Whole Lotta Love Tone

In case you missed it, back in 2020, Jimmy Page went on record and described his setup for recording one of the most classic riffs of all time, “Whole Lotta Love.”1 Page spoke of taking advantage of an abandoned Vox Super Beatle head, plugged into one of his Rickenbacker Transatlantic cabinets. He doesn’t mention the specifics of either model, but it narrows things down. There was also a recent illustrated book which corroborates this statement, where we do in fact see Page in the studio with a Vox head sitting on top of a Transatlantic cabinet.2 Additionally, there is also some footage of Page describing the Tone Bender fuzz effect as having a massive influence on this recording.3

Combining the VG 302E Amplifier with the VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet, and adding the FZ101B Fuzz for just a little flavor, we were able to unlock that unmistakable zipper-like fuzz that Page achieved. We voiced the cabinet to capture more of the room, and added an alternate option for those looking to blend in some studio reverb. We think you’re really going to dig the results. Here’s a quick demo!

But things wouldn’t be complete without talking a little about how that riff was played. There’s a real groove to how Page strums, almost to the point of imperfection, all to maintain a loose feel. Here’s what the main riff looks like on paper, with the additional variation during the intro (it’s really fun to play).

There are a few things to take note of:

We’ve highlighted the strumming pattern to help inform how we think this riff was played. Page’s hand was essentially constantly strumming back and forth in rhythm, never stopping. This back and forth rhythm helps accent down strokes, as well as provides a deep, infectious groove. The track really swings.

Also note that Page bends B-notes (E-string, 7th fret) up on down-strokes. He pulls into the D-note (A-string, 5th fret), which creates a much more interesting feel than if we just play a straight B-note. It has a stronger push-pull rhythm.

Lastly, there is a harmonic that accompanies the D-note by letting your index finger connect with the D-string on the 5th fret. It’s further accentuated by playing this with an up-stroke. Since the harmonic is hit first with the pick, it’s very present in the mix.

Lotta Love

This is the core tone. A slight fuzz, more ambience, and the combination of a Vox amp with Celestion speakers. It’s unmistakable. To our ears, it’s a zipper-effect. The way the fuzz makes the guitar sound like a zipper is being pulled up, or down. So pull away!

  • VG302E Amplifier
  • FZ101B Fuzz
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet
Lotta Lead

Though potentially not accurate, we threw in an extra preset for lead that we used on the sample recording you hear. It’s a fun combination of an older fuzz with traditional Vox speakers. It certainly cuts through the mix. Enjoy!

  • FZ100A Fuzz
  • VG 2x12C 30W ’67 Cabinet

And there you have it. One of the heaviest riffs ever recorded, right underneath your fingertips. Add some fuzz for a zipper-effect, get your picking hand into a steady groove, and hit those bends and harmonics to help this riff swagger. This song is a testament to artists who look for new sounds both with the equipment they use, but also on the fret board as well. Despite having just twelve notes, phrasing and articulation can be infinitely variable. Along with AmpStamp, the power is yours. Go forth and rock!

1 Astley-Brown, Michael & Bird, Chris. “Jimmy Page reveals the amp he really used to record Whole Lotta Love” Guitar World, Future plc, 6th November 2020, https://www.guitarworld.com/news/jimmy-page-reveals-the-amp-he-really-used-to-record-whole-lotta-love/.

2 Page, Jimmy. Jimmy Page: The Anthology, Genesis Publications, 2020, p. 136.

3 Page, Jimmy, performer. It Might Get Loud. Sony Pictures Classics, 2008.

Siamese Dream Tone

Recording electric guitar on this record was so complicated, producer Butch Vig has been quoted saying they needed a visual guitar map to keep track of all the different parts Corgan was dreaming up.1 Despite the layering needed to get closest to this tone, one thing is true, a heavy fuzz is a must. And AmpStamp delivers this in spades with the FZ104A Fuzz.

Also, after doing extensive tone tests, our ears have selected the VG302E Amplifier. Although this goes against most interviews, Vig has briefly mentioned his affinity for AC30s in the past2, and it seems possible that these combos could have been run into typical 4x12s that would be used with traditional Marshall heads. We’re also blending old and new cabs to bring out the best of both worlds. Check it out!

