If you’re curious about black metal amp settings and how to tweak your guitar setup to get this unique sound, you’ve come to the right post!
The Genre Background
Emerging in the 1980s, it would be an understatement to say that black metal was a controversial genre. And the controversy wasn’t just due to lyrical themes, aesthetics, and various figures. The genre’s overall sound caused quite a storm. But it had its appeal and still has.
Black metal might seem like a simple genre. However, it’s a very specific combination of blast beats, shrieking and growling vocals, and guitar riffs. Plus, the genre has changed over the years. It went from lo-fi Burzum and Mayhem stuff to Ishan’s prog-inspired modern music. However, it will likely always retain its pagan-ish feel.
Black Metal Guitar
In particular, the guitar is a huge part of its feel. And aside from the music-writing itself, the tone is extremely important. Of course, this all starts with the guitar itself.
Firstly, you’ll need an instrument with humbuckers. Preferably, these should be medium to high-output ones. You can also use active humbuckers although they’re a bit specific. I prefer to go with passive ones as I find them to be easier to control.
Overall, I’d say that single-coils are out of the question. The only exception is a guitar with a single-coil in between two humbuckers. This can help you achieve some great clean or crunchy tones when needed.
For those who need virtuosic lead parts, you can also look at other features. A Floyd Rose or a similar bridge and access to higher frets are what you’ll want.
Other than that, you might also want to think of the aesthetic features of the instrument. Sure, it might be a bit subjective. However, the visual aspect is a huge part of the genre.
There aren’t any specific amplifier types that work the best for black metal. What’s more, you can use both solid-state and tube-driven amps. However, the important thing is to have an amp capable of achieving high-gain tones.
There are, however, some experimental approaches in the genre. You could technically use a vintage-style amp as well combined with a distortion pedal. But, in my opinion, it’s much easier to go with a regular solid-state amp.
These days, you have plenty of solid-state amps with modeling options on there. You could use some Peavey 5150 or 6505 modeling presets. Of course, you could also use 5150 or 6505 if you have any of them.
Overall, if you’re using tube amps, American-style ones will probably work better for this genre. This means that they should have 6L6 tubes in the power amp section. Aside from Peavey, you have Engl Powerball, Randal Satan, or Mesa Boogie V.
You could also use a Marshall or anything with EL34 or EL84 tubes. But you’d need to alter the EQ. However, I’d stay away from Orange or Laney amps.
If you’re aiming for the old-school kind of tone, you can use a cheap old solid-state amp. If it doesn’t have a distortion channel, you can use a distortion pedal. Even a classic one like Boss DS-1 can do the trick.
Black Metal Amp Settings
Now we get to the main part, the amp settings. The overall idea, in most cases, is a scooped tone. To put it simply, you’ll want to cut the mids. Meanwhile, there should be a boost to both high-ends and bottom-ends.
However, this isn’t as simple as it seems. Sure, every kid with a high-gain amp or a pedal will use this setting. But it’s hard to actually make it sound desirable within the context. After all, a scooped tone doesn’t get easily through the mix. And if you don’t set it up properly, the guitar will just sound like background noise.
Firstly, you’ll want to start with the equalizer. Use the clean setting and put all three EQ knobs at 12 o’clock. Try to get a feel for your amp and its overall character.
The next thing that you’ll want to do is cut the mids. From my experience, the knob should be anywhere between 10 and 50% depending on the amp. Bear in mind that the mids are a huge factor in guitar tone quality. Cutting them off completely isn’t a good idea. But a lack of mids from the mix helps you get a traditional black metal tone.
Meanwhile, I suggest that you adjust high-ends to around 75 to 80%. The bottom-ends, however, depend on what you need. I suggest that you keep them around 50 to 60%. If your amp is too bassy, you can keep them below 50%.
You may have a parametric EQ for the mids on your amp. This could be a great tool to cut the lower mids or higher bottom-ends. I usually like to set the frequency at around 1 kHz. And then I use the level knob to cut it by around 30%. If you have a Q knob (or the curve width), don’t make it too narrow.
Also, you’ll want those buzzing high-ends to shine. These are anywhere between 7 to 11 kHz. If your amp has a presence knob, you can push it at around 70% or more.
Of course, there are other approaches for black metal tones. Some like to have more pronounced mids. However, this kind of tone will more resemble thrash metal. If that’s your goal, push the mids up high, as well as highs. At the same time, cut the bass down to 30% or less. If your amp also has a presence control, dial it high as well.
To put it simply, your amp’s gain setting should be high. Some even combine it with an additional overdrive pedal. Overall, don’t be afraid to push the gain all the way up if you feel like it.
Of course, this depends on the amp model that you’re using. If the tone sounds too fuzzy and incoherent, just dial it down.
Important Considerations apart from the Amp
Even modern black metal guitarists like to keep it lo-fi. Of course, all guitars are technically lo-fi. But it’s that rugged dark feel that you’re looking for.
Along with this, I recommend using some slight compression. A noise reduction pedal would also help. Aside from that, you can use delay or reverb. For the most part, I recommend reverb. It has a more old-school feel to it. Reverb should be pronounced, but you still need the guitar tone not to be too distant-sounding.
Lastly, I recommend using a conventional distortion pedal. In case you have a tube amp, you can use an overdrive as a boost. In my opinion, you should avoid fuzz pedals.
Black Metal Amp Settings: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you think through which amp settings will best help you achieve this sound.
And as usual, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!