I have a squire sp 10 for a beginner amp, and I was wondering if it was possible to set it up to have a metal sound? Or do I need a completely different amp?
To create the "Metal" sound in a practice amp, your easiest solution is to get an over-drive pedal that emulates an over-driven high gain amplifier.
To vastly oversimplify, some of what we think of as the "Metal" sound has much to do with how amplifiers were used during the development of the form.
The amp tone has been described to me as "as loud as possible, and little louder than that".
A fully pegged 100 watt Marshall stack's tone is very hard to reproduce in a small practice amp.
Tube amps have a natural filtering of the sound due to the physics of how the tubes amplify the sound. In some rigs a treble boost was added.
When I was selling amplifiers in the 1990's, some budget conscious musicians were turning to over-driven solid state amps to achieve the over-driven sound.
When you over-drive a solid state amp, you are over-driving the full frequency spectrum that you are producing, creating a distortion that has more overtones and frequencies in it than you would get with tube over-drive at similar volume levels.
There are many overdrive pedals available. Some use notch filtering to emulate the actual early Marshall amps, others have all different kinds of overdrive, and there are digital amp modeling pedals available that can emulate early Metal amp rigs.
- Mainly you will want a pedal that will give you high gain distortion with wide frequency representation. This will help with the limitations of running it through a low power and small speaker practice amp.
Metal itself is a more a style of music with definitive sounds in the composition and performance than a specific guitar tone. A good beefy overdrive will get you started, but learning what makes the style is what will get you there in the long run.
There are many different "metal" sounds and crafting your own particular sound is part of what makes one band stand out from another aesthetically. And I haven't played metal or any high-gain music since many years now, so take this with a grain of salt.
Pedal vs. Amp
First you should understand how these distorted sounds are created. Typically you either:
- Turn the gain on the amp up so much that it overdrives the amp itself
- Or you keep the amp sound clean and add the gain via a pedal before the amp.
- (or some combination of the two)
The difference between these two methods is typically where the coloration of the sound is coming from—the amp or the pedal.
Tube vs. Solid-State
Second you should understand the difference between tube and solid-state amps. If you turn any amp/circuit up loud enough it's eventually going to reach a point where it can't handle that much gain and it starts to distort. The difference is that tube amps tend to sound more pleasing when they do. Solid-state amps don't break up as easily and don't sound as good when they do.
Tweaking settings when using a pedal + amp
So given that your amp is solid-state, your best option is probably the second method:
- Push the button so it's set to "clean" and not "OD"
- Set the Bass and Treble knobs to 12 o'clock to start
- Turn the volume up to taste
Then pick up a distortion pedal and follow something like this:
- Turn the gain/drive/distortion knob all the way down to start
- Turn any tone knobs to wherever their neutral position is according the the manual
- Turn the level knob up enough so that the volume sounds the same whether the pedal is on or off. This is called "unity" gain and you are now at a neutral position to start tweaking your tone.
- Turn the gain/drive/distortion knob up until it sounds "metal" enough for you.
- Tweak the tone controls a bit to taste
- Optionally tweak the level knob in the same way again now that you've added gain if you want to use both clean (no pedal) and dirty (pedal) sounds.
Lastly you can come back to your amp and tweak the tone knobs there if needed. But I'd leave those mostly neutral and tweak only if a new room that you're playing in sounds different.
That's kind of a basic way to set up the gain structure for pedal + amp. And with metal you'd typically want a lot of gain. So keep that in mind while pedal shopping. Also keep in mind that different pedals will sound different not just in isolation but also depending on what amp they are in front of. So maybe bring your guitar and amp into a local music store and ask to try a bunch of pedals to hear how it will sound with your gear.
Tweaking settings when using just the amp
If you absolutely can't afford a pedal:
- Push that button so it's set to OD
- Turn the volume up until it sounds metal enough
- Tweak the bass/treble knobs to taste
You're probably not going to get a great sound with this amp either way. But you'll have more luck with a pedal into a clean amp given this particular amp.
According to Fender Forums, you're pretty limited with this basic amp.
The advice they give there: For Metal: set OD/Clean button to "OD". Set all other controls to 10. For Rock: set OD/Clean to "Clean". Set all other controls to 10.
Try this first to see if it works. If it doesn't, the cheap pedals you can get on eBay are of surprisingly good quality and may do the trick with that amp. Check out reviews from working musicians on the best cheap pedals out there.