Cherub

Packed with a heavy fuzz, this tone is perfect for alternative rock à la 1991. Stack up separate left and right takes for an amazing stereo image. Ideally suited for a humbucker in the bridge position to help cut through the mud, anything will do really. And if you’re stuck with noisy single coils, engage the Squelch gate.

Cherub Lead

Changing Color for a darker tone and engaging the FL100 Flanger, new you can recreate blistering leads from this classic album. And when you reach post-production you can flip the Matrix switch and manually control the flange, just like the record. It doesn’t get much better.

  • VG302E Amplifier
  • FZ104A Fuzz
  • VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet

1 Harris, Sophie. “Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Siamese Dream’: 10 Things You Didn’t Know.” Rolling Stone, Penske Business Media, LLC, 27th July 2018, https://www.rollingstone.com/feature/smashing-pumpkins-siamese-dream-10-things-you-didnt-know-699361/.

2 Robson, Paul. “Butch Vig shares the guitar recording secrets of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters and more.” Guitar.com, BandLab Technologies, 20th December 2020, https://guitar.com/features/interviews/butch-vig-guitar-recording-secrets-nirvana-the-smashing-pumpkins-foo-fighters/.

Aerosmith Tone

The greatest American band? Possibly. Their albums from the early to mid seventies defined a new kind of rock n’ roll. Sprung from the demise of huge acts like Led Zeppelin and Cream, armed with only a few guitars and a couple of Marshalls, Aerosmith took on the rock elite.

Not to mention Joe Perry, one of the few guitarists who took the time to tame single coil pickups into a noiseless power house of bite and snarl.1 It’s one of the key aspects of Aerosmith’s sound during this period. But don’t fret, we’ve got you covered if you’re using a humbucker, just engage the EQ100 Treble Booster and that should put you closer to single coil territory.

Ma Kin

Pure tone. Prior to the band’s introduction to other amplification, we believe Joe Perry’s core sound on the first record relied solely on the 402C Amplifier and a blend of the 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet and 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet, both available at the time of recording, providing a solid combination of old and new.

  • VG402C Amplifier
  • 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet
  • 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet
Somebody

You’re not going to believe your ears, but check it out. Put on the record too and compare, you can’t miss this sleazy tone. We stumbled on this while dialing in the FZ101B Fuzz–a favorite of Perry’s due to his appreciation of Jeff Beck–and noticed that we were still missing some really deep EQ cuts. Despite the PH102B Phaser not coming out until 1973, the notches line up and the sound is unmistakable. Whether it was the console at Intermedia Sound Studios2 or an early release of this now legendary dual phaser, you can still rock out like the boys from Boston did on their first record!

  • FZ102B Fuzz
  • PH102B Phaser

1 Rosen, Steven. “The Joe Perry Interview.” Guitar Player, 1979

2 Turner, Mark. Intermedia Sound Studios. Music Museum of New England, 2017, https://www.mmone.org/intermedia-sound-studios/. Accessed 1 May 2021.

AmpStamp 1.7 – Drag, Drop, and Rock

With the release of AmpStamp 1.7, we’re excited to announce that we now support macOS! Starting with macOS Catalina and Big Sur, you can now rock out with AmpStamp on your Macbook or Mac, as well as record with AmpStamp as an Audio Unit (AU) in your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) of choice, where AUs are supported.

SAME SUBSCRIPTION, MORE FLEXIBILITY

If you already subscribed or purchased gear, then you’re all set. Your purchases and subscriptions will transfer automatically, as always they can be restored if needed. With the ability to run as an Audio Unit (AU), you now have even more flexibility. By running multiple instances of AmpStamp in your DAW, you can experience:

  • Parallel Processing – blending different amplifier and cabinet combinations
  • Chaining – running the pre-amp of one amplifier into the power-amp of another (for amps with an FX Loop, set to Return)
  • Post-FX – placing stompboxes after cabinet and ambience effects
  • Post-EQ – taking advantage of your DAW’s channel strip for additional tone sculpting
HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO

We’ve also added support for high-resolution audio with sampling rates up to 192kHz. When you’re creating your masterpiece, audio quality is of the most importance. Extending sampling rates beyond what is required for human hearing can avoid aliasing when distorting your input signal. This becomes especially important when running high gain amplifiers and recording more modern guitar tones, but the entire signal chain will benefit from this decision. We’ll be going into more detail on how to get the most out of your signal chain since running at a higher sampling rate also uses more processing power.

