a moment where you listened to a guitar player, and you’re thoroughly mesmerized not just by prodigious amounts of skill and musicality, but by the graceful ease they work wonders on their guitars?

Some of these musicians play so incredibly, yet so naturally that you never feel even a hint of envy – you’re just grateful that such a being exists and you simply take the moment in.

However, due to their usually quiet natures, a lot of them go by unsung, or at least without receiving credit equal to their prodigious talent.

One such guitar player is John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.  We almost said formerly but John just yesterday rejoined the band for the second time, after ten years absence!

john frusciante rig rundown

In addition to his own unobtrusive nature, the reason that John Frusciante doesn’t spring up in everybody’s minds when talking about great guitar players is that emotional response to the whole package rather than pure skill was always the driving force behind the Chili Peppers’ success, and the latter was more often than not overshadowed by the former.

However, it is undeniable that the lasting beauty of the Chili Peppers’ music was in significant part due to John’s playing, and that John always was and remains a majestic musician.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what gear John used to create his iconic sound, and as you’ll see, there’s quite a bit.

But first, a bit of backstory…


History with the RHCP

john frusicante

We’ll be taking a quick trip down the memory lane and talk about how John came to be an integral part of the Chili Peppers, his path to becoming the musician he is today, and how he evolved alongside the iconic band.

John Frusciante joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers back in 1988 when he was only 18 years old. In addition to his young age, he was a peculiar choice for the band that mostly focused on funk at the time, and John had no prior experience with the genre.

Of all his early influences, John said that Frank Zappa was the greatest, stating: “By the time I was 15 I owned all of the records and was spending about 70% of my musical life studying and learning his music. For me, striving for the perfection he was known for demanding from his bands was a powerful motivation and force behind the huge amount of practicing I was doing back then.”

However, back in those early days he was still pretty much just a replacement to the original guitarist Hillel Slovak and was stuck with trying to emulate his sound.

During the recording of “Mother’s Milk”, John still had very little creative freedom to speak of, as he was pressured by the producer Michael Beinhorn to play with a driving heavy metal tone, which is evident in songs like “Higher Ground”, “Knock Me Down”, which were a clear step away from the Chili Peppers’ previous sound.

By the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” was released, not only did John find his genuine place within the band and come into his own as a musician, but it was this iteration of Chili Peppers that introduced the band to the mainstream audiences.

who-is-john-frusciante

In 1993, John left the band due to it becoming “too popular” as well as personal issues and came back in 1998 after Dave Navarro’s departure.

He had matured during that time since he sounded much more articulated and in control on songs like “Scar Tissue”, “Otherside” and “Around the World” when compared to his former aloofness in playing.

On “By the Way” and “Stadium Arcadium”, John Frusciante arguably reached his full potential within the band, resulting in his tasteful and original experimentation within those albums, despite them being much more pop-oriented than the previous ones.

During his time with the Chili Peppers, John evolved into a guitarist extraordinaire – but one who emphasizes the melody and the organic quality of his playing.

Read our feature article about John’s musical life, Who is John Frusciante?

Despite his vast knowledge of music theory and enviable virtuosity, John’s prodigious qualities as a musician often went unnoticed due to his lack of interest in showing off and always putting the melody first.

young-john-frusciante-1989

However, John achieved his seemingly simple sound with no small amount of both gear and skill. John is known to have used a staggering amount of instruments, amps, and mods, most of which aren’t officially recorded.

What follows is a rundown of gear that John confirmed to have used in various instances, and that was integral to achieving his signature elegant sound.


Guitars

Throughout his two bouts with the RHCP, John has used a plethora of guitars, and putting down a definite list would be nearly impossible to put down –some sources state that there over 40 guitars that he had used during those years.

Here, we’ll take a look at a few that he’s the best known for using, and that made the biggest impact on his sound, playing style and appearance.

Fender Stratocaster

A 1962 Tobacco Sunburst Fender Stratocaster with a rosewood fretboard, with the body scratched-up marrow-deep above the pickguard is perhaps the most famous of John’s guitars and the one that he’s associated with the most often.

frusciante-stratocaster-1962

More than once, John himself has stated that this is the guitar that he is sentimental about the most, and the one that was the “most important” to him.

It was this guitar’s mellow, bright, single-coil sound that was responsible for songs such as “Scar Tissue” and “Can’t Stop”, and especially his early works with the RHCP like “Mother’s Milk”.

