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How to Get That Nu Metal Guitar Sound: Breaking the Rules

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Labels can often be detrimental to a genre of music, and they sure have been unkind to one of Metals most commercially successful offshoots; Nu Metal. Are they warranted, not always! However daft Nu Metal appears on the surface, underneath the questionable fashion choices and controversy there lies some of the most creative and unique guitar parts of any of Metals’ expansive sub-genres.

You see, besides Nu Metal being produced by some of the most creative and quirky guitarists of the time, bands such as Korn and Slipknot were ripping out guitar sounds challenging the scope of their instruments. The sounds were percussive, and they layered effects that were more in line with synth tones, whilst applying these to rock and pop song structures. These types of wacky tonal expressions found their way into my own playing in recent years, and I can’t help but admire the creativity and influence this has had on modern metal. So where do you start? Pull your red cap backwards and let’s find out!

The absolute wealth of digital tech available to guitarists in the form of amp modelling has any guitarist, Metal or otherwise, spoilt for choice and many of the aforementioned tones are available in presets with the ability to chop and change pedals at a button press. Although, if you want to walk in the footsteps of your Nu Metal heroes, you’ll want to chain a few actual guitar pedals together and get creative.

At this point there are no rules: delays, chorus, phasers, wah-wahs, pitch shifters and flangers, analogue or digital, it’s all about expression. Choose a speed on your delay pedal and mix in some phaser over the top, throw the pitch shifter in there and you’ll be rolling! Jam over a drum and bass pattern or over the ugliest down-tuned riff you can write, whether it’s on crystal-clear valve tone or crushing triple rec distortion, you will find gold.

Currently, I find myself putting out music in the new offshoot of Nu Metal, Trap Metal. A mix of modern Trap track structures and samples with Nu Metal inspired riffs with the occasional guitar solo. Bands like Korn and Linkin Park have got my creativity peaking, they inspired my journey of experimentation with guitar effects in the studio.

Some of my go-to effects are the Digitech Whammy, MXR EVH Phaser, MXR Carbon Copy delay and a 535Q Crybaby, these are generally the key ingredients when I’m looking for an interesting melody to layer over riffs.

Nu Metal GuitarsAs far as guitar choices go, it doesn’t really matter. Although it helps if it’s loaded with hi-gain humbuckers. EMG are a popular choice amongst NU metal players, as are hot Seymour Duncan humbuckers which distribute the width and depth needed in tone for those heavily down-tuned chord progressions.

Though in recent times Fishman Fluence pickups have been an option, with extra clarity while producing the same tight compressed sound characteristics of EMGs. Bare Knuckles can get the job done too with their more sculpted EQs which can really assist in creating original and unique rhythm sounds.

Love it or hate, the genre may be the protagonist for other styles which have come and gone. It certainly seems to have been a natural evolution pushing Djent and Metalcore towards the mainstream, giving Metal fans somewhat of another golden era with guitar solos embraced again next to crushing beatdowns with a level of production more polished than ever before.

After all, it could be said that after all the obnoxious posing by hair Metal bands during the 1980s, harder sounds from bands like Metallica and Pantera entered the mainstream in a big way.

The recent resurgence in Metal may be a reaction or perhaps an effort to contrast the highly popular juggernaut that is Trap and Hip Hop? Though one thing is certain; the current generation of Nu Metal players are continuing to push the genre into unexplored territory experimenting with traditional techniques combined with new technologies. All this makes for an exciting future where Metal and Hip Hop collide once again!

Keep you red hat backwards, don’t be afraid to break some rules and keep on rollin!

Nu Metal

Ben’s live pedalboard

Want some tips on choosing the best guitar pickups? Follow the link: > Guitar Pickups

If you have come this far, why not check out Ben’s band, The Weight Of Silence

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