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Online Guide Guitar Setups
Metal-Setup

 

Though ‘metal’ is nowadays a rather broad category encompassing many discrete styles, most of our observations here cover the whole range, as the basic requirements are the same - high
TrimThe initial gain control on a mixer or other audio device such as a mic preamp, often labelled 'gain'. Trim/gain adjustment is crucial to maintaining a clean gain structure and good signal-to-noise ratio.
gain
and high volume!


The Guitar

There is no precise dividing line between heavy rock and metal, in sonic terms at least. Early metal bands simply went one stage further than the heavy rock bands of the Seventies by turning up louder, using more
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
and playing harder and faster. Consequently the gear used in the early days was more or less the same.

Metal Guitar

The Strat and Les Paul each offered advantages to early heavy rock/metal players, and it was only a matter of time before players and designers would conspire to combine the high output of
HumbuckerA type of guitar pickup developed by Gibson in the 1950s, in which two single coils are connected in opposite phase in order to cancel noise. This also results in a distinctively different sound to a single coil pickup, generally thought to be fatter.
humbuckers
with the expressive potential of a whammy
BarA fundamental unit of musical form consisting of a number of beats, usually 4 or 3, as defined by the time signature.
bar
- ‘Superstrat’ describes a Strat-style guitar with at least one
HumbuckerA type of guitar pickup developed by Gibson in the 1950s, in which two single coils are connected in opposite phase in order to cancel noise. This also results in a distinctively different sound to a single coil pickup, generally thought to be fatter.
humbucker
. The Fender
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
, though radical in its day, was not really designed for the sort of antics that metal players were getting into by the late Seventies and early Eighties. The Floyd Rose
Tremolo1) An effect caused by periodic fluctuations in the volume of a note or chord, produced naturally by some singers but more commonly encountered as a guitar effect. 2) A common synonym for the guitar vibrato arm (whammy bar), in almost universal use even though it is technically incorrect: vibrato is the correct term as the arm produces variations in pitch, not volume.
tremolo
, introduced around this time, offers greatly improved tuning stability and the ability to bend both up and down. A Floyd Rose-equipped Superstrat became the weapon of choice for metal-merchants, and a number of guitar manufacturers appeared as if from nowhere to claim territory that Gibson and Fender were a little slow to identify, the big names being Charvel/Jackson, ESP and of course BC Rich. The latter company’s designs are possibly the most iconic metal guitars, with their rather rude shapes and even ruder names. Ibanez catered for the needs of the more sophisticated metal player, and have long been identified with virtuosos such as Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Paul Reed Smith guitars combine the best of the Gibson and Fender traditions with guitars that have set new standards in build quality, versatility and choice of sounds. Though not cheap, and originally aimed at a rather different type of guitarist, PRS guitars are highly popular with American nu-metal players.


The Amp

This is one style where combos don’t usually make enough
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
noise
to compete. A metal player needs to
SustainA general term with various specific meanings in music/audio production: 1) In general terms, how well an instrument's sound persists once played. 2) The third part of the ADSR envelope used by many synthesisers, Sustain ('S') determines to what volume a note decays after it is triggered, but before the key is released. (Decay 'D' controls how fast this happens) 3) The piano pedal which removes the dampers from the strings, so that notes will continue to sound even after the keys have been released. This is implemented in MIDI as a specific message with 2 possible values: 127 (pedal down) and 1 (pedal up).
hold
his own against shrieking vocals and pounding drums, often including very large
CrashA computer state of sudden inoperability. A crash usually occurs when two processes are attempting to use the same memory space simultaneously but may also be caused by bad programming, corrupted drivers or an unexpected response to a system process.
crash
cymbals and a double kick-drum pedal. Metal audiences have come to expect a wall of sound that can be felt as well as heard - to this end a 100W
StackA form of guitar amplification, generally associated with rock music, in which the amplifier circuitry ('amp') is separate from (and usually placed on top of) one or more speaker cabinets ('cabs').
stack
with two 4x12” cabs has become the norm, even for relatively small venues.

The venerable Marshall
StackA form of guitar amplification, generally associated with rock music, in which the amplifier circuitry ('amp') is separate from (and usually placed on top of) one or more speaker cabinets ('cabs').
stack
is still a popular choice, but other companies have specifically targeted the metal
SceneProgram information containing the settings of a digital (or digitally controlled) device of a mixer. Scene recall enables fader positions and other settings to be 'remembered' at the touch of one button.
scene
. The most significant of these is undoubtedly Mesa-Boogie, whose ‘Dual Rectifier’
ValveA device consisting of a glass tube from which air is removed, containing one or more electrical contacts operating at high temperature, which as the predecessor of the transistor, was essential to the development of electronics (particularly amplification) and is still favoured in guitar amplification and high-end hi-fi for its warm sound.
valve
heads have a sound which, though firmly in the Marshall tradition is a little more ‘processed’, but also more aggressive and simultaneously clearer - heavy
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
with less ‘surface fuzz’, in a sense. This is the dominant sound of nu-metal.


Effects

Though having the correct basic sound will cover most of the ground in heavy metal, a few
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
are specifically associated with the style, and often employed for solos and instrumental sections. ‘Flanging’ and ‘phasing’ are particularly effective when used on clean sounds for intros and verse patterns - without some
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
, the contrast between clean and fully distorted sounds can be a little too extreme.

The ‘octaver’ effect is also generally associated with heavy metal. This is a pitch shifter which produces the effect of playing in octaves from a single note or chord. When combined with
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
, the effect is big and thick. ‘Pitch shifting’ in general can also be used to enable one player to replicate the ‘twin lead’ sound of Thin Lizzy or Iron Maiden, particularly the more sophisticated ‘intelligent’ pitch shifters which vary the interval they produce to give diatonic harmonies in a specific
KeyAn additional input on a dynamics processor such as a compressor or noise gate, enabling the dynamics of one signal to control the level of another. This can be used for many functions, including ducking (compressing a music signal when a DJ or announcer speaks), synchronised gating, and (in conjunction with an equaliser) de-essing.
key
or mode.

When using heavy
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
,
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
placement becomes particularly critical. Certain
EffectsGeneral term applied to audio processors for dynamics, time, ambience and equalisation whether in the form of 19" rack units, guitar floor pedals, or software plug-ins.
effects
sound awful when placed before
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
–chorus or
FlangeA modulation effect originally produced by using synchronised tape machines with identical signals and slowing one machine down by pressing on the flange of one of the tape reels.
flanging
for example – and must therefore be placed either after the
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
pedal, or in an FX loop. Any pitch shifting effect, including octaving, should be placed before
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
, otherwise the
DistortionIn most cases distortion is an undesirable alteration to a signal which occurs when a piece of equipment is driven with a input level that is too high for its operating level. Sometimes, as in the case of guitar distortion, this can be an intentional and desirable effect.
distortion
harmonics themselves will be shifted with rather odd-sounding results.

Metal-Setup

 

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