In fact, you’ll hear this guitar in instances of the vast majority of the songs that John played for the band.

Initially, he used stock pickups but later swapped them for Duncans which were almost the same. John also used a ’55 Strat nearly identical to this one, except for the ’55 having a maple fretboard.

Fender Telecaster

Although John is known for his love for the Stratocaster, in an interview with Vintage Guitar Magazine (you’ll notice that John has a strong preference for vintage instruments), he stated that “Around ‘By The Way’, I played Teles more than a Strat.

frusciante_feature

A telecaster he’s most widely known for using is a stock 1963 model with a rosewood fretboard.

If you listen to the songs from “By The Way” closely, you’ll notice that they resonate with the signature Telecaster twang.

Given that he almost never modifies his instruments, John is a living testament that you don’t need crazy mods to sound great.

Gretsch 1955 White Falcon

This is the guitar that John is seen playing during the iconic “Californication” live concert at Slane Castle from 2003.

While talking to Vintage Guitar, John said that the Gretch White Falcons are among his favorite guitars from his collection (as we’ve already mentioned, he has quite a few).

In fact, he revealed that he stumbled upon the Falcon purely by accident during a period in which he was guitar-shopping intensely because he thought his playing would change from guitar to guitar.

He said: With the white Strat, it was a neat experience because it made me play different, and made the band sound different.

If I hadn’t gone through a phase of buying, I never would have come upon the White Falcon…” The Falcon’s hollow body and Filtertron pickups give it a distinctive, rich-yet-resonant sound that clearly stands out from the Strats and Teles, and you can hear it in action on the album’s title track, as well as on “Otherside”.


Amps

Like with his guitars, John seems to like to keep things straightforward, yet elegant. However, when it comes to amps that John has been using all these years, there is even less reliable info available than for his numerous guitars.

With that in mind, we’ll take a look at the three main amplifiers that he’s been known to have used the most: Marshall Silver Jubilee, Fender Dual Showman, and The Marshall Major.

Marshall Silver Jubilee

Among guitar aficionados around the world, the Marshall Silver Jubilee amplifier is famous for its incredibly short, one-year production run and has since become tremendously difficult to obtain.

Marshall-Silver-Jubilee-John-Frusciante-Amps-Slane-Castle

This dauntingly pricy 100-Watt amplifier is a reincarnation of the 1962 Marshall Head of sorts, and it is the obvious choice for John’s sonic output given his preference for vintage sound and instruments.

In addition to being expensive, the Marshall Silver Jubilee is known for its reliable, balanced frequency response and is powered by EL34 valves which give it a clear, ringing overall sound with a smooth top end.

Fender Dual Showman

Now this one is a strange beast in regards to the other two, as John explicitly uses it only in combination with his Gretsch 1955 White Falcon.

fender dual showman guitar amp

The classic Fender reverb it produces complements the White Falcon’s ringing hollow-body sound perfectly. Furthermore, the only effect that John used with this combo was a BOSS DS1 distortion pedal.

Marshall Major

Essentially, what we’re looking at here is the essence of JCM 800 in a different package and 200 Watts of power.

Marshall_Major

The power amp stage boasts KT88 valves, whereas the preamp contains two ECC83 and one ECC82 which pour out that creamy, controlled distortion which makes this amp so well-loved.

His on-stage combo is wrapped up by two 4×12 Marshall cabs for each of these three, making the sound of his guitar powerful enough not to be engulfed by the rest of the band.
Effects

Whether you listen to John’s gentler guitar contributions or the more hectic, funkier ones from early on, the first impression you’d get is that the man uses virtually no added effect (and that he needs none, but that’s beside the point).

However, it is now known that John actually used a wide variety of devices to further tweak his sound.

For instance, during the “Stadium Arcadium” era, he used whopping 20 different pedals for his live performances, including six Moog Moogerfooger units in addition to multiple delays, distortions, modulation, filters, and wah.

However, apart from the BOSS DS1 distortion pedal reserved exclusively for the Gretsch 1955 White Falcon, he really didn’t have a mainstay of devices that he used throughout his time with the Chili Peppers, but instead relied on intuition, current mood and desire for experimentation when deciding which effect he would keep using, and which ones he’d discard.

