Nuno Bettencourt Amp Settings & Gear – ‘Extreme’ Guitar Tone!

Author: Liam Whelan | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

It’s hard not to argue that, of the post-Edward Van Halen wave of shredders, the universe saved the best for last. Although Extreme emerged in the mid-80s, it was only at the tail end of that decade, and at the dawn of the anti-shred ‘90s, that lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s axe-wielding genius truly came to the fore.

1990’s Pornograffiti saw Extreme enjoy major commercial success, thanks partially to the acoustic ballad “More Than Words.” However, radio-friendly ballads aside, Extreme was an all-out rock band, and Nuno Bettencourt’s exemplary talent is nowhere better landmarked than in the solo for “Get The Funk Out.”

In this article, I’ll run through the key pieces of gear and amp settings to capture Bettencourt’s searing lead guitar tone, as epitomized on “Get The Funk Out.”

Nuno Bettencourt Guitars

Nuno Bettencourt, with Extreme, typically played superstrat-style guitars. He is best known for his longstanding association with Washburn guitars, and Washburn has released a few Nuno signature models.

There’s a Strat-style Nuno guitar, the N4, and a Tele-style model dubbed the “Nele.”

Either of these high-end Washburn guitars would be more than adequate as a starting point for the Nuno Bettencourt tone. The key specs here are an alder or ash body, Floyd Rose tremolo, and twin humbuckers, the Bill Lawrence L500 in the bridge, and a Seymour Duncan ’59 Model SH-1 in the neck.

There’s no shortage of superstrat-style guitars on the market, at a broad range of price points. Pretty much every major builder (yes, even Gibson) has, at some point, caved to the pressure of releasing a hot-rodded Strat-style guitar.

In my opinion, one of the strongest bang-for-buck superstrats is the Charvel Pro Mod, which comes with Floyd Rose tremolo and Seymour Duncan humbuckers. Its alder body also matches that of the Nuno signature model.

Likewise, Kramer superstrat-style guitars were very popular in the ‘80s, with even Edward Van Halen himself wielding one for a time. The Baretta is the classic Kramer strat-style guitar, although at the lower end you won’t find Seymour Duncan pickups or Floyd Rose bridges as stock options. Be aware that the Baretta features either a maple or mahogany body, which will affect the guitar’s tone.

The final guitar I would suggest for this tone is the EVH 5150. Nuno Bettencourt actually plays an EVH guitar when performing Van Halen tribute shows. The 5150 stock pickups are actually much hotter than the Seymour Duncan pickups Nuno uses, but they’ll evoke a similar white-hot lead sound.

Nuno Bettencourt Amps

Nuno Bettencourt’s taste in amplification has varied considerably over the years, but it’s always been based on the same blueprint.

Like virtually all other ‘80s-style shredders, Nuno Bettencourt was a loyal adherent to the high-gain sounds of Marshall amplification.

Otherwise, Bettencourt has enjoyed the tones of Hughes & Kettner amps, a Randall signature model, and even Fender Dual Reverb amps for softer moments in live performances.

To my ears, the classic Nuno tone is an EL34-equipped Marshall Super Lead like a JCM800.

Fortunately, there are a few more affordable variations on the JCM800 theme available these days, including the excellent Marshall Studio Classic combo.

You could also try the EVH 5150 combo, which is a high-gain amp. Its 6L6 tubes won’t break up in exactly the same way as a classic Marshall’s EL34s, but it’s a close match for the Nuno sound.

Finally, the Hughes & Kettner Spirit of Metal (or, for the more adventurous, AmpMan Modern) offers a similar high-saturation sound in a far more diminutive package.

Nuno Bettencourt Amp Settings

Nuno Bettencourt’s amp settings are a key piece of his tone. His sound has always reminded me heavily of Edward Van Halen’s “Brown Sound” with plenty of poweramp “sag.”

Bettencourt prefers a tight, controllable sound as he’s the only guitar player in most of his ensembles.

Remarkably, he uses a distortion pedal in between his guitar and amp to do most of his tone-shaping! The below settings will facilitate this: be wary that these settings, without the right distortion pedal in front of the amp, won’t sound much like Nuno.

Volume: 8

You need lots of volume on your amplifier to get the Nuno breakup and poweramp saturation.

Bass: 4

You don’t need much bass for this guitar tone, but about 4 seems to be the sweet spot to tame the natural trebliness of Marshall-style amplification.

Mids: 1-2

That’s right, you’re cutting almost all your midrange out.

Treble: 3

You can pull back your treble for this tone, too, as your guitar and amp combo are both quite treble-heavy.

Nuno Bettencourt Effects

The not-so-secret weapon behind Nuno Bettencourt’s tone is the humble ProCo Rat.

The harsh, edge-of-fuzz distortion for which the Rat is best known isn’t exactly a cornerstone of Nuno’s biting, creamy lead sound. So how exactly does Nuno Bettencourt use his Rat to get his sound, especially given his entirely unorthodox amp settings?

The trick, for Bettencourt, is not to use the Rat as a distortion pedal.

If that seems counterintuitive, it’s because it is. The Rat is a distortion pedal, but Nuno runs it with the distortion knob pretty much all the way down. However, he runs the Filter knob about halfway up, and the Volume knob about three-quarters of the way up.

Nuno’s Rat is never flat out, but it’s an integral part of his sound: he once declared that he “f***ing hated” playing without one.

Another piece of the puzzle, albeit one that is more suited to taming Bettencourt’s distortion than shaping his tone, is his use of a Boss Noise Suppressor.

This simple combination is how Nuno achieves the internet-breaking tone on “Rise” as well as Extreme’s other classic songs. He even uses it when playing with Rihanna.

Final Word

You don’t have to have Nuno Bettencourt’s prodigious talent to capture some of the magic of his tone. With a simple setup consisting of Superstrat, Marshall-style amp, and ProCo Rat, you can channel the genius of one of rock guitar’s true greats.

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About Liam Whelan

Liam Whelan was raised in Sydney, Australia, where he went to university for long enough to realize he strongly prefers playing guitar in a rock band to writing essays. Liam spends most of his life sipping strong coffee, playing guitar, and driving from one gig to the next. He still nurses a deep conviction that Eddie Van Halen is the greatest of all time, and that Liverpool FC will reclaim the English Premier League title.

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