How to Use EQ and Gain Control Properly

Find yourself scooping the mids and boosting the bass on your guitar EQ? Maxing the gain and using a heavily saturated distortion pedals? For the love of Steve Vai, please read on to realize this is a heinous crime.

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As a well-established bass player (yes I can say that), I have recently been freed from my guitarist's $200 combo amp and Metal Zone pedal (thank you Blackstar Series One).

For 5 years I have been subjected to heavily saturated distortion, overdrive like... , and clean tones elastic bands jest at.

Abuse of gain and scooped mids are bad for 3 major reasons:

1. You are mutilating the frequency spectrum thereby destroying the audio experience;2. It is difficult for a metal guitarist to realise their imperfections in playing with all that saturation;3. You lose dynamics and freedom in your tone.

To illustrate point 2, jam to your favourite solo or rhythm section on a clean tone... Scary hey. I leave you to think about the other points.

There are plenty guitarists who have used distortion and gain properly. To name a few I mention Dime, Eric Johnson, Vivian Campbell on Holy Diver, Billy Gibbons, Mark and Willie from LoG (mostly on live sets). These are artists from bands where you can sit down and enjoy all the instruments.

What is the solution? Unfortunately getting a professional tone is not cheap (some may argue about that though). Avoid simulation amps, rather aim for simple amps with EQ and gain controls. Avoid large mainstream companies cheap range of amplifiers, since you pay a premium for their name on your amp (the analogy of the fat ugly girl tries harder). Learn to set your EQ so that the overall sounds creates a sonic balance when the band jams. Scott Grove has a YouTube channel (called "groovydjs") that provides these explanations with zero sugar-coating, they are long but extremely useful. For a quick audio visual experience, please check out. And yes, its not all guitarists of course.

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38 comments sorted by best / new / date