If one had to find a pattern behind his utilization of various effects, it would be that he had preferred effect for each of the Chili Peppers’ epochs, with both him influencing the band’s sound and vice versa.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of John’s favorite effects.


Effects

First off, we have the humble MXR Micro Amp a pedal used for boosting your main signal for solos or as a buffer for other guitars.

mxr micro amp

John’s grittier tones are mostly owed to the tried and true combination of BOSS DS-2 Turbo Distortion and EHX Big Muff Pi.

The BOSS DS-2 is perhaps the few mods that he used since his first day with the RHCP and continued using ever since.

In fact, this little gadget’s clipping effect is the one that can be recognized in almost every Chili Peppers’ song where John does the guitar duties.

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion review

The fuzz provided by the EHX Big Muff Pi is especially characteristic of the “By The Way” era, which replaced John’s previous fuzz device, BOSS’ FZ-3, that he used more around the time “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” came out.

As far as John’s modulation is concerned, there is the BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, a simple yet reliable chorus with normal and vibrato modes.

boss_ce1

This is the other pedal that remained ever-present in his setup in addition to the DS-2.

Despite its straightforward nature (or perhaps exactly due to it), the CE-1 remains ever popular due to its ability to maintain the qualities of the original signal while complementing it with an organic sound.

The EHX Deluxe Electric Mistress is another mod that saw steady use throughout John’s career.

DlxMistress-large

Its classic analog Flanger with its unique Filter Matrix mode disengages the auto sweep and lets you position the filter manually, and is very prominent in “By The Way”, for example.

He also uses a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller that comes with programmable filters and monophonic synth sounds (which replaced the Electro-Harmonix synthesizer he used during the “Californication” era).

John’s choice of time-based effects was also led by a philosophy of reliability and straightforwardness.

There’s the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, a digital reverb that like a spring one, which he used until he replaced it with Fender’s vintage tube reverb unit.

electro harmonix holy grail reverb

Another delay unit that John used was the LINE 6 DL4 Delay Modeller, which yields more control over delay effects than a standard digital delay, or an analog one.

Interestingly, John tends to supplement the DL4 with two DigiTech PDS 1002, which give him even more control over delay effects.

As we’ve seen, although simplicity seemingly is the key to John’s distinctive sound, there is a whole lot of thought, experimentation, and gear behind the unique and elegant sound of his guitar playing.

As such, John Frusciante truly is a living testament to the wonders that a meticulous, yet sincere love for the instrument and the simple joy of playing can bring to life.

Thanks for reading!  If you have and comments or questions, leave them below!

Synyster Gates’ Rig Rundown

synyster gates

Heavy metal music has come a long way since its inception back in the late 1960s. From the bluesy, yet really doomy, songs by Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, it began going into multiple different directions.

As a result, we got some unexpected subgenres, that even led to some more extreme territories. But, at the end of the day, the classic elements of the genre remained, and some bands keep this legacy alive even to the present era.

One of these bands is Avenged Sevenfold, where the lead guitar duties are taken by Brian Haner, also known by his unique stage name Synyster Gates.

synyster-gates-avengedsevenfold-gettyimages-647264106

Forming back at the very end of the 1990s, Synyster Gates joined the band sometime before the release of their debut album. It was an unusual time for heavy metal, and new movements were emerging all around.

Avenged Sevenfold started off as a metalcore band, but they slowly moved into the classic metal and hard rock lane. This was a rather exciting turn of events as they added some modern metal elements and twists to the old genre.

These days, they’re even experimenting with some progressive elements. And that’s all thanks to Syn Gates and his approach to songwriting and playing.

Another vital component in this story is Syn Gates’ tone.

With this in mind, we thought we could dive deeper into the topic and explore all the gear A7X’s axeman has been using over the years. There’s an abundance of great instruments, pedals, and amps, and we just can’t afford to skip over this guitar master. So let us begin.

Guitars

The most recognizable part of his whole setup and the one that became his personal stamp is the Schecter Synyster Gates signature model.

syn gates custom guitar

Almost all of the studio recordings and the live performances were recorded using some of these guitars. The band blew up early on in their career, so it wasn’t hard for Syn to land a deal with Schecter for his one-of-a-kind model.

As the years went by, this guitar evolved, and there have been many iterations, finishes, designs, and different hardware and pickup combinations. There are even some exclusive models that were sold as limited series.

