How to Capture 'Dimebag' Darrell’s Cowboys from Hell Guitar Tone
The next in a series of step-by-step guides to home recording
Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott was widely considered one of the best heavy metal guitarists in the business before his untimely death in December 2004. Dime developed his reputation during his time with Pantera, a group he co-founded with his brother Vinnie Paul.
Since Pantera first burst onto the scene, Dimebag had an unmistakable guitar tone. His early work on Cowboys from Hell propelled Dime and the rest of the group into superstardom, where they would stay for almost 20 years.
Unlike guitarists like Zakk Wylde who haven’t changed gear that much over the years, Dime made several changes. He started off using Washburn guitars, later switching to the Dean guitars that many new fans have come to recognize.
Dime also used a collection of Randall amps throughout his career that included the Warhead and the X2 Warhead. In 2004, Dime made another big change in his gear when he switched to Krank amps.
For much of his career Dime used a Furman parametric equalizer, an MXR Flanger, and a Wah pedal?in his later years he used his signature Crybaby from Hell Wah from Jim Dunlop. Of course, Dunlop also made the MXR Dime Distortion, rounding out the tone that made Dime’s playing so famous.
I am going to use Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig to build a preset to play Dime’s early Pantera songs. (Don’t have Guitar Rig at home? Click on the contest link at the bottom of this page, and you may win virtual amp and cab emulation from Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig—and a Les Paul Traditional, to boot!) Of course, you may have to make some adjustments depending on the guitar you are using.
I don’t often use a Parametric Equalizer in my guitar tones, but we are going to use one this time. Insert the EQ below the amp and cabinet and use the preset called Presence Boost?this will give the tone a little pop at 3k.
For the amp, I decided to use the Instant Gratifier using the Raw setting. Put the Master on 8.5; Gain = 9; Bass = 8; Mid = 6.5; Treble = 9; and Presence = 9.5. The cabinet should have the mic setting at 90 percent and a full dry setting on the bottom.
I put a Flanger in right after the amp, so you can pound away with “Cowboys from Hell.” I use a relatively low Flanger setting, but with the rest of the gear, it comes out just fine. Drop the speed to -2; Intensity = 1.5; and Width =2.
The last module we are going to insert is the Demon Distortion?kind of fitting for Dime, I think. I have Volume = 4.5; Bass = 5; Mid = 8; Treble = 7, and Gain = 7. You want to play with the Gain and Volume settings to achieve the sound you’re looking for depending on what Dime song you are playing.
Don’t forget to turn on the Noise Gate, especially if you’re using a high-gain guitar with active pickups. If not, your ears will be begging for mercy when you stop playing!
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