Polyphia is one of the most popular guitar-centric bands around right now. Offering the perfect combination of blistering guitar virtuosity, hip-hop inspired beats, and modern progressive metal rhythms to create something that is a true technical marvel to witness, yet is somehow still catchy and accessible to the non-musician.
This unique blend of musical elements skyrocketed Polyphia’s popularity over the last few years and has inspired thousands of young teens to pick up the guitar so that they can have a go at emulating Tim Henson’s style.
So to help you get a head start on your tone, I’m going to walk through the main guitars, amps, settings, and pedals Tim uses in Polyphia so you can get off on the right foot when making Polyphia-style tones for yourself.
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If you look back to Polyphias earliest works such as Impassion or Transcend you will notice that Ibanez guitars have been the instrument of choice for both Tim and Scott since the very beginning.
In the early days these would be regular Ibanez RGs, but these days Tim is playing his own Ibanez signature model, the TOD10.
This is still fundamentally based on the RG blueprint but has a few cool and unique customizations which make it a bit more conducive to Tim’s more developed style.
Most important are his Tim Henson signature Fishman Fluence pickups which have two different voicings that can be accessed by pulling out the volume knob.
Between these two pickup voicings and the 5-way pickup selector, Tim has access to a staggering range of tones which are all needed in order to play Polyphias material.
If you are on a budget then something like the Ibanez RG450DX has a very similar configuration for a much cheaper price tag. You forgo the Fishman pickup voicings but gain a middle single-coil pickup so you can keep up with the range of tones Tim uses.
In addition to this, Tim has recently released the TOD10N which puts a modern spin on the electric nylon classical guitar. He uses the TOD10N on songs such as Playing God and the opening to Ego Death.
Certainly a unique and unexpected release for Ibanez, but it has been extremely well-received by fans thanks to its affordability.
It features a walnut fretboard, solid Sitka spruce top with Sapele back and sides which help it sound clear and full when played both unplugged or through an amp.
A lot of Polyphias older material is played in drop D (D A D G B E) tuning, but most of the more recent material is in regular E tuning (E A D G B E).
Tim has always favored digital modeling amps and is most well known for using the Axe-FX II from Fractal Audio. Specifically using their Corn Cob M50 amp model which is Fractal’s emulation of a Cornford MK50 II. He also uses Boutique 1 which is based on a Matchless Chieftain.
For recording and demoing purposes, Tim primarily uses his signature Amp VST plugin from Neural DSP called Archetype.
But for many players hardware is always preferable, so if the Axe FX II/III is a bit out of your price range you might want to consider the Line 6 Helix which works very similarly to the Axe FX.
Tim Hensen Amp Settings
Part of Polyphia’s style is their eclectic use of guitar tones. One second they’re using a glassy clean tone, the next they’re thumping on a gritted-up crunch sound, and then suddenly there’s a full-on distorted lead guitar.
Here’s a good general lead sound you can use as a starting point for the majority of Polyphias solo guitar parts.
Gain: 6 – While at first, this might seem low for a lead sound, Tim puts a huge emphasis on dynamics and articulation in his playing. So you need the pick attack and harmonics to really shine through, which cannot happen if you saturate the gain too heavily. But you’ll need to pick pretty hard (just like Tim does) to compensate for this low gain.
Bass: 4 – Polyphia has a lot of clarity and instrument separation in their mix, and as such there isn’t a great deal of bass coming from the guitars. So by dialing this back a bit, you can keep the guitars clear, upfront, and present.
Mids: 7 – As a guitar-driven group, Polyphia uses a ton of mids in their guitar tone. This helps the pick attack come through and really allows them to command their spot on the frequency spectrum so the listener is never left struggling to hear what each instrument is doing.
Treble: 6 – A small boost to the top end further assists with making the guitars bright and present, while also bringing out a bit more pick attack.
Ego Death (clean)
This song uses what you might call a pushed clean tone. There’s very little gain, but as you’ll be using a pretty aggressive thumping technique it will still clip a little in order to get that delicious-sounding bite.
G.O.A.T uses more of a light crunch sound that’s super bright and present which allows the notes to really jump out and pop. So you can use a bit more gain here and pull back the mids ever so slightly to get more of that hi-fi quality to the sound.
One of Polyphias earlier songs where the Periphery and progressive metal (or djent, yes I said it) influence was far more prevalent. So here a more traditional metal tone is appropriate, but again there’s still a ton of mids which has always been a signature part of Polyphias sound.
Polyphia does not use pedals in the traditional sense as they rely exclusively on amp modeling technology for their tone. Most good amp modelers are also full-blown effects units too, completely negating the need for external pedals as every effect you could ever want is already built into the unit.
Now not everyone has one of these multi-fx units to hand, so if you are looking to use similar effects to Polyphia there are a few pedals you may want to consider such as the MXR Carbon Copy for delays, the Ibanez TS9 tube screamer for a lead boost, and the Strymon blueSky for all your reverb needs.
The Next Generation
There’s no denying that Tim and Scott’s work in Polyphia has helped to reinvigorate the guitar as an instrument and present it to an entirely new generation of young musicians. It’s great to see young players have a new set of guitar idols who can inspire them in the same way I was inspired by the likes of Steve Vai or Join Petrucci.
I hope you’ve found the information shared in the article helpful and have fun making some of these tones yourself!