AUPRESETS

When you’re ready to save your sound, you can still do so with the internal bank provided by the Floor Controller. This bank of presets is synchronized between our standalone application and all Audio Unit (AU) instances, available on all platforms (iOS, iPadOS, macOS). Additionally, we have added support for AUPresets which can be saved externally on macOS and shared with anyone. On iOS and iPadOS, AUPresets are saved to an application directory and can be recalled at any point within your DAW. To get started, we have also converted our Factory Presets into AUPresets as well, making preset navigation easier when running as an AU. AUPresets are seamlessly bridged with the internal bank of presets, giving additional flexibility if you need to save an update for recall with MIDI and/or live operation.

EXPLORE AND MORE

Stay tuned for our evolving Explore tab where we feature Classic Sounds, Field Guides, new System Presets, and much more. We’ve added a new Ambience effect, the AMB300 Echo Chamber. Now you can get the rich sound of a chamber behind your guitar which has powered classic hits for decades. And the ’80s are by no means over. With the introduction of High Gain amplifiers, there is still a lot of ground to cover!

Ride The Lightning Tone

What’s left to say about this thrash metal classic? The band brought a level of perfection to heavy metal production unheard of in the genre up until this point. Tight, click-track accuracy, layers upon layers of guitars, warehouse ambience, and allegedly sped up tapes caused riffs to hit listener’s ears at blinding speeds. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

While it’s been reported that the band auditioned every Marshall in Denmark to find the right amp to record with1, we think the core of the sound actually came from their introduction to Mesa/Boogie, namely the Mark IIC+. While we’re sure there’s more than one way to get here, when you plug in, it’s unmistakable. The top end sizzle, mid-scooped metal mania hits you square in the face.

And the story is the stuff of legends, with James’ prized modified Marshall getting stolen shortly before recording was scheduled to start, it was the perfect time to look for a new amplifier. Mesa/Boogie was just up the road so-to-speak and this would begin an unspoken sonic partnership that would last the band for years.

And while we’re here, we thought we’d shed some light on one of the most difficult riffs known to thrash metal fans. The intro from “Fight Fire with Fire!” While the basic riff is well known (Riff A), online guitar personality Ben Eller shed some light on the other half of the riff (Riff C) back in 20172. However this still left the transition between these two riffs open to interpretation. Being good citizens, we felt we needed to make an attempt to clarify the riff that bridges riffs A and C, let’s call it Riff B. It embodies one of the defining characteristics of a great Metallica song–the use of odd meter changes to create phrases that catch you off guard. Likely done by feel to avoid a more prog-rock style composition, the band showed a healthy disregard for meter, opting to construct passages beat-by-beat in order to get from one place to the next.

Take a look and listen, once you get up to speed you’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with one of the fiercest thrash riffs around. Make sure to note the small bends that occur in measures 10 and 11, they’re critical to accurate articulation of the pull-offs and was likely the result of speed and finger-pressure while playing.

Lightning

Taking full advantage of the VG802C Amplifier 5-Band EQ, we’re employing the classic “V” setting. Despite later accounts showing the Treble Shift engaged3, based on our testing we think this wasn’t the setup for this particular album. We’ve also added the OD101 Overdrive which was definitely used in some form. Potentially to thicken up rhythm parts with lots of A-string palm muting, most definitely on solos, either way be sure to experiment with the gain ratio between the amp and overdrive, you’re bound to stumble onto something brilliant. You can’t miss with this gear!

  • OD101 Overdrive
  • VG802C Amplifier
  • VG 4X12B 260W ’82 Cabinet

1 Taylor, Matt. Metallica: Back To The Front. Insight Editions, 2016.

2 Ben Eller. (2017, July 13). That riff from Fight Fire With Fire by Metallica you could never figure out! Retrieved from https://youtu.be/5jIcZcIwJzo

3 Rasmussen, Flemming. Metallica Notes. http://www.fwrproduction.com/FWR_Produktion/Notes_1.html. Accessed 20 February 2021.

Tuning a Plexi

There is something magical, maybe even mysterious, about an old Plexi. Based on historical records, we know that there were several revisions, that part tolerances varied over the years, and that build quality could be hit or miss. But one thing is for certain, if you find a winning combination of all of these elements, you know it. The sound registers as “the” sound you have been looking for.

