How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (2023)

How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (1)I remember when I first got an electric guitar and a small practice amp.

I couldn’t wait to get home and learn some of my favorite Adam Jones riffs.

Except my guitar sounded nothing like his.

I played around with with the knobs on my amp and my guitar. I tried the coil tap feature.

Nothing worked. My guitar sounding nothing like my favorite bands.

I had no idea how to make my electric guitar sound metal!

I soon learned I needed a few more pieces of equipment. And a different amp. Luckily, my guitar was well-suited for metal music, at least.

Keep reading to skip my period of extreme disappointment and subsequent education. We’ll show you how you can get that metal sound right from the start.

Table of Contents

  • 1 How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal
    • 1.1 Gear
    • 1.2 Setting It Up
    • 1.3 Playing Technique Matters
  • 2 How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Like Rock?
  • 3 How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Like Death Metal?
  • 4 How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Grunge?
  • 5 How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Scream?
  • 6 How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Crunchy?
  • 7 How To Make Your Guitar Sound Metal: Final Thoughts
(Video) How to Get Rock Guitar Tones! | Guitar Lesson for Beginners | Guitar Tricks

How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal

Getting your guitar to sound metal is a sum of different factors. This includes gear, different parameter settings, and playing technique. Although it is open to personal tone preferences, some common elements include higher gain settings and pronounced mids.

When you’re tweaking your guitar tone for a certain genre it doesn’t just come down to your amp or distortion pedal settings. You’ll need to get the proper gear, set it up, and use the proper technique.

There are plenty of metal subgenres. And even within the same subgenre, you’ll have many variations. With that in mind, we’ll cover all the aspects while reflecting on different tones that you can make depending on what you’re aiming for.


How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (2)

In generally, it is best to get a guitar with humbuckers, if you want to sound metal. Even better, they should be high-output humbuckers, sometimes even with active electronics.

However, you can also do well with regular medium-output ones which are also very useful for classic old-school metal. The truth is, no other features on your guitar will impact your tone as much as the pickups. Stay away from hollow-body guitars that can cause unwanted feedback.

If you want a solid-body amp, there are plenty of cost-friendly options with decent digital processors. This article lists some great guitar amps for metal music.

An old-school-style option like the Roland Jazz Chorus is not the best way to go for metal tone. But anything with digital modeling is more than great.

Although expensive, tube amplifiers are perfect. However, make sure to have something metal-oriented. That means nothing that’s vintage-style. The brand or exact model is up to you.

(Video) How To Get An Awesome Metal Tone - Dagan's Tone Tips - Metal Amp Settings, Pedal Settings & More

Finally, we come to distortion pedals. These are a tricky subject. Some of the metal-focused stuff is a no-brainer choice for the most part. For tube-driven amps, a simple overdrive works wonders and just boosts the tubes enough to get them to distort more “organically.”

This is a practice that many metal guitar players do, no matter the specific subgenre or personal tone preferences.

Other pedals and effects are up to you. In most settings, we’d recommend getting a delay or a reverb. Delay could make things sound more modern, but you get what works the best for you. It’s just important to have something to add more dimension to your tone.

If you are thinking about a multi-FX pedal, those have their place. They give you tons of different effects and are a lot of fun to play with, but you will need individual effects pedals to really dial in your tone. We have an article comparing the use of a multi-effect pedal vs individual pedals, if you want to know more.

Setting It Up

How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (3)

Now we get to the difficult part. The first thing that you need to look at is the EQ. This is where people usually make their first mistake and cut the mids.

From our experience, it’s usually better to keep them above 40%. Ideally, above 50%. This is the part of your tone that will give that rough “punch” and help you cut through the mix.

Of course, some specific styles require you to “scoop” the tone by cutting most of the mids. In that case, it’s usually better to complement it with the second guitar player who has a more “open” tone with stronger mids.

So-called parametric EQs exist on some amps, meaning that you can adjust the mid-frequency. It’s a bit more complicated but gives you the peak mid-frequency to work with. Play around with it and see what works for you.

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We’d also advise not to push the bass knob up high. If you do, you end up making a lot of unnecessary rumbling noise when playing with a bassist in a band.

Another common beginner mistake is to set the gain up high. On most amps, this will make your guitar sound too “fuzzy” or “muddy.” Don’t use high-gain settings to mask the mistakes in your playing. Keep it under 70%. On some amps, even 50% is more than enough.

