Korn got their start in the late 90s jumping to the forefront of the nu metal scene, and carrying their sound into the modern music era. They're still going strong and in this article we're going to look at how you can tweak your guitar amp to mimic the settings that they've used for the records and live gigs over the years.
As expected, we'll be working with some lower tunings and heavy distortion, though a seven-string guitar is not required.
First, let's look at some of the most common gear used by James Shaeffer and Brian Welch, Korn's two guitar players.
- Ibanez electric guitars (usually seven strings)
- Mesa Boogie amplifiers
- Diezel amplifiers
These are the three main ingredients in the Korn tone.
No distortion pedals necessary.
Unless, of course, you don't have a Diezel or Mesa Boogie amplifier (many of us don't). In that case, you can use a high gain distortion pedal to help bolster the Korn amp settings that we're going to use.
Let's start with the amp first.
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Korn Amp Settings
Use these settings as a starting point for tweaking your own amplifier. If it doesn't sound quite right, work with the dials until you get a heavy distortion, with some growl and bass in the EQ.
Here's your starting point:
- Bass: 8
- Treble: 4
- Midrange: 5-7
- Reverb: 0
- Presence: 5
- Gain: 10
Now, if you want to balance that out with Korn's actual amp settings, I'd refer you to the still shot below from Premier Guitar's rig rundown, where you can barely make out the settings for Shaeffer's Mesa Triple Rectifier on the amp's third channel (all the way to the left):
Dirty or Distorted Amp Settings
You can balance out the suggestions with the following, which is what I think these dials are set to on channel 3, the Triple Rectifier's high-gain channel:
- Bass: 10
- Midrange: 4-5
- Treble: 9
- Presence: 10
- Master: 5
- Gain: 10
This should give you a good balance of midrange, but with a more percussive low end and some bass boost. Depending on your amplifier, your gain may be more of an overdrive with a vintage profile, in which case you'll need a distortion pedal to push a more modernized distortion.
Here's a list of modern distortion pedals we recommend.
For some perspective, here's the main body of gear that Korn has used over the years to shape their tone. Saying its an "expensive" rig is an understatement.
This looks expensive. What else can I do?
You can see the Mesa and Diezel amps, as well as a handful of Mesa Speaker cabs that Shaeffer uses live. This means we have to keep our Korn amp settings search in perspective. They're working with an entirely different body of gear than we are, so it's important to keep that in mind.
However, there are a few low-cost things you can do to get closer to Korn's aggressive guitar tone.
Get a Heavy Distortion Pedal
Like I said earlier, if your amplifier can't handle the job, it's cheaper to get a nicer distortion pedal than it is to buy a Mesa or Diezel amplifier. Here are a couple pedals I'd recommend checking out.
- EHX Metal Muff (cheaper)
- Wampler Dracarys (nicer but more expensive)
Don't Rely on Overdrive or Fuzz Pedals
Overdrive and fuzz pedals can make a lot of noise, but they don't produce the same kind of modern gain that you get from a heavy distortion pedal. Avoid trying to make it happen with any kind of overdrive or fuzz stompbox. It'll just be frustrating.
Get Bigger String Gauges
Seven-string guitars have a lower B string but also tend to use larger string gauges. Go with a larger string set like a .056 in the low E or even consider getting a set of baritone strings and tuning down.
Speaking of tuning down, try some lower tunings when you're looking for good Korn amp settings. Since they're often tuned to drop A, you need that lower pitch and sound to truly capture their tone.
To get close to Korn's sound you need to have a lot of gain. If you can't get enough from your amplifier, add a distortion pedal that can handle modern gain levels and then set the EQ to match what we've come up with here. Tweak it until you get a deep growl out of your distortion and then try tuning lower.
All of that should get you close to a heavy Korn tone, with or without a 7-string guitar.
Do you have questions about dialing in the perfect Korn amp settings?
If so, drop us a line in the comments section below and we'll be happy to help out as best we can.
Pam Freeman says
I love korn and I did my best to make my epiphone les Paul 2 sound like korn and it sounds awesome 👌
If you got an Epiphone Les Paul to sound like Korn’s signature Ibanez 7-strings, you’re a bit of an enigma.
CHAUNCEY M ROULETTE says
So how would you eliminate any feedback with the settings for the KORN tone?
It depends on what amp/pedal you’re using. What’s your setup like?
CHAUNCEY M ROULETTE says
Mesa Triple Rectifier and running ibanez Series 7 Tone Lock Pedals…Tube Screamer, Smash Box, Chours/Flanger, Phaser, Delay/Echo and a Outlaw Widowmaker
And you’re using the Mesa for distortion?