Or maybe not. As we drift further and further away from the period known as Classic Rock it’s getting more and more difficult to find information about recording techniques, gear, and performances captured on seminal records of that period. Enter AmpStamp, our attempt at cataloging the most desirable gear, with the ability to recreate the most coveted tones in guitar history.

Let’s take a look at the VG402C Amplifier paired with the VG 4x12B 100W ’78 Cabinet. This setup covers both ’68 and ’69 era Specs with a slightly newer cabinet. We’re using the EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer to tighten the sound of the guitar coming into the amplifier.

With the EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer we’re cutting low-mids to tighten the bass and boosting highs to improve clarity. It’s a common shape that can even help clean tones cut through in a mix.

’68 Spec

We think you’re going to instantly hear the low end punch and mid-growl that epitomizes classic rock guitar tone. And at a low gain setting! Remember, this was in the pre- to early-days of master volume amplifiers, players were getting their sound more from power amp distortion. Studio engineers kept asking the musicians to turn it down! And that’s what makes this Spec a classic: the ability to pack a punch at a lower volume. Enjoy!

’69 Spec

Voiced brighter than previous revisions, this Spec shines when pushed to the max. You can really hear the tubes screaming! No boost needed. We’ve added a switch so you can dial it back if needed, but we don’t recommend it. Let it rip!

Signal Chain
  • EQ110 Ten Band Equalizer
  •  VG402C Amplifier, daisy-chain channels I and II
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’78 Cabinet

 

Sweet Leaf Tone

Who would have thought that what started out as an above average blues band would become the prototype for heavy metal as we know it. From the opening sounds of a rainstorm to a bell that’s tolled for a thousand lives to the perfect use of the Devil’s Interval, Black Sabbath had, perhaps inadvertently, created something coherent and unique that immediately registered and resonated with listeners upon first exposure. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

So rare is that occurrence that when critics started complaining but fans started following, the band knew to continue in the direction they had started. And we are all glad they did. As album after album of instant classics continued to fill the shelves, many guitar players started to wonder how Tony Iommi was getting such a heavy sound. And so our journey begins…

What we do know is that Iommi had a modified Rangemaster, one of the first treble boosters.1 Based on dropping the needle and some experimentation, it’s unlikely that Iommi got that kind of distortion from an amplifier and a treble booster. Our latest theory is that his Rangemaster was modified to include a fuzz unit. Most likely a two or three transistor model since the Rangemaster itself was a single transistor circuit.

What we have here is the classic VG402B Amplifier with the VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet and the EQ100 Treble Boost followed by the FZ101B Fuzz. This deep and heavy tone is amazing and we think you’re going to instantly hear those Black Sabbath classics when playing. Paired with an SG, you can’t get any closer. Enjoy!

SWEETLEAF

Crank it up, this tone is heavy. Designed to imitate modifications done to Tony Iommi’s treble booster, we think we’ve found something special. But you be the judge. Use the fuzz to capture the dark sounds of Master of Reality or disengage and crank the amp for something brighter, similar to their self-titled debut.

  •  VG402B Amplifier
  • EQ100 Treble Boost
  • FZ101B Fuzz
  • VG 4x12B 100W ’73 Cabinet

1 Iommi, Tony. Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath. Da Capo Press, 2011.

Nevermind Tone

Depending on your punk rock ethics, you may or may not have a lot to thank Mike Wallace for. Without question, his application of slick dance music production techniques to a new generation of punk willing to admit that they liked the Beatles helped define the sound of an era. Call it what you will, the music was infectious. Like songs you learned when you were a kid—they were easy to remember, enjoyable to sing along with, and aggressive and catchy as hell. If you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

But Wallace was typically employed only as a mix engineer. He would get involved with projects after most of the material had already been recorded. In order to have such great material to work with, the raw energy in the studio still needed to be there. With Nirvana’s second album—their first on a major label—Wallace would create a blueprint for many bands to follow but first, the band needed to record an album. Enter Butch Vig. Having previously worked with Nirvana on some demos, he would become the vehicle through which the band would successfully get onto tape their pop infused ideas. Famously using John Lennon to coerce more takes, Vig knew exactly how to interact with underground artists.

