Quiet Riot

June 30, 2008

Dear Dude,

I want to build an Isolation Cabinet that fits a 4×12 cab. I was watching the Darkest Hour webisode #2 video a long time ago and you were showing one off at the studio you recorded in. That ISO Cab looks like one of the best ones I have seen. Is there anyway you can tell me how to build that one or get me some designs of that Isolation Cabinet? I have looked at a ton of how to guides on the web and all I can find are temporary ones or ones that only fit 2×14’s and it is very frustrating. I am trying to start a home studio and it would greatly help me and my neighborhood out.

Quiet Riot

Dear Quiet Riot,

We did record the Deliver Us guitars in an Isolation Cabinet, or Isolation Booth. It was because the studio was part of a bigger studio so many sessions used the rooms next to and below us. In other words it was like recording at home except everyone around you was also recording. My point is you wanted everything to be isolated. The Iso. Booth is basically a box inside a box. You build a big wooden box and then inside that box you build another box. You need to have air in between them because air is the best isolation material. A guitar cab is miked in the center box and then doors are closed so that the guitar is closed in and the sound is closed out. It looked pretty hard to build and to be honest the guitar was still pretty loud outside of the booth. Since dabbling in the world of home recording I have fought the Isolation Cabinet wars, and here are some methods I use that are less complicated, and keep the neighbors from killing me:

The Guitar Blanket: I mic a 4X12 speaker cab with a Sennheiser 609 and a shure 57. I put my guitar cab in a separate room (you can even have the guitar cab in the same room with you, as long as it’s not facing you because you don’t want the noise of you playing the guitar to bleed into the mics). After the cabinet is miked, I place 3 sleeping bags over the cab. You have to be careful to not displace the mics, I use Z-bars because they don’t fall all over the place like stands usually do. I’ve been able to run a marshal 800, Randall MTS, Peavey 5150 all at around the volume setting of 3 or so and get a loud sound to tape with out even coming close to waking up the neighbors. I have not heard any noise or tonal loss from this method. If you cant get your vintage head to distort up that quiet I suggest a power break as I have mentioned in other posts.

The POD: Dude, the purpose of a pod is to replace the need for miking and loud noise. To be honest part of the guitar tone on Deliver Us is from a line 6 Pod. The producer, Devin Townsend, blended it with 3 other sounds to make the overall sound of the guitars on that record. My point is they sound good and we didn’t even need the booth. You
can get tons of great sounding guitars from those pods with out any of this trouble. When I record I probably use the Pod for half and the Guitar Blanket Method for the other half.

Randall Isolation 12’ Speaker Cab: This is the professional proposed solution. I have seen some sick metal bands use this live to isolate the sound of their guitars and I have been lucky enough to use one a few times. They are cool and do work. I don’t always like the same speaker sound so I stick with my guitar blanket method but the Isolation speaker cab does work and is a good solution to check out.

The Old’ REAMP: The re-amp is all the rage with producers I talk to these days. Basically it means that every time a guitar is tracked there is an additional direct signal that is tracked at the same time. The guitars are grouped together so the DI and Amp track match perfectly. This means that later the DI track can be run into any amp or guitar sound and re-recorded. This is so you can lay down your tracks with whatever sound you have at the time be it POD or 5150 in your bedroom closet and later replay that DI signal through any sick guitar rig at any studio in the world. Whenever I do serious home recording I record a DI signal. I mean you never know a good DI can give you the tools to make that good recording sound amazing.

The more you experiment and the more you play around with home recording the more you will realize you can make most any guitar set up sound cool you just have to use your ears to tweak those knobs. Its like guerrilla sound warfare, use whatever gear you have as many ways possible. Its how you learn to adapt to using all types of musical/recording gear and give you the ability to make a recording in your home people will think you spent millions on.

The Dude

Ask the Dude Live at this Summers Thrash and Burn Tour

June 26, 2008

Hey Dudes!

In conjunction with the organizers of this summers inaugural Thrash and Burn tour, I am excited to announce that I will be inviting you backstage this summer to answer your Ask the Dude questions in person.

When the idea of doing Ask the Dude Live came up I was far beyond stoked (catch the Pantera reference?)! Meeting new people at shows and making new friends all over the world is probably the single most fulfilling thing about being a touring musician. It seems that the more hardcore, punk, and metal gets swallowed by the mainstream the more the true connection between artist and listener is lost. I hope to make some new friends, hold some killer parties, and hopefully maybe even help some dudes out this summer!

