How to Capture Billy Corgan’s Smashing Pumpkins Guitar Tone
Like every other rock band in history, the Smashing Pumpkins had their ups and downs. Through it all, the public’s fascination with the somewhat gloomy Billy Corgan never waned. This year, Corgan is celebrating his band’s 20th anniversary by taking them back on the road.
Corgan’s mix of alternative and rock music, combined with acoustic and rock guitar, produced a number of hits for the band throughout the ’90s. Unfortunately, by the time the band broke up in 2000, sales of its new material continued to fall.
However, from a guitar perspective, Corgan came up with some great tone. Songs like “Zero,” “Cherub Rock,” and “Siva” are perfect examples of how Corgan blended his often somber lyrics with straight-ahead rock riffs and powerful guitar.
The band reunited in 2007 for a studio project and tour. Zeitgeist debuted in July ’07 at No. 2 on the Billboard charts, showing that interest in the Pumpkins was as strong as ever.
Besides his Signature Fender Billy Corgan Stratocaster, Corgan has an enviable collection of Gibson guitars that include the ES-335, Les Paul Special, SG Special, SG Standard, Flying V, Epiphone SG, Hummingbird Acoustic and a Gibson 12 string acoustic.
Listening to the Pumpkins, Corgan’s amp selection will probably come as no surprise to most. Marshall, Vox, Bogner, Orange, Diezel and Fender are all among his favorites.
Corgan doesn’t use many effects in his set-up, especially for the straight-ahead rock tone that we will focus on recreating at our home computer. A Big Muff distortion, octave, phase shifter and a compressor make up most of the effects used.
To build Corgan’s tone, I’ll be using Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 3 on my computer. Again, I chose to use an active pickup guitar, so adjust the settings as needed if you’re using a guitar with passive pickups.
I chose the Lead 800 for the amp model to use in this tone. Although Corgan used several amps that could make up a nice rock tone, I’m going to stick with the Marshall. Settings for the amp are Master 9; Pre-Amp 7; Bass 5; Mid 7; Treble 10; and Presence 8.
The cabinet Mic crossfade slide is 63% toward Mic A, with the Dry/Air slider at 6.47 toward Air. The volume of the cabinet is at -6.4db.
I put in two effects in the tone, mostly to enhance the brightness. Of course, most rock tones are going to need a little bit of distortion with the Marshall, so I added distortion with the Volume 4; Tone 6; and Distortion 4.
Remember the purpose of the distortion is to bring out more of the high-end, not necessarily to crank the tone too much. With that in mind, I also added a Treble Booster with settings of Boost 6 and Bright 8.
That’s it for Billy Corgan. Enjoy the Pumpkins.