If you’re curious how to get a djent tone, you’ve come to the right post!
The Essence of Djent Tone
When we talk about djent, it usually refers to a specific type of riff-driven metal music. Some would call it a subgenre. But I’d rather refer to it as a group of musical elements in modern progressive metal.
Many guitar players and metal fans use the term as a light-hearted joke. But eventually, it became a movement of its own.
Of course, djent focuses primarily on guitars. In particular, it’s about rhythm guitar parts. Djent is all about those downtuned chugging riffs with a somewhat specific tone.
While there’s no consensus on what the ultimate djent tone is, there are some things to consider. Overall, the tone is distorted and dry, so to speak. It doesn’t necessarily have to be high-gain. However, it should have a lot of those hard-hitting mids in the mix. It just adds the punch to the mix.
Now, before we get into the matter, bear in mind that this is a highly-debated topic. And what one musician finds to be a great djent tone might be off-putting to another. But let’s dig into it.
Do Extended Range Guitars and Low Tunings Matter?
First, we have the issue of lower tunings and extended-range guitars. Lower tunings do affect the tone. And the same goes for thicker string gauges. There’s just something different in the harmonic content. Regular guitar pickups process these frequencies differently.
For the most part, lower tunings are pretty important. However, you can still make things sound like djent in the standard tuning. Here’s one example of how that sounds.
It’s also possible to use 6-string guitars in lower tunings, as opposed to 7, 8, or 9-string instruments. However, I highly recommend that you get a baritone guitar or a guitar that has a scale length of at least 26.5 inches.
If you don’t have one, you could try just using thicker string gauges. But it will still make your strings feel like rubber in lower tunings.
A huge part of the djent style is one’s playing technique. Firstly, you need to get ahold of palm muting. It gets especially challenging when you need to alternate between muted and unmuted parts all the time.
It’s also important to play clean. A lot of djent songs combine chugging parts with some brief runs on higher strings. Additionally, you’ll also have unusual chords and intervals with open strings ringing out. So it’s crucial that you let every note shine. This is far from a simple task.
Active pickups are a pretty common occurrence in modern prog metal. In particular, we’re looking at humbuckers. Of course, there’s some room for single-coils in djent. However, it’s only in some crunchy bright-sounding parts. Without humbuckers, you can’t really do those chugging parts properly.
The easiest pick is probably EMG’s legendary 81 and 85 set. They’re fairly bright and come with a strong attack. But, of course, there’s a wide variety of choices that work well for djent these days. Plenty of prog metal guitar players have their signature pickups.
Periphery’s Misha Mansoor has the Juggernaut by Bare Knuckles. Then Mark Holcomb has his Seymour Duncan Alpha & Omega. Particularly interesting are Fishman pickups, specifically the Fluence series. Tosin Abasi has his signature set with the company.
Whether they are active or passive, look for pickups that are good at reproducing those punchy mids. At the same time, you should have pronounced attack and tightness in the bottom-ends. Stray away from any pickups that sound too creamy or muddy, so to speak. You want a very precise tone.
Preferably, you should also have the split-coil option. It’s not necessary but it brings more options. You should also consider learning how to tweak your guitar’s volume knob. You can even have a high-gain setting on a tube amp and then control it with your guitar’s volume control.
Here we get into some tricky territories. You’ll often see guitar players arguing about amps and proper amp settings for djent and any genre for that matter.
For the most part, high-gain modern metal amps are the safest choice. In particular, I love EVH 5150 III. PRS also has some great options like the Mark Tremonti signature head or Archon.
In most cases, you’ll see traditionally American amps with a modern twist in djent. But there are also some great options with EL34 valves in there.
I’d also recommend using your amp’s distortion over pedals. In my opinion, it works the best when you push the gain up high and set the mid control at around 75%. This, of course, depends on the amp model. But make sure to have that punchy tone with a lot of mids in there.
As for bass and treble, make sure that they’re not too pronounced. Sure, there should be some thickness in the tone. But focus on the mids first and then play around with bass and treble to see what you can get.
If your amp has a resonance or depth control, try to boost it a little. This can also add some subtle bottom-ends without it sounding too muddy.
Now, if you set the gain up high, use your guitar’s volume knob to dial it down. This creates a specific kind of tone. The amp reacts differently to your playing. Depending on the amp, you can also set the gain somewhere at around 50%.
Remember that it’s important to have a controlled tone. You don’t want it to get too fuzzy, grainy, or muddy.
Can You Use Solid-State Amps for Djent?
While we’re at it, some may ask whether solid-state amps can be good for djent. In general, I don’t see them as a good option. Sure, there are some great high-gain solid-state amps. But they usually give that 1990s or 2000s-style metal tone.
Djent usually works better with some of the tube-driven warmth. And, additionally, the dynamic response also finds its use in this style.
Another option would be to use hybrid amps. With one tube in the preamp, you can get it in that direction. Or, even better, you can get a tube-driven preamp and go straight into the power amp section of your solid-state amp.
As I mentioned above, I prefer to have the amp doing most of the work. Nonetheless, there are still pedals that you can use. For instance, Tube Screamer or a similar overdrive is a great choice. Use a lower-gain setting on your amp and boost it with a smoother overdrive.
You can also use some classic metal-oriented pedals, like Boss’ MT-2 Metal Zone. However, in this case, I recommend going directly into the power amp section. For this, just plug the pedal into your amp’s return jack of the effects loop. With a great tube amp, you’ll get some immensely heavy chugging tones. Here’s how that sounds in practice.
Overall, conventional distortion pedals tend to sound too grainy for djent. And, of course, fuzz pedals are out of the question. Weirdly enough, prog players seem to be getting the best results with overdrives and tube amps.
How to Get a Djent Tone: Conclusion
I hope this article has helped you think through how to get a djent tone.
And if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic, feel free to leave a message in the comments below!