With tube-driven amps, you’ll get additional “organic” distortion by increasing the volume. They also require a minimum volume setting, usually at around 40%, to get their full potential.

Solid-state amps usually won’t change their tone when you adjust the volume. However, some solid-state amps with digital processors can replicate that as well.

If you have additional controls, like presence or resonance, these aren’t that crucial. However, a presence control, which works with the power amp section, can help you cut through the mix.

We’d usually advise setting it above 60%. But if you need a darker tone, like doom metal, set it below 50%.

These same rules go for distortion pedals. Just bear in mind that increasing gain and volume on them will also drive tube amps to distort in their own way. If your pedal has a simple tone knob, keep it above 50%.

As for other effects and pedals, it all comes down to your preferences. I would advise not to put too much chorus or other modulation effects on high-gain settings.

Playing Technique Matters

How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (4)

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Finally, it also comes down to the way you play. Try playing around with different pick attack angles. Additionally, proper use of palm muting will help you get that “chugging” tone. But overall, getting things very tight and to the point technically is crucial for a good metal tone.

A proper bending technique is required for lead metal players. It’s extremely important to hit the right note. This comes with time and a lot of practice.

How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Like Rock?

This comes down to several factors, including required gear and parameter settings. Generally, keep the gain settings at moderate levels, use milder distortion, and set the midrange frequencies higher.

How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Like Death Metal?

Death metal usually requires “scooped” mids for old-school tone, and the opposite for modern sound. Use high-gain settings and pedals or amps designed specifically for metal. Humbuckers are highly recommended.

How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Grunge?

Grunge tone requires mid to high-gain settings, preferably with old-school-style tube amps. Use conventional distortion pedals and cut some of the high-end.

How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Scream?

How To Make An Electric Guitar Sound Metal (For Different Styles) (5)

Guitar “screaming” comes down to high-gain settings, great sustain, some feedback, and proper playing techniques. Bending a higher string and doing controlled vibrato, while not letting other strings ring out, helps you get the “screaming” effect.

How Do I Make My Electric Guitar Sound Crunchy?

The “crunch” in your tone is a combination of milder gain and pronounced mids and highs, preferably on tube-driven amps.

How To Make Your Guitar Sound Metal: Final Thoughts

Making your guitar sound metal comes down to a number of factors. Arguably the most important is an electric guitar with humbucking pickups. And ideally high-output pickups.

(Video) 5 Ways To Get A Killer Metal Guitar Tone

You also need the right kind of amplifier and the right pedals. The actual settings you need come down to personal preference. We gave you some guidelines above. Play around with them, until you find a sound you like.

If you have a specific guitarist whose sound you want to emulate, you can find the information you need online. You’ll want to learn what equipment they use and how they set it up.

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How can I make my electric guitar sound different? ›

The most common way is by using different types of pickups, which are magnets that pick up the vibrations of the strings and convert them into an electrical signal. The type of pickup determines the kind of sound the guitar will make.

How can I make my guitar sound like thrash metal? ›

To make a guitar sound like a thrash metal amp, you will need to use a high-gain amplifier with a lot of distortion. You will also need to use a guitar with high output pickups, such as humbuckers. Finally, you will need to use a guitar with a fast attack. Scooping the midrange is the key to twang metal.

How do I make my electric guitar sound grunge? ›

To get a grunge sound on an electric guitar, start by turning the distortion up high and adding some feedback. Then, play around with the EQ to get a grungy, midrange-heavy sound. You can also try using a flanger or a wah pedal to add some movement to your sound.

Does body shape affect electric guitar sound? ›

The Quick Answer. The shape of an electric guitar matters because it affects how it sounds and feels, as well as how it looks, of course. The body shape of the guitar affects how resonant the tone is, how easy it is to sit and stand with, and the fret access. The neck shape of a guitar affects how easy it is to play.

How can I make my guitar sound more metallic? ›

The simplest way to achieve a better metal tone is to adjust the bass on your amplifier, use the bridge pickup on your guitar, and use a distortion pedal instead of the gain setting on your amplifier. To improve sustain, a guitar with active pickups can also be used without increasing feedback.

