Tone tutorials

Skate punk tone tutorial

Skatepunk, ska-punk and melodic hardcore are all genres that have been very important to me since the early 90s. The fast drum beats, aggression, melodies and the general lack of giving a shit about being perfect were all things that appealed to me in my teens and still do today.

These are genres that I consider myself an expert in because they have been a big part of who I am as a musician for over half my life. I have been the vocalist, guitarist, bass player and drummer in a variety of bands inside the spectrum of these genres while also spending many hours in bars around a lot of the best gear for them.

I think skate punk was actually the start of my obsession with gear. It was the first time I saw or heard of the diamond-plated beast known as the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier…..


Lagwagon, Good Riddance, NOFX, Strung Out, A Wilhelm Scream, Reset, Face to Face, Millencolin, Rise Against, Ignite, No Fun At All.

STEP #1:

As always, we start with research. I didn’t need to do a whole lot of research for these genres but I still went through some of my favorite skate punk and melodic hardcore albums and picked out 5-10 songs where the guitar tone was what I was looking for. If you are a little stumped, we always include a small list of bands that provide some good reference tones.

After finding the tones you like best, look into what those bands and their guitarists are using for equipment. Also look up the best gear for the genres you are after because normally, someone has uploaded it somewhere. You can usually google it and have answers instantly but if you get dead ends, please do contact us for help!

STEP #2:

Find your plugins!! In this case, skate punk is a little easier because there’s a fairly short list when it comes to the popular amps of the eras and genres at hand. In this case we have the Mesa Boogie Dual and Triple rectifiers, the Marshall JCM 800 and 900 series, pretty much every amp in the Mesa Boogie Mark series, the Peavey 5150 and the Soldano SLO 100. Before you email us telling us that there are amps we missed, we are only listing a few of the most popular options. Cab wise, the Marshall 412 slant cab and Mesa Oversize 412 were the cabs I saw the most but there aren’t a lot of restrictions cab wise for skate punk. You will find some ideal plugins at the bottom of the page.

I have always looked at it as Marshall being a bit more of a raw amp and Mesa Boogie being a bit more of a modern punk rock amp. When I say modern, I mean 90s punk and raw being the slightly crustier more old school sound.

STEP #3:

Let’s put our starting signal chain together. We will clean up the signal a bit first with a de-esser, please research how to use a de-esser and/or EQ before the amp sim to improve your signal before it hits the amp, we use this technique in every tone tutorial. Next will be the amp sim of your choice followed by the impulse loader. I always like to try and control the low mids in most of my guitar signal chains so I will add a multi-band compressor after the impulse. Add an EQ and saturation plugin and we are good to get moving.

STEP #4:

Amp settings for skate punk and related genres really depend on the player and the amp being used. You can listen to Stephen Egerton (Descendents / ALL) and hear a very mid focused tone but then you can listen to bands like NOFX and many other bands that recorded with Ryan Greene have a mixture of more scooped sounding tones.

I will usually run the bass on the amp at about 5, the middle between 4-6 and the treble around 7-8 for punk tones. Gain is also going to depend on which amp you decide on and what tone you are after. Generally, I won’t bring the gain above 5 for punk, I like to stay between 3-4 especially if I am using a boost. Just make sure to play with all the controls thoroughly and slowly, that way it’s easier to hear when you are getting closer to what you are after tone wise.

STEP #5:

Let’s pick our impulse! This is another aspect of the tone that historically has been all over the place. In the hundreds of punk shows I have been at over the years, the two cabs I saw the most were the closed back Marshall 1960 412 slant cab and the Mesa Boogie Oversized 412. These seemed to be the go-to cabs of that era and you can find a huge selection of both for sale and for free from several manufacturers. Our recommendations are on the bottom.

STEP #6:

Punk rock tones aren’t generally very processed sounding. Generally the goal is to have it sound raw and aggressive while still fitting in the mix. Many people describe older punk tones as a chainsaw type tone (not to be confused with buzzsaw Swedish tones.) so I guess there’s always been an element of the old school in the modern approach to punk tone. All you really need to do is add an EQ after the multi-band compressor to add high and low pass filters. You will want to boost or remove some frequencies but for that we leave the EQ up to you. Next is a little saturation to add some warmth and we are good to go.

STEP #7:

At this point your punk rock tone should be coming to life. This step is all about tweaking the controls, switching impulses and playing around with your EQ to find the sweetspot. I always advise that you save your signal chain when you get something useful just in case your DAW crashes. Going back to square one is deflating so always save your work as you go. Have fun and remember, take your time and you will get there.


Boosting is going to depend on your personal taste and what you are looking to do tone wise. For punk I prefer not to boost a Marshall amp but I do like boosting Mesa amps. I used Audified’s Multi-drive pedal pro’s tube screamers and both turned out great with the Mesa tones.


For Ska-punk, the majority of the guys I watched play just backed the volume on their guitar back a bit to play the “clean” parts. In Ska-punk, there’s less of a need for a pristine clean to like you’d hear in traditional ska so just get your main dirty tone and when it comes time to skank it up, roll the volume back until the tone becomes great for those upstrokes!


  • Brainworx Megadual
  • Impulsive w/ Recabinet Oversize 412
  • Fab Filter MB
  • Fab Filter Pro-Q
  • Fab Filter Saturn w/the tube setting


  • Kuassa Caliburn
  • Ignite Amps NadIR w/Valhallir Marshall impulse
  • Fab Filter Pro-Q
  • Fab Filter MB
  • Black Box HG-2


  • Lepou Lecto or Lepou Hybrit
  • Lancaster Pulse w/Seacow Mesa Boogie impulse
  • Serum ATT
  • DAW EQ
  • Softube Saturation Knob

Want more plugin tips??
Check our top plugins for punk rock!!