Slipknot Amp Settings Guide: Spilling Jim Root’s and Mick Thomson’s for Massive Riffs
Slipknot’s music is a constant presence in many of my students’ and friends’ lives. This American band formed in 1995 is known for its aggressive, modern sound which is born out of a combination of several factors.
Currently, Jim Root and Mick Thomson are responsible for the guitars you hear in Slipknot’s records, so these are the musicians you should investigate and explore if you’re looking to achieve this notable band’s sound.
The guitars in Slipknot’s records are tuned down, played through high-gain amplifiers that can deliver monstrous amounts of distortion without breaking a sweat, and their choice of pickups also reflects the aggressiveness of their sound.
In this Slipknot Amp Settings Guide, I will walk you through everything that should go through your mind when attempting to emulate their tone, as well as general practices that are useful regardless of which guitarist has your favorite tone.
Bottom Line Up Front
Slipknot is known for juicy, saturated guitar tones that make most heavy metal fans drool and wonder how can they get the same sounds under their fingers.
Although having the correct amp settings is extremely important, there are several factors to take into account, and overlooking one of them might make a crucial difference. For instance, their songs feature tunings that are much lower than the standard tuning, something that I’d say is much more important than having the exact same amp settings as their guitarists.
You should also make sure that you’re using appropriate equipment such as a guitar with high-output pickups and an amplifier that either has a lot of gain, or one that can handle distortion pedals with ease.
To sound like Slipknot, start with the following amp settings: Gain at 7, Treble at 6, Middle at 5, and Bass at 8.
At this point, you should experiment a bit, play your favorite riffs, and see if there are any major differences that you can identify. This guide will teach you how to solve some of the issues you might encounter as you craft your guitar tone.
Slipknot Amplifier Settings: Modern Metal 101
The settings that you are about to see are a great step in the right direction, but you must take into account that not every amplifier will yield a similar sound just by turning the knobs to those numbers.
Some amps don’t have as much gain as the ones that Slipknot uses, so if you find yourself lacking dirt and sustain, you should compensate with a nice distortion pedal. I’m also going to suggest a few that would do the trick perfectly.
Amplifiers from brands like Orange, ENGL, Mesa Boogie, or Marshall usually have enough distortion for these purposes, while others like Fender vintage-style amps will need a little push to get to the level of dirt you’re looking for.
To sound more like Slipknot, start by adjusting your amplifier like this:
- Gain: 7/8 (depending on the amplifier)
- Treble: 6
- Middle: 5
- Bass: 8
Naturally, the Gain must be set to a high level to get the saturation and sustain that Slipknot’s guitar tones are known for.
Treble and Middle are at a point where they are not extremely highlighted while managing to retain the clarity and brightness that are necessary to cut through the mix, especially if many musicians are playing at the same time.
Let me remind you that these settings are meant to be a starting point, and when you’re done adjusting your amp, you should test them with a few of your favorite Slipknot riffs to evaluate how far you are from your objective.
The right guitar technique and the right tuning are mandatory, as part of their sound is directly related to these two things. Don’t be afraid to increase the gain a little, or add an overdrive pedal such as the Ibanez TS9 to make everything sound tighter.
What Exactly Is a Fantastic Guitar Tone?
Ever since I started to play the electric guitar, even as a
But what does it mean to have a fantastic guitar tone? Is it a result of the amplifier settings and the guitar alone, or are there more factors to take into account?
During my years of experience as a guitarist inside and outside the studio, I came to the conclusion that these are the aspects that influence your tone the most:
- Guitar Body Type: Solid Body, Semi-hollow Body, Hollow Body
- Pickup Choice: Humbuckers, Single-coils, P90’s, Goldfoils, etc
- Amplifier Type: Solid State, Tube Amp, Plugin/Emulator
- Amplifier’s Settings: Volume, Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence
- Effect Pedals: Distortion, Overdrive, Fuzz, Modulation, Reverb, Delay, etc
You can see how the correct amp settings only make up a portion of your overall tone, but having so many things to adjust, switch around, and experiment with is one of the most interesting aspects of being a guitarist.
The possibilities are endless and as you explore all of these, you continuously get better at chasing the sounds in your head.
Obviously, this list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the most important aspect of all: the guitar player’s technique. If you want to sound like Slipknot, you have to mimic the aggressive playing style that they’ve got.