What chords are used in metal? ›

As you've already learned, in Metal music we use Power Chords. A power chord is made up of a root and 5th intervals, creating a perfect 5th. Power Chords are also a form of Dyads. Dyads are basically chords made up on 2 – 3 notes.

How can I make my electric guitar sound like a steel guitar? ›

Imitating pedal steel sounds on the guitar by using volume swells, bends, and vibrato. Using volume swells and some bending, you can approximate the sound of a pedal steel guitar. These pedal-steel licks usually incorporate bending a string while fingering another to get a unique double-stop sound.

How can I make my electric guitar sound more aggressive? ›

You can use a compressor pedal to emphasize the attack portion of your sound and give you a more aggressive tone. Equalizer pedals, especially when you're playing clean, can be set to give you a high treble boost that will affect the attack. And some overdrive and distortion pedals emphasize the attack of your picking.

How do I make my guitar sound funky? ›

The Technique
  1. Left hand muting (to deaden strings creating rhythm)
  2. Solid right hand strumming.
  3. Locking in with the beat, groove and tempo.
  4. Basic funk chords.
  5. Good lead playing.

How do you make a shimmer effect guitar? ›

The two key components of the shimmer effect are octave-up pitch shifting and a suitably long and washy reverb. But it's also helpful to place a compressor before the pitch-shifter — this can help to keep up the level and density of the reverb tail, creating something akin to a pad or string machine sound.

How do I make my guitar sound like a metal doom? ›

For doom metal, your tone needs to be absolutely massive. Therefore, you should get one with regular humbuckers. Preferably, these should be regular passive pickups with a moderate to high output.

Why do jazz guitarists use hollow body guitars? ›

Although some jazz guitarists use solid body guitars, arguably, the better guitars for jazz are hollow body electric guitars or semi-hollow body electric guitars. These guitars are popular in jazz because of their warm tone.

Is guitar good for mental health? ›

Research has shown links between adults who play an instrument and lower blood pressure, lower stress levels, decreased heart rate plus a reduction in anxiety and depression – so learning to play the guitar really is the ultimate cure for stress.

Which electric guitar shape is best? ›

The Stratocaster is one of the most popular if not the number one guitar in history. The irregular double cutaway shape is almost synonymous with the term 'electric guitar'. The shape and sound of the Strat has been copied and replicated by many companies and guitar builders.

What is chicken picking on guitar? ›

The technique of chicken pickin' is accomplished by “snapping” the strings against the fretboard and frets by plucking the strings. This can be done with a flatpick and fingers, thumbpick and fingers, or even with a flatpick and metal finger picks. This involves getting a bit more aggressive with a string than usual.

What is the bottleneck guitar technique? ›

slide guitar, also called bottleneck guitar, a technique and style of guitar playing, whereby a hard object, typically a steel tube, a steel bar, or a glass bottleneck, is pressed across multiple strings and slid along the fingerboard to produce a smooth, whining sound that is in some ways evocative of the human voice.

What is guitar chugging? ›

One of the most impressive techniques that an acoustic guitar player can do is called “chugging.” Chugging is a percussive technique where the player uses their picking hand to rhythmically strike the strings while muting them with the other hand.

How do I make my guitar sound unique? ›

One way to create a more unique guitar sound is to experiment with different types of pickups. There are a variety of pickups available on the market, and each one offers its own unique tone. By trying out different pickups, players can find the perfect combination for their own style.

What is a dirty guitar sound? ›

Dirty sounds are basically just distortion. Some nice crunchy distortion of a wacky fuzz. It's called dirty because it's just guitar slang.

How do you distort an electric guitar? ›

Use a guitar amplifier to distort the sound

Many guitar amplifiers have two knobs labeled "volume gain" and "master." Turning the gain knob up will distort the sound even if the master volume is not raised much at all.

How do you make a car sound with a guitar? ›

All you need is your electric guitar, amp and a delay pedal. Gently tap your guitar's strings in time, keeping them muted so you get a good 'chug' sound. A bit of overdrive from your amp will help. Set your delay pedal so it repeats only once in between each tap.

Why is my electric guitar noisy when not touching strings? ›

If there is a short circuit in your electric guitar, you may notice buzzing in your guitar even without touching the strings. Electric guitars have metal parts; check them for any signs of damage. There is nothing to worry about if your electric guitar has a short circuit.


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