Warren DeMartini Amp Settings & Gear – Ratt Guitar Tone!

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

Like so many other MTV-ready hair metal bands, Ratt were endowed with a spectacular lead guitar player in Warren DeMartini. Although the likes of Poison, Whitesnake, and Bon Jovi ruled the airwaves in the genre’s top tier, Ratt, despite DeMartini’s fretboard pyrotechnics, never quite cracked the upper echelons of 80s metal.

When the 1990s came around, and alternative and grunge music came with the new decade, bands like Ratt, and flashy guitar solos, were firmly out of fashion. However, in recent years, Ratt have gone from hair-metal also-rans to a wider appreciation, with many guitar players remarking that DeMartini was one of the most underrated players of the ‘80s.

In this article, I’ll run through the key pieces of gear you need for the Ratt tone. It’s a classic distorted hair-band sound, and with the right gear, you’ll be playing “Round and Round” to your heart’s content.

Warren DeMartini Guitars

Like so many of his Sunset Strip contemporaries, Warren DeMartini unleashed his fretboard fireworks thanks to the playability of the superstrat-style guitar. Initially popularized by Edward Van Halen, the notion of a humbucker-equipped Strat-shaped guitar caught on like wildfire among aspiring shredders all over California.

Wayne Charvel, after working at Fender Guitars, opened a repair shop specializing in Fender modifications. Although he eventually sold the company bearing his name to Grover Jackson (of Jackson guitars) his name was immutably attached to the idea of a hot-rodded Stratocaster.

Charvel’s Strat modifications in the late 1970s became synonymous with the superstrat style of guitar, and it’s no surprise that Charvel offers a signature Warren DeMartini model.

There’s also a more affordable Pro Mod variation on the DeMartini signature.

Critically, this guitar comes with the same Seymour Duncan humbucking pickup that DeMartini, and so many other 80s hard rock players, used.

In my opinion, superstrats tend to be pretty similar to one another, so you don’t necessarily have to use an identical Charvel to Warren DeMartini to get close to his tone. The EVH 5150, for example, offers a similar sound and playing experience, although its stock Wolfgang pickups are hotter than the Seymour Duncans Demartini himself uses.

Finally, for those on a stricter budget, the Kramer Beretta is probably the most affordable variation on the superstrat template. I’d recommend installing a Seymour Duncan humbucker in place of the stock humbucker in the Beretta.

Warren DeMartini Amps

Warren DeMartini, like so many of his contemporaries, was a devoted player of Marshall amplification. In particular, he used the definitive ‘80s metal amp for his most notable output: the Marshall JCM800.

At the time, it was all about power, and Warren DeMartini proudly played in front of a wall of 100-watt Marshall stacks, typically running multiple 4×12 cabinets at a time.

Modern guitar players, however, do not have to worry about deafening themselves and their audiences with such grandiose gear setups.

The Marshall Studio Classic combo is, in my opinion, the best JCM800-style tone in a combo amp. At 20 (or 5) watts of switchable power, it’s loud enough to keep up with a drummer at rehearsal or in a packed club, although it is a touch too loud for simple apartment practice.

The only other amp I would recommend for this tone is the EVH 5150 combo, which is similarly voiced but offers even more gain on tap. DeMartini often had his amplifiers customized to add some extra gain, so it’s worth having extra dirt available from the amplifier when you need it.

Warren DeMartini Amp Settings

My recommendation for this tone is to set a classic 80s hard rock/metal sound. You want lots of gain, plenty of definition, and a nice amount of treble to offset any muddiness from the high saturation.

Volume: 6-7

You do need to run your amp at higher volume levels to achieve the slight compression and power amp saturation that characterized this tone. 6-7 seems to be the sweet spot for most Marshall amps.

Gain: 7

If your amp has a gain control, set it just past halfway to get the dirty, gritty “brown sound” of this guitar tone.

Bass: 3

You don’t need much, if any, low-end for this tone.

Mids: 5-6

Set your midrange about halfway, and increase to add character and “feel” to your sound.

Treble: 7-8

To compensate for the loss of definition and dynamics with heavily distorted playing, turn up your treble.

Warren DeMartini Effects

Warren DeMartini was not a heavy user of effects pedals, because his music simply does not demand it.

DeMartini may have used an overdrive pedal to boost and tighten up his tone, although reports of him doing so are spotty. Certainly, in the modern era, he has enjoyed a few overdrives, including the King of Tone (I’d recommend the MXR Duke of Tone) and the ever-popular Boss Super Overdrive.

The one effect for which DeMartini is best known is his frequent use of a tight, short slapback delay. This is an effect more commonly associated with rockabilly music, and you can hear it prominently on Elvis Presley’s early Sun Studios recordings.

Warren DeMartini typically ran this as an always-on effect. It was usually added in the studio, rather than as a part of his rig, but DeMartini has in recent years started using an MXR Carbon Copy live. DeMartini has stated that he prefers not to use effects live, however.

The classic Ratt tone, to my ear, is much brighter than that of a Carbon Copy. I’d recommend either using an Echoplex (as DeMartini’s hero Edward Van Halen did) or the Boss Digital Delay.

You’ll need to run a short slapback delay to really nail this tone, as it’s a huge part of his sound.

Final Word

Modern guitar players who want to copy some of the classic hair band tones will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Warren DeMartini’s sound is relatively straightforward. DeMartini did not mess around with complex setups and endless pedalboards, preferring a simple guitar-and-amp approach that any aspiring guitarist can emulate.

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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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