Everyone has a favourite artist or song they enjoy the tone of. Most guitarists who have been playing longer than a minute has attempted to recreate some known guitar tones. Maybe you’ve tried recreating the Metallica distortion from their earlier albums or attempted something more involved.
Unless you’re a sound engineer, have access to multi-tracks and know your way around different types of equipment, you have struggled. And don’t worry, you’re not alone in your struggle.
It doesn’t matter if you’re using the Neural DSP Quad Cortex or using a real amplifier with pedals; the approach to chasing clone tones on the guitar is the same.
One of the biggest problems you’ll face is attempting to match the fullness of a recorded tone. The guitars you hear in a song by your favourite artist are not direct from the amp, nor are they single tracks.
In heavier genres especially, guitar parts are often quad tracked (recorded four times). Other contributing factors also make the guitar sound different, such as studio plugins like compressors, expensive microphones, and expensive amp heads, and it’s not uncommon for a band to combine amps to get their desired sound.
Sometimes finding the recorded tracks can be challenging. If you were to get your hands on the original guitar tracks, by obtaining the STEM (multi-tracks), you could get a better idea of the original sound. A handy tip is to search for Guitar Hero multi-tracks, sometimes they’re on YouTube, or you can find them on multi-track sites.
If you can’t find multi-tracks, a good reference point can be live performances. You can find pro-shot live performances on YouTube, giving you a good idea of a band’s tone. You will notice that many bands are unable to recreate the studio tone live, so it’s a good habit to get into matching the live tone as it’s more achievable to obtain.
Metallica, for example, uploads its own pro-shot live performance footage onto YouTube. In this performance 2019, you can hear what their guitars sound like live.
The guitars in this live performance sound great compared to the recorded studio versions, and they sound thinner (which is typical for real guitars). For referencing tones, this video for Metallica tones would be a good start (or the countless others).
Another good reference point for cloning guitar tones is guitar playthroughs. Now, this approach will not work for all guitar playthroughs. Some guitarists lip-sync the guitar but don’t play it. However, some guitarists do.
John Browne from Monuments is well known for his playing style and for doing real guitar playthroughs. An excellent example of this is the track Lavos by Monuments. You can see he is wearing in-ear monitors, the amp is turned on, and a lead from his guitar is running into it.
If you are looking for an artist who not only does real guitar playthroughs but also uses the Neural DSP Quad Cortex, Mike Stringer from Spiritbox does guitar playthroughs (the later 2021 ones) using the Quad Cortex.
And, one more example of an artist who does real guitar playthroughs is Jesse Cash from ERRA.
We could go on all day about the guitar playthroughs you can find on YouTube. Just remember, sometimes the audio isn’t real. Look for the signs they are real such as a lead running from the guitar, an amp that is turned on, hearing the real guitar in the mix and so on.