From his early career, taking over lead guitar duties from Randy Rhoads for Ozzy, to his own successful band, Black Label Society, to going solo, Zakk Wylde has become one of the most influential modern metal guitarists.
But what does a modern legend like Zakk use to create his crushing, fiery sound? Here is a rundown of his gear and settings.
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Zakk Wylde’s Gear
Zakk Wylde’s rig setup is a lot more straightforward than you might expect. He is one of those guitarists that clearly believes that you don’t need a very elaborate setup to create a fantastic sound.
Unlike many other guitarists, his setup also hasn’t changed much over his very long career. He has been using the same guitar, amps, and pedals, for the most part, since 1988.
Zakk Wylde is best known for playing Gibson guitars. Specifically, Gibson Les Pauls. If you want to be as true to his sound as possible without trying to get your hands on a Zakk Wylde signature, then a Les Paul Custom is the way to go.
The most important thing is that it is a Les Paul with humbuckers. Anything else and you won’t be able to get that fat, dirty Wylde sound. He does also play SGs on occasion, but his main guitar is a Les Paul.
In Zakk’s own words, “As long as it says Marshall on it, we’re good to go.”
So that means that our only option for amps is Marshall. For the amp head, the JCM800 is the one to go for. This is then paired with a 4×12 Marshall cabinet like the 1960B or 1960A.
For something a little bit more budget-friendly, the JVM210C is a great combo amp. As long as it has a lot of power to drive the massive amount of distortion and volume needed for his sound.
For clean parts and songs without any distortion, Wylde switches over to a Roland Jazz Chorus amp. The JC-40 should do the job just fine or the JC-120 for a bit more power.
Just like his guitar and amp, Zakk’s pedal setup is equally simple and straightforward. To recreate his sound, you only need four pedals, two Boss pedals, and two Dunlop pedals.
On the Boss side, there is an overdrive and a chorus.
The Boss SD-1 is going to be the driving force behind the distortion, While the BOSS CH-1 is going to expand the sound and give it its presence and size.
The two Dunlop pedals are used for expression control.
The Dunlop Rotovibe shapes the chorus and vibrato effects of Wylde’s sound. And for wah, the classic Dunlop Jimi Hendrix wah pedal is used.
Jack Wylde’s Amp Settings
With the right gear now at hand, it is time to dial in Zakk Wylde’s sound.
His sound is very thick and heavy, which means that most of the focus when dialing in his tone will be on the low end and the gain.
The easiest way to achieve the heaviness of his sound, you simply need to crank up the bass and the gain. So just turn them both up to 10, while keeping everything else at about halfway and you are good to go.
Marshall amps are designed to handle this much low end and distortion, so there shouldn’t be any break-up. The treble might need a little bit of tuning, but setting it to 4 or 5 should yield ideal results.
Your settings should then look something like this:
- Gain – 10
- Bass – 10
- Mid – 5
- Treble – 4/5
- Presence – 5
If these settings don’t sound quite right to you, then try turning up the mids and treble a bit. Also, pull back on the presence, as low as possible.
You shouldn’t have to go much higher than 6 for both the mids and the treble. And try to keep the presence to around 2 at the least.
This variation should then be:
- Gain – 10
- Bass – 10
- Mids – 6
- Treble – 6
- Presence – 6
For chorus parts, the Boss CH-1 is switched on. The EQ on the CH-1 should be set fairly close to high.
Some adjustments to the mids might need to be made to counter the higher treble of the CH-1. This is to avoid a scooped mids sound.
Ultimately your experience might vary and these settings might not sound exactly the way you want it to. But with a little bit of tinkering, you should get to the right sound in no time.
Like so many other legendary guitarists, Zakk Wylde is proof that you don’t need an over-the-top setup to achieve an incredible sound. A guitar, an amp, and a distortion pedal can get the job done just as well as an entire studio’s worth of equipment.