Starting out as a group of unsuspecting teens, Trivium quickly turned heads in the metal scene with crushing albums like Ascendency and the Crusade.
The combination of tasty Metallica-inspired down-picked riffs combined with virtuosic twin guitar lead work created a perfect recipe that put them in the top echelon of metal bands.
Nowadays Matt Heafy is a prominent influencer in the guitar community, regularly performing live on stream and engaging with his community to share tips and tricks about how he achieves his sounds.
So to assist you in getting his signature tone for yourself I’m going to walk through the guitars, pedals, and amp settings Matt Heafy uses to create such a tight, yet aggressive metal guitar tone.
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Matt Heafy is a true guitar enthusiast and owns a vast collection of varied guitars which includes brands such as Aristides, MusicMan, and Dean.
But for Trivium specifically, he most commonly uses his own signature Epiphone Custom Origins Les Paul.
This guitar bridges the gap between that classic Gibson design and cutting-edge guitar technology by utilizing Matt’s own custom-voiced Fishman Fluence pickups, a specially designed tapered neck geared for fast metal playing, and locking tuners to assist with those low tunes songs Trivium plays.
In recent years Matt’s also taken to playing 7-string guitars and has his own 7-string Custom Origins signature guitar model too.
All these features (particularly the Fishmans) hike the price up a fair bit, so if you are on a budget purchasing something like the Epiphone Les Paul Classic and installing an EMG 81 bridge pickup will allow you to achieve a very comparable tone.
Matt has used a number of different tunings throughout his various projects. But in Trivium you’ll most commonly see him using Drop C# which is essentially 1 semitone down from standard and then the lowest string is dropped 2 more semitones to make a dropped tuning.
On his 7-string guitars, he will usually tune 1 semitone flat to 7-string Eb.
Matt’s choice of amplifiers varies greatly depending on where he is and for which application the amp is being used.
When in the studio he has mentioned that he prefers the classic Peavey 5150 amp head with a tube screamer in front of it. Of course, the original 5150 has been long discontinued but the still widely available Peavey 6505 uses the same fundamental circuitry and as such makes a great alternative.
But for live performances, and for the majority of his live streams, he uses the Kemper Profiler which is a digital modeling amp that allows him to run directly into an interface without needing cabs or mics. This is the tool of choice for other noteworthy bands like Pierce the Veil and Amon Amarth.
This is ideal as he also needs to talk into a microphone when performing at home and this method removes the amp noise from the room.
Matt Heafy Amp Settings
Matt’s guitar sound can be described as quintessential metal, but with a healthy dose of mids and top end which give it that really aggressive and scratchy quality.
Gain: 7.5 – While heavy saturation is needed here, many of Trivium’s riffs are quite technical and require a degree of clarity and articulation in the guitar tone. So the main idea is to go as heavy as possible with the gain right up to the point where you start to lose definition.
Bass: 4 – His tone is generally mid and treble-heavy, so you only require just enough bass to get things sounding relatively thick here. If you go too heavy you’ll quickly find the bass dominating everything else, so use caution.
Mids: 7 – A very generous boost to the mids brings out that scratchy pick attack and makes your fast playing sound hyper-aggressive.
Treble: 6.5 – Matt doesn’t shy away from having some top-end sizzle in his tone, so you need a decent treble boost to make things sound as hairy and angry as possible.
Like Light To Flies
This song uses some pretty extreme down picking, and as such dialing back the gain a bit can help clear the tone up and inject some extra definition so less effort needs to be spent on muting extraneous string noise due to having so much gain.
In Waves uses slower and heavier riffs so we don’t need to worry about the top end as much and can instead bring out the bass to get a thicker and more chunky sound. This really helps that opening riff absolutely crush.
Until The World Goes Cold
Matt’s tone on this song is a little darker than normal and has a smoother top end, so a nice roll-off on the treble helps to slot the guitar tone into the overall picture of the song better.
Despite the Kemper profiler having essentially every effect you could ever dream of built into it, as a guitar enthusiast Matt still likes to have fun with some pedals.
One of the main pedals he uses is an MXR M109S Six Band EQ which is used for broader tonal sculpting, specifically for the midrange.
Additionally, he also uses his own signature “Ascendancy” overdrive pedal into the front of the amp, very much in the same way you’d use any other tube screamer. Remember, the Kemper can take pedals very well and responds to them just like a real amp.
Although the M300 is a ludicrously expensive pedal for just being a reverb effect, so in lieu of that I recommend the far more affordable Hall of Fame 2 pedal from TC Electronics.
Guitar for the Digital Age
One of the best things about Matt’s approach to gear and his guitar rig as a whole is that he’s been able to utilize modern technology to integrate his guitar into less common applications such as streaming live performances in real-time or live studio jam sessions with his audience over Twitch.
It’s a perfect example of how no matter how specific your needs are, if you research your gear carefully you can craft a rig that is going to facilitate exactly how you want to work.