Linkin Park is a group that I hold near and dear to my heart.
Having released the genre-defining album Hybrid Theory at the turn of the century, they provided the angst-filled soundtrack to our teen years and cemented themselves as legendary songwriters.
An often underappreciated aspect of Linkin Park is the rhythm section, offering those chunky hi-gain riffs that provided the canvas for Chester to scream his iconic and powerful choruses over.
So today I’ll be presenting an in-depth look at the guitars, gear, and settings guitarist Brad Delson used to create his signature tones.
Table of Contents
Very early on in Linkin Park’s career Brad would play a mix of PRS and Ibanez guitars.
But as their career progressed and their sound heavily diversified post-Meteora, he started to integrate various other guitar brands into his rig, most notably the Fender Stratocaster.
PRS Custom 24
The guitar you’ll most commonly see Brad using is the PRS Custom 24. He’s used them throughout the entirety of the band’s career and has a pretty substantial collection of them in various finishes.
His most easily recognized one is a custom-finished PRS Custom 24 which features the Hybrid Theory soldier artwork behind the bridge.
The PRS guitars are most associated with the metal era or Linkin Park and the way he used them very much reflects that.
They use fairly high-output pickups from DiMarzio including The Tone Zone and one of my personal favorites, the D-Sonic.
PRS Custom 24s don’t come cheap, so if you’re on a budget I’d highly recommend the PRS SE Custom 24 which closely resembles the PRS CE 24 he used way back in 1998 to track most of the Hybrid Theory album.
Rory Gallagher Signature Stratocaster
By the end of the Meteora album cycle, Linkin Park was looking to diversify its sound and broaden the tonal range used on the guitars.
This led Brad to the Fender Stratocaster which has been featured on Minutes to Midnight and beyond.
Although he has a good collection of Strats, one of the ones he was seen using most frequently on Stage was the Rory Gallagher Signature Stratocaster.
This guitar has a really cool pre-aged finish and was made to be an exact clone of Rory’s original 1961 Stratocaster.
Right down to the nitrocellulose finish and custom-made ‘60s Strat pickups.
While the Rory Gallagher signature model is both rare and expensive, Fender has issued a more affordable model specifically designed to emulate the ‘60s Stratocaster called the Fender Vintera ’60s Stratocaster.
You will get a very comparable tone and feel with this model at a fraction of the cost.
The overwhelming majority of the songs on both Hybrid Theory and Meteora are in drop C# tuning (C# G# C# F# A# D#).
You can achieve this by tuning the whole guitar down 1 semitone to D# and then dropping just the low string down 2 more notes to C#.
However, they will use a different tuning for a few select songs. With You, for example, is in 7-string standard and there are few songs in regular drop D too.
In order to achieve the range of sounds that Linkin Park utilizes throughout any given show, Brad would use a lot of pedals, outboard hardware gear, and complex switching systems.
However, when you peer past that through to the fundamental rhythm tone, it’s actually quite straightforward and simple.
Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
The Dual Rectifier was probably the most popular high-gain amp of the early 2000s and saw heavy use through the Hybrid Theory and Meteora album cycles.
Linkin Park’s high-gain tones are ultra-pushed and saturated. They make use of very long and drawn-out chords which need enough gain to help them sustain for a long time.
There’s no better amp for this than the dual rectifier as it really delivers that wall-of-sound kind of tone that fills up the entire frequency spectrum.
While there was no tube screamer or additional drive effects supporting the amp, Brad would just use both a hum eliminator and Boss NS-2 noise suppressor which would help keep things under control.
Fractal Audio Axe FX II
Brad Delson has been very outspoken about his love of the Axe FX.
He’s described it as “a major milestone in guitar technology” and that it “captures all the magic in one reliable place.”.
It’s unclear exactly which amp models he used, but it has been spotted on numerous live shows and has certainly become a staple of his rig.
Most of the other high-end amp modelers such as the Kemper Profiler or Quad Cortex have very similar features to the Axe FX and make great alternatives.
Brad Delson Amp Settings
There aren’t a great deal of single-note riffs in Linkin Park so the majority of his time is spent playing big, open chords.
This requires the tone to be heavily saturated and for each note of the chord to be clearly audible, even when under heavy distortion.
Gain: 9 – Massive saturation of the gain is a must here, otherwise you’ll find your sustained chords dying out too quickly.
Bass: 7 – In keeping with the wall of sound approach a substantial boost to the bass helps drive things and stops the guitars from sounding too thin.
Mids: 4 – Linkin Park has never utilized mid-heavy guitars on their older material, so in keeping with the time a slight scoop helps the guitars feel a bit darker and warmer.
Treble: 6 – A very slight treble boost gives the guitars back some presence, but you have to be careful with this as too much treble on those big sustained chords can quickly turn into fuzzy nonsense if you go too far.
Feint utilizes strummed octaves during the main riff. So you’re going to be striking all 6 strings, but only 2 of them should be ringing out at any one time.
So you’ll need to dial back the gain a bit to prevent extraneous noise and keep things nice and tight.
In The End
Here you’ll just be playing sustained power chords which are left to ring out for whole bars at a time.
So you can go a bit nuts with the gain here to keep those chords ringing out for as long as possible.
What I’ve Done
This song marks a sharp shift in tone for the band. Here there’s much more of a low-gain, mid-heavy style that benefits from less bass and more mids.
While Linkin Park’s main distorted tones are quite simple, many of their verses will utilize wet sounds with lots of modulation effects to provide ambiance and texture.
There are a few key pedals Brad uses to help him with this.
Ibanez LF-7 Lo Fi Filter
Linkin Park commonly uses lo-fi, bit-crushed, and distorted sounds in the studio.
These studio sounds often need recreating in a live context, so Brad will utilize the LF-7 from Ibanez to achieve those styles of sound for his guitar.
The LF-7 is pretty hard to find nowadays, but fundamentally it was still just two controllable hi and lo pass filters, so the EHX Nano Q-Tron will allow you to achieve the same effect.
Or if your budget allows the Spatial Delivery V2 from EarthQuaker Devices is an incredible-sounding pedal and a personal favorite of mine.
Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
The Mesa Rectifier is an inherently noisy amp, especially when cranked. So Brad would utilize the classic Boss NS-2 to help keep the extraneous noise under control.
The term suppressor is used loosely here as it works more like a noise gate, so something like the TCE Iron Curtain achieves the same effect at a much cheaper price.
Boss CS-3 Compressor
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times, Linkin Park uses chords that need to be sustained for a really really long time.
Naturally, many amplifiers can struggle with this, and even if you have the gain available sometimes it produces too much excess noise to be usable.
So the Boss CS-3 compressor/sustainer is a great way to artificially keep the signal nice and loud without needing to completely dime the gain of your amp.
It’s All in the Tone
While Linkin Park has never been particularly technical or intricate with their guitar playing, they are undoubtedly phenomenal songwriters whose music has deeply impacted many people’s lives.
I think Brad’s playing style is a great lesson to all guitarists on how you can truly serve the song and play more of a supporting role without making it all about you.