As one of the Big 4 of thrash metal, Megadeth is one of the biggest and most influential metal bands ever.
Frontman Dave Mustaine is at the center of Megadeth’s sound. Not just in his songwriting, but also with his guitar tone.
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Dave Mustaine’s Guitars
Dave Mustaine has played a number of different guitars over the years. From Jackson to ESP, to the Dean guitars he plays today.
One thing has remained constant, however. He is almost always seen playing V-shape guitars.
Mustaine is perhaps most often seen playing one of his Dean Signature guitars. Or a custom-painted Dean VMNT that was made in honor of Megadeth’s 33rd anniversary.
He also still plays Jackson guitars like the KV2 or Pro Series King V. Recently, he has also been seen playing a Gibson Flying V.
He has also played several guitars that aren’t V-shape. He has played both a BC Rich Perfect 10 and a BC Rich Warlock.
Mustaine also played an ESP Axxion, a custom guitar made with a unique body shape. The Axxion is no longer in production, but if you are looking for a unique-looking ESP, the E-II FRX is a pretty close alternative.
Dave Mustaine’s Amps
For the type of high gain thrash metal that Megadeth is known for, there really is only one amp: Marshall.
Mustaine has used both the JCM800 and JVM410H. These amp heads are usually paired with either a 1960 or ORI Marshall cabinet.
He hasn’t exclusively used Marshall amps, however. He actually teamed up with Line 6 to build a signature model.
This amp never made it passed the prototype stage, unfortunately. The Line 6 Spider V is in production, though, and a really good modeling amp.
Another great modeling amp is the Marshall CODE 50. Mustaine uses a CODE 25 for backstage practice, but the CODE 50 is powerful enough for gigs as well.
Mustaine’s Rack Units
Apart from the amp heads and cabinets that he uses, Mustaine also makes use of preamps and rack-mounted effects units.
For preamps, he has used both a Marshall JMP-1 and a DigiTech GSP1101. For effects unit, he uses the very popular Fractal Audio Axe-FX II.
These units are used for adding different effects without the need for a massive pedalboard. This helps to make your setup simpler overall and makes the guitar tech and audio engineers’ jobs a bit easier.
The Kempler Profiler is also a great rack unit and excellent alternative. These units are quite expensive, but luckily the Line 6 Pro X offers similar features without breaking the bank.
Dave Mustaine’s Pedals
While Mustaine has mostly moved to using rack-mounted effects, he has used a number of pedals over the years.
In 2019, he held a charity auction through Reverb.com where he sold off a large amount of gear, among all that gear were several pedals.
The Boss CH-1 is a fairly common chorus pedal among guitarists. It isn’t known when Dave used the pedal, but considering its quality and reputation, it isn’t much of a surprise that he went with this pedal.
The Metal Zone is often joked about as a bad distortion pedal for beginners. But spend a little bit of time with it and you will find that it is quite a versatile distortion pedal.
No wonder Dave Mustaine and so many other great metal guitarists have had it as a part of their setup at some point.
With three modes and an adaptive gate speed, the MXR M135 is a great noise gate to keep your tone under control.
Dunlop Cry Baby
The GCB95 is basically the industry standard when it comes to wah pedals. If you are looking for a wah pedal, but don’t know what to look for, get a GCB95. Chances are, it will be what you are looking for.
One of the more interesting pedals sold in 2019, the HarmonyMan is a pitch shift pedal used for creating harmonies. Think of it as making one guitar sound like two harmonizing with each other.
The Whammy DT is the modern equivalent of the HM2, which also functions as a whammy pedal.
Perhaps the most surprising pedal sold during the auction was his G2-1DM. This is a signature version of the G2, a fairly basic multi-effects unit.
This pedal was presumably just used for some additional effects, and to help keep his pedalboard as small as possible.
The G1 FOUR is a great multi-effects pedal, while the G3Xn is a full-featured version that can even work as an entire pedalboard.
Dave Mustaine’s Amp Settings
When it comes to Megadeth’s sound, and particularly Dave Mustaine’s, it is a bit different from other metal bands of the era.
While other bands like Metallica and Slayer have a bit more emphasis on the low end to create a heavier sound, Megadeth’s sound is much sharper and cuts more.
That means that you are going to want to boost your highs a bit. Treble should be set above 7, but never quite maxed.
Mids are also not as scooped as other bands. Your mids setting will depend on your amp, but around 4 or 5 should be enough. Just enough mids that it doesn’t sound quite scooped, but also doesn’t quite start cutting through.
Even though you aren’t going for a very low-end heavy sound, you still want a little bit of bass. The bass should almost just match the treble. So, if your treble is set to 7, then the bass should be set to 7.
Don’t go too crazy with the bass though. It shouldn’t really ever go passed 8/8.5.
These settings should get you fairly close to a Megadeth sound:
- Bass – 7
- Mids – 4/5
- Treble – 7-9
- Gain – 7-9
- Volume – 10
Here are the settings for Rust in Peace as another example:
- Bass – 7
- Mids – 4
- Treble – 8
- Gain – 9
- Volume – 10
Dave Mustaine’s tone and choice of gear are some of the more straightforward among metal guitarists. He is proof that you don’t need much more than a powerful amp and decent guitar to sound great and shred hard.