As for Syn’s guitars, there are a few notable models. For instance, the one that he often today uses is the Custom-S. This is one of the newest iterations and has a few variants.

It’s a prestigious and expensive instrument and an all-round versatile instrument capable of delivering different styles.

The Custom-S has a mahogany body and a three-piece mahogany neck that’s enforced with strong carbon rods. The guitar features a 25.5-inch scale neck with a 24-fret ebony fretboard.

synyster gates

The neck profile proves that the Custom-S model is made for real shredders. It’s the so-called “thin C” neck, the same as the classic “C” profile, only thinner. Seeing that the guitar also has a Floyd Rose 1500 Series bridge, it’s a pure heavy metal mean machine.

One of its strongest points is the addition of the Sustainiac pickup on the neck position.

There have been plenty of other versions of this guitar over the years. Some of those include the Bat Country Avenger model that has a classic tune-o-matic bridge with strings going through the body.

bat country avenger

These other Syn Gates signature models are pretty similar in construction, although they have a few different features here and there. Custom-S still stands as his No. 1 weapon in the arsenal.

But he’s also used a few other guitars over the years. In the band’s earliest days, Syn could be seen holding a Parker Fly Deluxe model. It’s a classic instrument, used by many guitar players of countless different genres.

What some may not know is that Syn Gates is also deeply rooted in old school stuff like blues and jazz. So it doesn’t come as a surprise to see that he has a Gibson ES-335 in his possession. The guitar was used for studio sessions over the years.

gibson ES335 DOT

Of course, it’s not unusual to find a Gibson Les Paul in his collection. He owns one LP Custom, and you can see him rocking it out in the “Unholy Confessions” video. However, this guitar hasn’t seen that many live shows.

Another electric worth mentioning is his Schecter Blackjack PT that he used earlier in the band’s career.

Schecter Diamond Series Blackjack PT

It’s a two-humbucker Telecaster-shaped guitar with the strings going through the body. The Blackjack is a very playable piece and a great solution for all the heavy tones that Syn certainly needed over his career.

As for acoustics, there are a few exciting pieces worth mentioning in his arsenal. Since he’s been a partner of Schecter for so long, they also made signature acoustic guitars for him – the Synyster Gates 3701. It’s a single-cutaway guitar with a slightly peculiar twist on its design.

Just like the electric Custom-S, it features the easily recognizable Avenged Sevenfold logo on the fretboard’s inlay. It also includes a Fishman pickup and a preamp, along with a 3-band EQ. It’s a very versatile acoustic guitar and an overall quality instrument.

Then there’s a surprising addition of Godin ACS-SA that he began using since 2016’s “The Stage” album. This thin profile nylon-string guitar is often used by jazz players.

Godin ACS-SA

But since Avenged Sevenfold began diving into some unexpected proggy territories, it comes as a great addition to Syn’s collection.

Generally speaking, the Custom-S still remains his primary weapon and his main workhorse. It’s really easy to play, it has good access to higher frets, and certainly delivers the classic metal punch, kind of in the vein of standard Gibson guitars, although it had a bit of a sharper edge to the tone.

Amps

Quite a few different amps came through Synyster Gates’ setup over the years. Unlike his choice of guitars, he wasn’t stuck with one particular brand of amps. If we were to look at all of his choices, the picture is pretty clear ñ he likes heavy sound with an in-your-face mid-range punch.

So let’s start with his Schecter amp. Yes, the company is not that well-known for their guitar amplifier line, but the Hellwin model is a powerful 100-watt all-tube amp in the style of classic Marshalls.

schecter hellwin

This can be seen with the implementation of EL34 valves. He always used it in pair with the Hellwing SYN412 cabinet. For some reason, Synyster Gates stopped playing it after a while.

While we’re at Marshall amps, he’s also known for using the JVM205H 50-watt head. These are pretty versatile amps, and cranking up a 50-watt amp is a great idea for larger gigs.

JVM205H-large

Since it can be miked up for live shows, he’s able to get that authentic “organic” drive out of them by pushing the volume all the way up. It features the classic configuration of two channels – clean and drive.

He also owns that real beast of an amp, the Mesa Boogie JP-2C. Yes, the John Petrucci signature model, based on the good old Mark IIC+ amp. It’s an extremely versatile piece of gear and can create anything from smooth jazz up to big crushing tones for riffs and screaming leads.

jp2c john petrucci signature markIIC

While we’re at it, Syn’s also known for using the legendary Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp. Another great example of the company’s rich and tight-sounding guitar amps.