The same goes for any other artist. You should study their playing as much as you can, and incorporate everything you notice into your playing. Picking style, legato, vibrato, all of these things are small parts of someone’s playing personality that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Another aspect that you have to take into account here is that Slipknot plays in low tunings such as Drop B. You can’t play comfortably in a tuning like this if you use light strings like 009s, as they will feel extremely loose when you tune them lower.
My recommendation is to find a heavier set of strings and take your guitar to someone who can set it up with the new tuning in mind, making sure that everything feels great.
Slipknot’s Guitar Tones: Distortion, Compression, and a Wide Wall of Sound
There are guitarists of all kinds. The ones that plug straight into their amp, those who enjoy having a couple of pedals to add another layer of versatility to their setup, and others who dedicate themselves to their pedalboard to the point that it seems to be the biggest focus of their gear.
Slipknot’s guitarists are adept at keeping it simple, which can be very advantageous when you play live performances regularly. If you haven’t got a lot of pedals, cables, and power supplies, there aren’t as many things that can malfunction while you’re playing.
If you’re chasing Slipknot’s guitar tones, you should consider investing in a guitar that has a pair of EMG active pickups, preferably the EMG 81 and EMG 60 since that is what they mainly use.
As for the amplifier, something with enough gain for metal music is a natural choice. If the Orange Rockerverb 100 is too loud or too expensive, you can look into more affordable options that still deliver all the crunch you could want.
An amp with enough gain can save you some money on guitar pedals, but if you can’t make that happen, you should consider finding a nice distortion pedal to compensate for the lack of saturation on your amplifier.
Jim Root’s and Mick Thomson’s Guitars
Fender Jim Root Telecaster
Jim Root is mostly known for playing a Fender Telecaster with a mahogany body (they’re typically made out of ash), string-through body, hardtail bridge, and EMG active pickups (EMG 81 in the bridge position and EMG 60 on the neck).
Jackson King V
Mick Thomson, who splits guitar duties with Jim Root in Slipknot, has had his Jackson King V since 1994. He had to apply for a loan to place a custom order for it, and he tracked his first record with this guitar.
It features a Floyd Rose tremolo system, a locking nut, and EMG active pickups, something that both guitarists in Slipknot clearly enjoy having on their guitars.
Jim Root’s and Mick Thomson’s Amplifiers
Orange Rockerverb MkII 100W Head
If you’re a fan of Slipknot’s guitar sounds, then you should know that a lot of what you hear is coming from Orange Rockerverb MkII heads. Jim Root is a big fan of this model, and he says he’s been using them for all the gain, eliminating the need for any distortion pedals.
This powerful all-tube head has a two-stage clean channel, a four-stage dirty channel that can deliver sounds fit for everything from blues to heavy metal, and other valuable aspects such as an effects loop and foot-switchable reverb.
VHT Pitbull Ultra Lead
Mick Thomson’s favorite tool of destruction is the VHT Pitbull Ultra Lead head, which he pairs with a Carvin 4×12 cab.
While the Orange head we’ve just discussed pays tribute to the vintage designs of the 70s, this VHT is a clearly more modern design that excels at dishing out saturated tones that any metal guitarist would like to have at their fingertips.
This 3-channel tube amp features preset saving, an effects loop, and other clever additions like a switchable parallel mode that allows you to mix the amp’s sound with an external effect.
I am usually drawn to vintage-oriented gear rather than modern, state-of-the-art designs, but I can’t say that this VHT head does not look and sound impressive.
Friedman Brown Eye 100 Deluxe
Jim Root has used this amp to blend it with his Rockerverb. Friedman is one of the most discussed amplifier builders nowadays, with models that pay homage to classic circuits that instantly take us back to the recordings we all love.
This amp is essentially a hot-rodded Marshall, reminiscent of what many metal and fusion guitarists of the 80s loved using to get a kind of silkiness and smoothness on high gain that you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Even though Jim is still an avid Orange fan, blending his usual amps with the Friedman allows him to get different sounds, and distinguish his sound even better from Mick Thomson’s, something that every band with two guitarists should be doing all the time.
Jim Root’s and Mick Thomson’s Effect Pedals
Even though Jim Root and Mick Thomson aren’t huge pedal users and prefer having a simpler setup that involves fewer cables and stompboxes, they still have a few pedals to use here and there, especially in the studio, where having more options can come in handy.
Below you can find a short list of pedals that have been used by Slipknot’s guitarists.
