I am trying to record the main riff of "Come As You Are" by Nirvana. I searched on the Internet the amp settings that I should use and I ended up using this : bass 4, mids 5, treble 6, high gain, chorus effect. It sounds like this : recording .

I am sure that you have noticed that it sounds a million miles away from the official recording or even from live performances ( like this one : Come As You Are ) and I have the feeling that it's not by changing the bass, gain or treble settings ( I did try ) that I will come closer to the right tone. My recording doesn't have the warm tone of the original, it sounds too metallic.

Do you know what effects I am missing here ?

  • 2
    There are more factors that come into play (literally) than mere amp. settings. I can guarantee that if you jumped on stage and grabbed the guitar after he finished playing that song, you still wouldn't sound the same.
    – Tim
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 16:08

1 Answer 1


You Cannot Match a Sound

There is simply no way for anyone to give you the formula to match a sound, there are too many factors. The best you can do is approximate. As Tim said in a comment there are many factors that go into your sound other than amp settings. To truly match a sound here is a short list off the top of my head of things that you would need to consider.

  • Amp settings: Bass? Mids? Treble? Gain? Presence? More settings?
  • Amp type: Tubes? Solid State? Brand? Modifications? Cabinet?
  • Guitar settings: Volume? Tone? Pickup selection? Setup? Tuning/Intonation?
  • Guitar type: Pickups? String gauge? Brand?
  • Guitar playing: Picking tendencies? 'Finger tone'? Muting?
  • Effects: What pedals? Pedal settings? More EQ?

For trying to match a live recording there are even more considerations. Room shape, PA system, the recording equipment, etc.

Obviously, something like amp settings makes much more of a difference to your sound than your string gauge for example, but all of the above can still contribute to the overall sound.

How To Get Close

Unfortunately, the link to your performance does not work, but I would be surprised if you were using even nearly the same equipment that Kurt used in the recording. It does not really matter however because the process for 'matching' a sound is the same.

0. Accept defeat
Accept that you will not perfectly match the sound. Also accept that you might not have the time for tweaking settings and research, money for gear, or patience for trial and error.

1. Approximate gear as close as possible
Use whatever amp, guitar, etc. that you have that is closest to what they used on the recording. You can usually find exactly what gear was used in the studio if they are a bigger band like Nirvana.

2. Approximate settings as close as possible
Sometimes the settings that were used in the recording for gear is available, but chances are that won't translate well into whatever gear you are using, as you have found out. Unfortunately, the only guidance I can give here is to use your ear.

3. Use your ear
Is the tone very treble-heavy? Increase your treble etc. You can usually get pretty close to the sound by using your ear with trial and error alone. This is where you should spend most of your time. This is also the part that people have the most trouble with as 'use your ear' is vague and is something only learned through excessive trial and error in my experience. Getting a second opinion or two from an experienced ear can help out a lot too in shaping a sound.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. I have updated the link Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:09
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    One thing that nobody ever seems to mention, but is very important with respect to the sound is the microphones and their placement. The same exact equipment live in the same room will sound different than what gets onto the tape.
    – Yorik
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 19:32
  • 1
    York's point is a great one. To go even further, the mix is mastered, eq'd and compressed in an isolation booth. The sound of any modern recording might feel raw and lively but actually they are highly pasteurised and well polished by engineers who have the goal of making this sound engaging on a car radio. An over simplifications obviously, but you can't recreate post production in a live setting. Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 11:56

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