Tony Iommi: Tone tips

Get the sounds of 'Sabbath dialled

Image: © TERJE BENDIKSBY/epa/Corbis

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) cover-star Tony Iommi's tone is almost as recognisable as his riffs, here we dissect three of his most recognisable tones and give you some tips on how to nail them with your own gear.

Early Sabbath fuzz

Tony's monstrously thick fuzz-laden sounds on early Sabbath tracks such as 'N.I.B.' were not from a fuzz pedal, but a Dallas Rangemaster treble booster through his Laney stack. To recreate these sounds without the vintage price tag, you need a guitar with a neck humbucker and some of the treble rolled off. A fuzz pedal such as the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff will actually get you closer than a common distortion pedal, but if you don't have one, try boosting the bass and mid frequencies on your own pedal and roll off the treble.

Abrasive distortion

The distortion sound made famous on classic track 'Paranoid' came from Tony rolling all the bass off his Laney rig but maxing out the middle, treble and presence. Doing this with your setup accentuates the upper mid and the treble frequencies, which can sound great on 'root and 5th' powerchords. Use plenty of rich overdrive, ideally from your amp rather than a separate pedal. Make sure you select your guitar's bridge humbucker.

Half-cocked wah

This 'half-cocked' wah effect can work equally well if you just leave the pedal in one position, because the wah cancels out certain high end frequencies really well. In this example, the wah is rocked in a very shallow motion near to the 'up' position, creating a honky/nasal sound that is focused in the mid range frequencies. It tends to work best with single notes. You can use either a bridge or a neck humbucker; they produce slightly different results but both sound great.

Total Guitar issue 210 (originally on sale 24 December - 20 January) featured Tony Iommi on the cover and contained 11-pages of Iommi coverage, including an in-depth interview and a complete tab of 'Planet Caravan'.

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