Metallica has been around for a long time -- long enough for Kirk Hammett to turn 50, which just seems weird for any rock legend you’ve grown up with the be that old. I suppose it happens to all of us.
But even while Hammett ages, his lead guitar work for Metallica is timeless, and has earned him a spot in the upper-echelons of rock guitar stardom.
Particularly in terms of lead guitar, he’s hands down one of the best in the business, and his sound is fairly unique and easy to identify.
This is a fairly typical sound for Hammett, and while his rig is complex, replicating his settings on your own amplifier is pretty straight forward. Depending on your own gear, you might need to do some tweaking, but these settings will at least get you close to Hammett’s tone.
For whatever distortion you’re using, whether it’s from a pedal or your amplifier, make sure the gain is high -- around 9 or 10, and just go for a heavier saturation.
As far as the rest of the settings go, try something like this -- the graphic is courtesy of AmpKit which is free to download on iTunes:
You can add some reverb if you want, but I’ve found that these work pretty well with or without it.
When trying to replicate Hammett’s settings, the following rules are what you want to keep in mind when dialing things in:
- High bass
- Low mids
- High treble
If you just want plain numbers, here’s what I would recommend:
- Treble: 8
- Mids: 3
- Reverb: 5
- Gain: 10
What kind of distortion?
You’ll probably want to go the pedal route, which is fine. Hammett uses an Ibanez Tube Screamer, as well as an array of different amplifiers including Vox, Marshall, Randall and Mesa Boogie.
His distortion is probably more often produced by those amps, but since he uses the Tube Screamer, that’s a good pedal to go with if you want to replicate his sound.
Whatever pedal you use, just remember to keep the gain high.
Could you use more gear help?
Producing “great tone” is a worthy pursuit, but not always an obvious one.
We all own a unique collection of gear that seems to sound different all the time. That’s normal, but still something we need to learn to deal with.
We need to learn our gear.
If you want to access some resources that will help dealing with a specific tonal pursuit, piece of gear or other questions related to your rig, I’d recommend giving Guitar Tricks 14-day free trial a test run - there’s no obligations and you’ve got nothing to lose - except two free weeks of one of the most comprehensive and thorough guitar education websites in existence.
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Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of gaisler | gigriders.com