Sound like Angus Young, James Hetfield and Slash for free

How to get their tones using free plug-ins

Slash: can you recreate his sound in software?

They're three of rock's most iconic guitarists: AC/DC's Angus Young, Metallica's James Hetfield and former Guns N' Roses and current Velvet Revolver star Slash.

Their tones are ones that many players attempt to emulate: here, we've set ourselves the tricky task of doing this using only freely downloadable PC plug-ins.

On the following pages you'll find three mini walkthroughs that detail how we went about this, plus details of the gear favoured by our three inspirational guitarists.

And of course, there are audio clips, too, so you can listen and decide for yourself just how successful we've been.

Angus Young

Guitar of choice: Gibson SG
Amp of choice: Marshall SLP head through custom Marshall 412 cabs
Ideal pickup: Bridge position humbucker
Compromise pickup: Neck position single coil
Tonal secret: Don't overdo the distortion and pay attention to the mid-range

1. Even if you're on a budget, you can still benefit from Studio Devil's excellent tones. The company's freeware plug-in British Valve Custom (BVC) is perfect for emulating Young's biting tone. First, we set the Gain to 6 and the Drive to 10.

2. To get the required attack into our emulation, we boost the Mids up to 10. The tone is a bit thin, so we increase the Bass to 7 and drop the Treble to 4.

3. Next, we call up the Electri-Q CM plug-in that comes supplied on Computer Music magazine's DVD every month. Alternatively, you could download the standard freeware version of Electri-Q. We apply reduction at 50Hz (to remove unwanted rumble) and add some extra volume at around 800Hz. Notice how much middle there is in this tone – guitar sounds without this may sound good in the bedroom, but they'll rarely cut through a full band mix.

Our Angus Young tone


James Hetfield

Guitar of choice: ESP Truckster
Amp of choice: Mesa/Boogie Triaxxis preamps, with Boogie Simul Class 290 power amps and Diezel VH4 heads
Ideal pickup: Humbucker bridge position
Compromise pickup: Single coil neck position
Tone secret: Jack the gain, 'scoop' the sound, but don't remove too much middle

1. Fretted Synth Audio's Free Amp 3 doesn't look or sound like a freebie and is a great plug-in with which to get a version of Hetfield's tone. We select the Drive channel and dial in the Dirty setting. As you might expect, we turn the Gain all the way round to 10.

2. We scoop the tone by boosting the Low and High dials and slashing the Mid. For extra drive we call up the Overdrive stompbox. We don't add too much Gain here, but this helps give us that tight, heavy sound.

3. Finally, some Electri-Q CM tweaks: we turn up the low end at 100Hz and apply cuts at 500Hz and 2KHz. We don't boost the top end, though, as the sound is toppy enough already.

Our James Hetfield tone



Guitar of choice: Gibson Les Paul
Amp of choice: Marshall VM head through custom Marshall 412 cabs
Ideal pickup: Neck position humbucker
Compromise pickup: Neck position single coil
Tone secret: Turn off the guitar's tone control for Slash's smooth leads.

1. Guitar Suite CM, another plug-in to come on the Computer Music DVD every month has an excellent JCM 900 emulation (you can also download the standard, free SimulAnalog Guitar Suite). We set Drive ChB to 8.58. The sound is a little thin, though, so we boost the Low to 10, the Mid to 6.69 and cut the High to 3.4, before finally removing all the Presence.

2. To get our sweet reverb sound, we look no further than Reverb B in the JCM900 unit. We turn it up until it sounds like it's too much, then back it off slightly. We end up with a setting of 4.8.

3. Our sound is still a little harsh. To rectify this, we call up Electri-Q CM and apply a small cut with a broad BW (Band Width) at 1kHz. This sweetens the vibe, and now we have a singing, Slash-style tone.

Our Slash tone

For more on getting these famous guitar tones, check out the April issue of Computer Music (CM137), which is on sale now.

Now read Sound like Jimi Hendrix using free plug-ins

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