Now, Bogner Uberschall is a really delicate piece. A real jewel in his collection, it’s a 120-watt amp head with some of the most mindblowing tones you’ll ever get the chance to hear.

However, a real change came when Synyster began using the Fractal Audio’s Axe-FX III. Just like Kemper and a few other examples, it caused quite a stir in the guitar community.

axe-fx-iii-1920-front-white

Since Syn himself is all about modern technology, the addition of such a piece to his rig was inevitable. Needless to say, this powerful amp modeler successfully replicates any of the most advanced tube amps we’ve ever heard.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see his entire rigs replaced with one or two of these.

His love of modelling amps came some years ago when he began using the Axe-FX II. However, he used it only for some features and effects and not actual amp models. The story goes that he really likes the harmonizer in this digital processor.

Effects pedals

When it comes to pedals and other effects, he never really had too much of a complex layout. There have been a few compressors here and there, delays, boosters, wahs, and a few other occasional pedals.

His choice of wah is pretty interesting. Steering away from conventional pedals, he has Dunlop’s rack module Cry Baby DCR-2SR.

Dunlop+DCR+2SR

It’s a potent piece that allows you to shape your own wah and to determine what kind of sweep will it add to your tone. This is as pro as it gets with wahs.

He’s known for using a few different compressors over the years. There’s the classic choice of Boss SC-3 here, which is a continuation of the old CS-2 pedal. Then we have another piece like the very simple MXR CSP202.

Among modulations, delays, and other effects, there’s one rather interesting piece in his signal chain that Syn uses even today. It’s called Visual Sound H2O, and it’s a chorus and echo pedal in one.

visual sound h20 V1 liquid chorus and echo pedal review

This unconventionally shaped 2-in-1 pedal gives delays between 10 and 800 milliseconds and allows you to use a chorus or delay individually.

As for the aforementioned clean boost pedals, he uses a very simple yet effective MXR MC401. This little piece can do wonders when paired with the kind of tube amps that he’s using.

And just to throw in another one in here, Syn’s been seen using Electro-Harmonix POG, or the so-called “Polyphonic Octave Generator.” It’s a very intricate pedal, although we’re not sure how much he’s been using it in actual songs.

MicroPog-large

There have been a few other pedals here and there, but the ones described above are worth mentioning. Like we already said – Syn Gates has always kept it simple when it comes to the signal chain.

Accessories and other gear

Being a professional player that he is, it’s only expected to see a whole bunch of different accessories in Syn Gates’ setup. For instance, there’s Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator in his setup.

Ebtech HE-2 Hum Eliminator

This one allows the elimination of unwanted noise from AC adapters and other electrical interferences. Although small, it’s a very complex piece that does magic to your tone.

Since he has a few different pedals and devices, there’s got to be a reliable power supply in there somewhere. For this purpose, Syn uses the classic Dunlop DC-Brick – a 1-amper device that can power up to 10 pedals and effects at the same time.

lg_brick

Avenged Sevenfold are the classic arena metal band, so it’s only expected to see them using wireless systems. Synyster Gates’ choice for this is Audio Technica AEW-5111a.

It’s a very advanced and expensive rack-mounted wireless unit that provides stable operation in these large venue settings.

Schecter 6 String Synyster Gates Custom-S, Satin Gold Burst (1743)

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Schecter Hr412-Sle Hellraiser Stage 4X12 Slant Cab

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Marshall Jvm M-Jvm205H-U Guitar Amplifier Head

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Truetone V3H2O Liquid Chorus And Echo

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Final thoughts

From looking at this brief guitar setup and rig rundown, it’s pretty evident that Synyster Gates has evolved over these past two decades, along with his band. It’s always welcome to see this kind of an approach.

A great surprise came when Syn revealed that he’s interested in jazz music and that he plans on recording a full-blown jazz album. There are a few videos of him online playing some swing jazz.

With this being said, it’s highly likely that we’ll see his setup evolve even further. And this is already taking place with his use of Fractal Audio Axe-FX III. His overall tone and setup will depend on the direction that Avenged Sevenfold as a band will be taking in the future.

axe-fx-iii-1024-transparent-1024x271

Hearing “The Stage” that they launched back in 2016, we’re pretty excited about what they’ll do in the future.