If you would like have your Ask the Dude question answered live, submit your question to live@askthedude.net. Please include your city and date when Darkest Hour will be in your town this summer (tour dates listed below) in the SUBJECT LINE of the email. If your question is chosen you will receive two spots on the band’s guest list with instructions on how, when, and where to meet me the day of the show.

Remember you can still always submit your questions directly to me at: thedude@askthedude.net to be posted on the Ask the Dude website! Also, check out Ask the Dude in print in this August’s issue of Alternative Press (issue 241).

Thrash and Burn 2008 Featuring Darkest Hour, Parkway Drive, Misery Signals, Winds of Plague, Stick to Your Guns, Arsis, Arsonists Get All the Girls, Abigail Williams, and After the Burial. W/ Special guests Suicide Silence, As Blood Runs Black, Emmure, Veil of Maya, Brother Von Doom and more on select dates.

Thrash and Burn Tour dates:

7/29 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theatre

7/30 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom

7/31 – Kansas City, KS @ Beaumont

8/01 – Dayton, OH @ The Attic

8/02 – Detroit, MI @ Dirtfest

8/03 – Milwaukee, WI @ Robot Moshfest

8/04 – Chicago, IL @ The Pearl Room

8/05 – Louisville, KY @ Headliners

8/06 – Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s

8/07 – Rochester, NY @ Penny Arcade

8/08 – Albany, NY @ Northern Lights

8/09 – Hartford, CT @ Webster Theatre

8/11 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza

8/12 – Huntington, WV @ The Monkey

8/14 – Long Island, NY @ The Crazy Donkey

8/15 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium

8/16 – Baltimore, MD @ Sonar

8/17 – Virginia Beach, VA @ The Norva

8/18 – Raleigh, NC @ Lincoln Theatre

8/19 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

8/20 – St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre

8/22 – San Antonio, TX @ White Rabbit

8/23 – Houston, TX @ Java Jazz Outdoors

8/24 – Dallas, TX @ House of Blues

8/25 – El Paso, TX @ Club 101

8/26 – Phoenix, AZ @ Marquee Theatre

8/27 – Los Angeles, CA @ House of Blues

8/28 – San Diego, CA @ Soma

8/29 – Bakersfield, CA @ The Dome

8/30 – San Bernadino, CA @ The Hudson Theatre

8/31 – San Francisco, CA @ The Grand

9/01 – Portland, OR @ The Hawthorne Theatre

9/02 – Spokane, WA @ The Big Easy

9/03 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven

See you guys there!
The Dude

Metal Head

June 25, 2008

Dear Dude,

I just bought a Marshall JCM 900 head and I am about to get the 1960 speaker cabinet. I also have a LINE 6 POD XT, a few analog pedals (Boss Metalzone, Marshall Jackhammer, Morley’s Bad Horsie, etc…) and have some questions that I’m sure you can answer.

Can the JCM900´s distortion be heavy or crunchy enough to play modern metal (IE Arch Enemy, Darkest Hour, ETC)? If not, is it better to play with my POD XT through the head’s clean channel? Would that result in a good sound? Or should I use my analog pedals instead?

When it comes to soloing, how would you boost the signal? Especially if it is the amp’s distortion that I’m using. What other equipment do u think I should get to improve my metal sound?

Metal Head

Dear Metal Head,

Whoa buddy, that’s a lot more then one question. But thankfully all these questions are intertwined in one man’s quest for the perfect metal tone. I will walk you though all these questions, but I got to warn ya, its not going to be pretty.

The JCM 900 is a tricky beast. There are many different types (IE the SLX model which is more gain, the duel channel model, the single channel model etc.) and let’s not forget they make 50 and 100-watt versions. I have used and abused JCM 900’s all over the world because it’s usually the amp that shows up when I request an 800 (most people don’t know there is a huge difference between the two). Even though there are many different types and styles of 900 my advice will always be the same: Dude, I’m sorry, but you should get a different head all together.

