Chuck Schuldiner Amp Settings for a ‘Death’ly Guitar Tone!

Author: Santiago Motto | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Widely known as “The Godfather of Death Metal”, Chuck Schuldiner was more than just an outstanding guitar player; he was a cornerstone of metal music culture.

Yes, the UK’s most important metal magazine of all time, Kerrang! claimed Chuck was “one of the most significant figures in the history of metal.” Also, he entered the top 20 in 2004 ranking “The 100 greatest metal guitarists” by Guitar World Magazine.

Chuck Schuldiner’s guitar playing and tone are a legacy that will live forever.

If you want to copy that awesome, nasty, menacing guitar tone, you’ve come to the right place, we’re going to cover all his gear and give you tips on how to do it for less.

Are you ready to play some righteous Death Metal? Buckle up because here we go!

Chuck Schuldiner’s Electric Guitars

Chuck Schuldiner’s choice of guitars was very metal-oriented. He played the not-so-famous BC Rich Stealth almost exclusively. He had three of them: one in emerald green, one in black, and one sanded down to the wood.

His Stealth guitar featured only one pickup at the bridge position. This was not just another pickup, Chuck chose the hottest pickup DiMarzio ever made, the DiMarzio DP101 X2N. Although it’s passive, this pickup is capable of some outrageous levels of gain and can drive any amp to the extreme.

Other than his X2N-equipped Stealths, Chuck could occasionally be seen, mainly in the studio with a Mockingbird, also made by BC Rich.

Contrary to most of his peers at the time, all of Chuck’s guitars featured a fixed bridge. He was a traditional lead player who didn’t use any of the pyrotechnics Eddie Van Halen invented in the ‘80s.

Chuck’s original guitars are hard to find in some corners of the planet, so a couple of good alternatives might be the similarly-shaped Jackson Warrior guitars. You can pick up a Jackson X-Series Warrior at an affordable price or a Jackson Warrior WR7 with a heftier price tag.

Both guitars will require a pickup upgrade with the aforementioned DiMarzio pickup.

Chuck Schuldiner’s Amplifiers

The secret to Chuck’s tone wasn’t only the passive but outrageously powerful bridge pickup, but also what we call a “scooped” sound. This definition applies to the kind of sound you get when you crank the bass and treble and kill the mids.

Speaking of which, the amp Chuck started with was an almighty Marshall JCM800. This is a 100-watt tube head which he used with a slanted matching Marshall cab.

By the time Marshall introduced the “Valvestate” technology to the world (an amp combining solid-state power and a single 12ax7 valve on the preamp section), Chuck fell in love with them, and that’s what he used until his last days.

Sadly, the Valvestate series has been long discontinued. That being said, the closest you can get to Chuck’s sound using a Marshall is by playing through a Marshall DSL100 head and a Marshall 4×12 enclosure. If you’re not playing stadiums yet, and need something smaller, you can get a Marshall DSL20 and its matching 2×12 cabinet as well.

Why the DSL? You might be wondering. Yes, I know it’s an all-valve amp. Well, the reason is that this series features the “Tone Shift” button that will kill the mids instantly to get that nasty, growling, death metal tone instantaneously.

Chuck Schuldiner’s Effect Pedals

To talk about Chuck Schuldiner’s effects pedals will only take us a paragraph.

To begin with, during the years Chuck was using the JCM800 he would couple it with a very simple Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal to get the right level of distortion. Later on in his career, he would go straight into the amp and use a little chorus effect mainly for the leads and solos. For that, you could simply get a Boss CH-1 Super Chorus.

Dialing in Chuck Schuldiner’s Tone

Let’s dial some of the tones that Chuck used throughout his career.

You’ll notice that, during the early records, the sound is completely scooped with not a ton of gain from the amp but with the DS-1 engaged to compress even more the immense presence on the low end.

As his ear shifted and his career evolved, he became more of a mid-range lover; therefore, you’ll notice that for songs in Symbolic (1995) and The Sound of Perseverance (1998), the mids are cranked.

Here are the amp settings for some of Chuck Schuldiner’s most iconic songs.

Leprosy (1988)

  • Volume – 7
  • Gain – 6
  • Bass – 8
  • Middle – 2
  • Treble – 5
  • Boss OD-1 – ON

Spiritual Healing (1990)

  • Volume – 7
  • Gain – 6
  • Bass – 8
  • Middle – 3
  • Treble – 8
  • Boss OD-1 – ON

Symbolic (1995)

  • Volume – 8
  • Gain – 7
  • Bass – 8
  • Middle – 6
  • Treble – 7

The Sound of Perseverance (1998)

  • Volume – 8
  • Gain – 9
  • Bass – 8
  • Middle – 7
  • Treble – 7

The Bottom End

Chuck Schuldiner, like all guitar players, changed his musical taste and taste as his career progressed. Nailing his tone might be the kickstart of your own musical journey. Get inspired by this pioneer and use his experience to find a voice of your own.

Happy playing!

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About Santiago Motto

Santiago is a guitar player with over 25 years of experience. A self-confessed guitar nerd, he currently tours with his band 'San Juan'. Called 'Sandel' by his friends, he has a pop palate for melodies, ballads, and world music. San especially has an immense love for telecasters and all-mahogany Martins.

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