After all, now that all the old metal bands are retiring one by one, they’ll be the one to continue carrying the torch of the genre, and they’ll be free to take it into any direction they want.

We Review the Best Amplifiers for Heavy Metal

best amps for heavy metal

Back in the late 1960’s, rock music began going into many different directions. However, one of the new movements stood out and has, later on, evolved into a genre of its own.

Usually considered to be its inventors, Black Sabbath pioneered heavy metal along with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, and a few other bands who rose to fame during the 1970s.

black sabbath 1969

The sinister-sounding guitar riffs and intricate lead sections were enhanced by a huge distorted guitar sound.

Although it was a bit difficult to achieve a great distorted tone back in the day, companies slowly began making great pedals and amplifiers that eventually became of great importance to the genre.

In case you’re trying to achieve some seriously sinister tones, here are some of the best amplifiers for heavy metal that you should check out.

Table of Contents:

Let’s get into it!


Diezel VH4

Diezel VH4

This particular amp became somewhat famous among metal tone lovers after Adam Jones of Tool began using it. Although he uses the “Blueface” version of the VH4, the ones you can buy today are pretty similar. Of course, these are all really expensive amps, but what you get is worth it.

Featuring a peculiar looking front panel, this is an amp with four channels with individual controls and includes four 12AX7 tubes in the preamp section, as well as four JJ KT77 tubes in the power amp section.

Aside from a presence knob that can often be found on other amps, the VH4 also has a “Deep” feature that allows more shaping in the low-end spectrum.

Here’s a video demo of the Diezel VH4 100W 4-channel Tube Head by Sweetwater Sound.

Up next…the Randall Thrasher.


Randall Thrasher

randall thrasher

Randall is a company known for its high gain metal amps, and the Thrasher 120-watt head is most certainly one of their best products. With its two channels and different parameters, you have solid control over the high gain tones. The addition of the gain boost switch is also very welcome.

Overall, as its name suggests, the Thrasher is designed for the classic thrash metal tones and can achieve both mid-range-heavy and scooped tones. Although its drive works well, Thrasher’s clean channel has some great potential if you want to use specific distortion pedals.

Here’s a video demo of the Randall Thrasher by Joey Concepcion.

Up next…the Peavey 6505 Plus.


Peavey 6505 Plus

Peavey 6505 Plus

Of course, there’s no way to avoid Peavey on a list like this one. Within the huge arsenal they built over the years, we would like to single out 6505 Plus amp head with its 120 watts of power, “Rhythm” and “Lead” channels, and separate detailed controls for both of these.

What’s interesting here is that you have pre and post gain controls for specific tone shaping as well as presence and resonance knobs for each of the individual channels.

The “Rhythm” channel also features “Bright” and “Crunch” modes that allow some sparkling clean and specifically overdriven tones. With these, you can even do more than just metal, making it a bit of a diverse product.

Here’s a video demo of the Peavey 6505+ 112 Combo by Peavey themselves.

Up next…the Friedman Amplification BE-100.


Friedman Amplification BE-100

Friedman Amplification BE-100

Looking at this amp, it’s pretty clear that the model is inspired by some of those vintage British hard rock and metal amps from the 1970s and the 1980s. With the configuration of four 12AX7 and four EL34 tubes, you can expect some of the classic rock and classic metal tones and can even dive into some serious high gain territories.

While the amp is designed for some older metal, it can also satisfy some modern tone tastes. In addition to standard knobs, there are a few switches on it that can further help you define lead and clean tones. There are even different voicing options and the “bright” feature for those sparkling tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Friedman BE100 Tube Amp by Sweetwater Sound.

Up next…the Marshall JVM410H.


Marshall JVM410H

JVM410H-large

While we’re at it, Marshall deserves a mention on the list of the best amps for heavy metal. The company’s JVM410H is an interesting piece since it adds the functionality and tonal spectrum to the classic British vibe that these amps are known for.

All of the four channels ñ Clean, Crunch, OD1, and OD2 – have detailed controls for some serious tone shaping. Whatever is the guitar that you’re playing, you can get anything from sparkling cleans to crunchy bluesy tones, all the way to screaming metal leads.

However, despite its versatility, the JVM410H is specifically designed for some seriously heavy tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Marshall JVM 410H by Guitar Interactive.