Whenever I’ve had to use a Marshall 900 for DH it’s always been nothing short of a disaster, and I have never seen a professional metal band of any type use one. Before answering this letter I wanted to try and give the 900’s the benefit of the doubt, so I called my main man, and uber producer, Paul Leavitt of Valencia Recording Studios (Senses Fail, Gwen Stacy, The All Time Low) for his advice. Paul is the only man on earth I have ever heard make a 900 sound good, but alas, after a few seconds on the phone with Paul I knew he was going to agree with me. Had he used a 900 on a good sounding metal recording? Yes, but only to layer over other guitar sounds. He was really happy with what adding this tone to the overall sound did for the recording, but both Paul and I both agreed the 900 sound just wasn’t great for metal in general. It sounds awesome for rock and punk but doesn’t have the nice low end, full gain, and overall drive that other modern gain amps have for metal.
If you are insistent on sticking with the 900 I would suggest playing around with a different tube set up. I have always found that installing 6505 or 6L6’s (which Paul suggests too) can actually add more low end, girth, and gain to the way most Marshall’s sound. As far as distortion pedals go I have always had good experiences with the Ibanez (and especially Maxon) tube screamers and have even used the Zakk Wylde MXR custom distortion pedal in their place. But neither of these pedals are going to make a 900 sound like a rectifier, 5150, Randall MTS, or even Marshall 800. I just haven’t stumbled across a pedal can do that!

Also, in my experience running a POD for distortion into an amp doesn’t ever sound good. Usually it is too muddy, too distorted, and kills most of the low end. In fact you would probably get a better over all metal sound if you just ran the POD directly into a PA (but lets not get into that because playing live with no amp might work for Mushuga but won’t for most people!).

Is there a possibility I am off my rocker and you have the best sounding JCM 900 in the world? Yes, absolutely. Don’t let my words discourage you from experimenting. And hey if you can make it sound cool then shit even email me back because I would love know what you were able to do. But, based on my extensive experience with many models of the 900 and the experiences of most of my peers, none of us think this is the right head for metal. What are good heads to start with? I believe you did ask what other equipment would improve your metal sound. Here are a few that are worth trying: Marshall JCM 800, Marshall JCM 2000, Peavey 5150, Peavey 5150 (2), Peavey 6505, Randall MTS, Krank Revolution, Mesa Duel, Single, and Triple Rectifier, Mesa Mark IV, and Mesa Stiletto.

I’m sure there were always people asking Dimebag why he didn’t use a Marshall amp and a Les Paul guitar. At the time Dean guitars and Randall Amps were not the cream of the crop, but he found something that was different and made it his own. So please experiment, that’s how you will eventually find your unique sound, but since you asked this dude, I’m going to serve up some rough justice and tell you the JCM 900 is not the best head for playing modern metal.

The Dude

Riff Writer

June 23, 2008

Dear Dude,

I’ve been playing guitar for almost two years now and have developed a very solid technique in the short time I have been playing. I practice at least 3 hours a day anywhere between 4 to 5 days a week and I’ve taught myself almost everything and have only had a few professional lessons. I’ve hit a road block where I want to be writing more technical songs with soloing, using different scales and modes to create riffs and solid lines. I’m good with working within the major and minor scales but my knowledge is limited to those and I feel like if I had a better knowledge of other scales and theory I could be writing really complex guitar. A good example would be the guitar work from some of the songs you wrote for darkest hour like Deliver Us, With a Thousand Words to Say But One, and This Will Outlive Us.

The problem, I suppose, is that I just don’t know enough theory, scales and modes and how they all work together. So, without taking lessons what do you suggest would be the best way for me to learn how to solo and write really unique riffs, and how did you learn these advanced concepts yourself?

Riff Writer

Dear Riff Writer,

There is a tendency amongst musicians, guitarists especially, to equate learning music to some sort of science. Since a lot about learning how to play the guitar can be attributed to muscle memory, there is often a push to look at all things associated with guitar in the same way. Shit, if you can learn to shred up the neck in a hundred different modes and chord progressions, and play Abduction by Steeler, or Eruption by Van Halen, then you should be able to grasp advanced song writing concepts and write a kick ass song, right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Studying music theory may help you come up with some unique idea’s for riffs and chord changes but in my experience it is not really going to help you come up with kick ass songs, and that’s the real goal. So, the true question is, what is the best way to teach yourself the advanced concepts of songwriting and song structuring so you can write more technical and interesting music?

Look, there is no distinct path to teaching yourself how to write a song or complex riffs. You ask how long it took me to learn these advanced concepts? My answer is that I feel I’m forever in the process of learning, and that until a few years ago I never even really worked at getting better at writing. For me, songwriting came naturally and organically so I didn’t spend much time thinking about it the first 8 or 9 years I played guitar. Don’t be discouraged if this is not the case for you, just because it doesn’t come naturally that doesn’t mean you can’t write amazing songs.

