Do you want to dial in a good modern metal tone on your amp but don’t know how? Or do you think it’s hard to do?
I will say that creating a metal tone is not that hard and everybody can do it if it’s done correctly. You can achieve your goal with any amp or amp sims.
In this post, I will discuss how to get a good metal tone and show you it in steps. This method will work with any guitar amp or guitar amp sim but a high-gain amplifier is recommended.
How To Dial In A Metal Tone
If you have questions like how to get a metal sound on an amp to how to dial in a modern metal tone in a guitar amp sim, here is my way of creating good modern metal tones.
1. Choose A Metal Amp
To get a modern metal tone you want the most important thing is the amp because it will have the biggest impact on the sound. However, what type of guitar you will use is also important and I recommend using a guitar with humbucker pickups.
You can use any real amp you have like a modeling amp or tube amp or a guitar amp sim if you prefer plugins but it should be a high-gain amplifier. If you choose some kind of clean guitar amplifier it won’t give the sound you want.
A better option is to have a two-channel guitar amplifier because you will have a clean tone option. You may play metal mostly but having a good clean tone is always a plus.
And of course, the quality of a metal amp is critical when dialing in a good heavy guitar tone. Because the tone is heavily dependent on the amp and if it’s not good the tone won’t be good either.
Also, the more powerful an amplifier is more headroom you will have and you will be able to create diverse tones.
2. Pick A Good Amp Cabinet
If you use a guitar combo, you won’t need a guitar cabinet but if you use an amp head, then a good guitar speaker cabinet is required. And it’s as important as the amp itself.
You can use a matching cab or use a different cabinet and other you have many options. You can use 1×12, 2×12, 4×12, or any type of speaker cabinet but the more speakers you have more options are available to you.
If you use a 1×12 guitar cabinet then you are stuck with that speaker but if your cabinet has multiple speakers in it, you can install different speakers and blend them to get a unique sound.
Also, multiple guitar speakers are great when recording and micing up the amplifier. You can use different speakers with different mics and more sound options will be available.
Learn more about connecting amp heads to cabinets which can be a great way to record.
However, the heaviness of your tone is not depending on the number of speakers but the type of speaker is important.
You need to choose some kind of hi-gain guitar cabinets such as Orange, Mesa/Boogie, and Marshall to get a good and modern metal tone. If you play through a Fender guitar cabinet then, of course, your tone won’t be as heavy as you want it to be.
So, to get a good metal guitar sound, it’s better to use 2×12 or 4×12 guitar cabinets that are designed for high-gain amplifiers.
3. Set The Right Amount Of Amp Gain
After you choose the guitar amp and cabinet (or a combo) it’s time to start tweaking the settings and it starts with the gain. Before you touch any knobs it’s important to know how much gain you have.
And many guitar players make mistakes when it comes to the amount of gain, especially beginners. They think that more gain means a better tone but it’s the opposite. Too much gain makes the sound unclear and too saturated.
You don’t need too much gain but it’s tricky to say the exact amount. It depends on the amplifier and tone you want to have. For reference, you can use some songs or guitar tones you like.
In general, when I create metal tones the gain knob is between 4 and 6 depending on the amp. Especially if I’m using a modern hi-gain amplifier, it never goes above 5.
Just start turning the gain knob and play different riffs. The important thing is the palm muted parts. Play some palm-muted parts and when you are happy with the sound, then stop tweaking the gain control.
The amount of gain you will set will be the core of your sound. Of course, you will use an overdrive pedal but it will tighten the sound and add very little gain. So, just take your time and make sure you like the sound.
Also, make sure the overall amp volume is set to the optimal level.
4. Create The Core Sound With Preamp
After setting the right amount of gain it’s time to dial in the core sound of the amp which is done by the preamp section. Most amps will have 3-band EQ with bass, mid, and treble knobs, but yours might be different.
However, the goal is the same – with these controls, you must create the sound you want. Also, the amp will have a presence knob which is also handy when creating the core amp tone.
There are no rules on how you create the sound and it can be achieved in different ways but I have my method. This works for me and might help you too.
First, set the bass, middle, and treble knobs to zero, and then start increasing each control one by one until you are satisfied.
Start with the bass knob and slowly increase it and play some riffs along the way. This way you will clearly hear how much low frequencies are added to your sound.
I don’t like too many bass frequencies on the guitar, especially for modern metal tones. So, in general, I leave bass control between 3 and 4 but it might change depending on the amp.
After you set the bass level it’s time to do the same with a middle knob. This control helps to increase the presence of the guitar in the mix so it’s very important to set it right.
I love mid-heavy guitar tones but you might want to scoop the mids. There are no rules and you can do whatever sounds good for you.
But in general, I set my middle knob about 7 or 8 and it brings all the good characteristics of the amp.
And lastly, do exactly the same to the treble control which adds high frequencies. Depending on your amp choice of yours, it might be already treble-heavy so you might not want to add too much.
I set it to between 6 and 8 but it’s different almost every time. Also, make sure to play riffs while you doing this. Play leads, riffs, and palm-muted chugs to see how it sounds.
5. Final Tweaks To Amp Settings
Now you have the sound you like but after you did these tweaks it’s time to listen carefully and make final changes.
Just start playing your favorite riffs and if you don’t like anything it’s better to change it right away.
But these changes shouldn’t be drastic. Just cosmetic tweaking to finally get the sound you want.
You might hear that there is too much or not enough gain, low frequencies are a little bit muddy, or something similar.
Just do final edits to your amp and when you are satisfied, it’s time to go to the next step which is tightening the sound.
6. Tighten The Sound With An Overdrive
Although you might use the best amplifier in the world or set the awesome metal tone, it will need a little more push and one last ingredient for tight sound.
And that ingredient is the overdrive pedal which is my favorite way to make heavy tones tighter and more awesome.
Of course, you can use distortion or even a fuzz pedal but in my opinion, overdrive does the job best with hi-gain amplifiers. Because the main power comes from the amp and overdrive just gives it a little push and makes the low frequencies tighter.
You can use any overdrive pedal as long as it has drive, volume, and tone knobs. Some people like to use boosters or some weird one-knob pedals but that’s not how I do it.
And the settings are very important when using the overdrive with a high-gain guitar amplifier. You don’t want to add more gain with the pedal because the sound won’t be clear.
My overdrive settings are almost always the same except for the tone and volume knobs. But the drive is always the exact same.
So, leave the drive knob on zero so it doesn’t add additional drive. We want to tighten the sound. Volume is not so important but I like to match it with the amp volume so when I switch it on, I don’t hear any volume differences.
But the tone knob is very important and it might be different for every amp and metal tone. You don’t want too dark or too bright sound so tone knobs help to control it.
First, I set the tone knob at twelve o’clock and play some riffs. Depending on what I hear, I change the settings accordingly.
If I think that the tone is too dark, I increase the tone and if it’s too bright, do the opposite. But in general, tone settings between 5 and 6 work almost all the time.
Dialing in a good modern metal tone is not that hard and you can do it with real amps or even with guitar amp sims. You just need a good amplifier, a good guitar cabinet (if you are using the amp head), and an overdrive pedal. For modern metal tones, I recommend using a high-gain amplifier but if you want to get a classic metal tone, you can use some vintage amps and it will work.