    troyofyort
    As good of a player as he was, Dimebags tone was heinous
    Scratcher17
    Yup, his tone was on the verge of a crime against humanity, although I can't imagine Pantera with a different tone.
    Metalhead09z
    What's worse is that an entire generation of kids thought they could emulate Dimebag's tone simply by removing the mids and cranking up the highs and lows with extreme gain. Bassists and drummers all around the world suffered the consequences.
    blakkmantraproductions
    Was looking for someone who had already commented about this. This article is about using gain in moderation when Dime always sought out extreme amounts of distortion, hot passive pickups, and treble that would blow your F***in head off-
    DeafPolka
    Scott Grove does spout some utter tripe!
    TheLiberation
    Just to be sure: are you (and the comments below) talking about the guy in linked video or someone else? (As he introduces himself as Colin) I remember watching a few of his videos and found them rather fun and raising some clever points, the only one I thought was flat out incorrect in many points was the "why active pickups are bad" one.
    Moltres Avianos
    Then there's the infamous "Wood does not affect tone" video which, condensed into a UG comment thread post can be transcribed to "I'm saying what I think as an opinion, but presenting it as fact and you are an idiot and a dumb mother****er if you try to convince me otherwise."
    vocoderboy
    How to Use EQ and Gain Control Properly for maybe one genre and thats it. waste of ****ing time
    Aceroxx02
    This video nails it. And as for Scott Grove, that douche needs to just die already. He's such a ****ing loser ass dickhead with the mindset that he and only he knows what he is talking about.
    MaggaraMarine
    Scott is a douche (though if you watch his videos, you'll learn to love his style), but he definitely knows what he's talking about. I think the good thing about Scott is that he makes people think. There are a lot of myths regarding guitar, and also lots of guitarists listen with their eyes. I don't agree with everything he says (for example what he says about tube amps). But he makes good points if you actually listen to what he has to say.
    jaegerd
    Tone and guitar sound is totally subjective. Not even sure why this article needed to be written. I didn't like my guitarist's sound. It was terrible, blah, blah, blah. Maybe he thought your bass sound sucked. One man's golden tone is another's nails on a chalkboard. Didn't watch the video. Again, that's what he think's is metal guitar sound. A thousand other guitarists would say his tone sucked.
    MaggaraMarine
    The thing is, most beginners don't really experiment with different settings. They don't even really know what they like yet. So when they want a metal tone, they hear somewhere that metal tone = scooped mids, treble, bass and gain all the way up. For some amps that may work, for others it doesn't (I would say for most it doesn't). They use that tone and don't think about it any more. They get used to it and think that's the way metal guitar should sound like. I think the more important point is that when you are playing in a band, that kind of tone never works, because you simply won't be heard. You need mids to be heard in a band. The tone may work in bedroom just fine, but in a band it doesn't.
    midliferocks
    Modeling amps sound great until the volume is turned up to drummer volume, and that is when it goes to mush. Scott Grove is usually only about 60% accurate with his info.
    TheMaddestHaTT3
    Agreed. I got a Line 6 Amplifi for Xmas (Not my choice, just what was given and I never turn down a guitar related gift!) and at low volume its a fantastic little amp with all sorts of bells and whistles. Turn it up to 6 and its crap!
    Nytrogod
    Pretty good advice! Although, I find it hilarious that you mentioned Scott Grove, and while those vids of his are actually pretty useful, the guy's a total nutcase, complete tool 90% percent of the time! Don't believe me? Watch some vids of him talking trash about Gibson and complimenting completely random weird-ass looking and sounding guitars he owns. (that's his opinion and you may agree with him, and that's cool, just saying I find it really funny!)
    karstaag666
    The biggest issue really is that some people can't distinguish the bass from the guitar when listening to metal music. They slam their bass on 9/10 to give their guitar the whole encompassing sound because it 'sounds cool'. A good guitar sound doesn't sound very impressive by itself in your bedroom at a low volume. It's impressiveness comes from mixing in with the other instruments.
    sloppyjoe24
    I remember watching this video months ago, UG.
    TheLiberation
    I'll give you an incredible piece of information. Something so stunning that no one will ever be able to sleep. Here we go... Nobody. Fucking. Cares. Some people may have not seen it.
    Lord_Doku
    Didn't know you are Ultimate-Guitar, the business and the people.
    TheLiberation
    "I am the people" sounds pretty badass, thank you. Also, I still have a strange feeling more people relate to my comment than the few wannabe cool guys who want to show really hard that they're cooler because THEY ALREADY SAW THIS VIDEO!
    Cazman
    Honestly? I liked the first ("bad") tone better than the other one.
    Most_Triumphant
    That maybe, but once you put it into a band situation, that first tone will be awful sounding. It does sound great in your bedroom alone.
    henrihell
    Blackstar IDinsert number) TVP is a good example of a cheap, modeling amplifier by a major brand. And it sounds amazing!
    DaFjory
    I didn't mind the first tone - nice, thick and buzzy. Kinda reminded me of Crowbar and Machine Head. The second one was lovely, though - in general I love that growly roar when the mids are bumped up. George Lynch had it going on in the second and third Dokken albums.
    leo4sf
    For the love of god dial in your tone at gig levels. I cant tell you how many bands I see where the tone is great during the soundcheck then just get buried once the band plays. The FOH guys are scrambling to turn up the guitar in the mix but its too late. The problem isn't volume, its that the frequencies the guitarist has set are being run over by the more dominant vocals, bass and drums. All of you with your high gain amps (and don't get me started on modeling amps) need to record your shows with a good mic and really hear what the crowd hears. You will be shocked.
    blakkmantraproductions
    He makes some great points in the video. Yes, the first tone he uses may sound better in the video. However, the second example is more LIKELY to fit well into a mix with another guitar, a bass, and a kit.
    joshisawesome12
    Metallica get a good sound from EMG's and tube screamers, so it is far from impossible. Good stuff!
    sabrestrikef4
    Metallica does not use Tube Screamers. James Hetfield used a Tube Screamer into the Marshall amps on the album "Ride The Lightning", and I remember reading about an interview where he said that the sound was so crappy in his eyes, and he hated the fact that the amp was getting pushed by something and not sounding natural... I think that may have been one of the reasons why the band first switched over to a Mesa Boogie preamp into Marshall power amps, and then to Mesa Boogie amps straight, yadda yadda yadda.
    joshisawesome12
    I was talking more Hammett, as he does use tube screamers still. Hetfield on the other hand, hates pedals, though I do remember seeing pedal boards galore in Some Kind Of Monster... probably all Hammett again, haha
    Bromandudeguy
    I think that metal has lost its juice for me. Most tone is just over driven treble or a paper baggy sound that I hear from most bands. No definition and its all drum music with timing cuts. I get it and some Is cool but I feel bad for guys that go out there and gig with that high octane distortion tone and then are subjected to some random sound guy that cant mix it. lol
    Zoso67
    Here's a short article about how to use EQ and Gain control properly for every genre: Sit your ass down and experiment with different settings until you find one that not only sounds good to you but makes you feel comfortable. Done.
    DWAUME
    I think the article is trying to cut down on people making a tone they enjoy when playing alone, and then bringing that into a band situation without tweaking it. The article doesn't really get into that at all, but that seems to be the major complaint (guitar sound messes with other instruments.) So, you have people who say "I spent weeks crafting various tones in front of my amp that sound amazing, why should I change them?", followed by the rest of the band telling him his tone friggin sucks in the context of the rest of the band.