First of all, you are thinking about songs in form of scales, keys, modes etc. I don’t think about songs, or riffs, in these ways. I think about songs in how the riffs form around each other, how they transition from one to another, and lastly how they work to form a skeleton of a song. On all the Darkest Hour songs you mention the mindset behind writing them was not based on what key or mode they were in. In fact if you listen to A Thousand Words to Say But One the chord progression is the same almost the whole song.

Whenever I walk into a room and work with a metal band for the first time I usually think of the songs first as riff libraries. To me, metal is mostly about the flow from riff to riff. Usually, any riff of a metal song can be the chorus or the verse, depending on the vocals. There are many times I write a Darkest Hour song only to have John put the chorus over my intended verse and the verse over my intended chorus, but it still works because with metal you can always bend the rules.

When Darkest Hour is writing a song we usually start with a few riffs, and then determine how many times each riff needs to repeat before we switch to the next riff. Then we count the number of times each riff is played in our heads so we all understand the skeleton of the song. I usually have to do this process the first few times we play a finished song all the way through in order to remember it. If you want to use this technique in writing your own music, a good exercise is to listen to songs you love and chart them out in this way. For instance here is the structure for Hot for Teacher by Van Halen, charted out the same way we chart Darkest Hour songs when we are writing them:

Drum Intro: X6
Guitar Intro: X 4
Riff A (intro/): x 1 1/2
Riff B (Quiet Pre Verse) X 4
Riff C (Loud Verse) X 6 (VOCAL IN AFTER 2)
Pre Chorus X 2
Tag X 1
Chorus X 4
Riff B (Quiet Pre Verse) X 4
Riff C (Loud Verse) X 6 (VOCAL IN AFTER 2)
Pre Chorus X 2
Tag X 1
Chorus X 4
Solo Break X 9 Times
Riff B (Quiet Pre Verse) X 4
Chorus X 4
Outro X 3
Rock End X 2

The above structure could be applied to any metal song and work well. Notice how and when the parts repeat, and notice how each parts changes a little when it is repeated. Now, please don’t think that I am suggesting you copy songs from other bands, I am only suggesting you take inspiration from artists you love. Look at how their songs are mapped out and translate that into something that is your own. Once you begin seeing your songs more like a string of riffs rather then a flow of chord progressions it will be easier for you to see the structure. I promise the more you work at this the better you will get. It’s like a creative muscle you always have to be flexing and working out in order for it to grow and thrive.


Ask the Dude on Q101.1 Chicago

June 18, 2008

If you missed Ask the Dude on Q101.1’s Crash Test Radio in Chicago last week, listen to the complete interview here!

Crank it to 11?

June 18, 2008

Dear Dude,

I always hear people saying that a cranked tube tone is the best. I’ve been to plenty of live shows but the amps were usually miked into the house PA, never needing them to ever be turned past 3 (not saying they weren’t). I’ve always had solid state or hybrid amps, but nothing as loud as the 6505 I just purchased. When I’m at home I play at around level 3, so I could totally see myself blowing a speaker or losing sound quality around 6 or 7. I’m wondering if I’m putting my cabinet, or even head, in harm’s way by really letting the thing crank? My current setup is an ESP viper, 6505 head, and a Basson 4×12 cabinet.

Crank it to 11?

Dear Crank it to 11,

Live volume and more directly, stage volume is a battle fought every day in clubs throughout the world. This battle pits would-be guitarist against the ever knowing (or at least ever-claiming to know) house sound man. Now, if you are lucky enough to travel with your own sound guy (like myself, wuz up Johnny!) then you will get the distinct pleasure of battling the same person night after night! So how loud is too loud? Is there such a thing as to loud? And what’s a reasonable stage volume? Can playing too loud damage your gear? These are questions I have asked myself many times, and here is my take on where you should set that dial.

I am very familiar with the 6505. I have had all models of the 5150 line as well as a few different versions of the 5150 II and the 6505. I have mentioned before that it’s my safety amp because if you get them in relatively good condition they all tend to sound relatively the same. Not something you always want in an amp but it does get the job done. On the 6505 (the distorted channel we are talking about here) there are two volumes you need to be aware of, the Pre Amp (PRE) control and the Master Volume control (POST). Your overall volume and tone for this amp is basically the blend of these two knobs.