Listening to the unmixed stems, it’s clear this album was meant to be raucous, heavy, and in your face. With AmpStamp, let’s take look at capturing that raw energy and giving it some slick studio production (or not, if you prefer). Here’s what we know:

  • Kurdt Cobain’s amp had broken at an earlier gig and the band used the money they had to purchase a Mesa Boogie Studio .22 preamp and a power amp
  • When the band checked in to Sound City studios, Kurt brought the Mesa Boogie with him. During recording he would also employ a Fender Bassman and some pedals but as Vig states, “Kurt Cobain, for the most part, used a Mesa Boogie amp”<sup>1</sup>
  • Based on live appearances, a modern Marshall 4×12 was used
NEVERMIND

Careful! This one is hot! You may want to engage the Squelch control (noise gate). Though we know Kurdt used a distortion pedal to switch between clean and distorted tones, we think you’ll hear similarities using the high gain channel on this amplifier, it definitely packs a punch better than any pedal. Change the Color to get different left and right channel takes, and voilà—never mind.

  • VG802C Amplifier, toggle between lead and clean + CH102 Chorus
  • CH102 Chorus
  • VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet
LITHIUM

Though not a Bassman, we think you’ll agree this sound is instant Grunge. With a thick quality unlike any modern amp, this was the secret ingredient to some of the moodier tracks on Nevermind. The tone is much darker so we’ve adjusted the Color for more brightness, but let your ears adjust to it, it’ll sit perfectly in a final mix.

  • VG207A Amplifier
  • FZ104A Fuzz
  • VG 1x12C 15W ’68 Cabinet

1 Berkenstadt and Cross. Nirvana: Nevermind (Classic Rock Albums). New York, Schirmer Books, 1998.

AmpStamp 1.6 Presets

Welcome to AmpStamp 1.6! From blues revival to early thrash metal, there is a lot of ground to cover. Here are some new and revised presets, with better accuracy, and more control over your tone.


THRASH

Entering the High-Gain era amps became tighter, with more distortion at lower volumes. This defined a new kind of crunch for the next generation of rock and heavy metal. That sound is on full display here with the VG408D Amplifier. Crank the Volume control for more chunk, using the (preamp) Gain control to dial in the right amount of crunch. The tone stack is subtle, but useable. Paired with the VG 4x12B 260W ’82 Cabinet, it won’t be long before you recognize this sound, get ready to shred.


LIQUID

This amplifier is so versatile, it’s hard to contain in just one preset so stay tuned for more info. From crunch to blistering leads, use the Deep option to fatten your tone and the Treble Shift option to tighten the bass. The 5-Band Graphic EQ speaks for itself… Also, dial back the Master 1 control to reduce flub in the bass and increase the Master control to compensate for the volume drop. This will allow a steeper “V” in the EQ section, creating a classic heavy metal tone made famous by bands like Metallica.


Woodstock V

We just can’t seem to pull away from this preset. Perhaps the passage of time has made it harder to capture exactly what was going on with Hendrix’s signal chain at Woodstock, but with version V we think we’ve come one step closer. With this update, we have moved the FZ102 Fuzz after the PH100 Phaser. To our ears it’s become clear that the white knob Fuze Face that Hendrix used at Woodstock was most likely a boost. It just sounds right, and we think you’ll agree. But enough talking, let’s try it out!

Woman Tone

Let’s take another quick look at one of the ultimate classic guitar tones, a sound Eric Clapton once described as “Woman Tone.” We’ll spare you the history of the band, but if you’re not aware, do yourself of favor and look them up. Better yet, get yourself acquainted with their music.

As part of their farewell concert, Clapton gave an interview where he described exactly how to get this sound. In his own words, either “by using the bass pickup, or the lead pickup but with all the bass off…on the tone control. Turn it down to one or ‘oh.'” If you’re lucky enough to have an SG, Epiphone or otherwise, that will help. But a Strat can certainly come close when using the same pickup strategy. The elements are simple enough, we’ve lined up the perfect combination of gear in AmpStamp. Take a listen!

SUNSHINE

For the rhythm tone, set the amp to direct output, bypassing the cabinet altogether. It’s likely this was done with the amp or a pedal, but you’ll instantly hear the clarity and top end that Clapton gets from his guitar. For the lead tone, use the neck pickup, or the bridge pickup with the tone down to zero, or to taste. You can’t miss this epic sound. Enjoy!

  • VG402B Amplifier set to use the Normal channel
  • VG 4x12A 100W ’67 Cabinet
  •  WH100 Wah
  •  AMB400 Plate Reverb

Watch and learn from the man himself…