Pickups & tone

Tone chasing tips


Any tone is possible with plugins and we are going to try and help you to get the tones you want. That said, our tutorials do not necessarily explain every process or plugin we use so we strongly advise that everyone using amp sims have a good handle on how compression, EQ, saturation, limiting plugins all work. We try to make our tutorials as simple as possible but you will need to know your basics to really get full use out of them. You will find countless videos on youtube that explain the basic processes you will need to know. Always be learning!

Here are just a few very helpful links to some incredible resources for beginners to professionals. Got a link we should add here? Contact us.


When you hear a guitar tone that you really like, make note of the band, the song and the album. Google the band and find out who the guitarist is and follow that up by searching for that guitarist’s gear. In addition to Google, hit up some forums to ask questions.

I have had decent success emailing or messaging the band/guitarist to ask them about their tone. Some guys are pretty cool discussing it but some choose not to share their secrets. Obviously James Hetfield isn’t sitting by his facebook answering tone questions but in his case, his rig from every era is fully documented by religious level fans and gear heads. You will however find that many very popular musicians are reachable through social media and love talking gear.

Immerse yourself in the tone you are chasing. Listen to as much of the tone as you can even before you get started. This puts the tone fresh in your memory and makes it easier to get your starting point. You can also find out what other players use similar gear to get even more variations of the tone.

Usually, you should be able to get all the information on gear, settings and more regarding the guitarist and his gear because the Internet know all. Rig talk, ultimate metal, the gear page and many other forums are full of knowledge and opinions that can be handy when chasing tones.


Before you get to this step, you should have a good idea of what the guitarist is using right down to his guitar and pickups. You should at least know whether or not the guitarist is using humbuckers or single coils as it can make a huge difference.

The next step here would be to find out if the gear involved has been turned into plugins and if so, what the best plugins are for your needs and budget. For example, if you look up your favorite band and find that the guitarist uses a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, you would then find the best rectifier plugin for your budget. The same goes for the cabinet, pedals and other gear the player is using.


Before you start building your signal chain, you really need to understand what goes where and why it goes where it does. Your plugin signal chain won’t differ much from your live signal chain. There are more than a few ways to build a chain but ours typically looks something like this:

  • Gate
  • De-esser
  • EQ
  • Amp sim
  • Impulse loader
  • Multiband compression
  • EQ
  • Saturation
  • Limiter

Obviously there are many ways to go about assembling your chain and by all means, use ours as a guide until you figure out what works best for you. If you have anything we should be trying, please contact us and we would be happy to try it out.


When you are tinkering and tweaking it helps to have a few songs containing the tones you are looking for at the ready so that you can play along to it or go back and forth. I make a Spotify playlist with 5-10 songs on it. Isn’t Spotify great? If you want to go a step further with this tip, you can get a wonderful plugin called Metric A/B from Plugin Alliance that helps in the matching process though it is more of an advanced plugin.


Use your time and don’t use a super high volume especially if there’s a lot of high end to the tone. It’s also very important that you take breaks for your ears but also for your brain. Too much of a tone can get monotonous and tedious to the point of it being almost counter productive to keep going. Sometimes if you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere with a sound, shut it down, step away and go do something else for a while. This way you can come back with fresh ears.

Processing can take a while. Trying to figure out where you are going wrong involves a lot of trial and error with various plugins. It can be compressing more or less, scooping or boosting the mids, removing noise and 100 other tweaks before you get to where you are happy your signal chain.


After you have a tone you are happy with, the problem can then become fitting that tone into a mix. What you don’t always think about when you hear a tone that you like is the mix and the sounds of the other instruments in it. Your new found favorite tone might not cut through your favorite drum sounds or it might overpower the mix so the task becomes fitting things together.

When you are at this point it becomes extremely and otherworldly important to have a good grip on how EQ works and how to use it to fit everything into your mix. If you don’t use EQ properly, you will just end up sitting there turning everything up until you have destroyed your mix and tones. Our preferred resource for mixing and EQ is www.audio-issues.com. You will save yourself hundreds of hours and headaches by getting a good graphic EQ and learning how to use it. This is our guarantee.


It’s easy to get frustrated when trying to find that perfect tone. It’s also easy to give up but it requires time and patience. Stay positive, stay within your budget and if you get stuck, contact us and we will do what we can to help you out. Please allow time 48-72 hours for a response.

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