I have never run a 5150/5150II/6505 live with the POST volume louder then 5 (and 5 is pushing it, I usually have it at around 4) and I usually run the PRE volume at around 4 or 5. I use a tube screamer or Ratt pedal for extra distortion. I don’t like how the preamp gain sounds after it gets past 5 on those amps. If you listen when you crank that up you also get all sorts of extra high and ultra low end that to me just makes it sound too muddy. I see other dudes out there making the grave mistake of cranking up that PRE knob way too loud. Just to be clear, you can’t “cover” up sloppy or inconsistent playing with more gain. Don’t fall into this trap. Metallica, Magedeth, ACDC, Van Halen, Slayer, Anthrax, all the great shredding bands play with minimal gain in order to have each note sing. Even Dimebag who did play with a shitload of gain made sure it was still clean and clear so watch out with that PRE knob on the 6505, its not just a distortion or volume knob.

I would say if you run your head consistently or even a few times with the POST on 7 or higher you may damage that head. I doubt you’ll fuck up a speaker cab but it is possible. The quality of the tone and overall sound on most modern amps tends to deteriorate when you turn them up too loud. See, the idea of cranking up a tube amp comes from the olden days when you had to crank it up to get any distortion. Now amps are made to get those sounds at minimal volume and they don’t really have the same characteristics as their older counterparts, so cranking them up doesn’t add anything to the over all sound quality.

If you have an older amp and want that crazy ass sounding rock distortion, but don’t want all the volume, you can always look into what is called a power break. Marshall makes a really good one. I got into the power break when I had my experimental stage involving Marshall JMP’s. They were loud as fuck (like, I mean, too loud to even play a show with) but it was the only way to get that sound I wanted. The power break worked great for me. It’s designed for the specific purpose to allow you to run those tubes hard and still get overall volume control.

Volume is all about moderation. You want the guitar to sit well with whatever you’re doing. If your just jamming at your house or recording I would say put the PRE volume at 4 to 6, depending on how hot your guitar is, and put the POST volume at like 3 or so to jam or record. If you’re rocking with a band then push that bad boy up to 4 or 5 with the POST volume. A 5150, 5150II, 6505 should be loud as shit when placed on the distorted channel, POST volume at 4, and PRE volume at 5. If yours isn’t then maybe it needs new power tubes or there is something else with your set up that might need tweaking. I frequently change the power tubes on my heads. It’s expensive but it absolutely affects the overall sound.

It’s good to know that most pro musicians don’t run their actual amps that loud. You might see them on stage with a wall of amps behind them but most of the time only one head and cab is turned on. Shit, I have seen some big, big, big metal bands play with walls of amps but have their actual live sound coming from small combo amps or even pods. Many musicians prefer to run their amps quiet I think most notable, Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. I have read more then a few times that he prefers his stage volume very quiet and I think few can argue with the power that is Rage live. Keep all this in mind when you enter the battlefield of volume and live music. You want to find a good combination of your tone, your volume in relevance with the other instruments, and of course your overall sound in the front of house (or live room).

The Dude

Mr. Clean

June 16, 2008

Dear Dude,

I play in a death, thrash, speed metal band from Denver, CO. We mix both distorted and clean sounds live but have had many problems doing so. Do you have any tips for creating a good clean tone live? It seems like it is always louder then my distorted tone and just makes everything sound lame when the distortion is quiet and weaker then the clean sound. Both myself and the other guitarist use Krank Revolution guitar heads with Marshall cabs. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Mr. Clean

Dear Mr. Clean,

Getting that perfect balance between your distorted and clean tones live can be a real pain in the ass. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen bands play live who have that great clean or acoustic part come in, and all of the sudden the guitars get real loud (the clean tone just cuts through) making the distorted guitars seem weak and washed out in comparison. So, what is the best way to get a nice clean sound and still get that killer distorted tone?

I’ll put it right out there on the table; this problem is so hard to deal with sometimes I try my hardest not to have to deal with it at all. In other words, I can honestly say that my constant frustration from getting that good clean tone has affected the way I write songs. So, is there no hope? Of course not, here are the 3 time tested ways I get around this problem when I, indeed, have to face it.