- MXR M193 GT-OD (Overdrive)
- Maxon OD-9 (Overdrive)
- Maxon PT-9 Pro+ (Phaser)
- Boss NS-2 (Noise Gate)
- MXR M169 Carbon Copy (Delay)
- Digitech X-Series Synth Wah (Envelope Filter)
- Death By Audio Fuzz War (Fuzz)
- Earthquaker Devices Plumes (Distortion)
- Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive (Overdrive)
- Line 6 MM4 Modulation Modeler (All-in-One Modulation)
- Electro Harmonix Small Stone (Phaser)
- Boss AC-3 Acoustic Simulator
Some of these pedals are only used for a specific song, or to add a different color and character to their usual sound, something that is always helpful in the studio, particularly when more than one guitarist is being recorded.
How to Sound Like Slipknot Without Filing for Bankruptcy
Although most gear that Slipknot uses regularly can still be found at many music shops, collecting the same guitars and amplifiers can be quite expensive.
Fortunately, nowadays it is much easier to find affordable guitar equipment that sounds great than it was a couple of decades ago.
With modeling amplifiers sounding better with every passing year, and quality control being stepped up in a few electric guitar brands, you won’t need to consider applying for a loan to sound like your guitar idols.
As always, never neglect other important aspects outside of the gear you’re using, such as the proper technique, tuning, and guitar setup so that it is always comfortable to play. You want your gear to work for you, not fight you along the way.
Check below for a list of some of my favorite picks for anyone who is trying to sound more like Slipknot.
The Guitars: Active Pickups, High Output
When searching for a guitar to nail Slipknot’s tone, there aren’t many rules other than favoring a solid-body guitar that features a pair of EMG active pickups.
Both of their guitarists like using the EMG 81 and EMG 60 set, but if you can’t find those specifically, it shouldn’t make an abysmal difference.
Despite being the most budget-friendly option in this suggestions list, the Jackson X Series Dinky DK2XRHT packs a serious punch.
It might not have a set of active EMG pickups, but the custom-built ceramic magnet humbuckers designed by Jackson are meant to deliver heavy-metal tones without breaking a sweat.
It also looks like a proper metal tool, with the all-black finish and classic Jackson reverse pointy headstock. Other interesting features include a compound radius fingerboard for increased comfort and playability.
This Jackson is a cut above the last one on several fields. It maintains some of the great selling points such as the 12″-16″ compound radius, but improves upon it with an upgraded set of EMG 85/81 active humbuckers.
Even though Jim Root favors the 85/60 set, these are still going to give you the same kind of grit and punch that you’re looking for.
You also get a double-locking Floyd Rose Special tremolo system for dive bombs and other flashy techniques.
As always, the looks on this guitar scream raw aggressiveness, with the pointy ends, shark fin inlays, and pointy headstock.
I couldn’t come up with a few guitar suggestions to nail Slipknot’s tone and leave out one of the most appropriate axes for the job, Jim Root’s signature Telecaster made by Fender.
This isn’t your average Telecaster for blues, country, jazz, or classic rock, as it is loaded with Jim’s favorite pickups, the EMG 81/60 set (bridge and neck positions, respectively).
The remaining details were ironed out between Fender and Jim Root himself, meaning that this guitar is the mirror of everything that he likes to use to obtain the massive tones you hear in Slipknot’s records.
The Amplifiers: Colossal Sustain and Monumental Saturation
In the amplifier department, you should find something that either has a lot of gain by default, or an amp that handles distortion pedals well, since that will be an integral part of your sound. Jim Root loves his Orange amps, but there are other suitable options from other brands as well.
If you only have an amplifier that is mostly clean and doesn’t offer a lot of distortion, you can always compensate with a drive pedal. There are a few great suggestions later in this guide.
Although the HT Club 40 MkII wasn’t designed specifically for the metal community, it is an incredibly versatile amplifier that can deliver everything from crispy clean tones to high-gain madness.
On top of that, Blackstar’s ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) allows you to pivot between British and American-inspired tones simply by turning one knob on the front panel.
Other interesting features worth mentioning include a speaker-emulated output, a reverb with a dark/bright switch, an effects loop, a USB audio output, and an included 2-way footswitch, making this amp a very complete option out of the box.
If you’re keen on getting an Orange amp since it is what Jim Root uses the most but don’t want a high-powered beast that will make all your neighbors hate you deeply, you should consider something like the Dark Terror head, which can be toggled between 7 and 15W of power.