Up next…the Orange Brent Hinds Terror.


Orange Brent Hinds Terror

BrentHTerror-large

Speaking about metal, there’s one pretty interesting piece done in cooperation between Orange Amplification and the modern guitar champion, Mastodon’s Brent Hinds. Nicknamed Terror, this 15-watt amp head certainly justifies its name.

However, Orange amps are usually designed for those with specific tastes as the high gain tones often get a bit fuzzy. Of course, this is in no way a bad thing, but it should be noted that they’re designated for those who like stoner metal or the early Sabbath vibes.

Aside from its simple layout, this little tube-driven monster has power attenuation. The full power of 15 watts will be enough for gigs and rehearsals, but 7-watt, 1-watt, and 0.5-watt options come in handy for practice sessions and home use.

Here’s a video demo of the Orange Brent Hinds Terror by Riffs, Beards & Gear.

Up next…the PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti.


PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti

MT15H-large

Aside from the signature guitars with the company, Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge has a signature Paul Reed Smith amp called MT 15. Featuring relatively lower power output, there’s an abundance of tones that you can get with the MT 15 and its clean and lead channels.

But what’s so great about this one is that it can deliver quality tones even in the highest gain settings. You won’t have any issues with those blurry or muddy tones and even some chords will manage to sound good played through the MT 15. Also, there’s a power soak option that delivers 7 watts.

Here’s a demo of the PRS MT 15 Mark Tremonti Signature Amp from Anderton’s Music Co.

Up next…the MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier.


MESA/Boogie Triple Rectifier

Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier

Many would argue that Mesa Boogie is the best amp brand for metal. While this is open for discussion, we’re most certainly aware of why this is the case. After all, Mesa Boogie made the famous Triple Rectifier, known for some of the most brutal tones of all time.

While there’s an abundance of things that you can do with its three channels and all the knobs and switches, it became famous for its use in heavy metal music. The 150 watts of sheer power will simply blow you away, no matter the specific tones you’re trying to dial in.

Here’s a video demo of the MESA/Boogie Rectifier by Ola Englund


Conclusion

Heavy metal is more than just a guitar tone – it’s a state of mind.  But if you happen to have both going for you, plus some lightning-fast fingers, you’ll be unstoppable.  Let us know if there’s some amps you know of that belong on this list that we missed, we always enjoy hearing from you!

Thanks for reading!

We Review the Best Amplifiers for Rock Music

rock face

Ever since its inception in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, rock music was first among all the other genres to push the boundaries and bring something new.

And it was up to the guitar players to do their best to shock the people by showing them what their instruments can do.

The constant struggle to achieve the heavy tone eventually led to the complete innovation within the genre, ultimately giving birth to heavy metal and all of its sub-genres.

sabbath1970

But the main thing always remains – if you want to play rock music, you need to know that the standards are high and that you have to have a good tone.

This means you need a solid guitar, solid pedals, and a solid amp. With all this in mind, we will be digging deep into the world of guitar gear and finding the best amps for rock music.

Table of Contents:

Let’s get into it!


Boss Katana 100

boss katana 100 watt guitar amplifier black

After all these years, tube amps are still generally regarded as the best amps for pretty much any genre. However, some prefer to use solid-state amps, not only because of their lower prices but also due to their distinct tones. And that’s especially the case with rock music.

Boss introduced the new series of products in 2016, solid-state amps called Katana. Among the few variations, all of which are great, Katana 100 stands out. This 100-watt amplifier can deliver some seriously tight tones with pretty surprising quality for a solid-state piece.

There are five different amp models on it, a 3-band EQ, additional effects, two channels, one 12-inch speaker, FX loop, and power attenuation for 50 watts and 0.5 watts. The inclusion of power attenuation is kind of unusual for a solid-state amp, but it certainly gives some versatile options here.

Here is a video demo of the Boss Katana 100 by Anderton’s Music Co.

Up next, the Peavy Bandit 112…


Peavey Bandit 112

Peavey Bandit 112 amp

Peavey Bandit amps are another cheaper alternative that still manages to deliver some solid tones. Although solid-state, the Bandit 112 implements the so-called TransTube technology that manages to imitate the tone quality and dynamic response of classic tube amps.

The overall output power is 80 watts and the amp features one 12-inch speaker. There are two channels – one clean and one lead – both of which work with two separate outputs ñ high gain and low gain. This way, you’re able to use the amp normally if your guitar has high output pickups.