1. Duel Action: This is actually the professional solution and to me the best sounding, but unfortunately, for you and your boy, it means getting another guitar amp. Yep, the best way to get both that killer clean tone and crushing distortion is to use two amps. Just like the way I suggest running two heads together (using the whirlwind A/B box), the same concept follows for your perfect clean/distorted set up. Your best bet is to get a nice combo, I really like my Vox AC 15 but any fender, Marshall (pref. JCM 800, 900, or JMP combo) or Orange will sound killer. In theory you can use any amp that has a good clean sound. A combo works well because you don’t need volume or tubes to break up and usually you don’t want to have to set up an entire half stack just to get that clean tone live. Running two amps lets you set the distorted volume way louder then the clean. It also allows your soundman to dial in two different levels with two different mics. Using this system is really the only way that I have seen the dynamics of clean to distortion tones really pay off live. It allows you to get two distinctly different tones and blend the volume and kick of both so that you can switch appropriately between the two.

2. Pull out the pedal: The second solution is one that I actually currently employ live. It involves one piece of gear, the Ernie Ball Volume Pedal. I like the volume pedal because, it not only backs off on the gain when you sit back on it, but it also backs up on the volume. Using a volume pedal to get your clean tone gives you a way to make sure the dynamics between clean and distortion are very clear. It makes sure that when you slam that volume pedal down live that all the power and volume of your amp comes back too and that gives your overall sound that push you want it to have when switching from a clean to distorted tone. (Be warned if your running a noise gate this could cause problems. You may need to back off the gate or even turn it off before you decide to roll back on the volume pedal).

3. Better have a good knob turner: The last solution is one that I have seen bands at many levels try to use. But, it only works if you have your own trained and professional soundman. This third solution involves sampling the clean tracks from your record and using those samples live. This gives the overall sound of your live show a nice produced feeling and when done right can sound amazing. It does however have its limitations: it leaves a lot of room for mistakes, it means the drummer must play with either a click or the sample live if the part involves any other instrumentation, and It gives you the unfun ability to never change anything. It also relies solely on the competence of your live soundman so don’t try this with a guy who doesn’t know your songs or doesn’t know what he or she is doing because this option done wrong can leave you standing on the middle of a stage looking at a crowd with no sample playing.

Remember when you’re playing live and switching between distortions and clean it’s really all about one thing, dynamics. I mean that’s the reason you wrote the clean part in your song anyway, so it can have dynamics against all the distorted rock! So make sure you nail that component live. When done right there is nothing more sick then the dynamics that come from songs that weave in and out of distorted and clean guitars.

The Dude


June 13, 2008

Hey Dudes! I will be calling in to Q101.1’s successful Crash Test Radio on June, Friday the 13th at 11pm (CST). I’ll be discussing the Ask the Dude advice column, as well DARKEST HOUR’s upcoming US tour supporting the reunited AT THE GATES.

“Crash Test Radio has been featuring metal and hardcore every Friday night and was thrilled at the idea of having Mike call into the program. Crash Test Radio airs at 11pm (CST) on 101.1FM in Chicago and streams live online worldwide at www.q101.com. Listen to this interview on Q101.1’s blog!

Double Shot of Rock

June 13, 2008

Dear Dude,

I own a Krank Revolution and Marshall JCM 900 head. I would like too know how to run both heads through one cab. Is there any advantage in doing so? I love the tone of both heads and would love to create a single tone from both of them. I have a Mesa standard cab. I get confused with all the ohms and shit so I was wondering if you could help me out?!

Double Shot of Rock

Dear Double Shot of Rock,

Ow….you are so close my friend. So close to the true secret of LIVE rock toneage! Translation; mixing the sound of two or more heads is the real secret to nailing that sick guitar tone live. I have been running stereo guitar heads live for almost 12 years. I originally saw guitarist Ken Olden, of Damnation A.D., run two Marshall JCM 800 at the same time and I was sold. It sounded so full, so loud, so raw, and yet so under control that I had to try it. Once I did my young rock mind was blown. Here are the best ways I have found to run duel heads live:

First, you really shouldn’t try to run two high gain and high powered amps through one cab. I think it probably would be possible to run both through a guitar cab that could be set to stereo (in other words you would be using the two jacks on the back of standard Marshall Cabinet instead of just the 4 or 16 ohm side). But I have never really tried it, because, like I said, I think it’s a bad idea. If you want to blend the sound of the two heads, then you want the extra width of sound that is added when you use two cabinets. That’s how you get the sound of two half stacks at once. This allows you to run one on one side of the stage and another on the other side giving your audience your blended tone in true stereo. Trust me, just go out and buy another cab.