Don’t let these numbers fool you, it can still put out a very decent volume to keep up with drummers and bassists, and you’ll get all the gain and saturation you’ll need to craft stellar Slipknot tones.
Some of the downsides are the fact that the EQ is comprised of a single “Shape” knob, and it only has one channel. In any case, this might even be an advantage if you’re looking for the simplest amp you can find.
It comes with an included gigbag to carry it around effortlessly and in style.
The Rocker 15 combo is a great choice for whoever doesn’t want to haul around a heavy head along with a cab.
In comparison with the Dark Terror head, this offers a bit more flexibility with a dual-channel design and a 3-band EQ section. It is powered by 3 ECC83 tubes, an ECC81 tube, and 2 EL84 tubes.
If you’re afraid that 15W might not be enough, this amp series also features models with more power.
The Effect Pedals: Pushing Gain and Compression to the Next Level
Although none of the guitarists in Slipknot are known for being heavy pedal users, you might still benefit from one or two stompboxes at your feet in case you need a little extra gain or a slight boost for a solo. Here are a few of my favorite options for these purposes.
If your amplifier already packs enough gain on tap to achieve a Slipknot-inspired tone by itself, you probably don’t need to look into distortion pedals as it would be a bit redundant.
However, if that’s not the case, I’d recommend taking a look at the Earthquaker Devices Zoar Dynamic Audio Grinder.
This stompbox is not designed with only heavy metal in mind, and it is able to do anything from clean boosting to a full-frequency distortion that Jim Root himself wouldn’t mind using.
A 3-band EQ, Level, Weight, and Gain knobs give you all the tools you need to tweak your sound to your heart’s content. It can also be powered at 18V for increased headroom, articulation, and dynamics.
Although the Ibanez TS-9 and other Tube Screamer variants don’t have enough gain to be used as a distortion unit by itself, many metal guitarists love using them to beef up their tone, making everything tighter.
Due to its characteristic “mid-hump”, the TS-9 will also help you cut through the mix much better. This pedal is also extremely versatile and you will probably end up using it in other contexts.
A good noise suppressor is something that every metal-oriented guitarist should consider having on their pedalboard. Although some players don’t enjoy the way that it sometimes cuts off the sound, you can still obtain a good balance between noise suppression and a natural feel.
The NS-2 features Threshold and Decay knobs to meticulously shape the amount of suppression you need.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Slipknot Amp Settings
Question: Which Amplifiers do Slipknot’s Guitarists Use?
Answer: Jim Root from Slipknot is an avid fan of Orange amps, and he has been using Orange Rockerverb 100 heads for a long time. He gets all of his distortion from these, instead of resorting to any kind of dirt pedals. Mick Thomson is known for using Rivera KR7 heads, as well as the VHT Pitbull Ultra Lead.
Question: What are the Best Guitar amp Settings to Sound Like Slipknot?
Answer: The best amp settings also depend on your amplifier and guitar choice, but these are a great starting point for whoever is trying to sound like Slipknot’s guitarists: Gain at 7, Treble at 6, Middle at 5, and Bass at 8.
Question: What Kind of Electric Guitar Should I Use to Sound More Like Slipknot?
Answer: If you’re pursuing Slipknot’s guitar tones, you should consider using a guitar that has EMG active pickups such as Jim Root’s Telecaster which is equipped with the EMG 81 and EMG 60. These pickups capture the sound and response that Slipknot’s guitarists enjoy using, making them a great choice for whoever wants to sound more like them.
Closing Considerations about Slipknot’s Amp Settings
By now, you’ve surely concluded that although having the proper amp settings is important to nail the tone you have in your head, there are also other factors to take into account that can’t be neglected.
Use the following amp settings if you want to sound more like Slipknot: Gain at 7, Treble at 6, Middle at 5, and Bass at 8.
Slipknot’s sound is saturated, compressed, and it emphasizes low frequencies without losing clarity so that it doesn’t get drowned in the mix with the rest of the instruments.
To achieve this, the best tools for the job are a guitar with active pickups such as the EMG 81/60 set, and an amplifier that focuses on high-gain tones. This way, you can avoid getting a distortion pedal and get everything from the amp.
Because Slipknot plays in tunings such as Drop B, it would be wise to set up your guitar to use heavier gauge strings and maintain a comfortable string tension while playing.