The lead channel gets pretty interesting with different voicing options and separate controls for pre and post gain. Despite its relatively lower price, this amp works great for some solid rock tones.

Here’s a video demo of the Peavy Bandit 112 by Willy Booger.

Up next…the Orange Rocker 15 Terror.


Orange Rocker 15 Terror

Orange Rocker 15 Terror

If you’re looking to buy a tube amp, know that 15 watts can be more than enough if the amp is good. This is the case with Rocker 15 Terror by Orange.

The company has built its reputation over the years for building some of the best amps for rock and metal tones over the years. With Rocker 15 Terror amp head, we realize why there’s all the praise for Orange as it is a two-channel amp with a simple layout and loads of possibilities that can deliver some serious rock and metal tones.

It features three 12AX7 tubes and one 12AT7 tube in the preamp, while the power section holds two EL84s.

At full potential, you can feel its sheer power and that raw high gain that still manages not to sound too muddy even at higher settings. There’s also power attenuation for 7 watts, 1 watt, and even 0.5 watts for some late-night bedroom practice sessions.

It’s a straightforward rock tube amp and worth every penny.

Here’s a review of the Orange Rocker 15 Terror Amp by Guitar Interactive.

Up next, the Vox AC30C2…


Vox AC30C2

vox ac30c2

There’s barely any other amp model out there that as famous as the good old Vox AC30. First introduced way back in 1958, the model is still being made to this day, with the tone staying pretty much close to the original but delivering some new modern features.

This 30-watt amplifier has two channels, two Celestion G12M Greenback 12-inch speakers, and four different inputs ñ high and low gain both for normal and top boost modes. As for the tubes, there are three 12AX7s in the preamp and 4 EL84s in the power section, the standard configuration for British-style amps.

Overall, this amp delivers a lot of solid tones but is largely popular for classic rock and hard rock tones. It can get bright and a bit heavy on the high-end spectrum, but that’s something that a lot of guitar players are looking for. Also, it rocks that beautiful classic Vox design.

Here’s a demo of the Vox AC30 by Dave Devlin Music.

Up next, the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200…


Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200

Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200

German-based amp manufacturers Hughes & Kettner are well-known for making solid amps and other products with some of the fullest, thickest, and most powerful tones. But just when we thought they can’t surprise us after great amp series like Switchblade or Tubemeister, we get the Black Spirit 200 amp head.

This extremely powerful 200-watt amp has four channels on it ñ clean, crunch, lead, and ultra ñ all of which can be tweaked in countless different ways to suit player’s needs.

Being a tube amp, it’s surprising to know that you can get those full tones even with the master volume even on the lower settings. Besides, there’s power attenuation for 20-watt and even 2-watt modes.

As if this wasn’t enough, it has an abundance of amp models and a DI output to go straight into the mix.

Here’s a demo of the Hughes & Kettner Black Spirit 200 by Ola Englund.

Up next…the MESA/Boogie Mark V.


MESA/Boogie Mark V

Mesa Boogie Mark V

Mesa Boogie is pretty much a standard go-to brand for rock musicians. On their Mark V model, they further developed what they did on their old amps, like the legendary IIC+.

Bear in mind that it’s not cheap and that it’s designed for professionals. But the abundance of options and the mind-blowing tone is worth it.

Three channels with separate EQ’s and voicing controls, 90 watts with 10- and 45-watt options, and even an additional independent switchable 5-band graphic EQ to add more flavor for special lead or rhythm sections.

This amp is a pure beast and something that you should check out.

Here’s a demo of the Mesa Boogie Mark V by MESA/Boogie.

Up next…some experts give their take on the question at hand.


Guitar Shop Picks

We spoke to Jim Deitzel from Cottonwood Music Emporium in Costa Mesa, California, to see if he had any favourite amps for rock he wanted to recommend. 

Jim says: “The Divided by13 BTR23 is a great amp for rock. It sports KT88 which rock, has a push/pull volume for extra gain.  It works perfectly with pedals and just kills.”

Good one!


Conclusion

If you are a musician and your goal is to play rock music, these are each amplifiers that you should at least take into consideration, before deciding what amp you really want to go with. 

Amps like these may sound great out of the gate, but there’s always new tricks to learn.  Let us know what you consider to be the best amp for rock music in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!