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How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal

Who else wants to know how to make electric guitar sound metal?

It’s no secret that learning how to make electric guitar sound metal can be a tricky process.

It’s hard to know where to start, or even to know if you’re on the right track.

Plus, different guitar configurations are going to give you different tones.

For a beginner, it’s hard to know where to start.

Fortunately, we’ll outline some things to do when you’re looking to make your electric guitar sound metal:

  • Use Humbucker Pickups
  • Add Overdrive to Your Tone
  • Use a Distortion Pedal
  • Down Tune Your Strings
  • Adjust Your Levels

Let’s check it out!

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: Use Humbucker Pickups

Image by Chris Spehr from Pixabay

You’re going to have an easier time getting a metal sound out of your guitar if you’re using humbucker pickups.

The more distortion you use the harder it’ll be for a single-coil pickup to cleanly cut through the distortion.

Your sound will just be muddy.

With a humbucker, it’s much easier to get a clear signal that sounds good distorted.

A lot of metal players even use active pickups.

Active pickups use a battery to boost the output signal of the pickups so you can cut through even heavier distortion.

If you pay attention to the guitars metal players use, they are almost always using a humbucker pickup.

If all you’ve got are single-coil pickups(like on a Telecaster,) use the neck pickup.

Using the neck pickup will get you closer to a metal sound than the bridge pickup since it won’t sound so ‘thin’ or brittle.

However, if you do have humbuckers pickups, you’ll probably have an easier time getting a metal sound out of the bridge pickup.

Whatever pickup you use, go ahead and turn your tone knob all the way up.

Getting a metal sound out of your guitar means not using the tone knob to alter your tone.

Some metal guitarists even play guitars that don’t have a tone knob.

Having said all of that, feel free to experiment and see what gives you the sound you like best.

It’s your guitar, and there are no rules.

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: Add Overdrive to Your Tone

The best way to get a metal sound is to add some overdrive to your tone.

Fortunately, your amp may already have an overdrive setting or two.

Even if all you’re using is a very simple practice amp, it probably has a way to add overdrive to your tone.

Either way, overdrive is key to making your electric guitar sound metal.

If you’re not using a modeling amp or don’t have any preset tones, you’re gonna need to dial in your metal sound manually.

The best way to find a metal tone is to start with a clean tone.

Set your volume to a comfortable level.

Now, increase your gain from zero a bit, play a few chords and a few notes, and then adjust your volume accordingly.

You’ll find that as you increase your gain, your overall sound will get louder, and you’ll want to turn down your volume.

Experiment with your gain and volume settings, stopping to play your guitar after you’ve made any changes until you find a sound that you like.

Once you’ve found your tone, you’ll want to write down the amp settings so you can easily find your tone again.

Image by Gabriel Linhares from Pixabay

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: Use a Distortion Pedal

If you’re not happy with the tone you’re getting from your amp, you might have a better time using a distortion pedal.

With a distortion pedal, you have a device dedicated to delivering a metal sound.

Using a distortion pedal also gives you the option of setting your amp to a clean tone and using your distortion pedal to change your sound on the fly.

It’s a great way to expand your tonal palette!

Finding the right pedal can be hit or miss.

Especially if you’re just starting, since you may not know exactly what pedal will give you the sound you’re looking for.

A great pedal to start with is the Boss DS-1

The Boss DS-1 has a long history of delivering dependable distorted tones.

Additionally, it is very affordable and has simple, straightforward controls.

The Boss DS-1 has a long history of delivering dependable distorted tones.

Additionally, it is very affordable and has simple, straightforward controls.

It features a tone knob, level knob, and distortion knob which will give you a wide range of versatile tones to experiment with.

We think you’ll find it’s a great pedal to get started with.

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: Down Tune Your Strings

Tuning down your guitar strings can often help make your guitar sound metal.

Even a simple drop D tuning can give you more low end and add to a more metal sound.

A lot of metal bands even go so far as to down tune their strings so much, they need thicker strings.

If you decide that you want to tune down permanently, you may need to do the same thing.

The reason is that regular guitar strings are designed to be at a certain tension when in standard tuning.

If you tune your guitar strings down too much, they will be very slack and won’t make much sound at all.

To get started, try tuning your guitar strings down a step.

Loosen your strings one at a time, and tune them so that the:

  • Low E String Becomes D
  • The A String Becomes B
  • The D String Becomes C
  • The G String Becomes F
  • The B String Becomes A
  • The E String Becomes D

Using a tuner will help a lot with this.

Try playing your guitar and see if you like the sound.

This may become your preferred tuning!

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: Adjust Your Levels

Image by Alexander Kampmann from Pixabay

If your amp has an equalizer, experimenting with the amount of bass, treble, and mids will help you to refine your sound.

On their own, they probably won’t make your guitar sound metal, but they can help you to find the exact tone you’re looking for.

The best way to start is to set everything equal, and then lower the bass.

Play your guitar some, and then raise the bass again.

This will give a good idea of how the bass affects your tone.

Repeat the process with your highs and mids until you find a sound you like.

And remember to write down the settings for future reference!

How to Make Electric Guitar Sound Metal: FAQ

  • Can any electric guitar play metal?
  • How do you make a Metal Strat sound?
    • If you don’t have a humbucker at the bridge, use the neck pickup.
  • Can you play metal on a Stratocaster?
    • Yes, especially if you’ve got a humbucker at the bridge position.
  • Which metal guitar should I buy?
  • Are squiers good for metal?
    • For the money, you’re probably going to be happier with a Schecter, Jackson, or ESP guitar.
  • Can you play metal on a HSS?
    • Absolutely! Although you’ll probably use the humbucker pickup the most, there’s no reason you can’t get a metal tone out of a HSS setup.