OK, so now you have two cabs and two heads. For me the classic set up was two JCM 800’s, then I changed to two Peavey 5150’s, and later found that I actually liked the sound of one 5150 and one JCM 800. Recently I switched to the Randall MTS heads. Since you can customize them a bit more, it allows me to use the same heads but different preamp modules. Now I can get that blended sound on 3 guitar channels and if I ever want to just have the same sound doubled I can do that too. But either way, my set up will work with whatever heads, or combination of combo amps and half stacks, I use.

I have three time tested ways of spitting signals. The first is simple; I use a Whirlwind A/B box. They are fucking amazing. You can use them to split a signal or combine a signal. They allow you to switch one off or toggle between each. It’s really cool if you’re running two heads and two cabinets at the same time on two different sides of the stage. You can really fake the sound of two guitars better this way (its not perfect but it’s pretty good). I used to use two different overdrives for my 800’s so I would go from my guitar > Boss Tuner > Whirlwind AB >> two tube screamers >> two Boss Noise Suppressors >> two amps.

Sometimes I use the stereo split of my Line 6 pedals (and this will work with most stereo splitting pedals). This does not give you the options that the A/B box does and I am convinced there is some tone lose this way, but I have done this overseas and on many tours when, well, everything else breaks. This is a good way if you need to do this on the fly.

The third way is now my current mode of split-a-tion, if you will. Right now I run through all my effects and then send them to my Decimator ProRack G Noise Suppressor. I use the stereo split on the noise gate to run to two Randall MTS heads. I am also running a Digitech GSP 1101 as my effects in the loop’s of the heads so that gives me the ability to make all my delays and effects true stereo (again if your running your cabs on two different sides of the stage you will now get that stereo sound of those effects live). This is my new way but I am not yet convinced it is better then the original Whirlwind A/B.

There ya go dude, my advice go buy another cab since you have Mesa check out a Marshall, Randall, Emperor, or an Orange cab to compliment that. Oh, and turn that shit up loud!

The Dude

*Read the Gear Guru's take on this letter here.

Why Sling it Low?

June 11, 2008

Dear Dude,

I was wondering why you wear your Les Paul so low. Is it for looks or is it just more comfortable? When I do it it’s a bit harder to play on both hands.

Why Sling it Low?

Dear Why Sling it Low,

Where your guitar sits while you play can have a huge impact on how you actually play it. I’m not sure how much thought most musicians put into, but it really comes down to one thing, personal preference.

Yes, it is harder to play your guitar with it swinging at your knees then if its choked up to your neck like an Ibanez necklace! If you’re going to be shredding faces off you’re probably going to want the guitar to sit pretty high so you can reach all those tight areas more freely and quickly. This is a stark contrast to the type of player who loves to just riff power chords and chug along. This player can wear his guitar where ever he wants and still get the job done because he or she doesn’t have to worry about hitting all those hard to reach places.

For me, where I sit my guitar is kind of more about my development as a guitar player. When Darkest Hour first started I was this second type of guitar player, I just riffed on some power chords. As I developed my style I became much better technically on the guitar, but since I was so used to playing the guitar low it never felt right to change it up. As my growth to an aspiring uber shredder began I adapted to shredding low.

When a sick shred part comes up during a live set, I need to make sure I have my knee up on something so the guitar is propped right in front of me to play it. I usually use a monitor, kick drum, kid that’s stage diving, really anything to be able to rest the guitar a bit closer. As soon as the shred part is done I can drop the guitar back down. Its funny, but Mr. John Petrucci of the band Dream Theatre has an actual step built so that he can put his leg up when he needs to get the rock out. Now that’s a little more elaborate than me, but it just goes to show that he likes his guitar a certain way, and has to compensated a little to shred all our faces off.

Some people think a guitar slung low just looks cool. I mean you can’t deny that James Hetfield, Zakk Wylde, or even Andy Willlams (Every Time I Die) look fucking badass with their guitars hung low. Shit I am sure the reason I started playing mine as low as I could was because I thought it LOOKED cool. But you know some people also think Ben Weinmen (Dillinger Escape plane), Tom Morello (RAGE), and Vernon Reid (Living Color) also look bad ass when they rock and all of them sit their guitars very differently. My point, be yourself and play where the guitar feels comfortable. Its not a fashion show, if you walk out there and look like Slash with your guitar hung low ready to slay and you just suck because you cant reach the fret’s, well your going to be embarrassed to say the least. Don’t try to emulate the way anyone holds a guitar because in reality the only thing that will matter to your playing is how you hold it.