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What do you guys think of standard tuning and basic distortion in metal?


Don Q
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(Disclaimer - I am a 41 year old metal fan with roots back into the 70s and 80s, so please don't think I am bashing modern sounds) It seems like down tuning has become the norm for bands these days, but I still enjoy the way things were done back in the day. Also the way modern distortion and compression sounds to me makes it harder to distinguish the subtleties of one chord from another. Much of the extreme metal I hear reminds me of white noise for some odd reason. I have given it my best shot, but just cannot seem to click with it. Does anyone here share this sentiment? Maybe it comes with getting old, I don't know. Just putting that one out there. :geek:

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Nope, I like down-tuning. Purely from a writing and playing standpoint, I don't like E standard. Even D is a bit high for my taste. I'm 35, and I've been tuning down since I was fourteen. As far as listening goes, I agree that many albums over the past ten or fifteen years have been over-compressed and over-limited, and that many guitarists use distortion in a way that harms clarity (though clarity isn't always a goal); but there's been a backlash against too much compression in the mixing/mastering profession for a while now, at least partially driven by the upsurge in the popularity of vinyl. The preference for clarity over saturation (which I share at least in my own playing) is really a matter of taste, and a lot of the more high-end high gain amps and good modeling systems make that less of a trade-off than it used to be. It really comes down to what a band is trying to do, and whether or not you dig it. A bigger problem than guitar sounds is the over-compression and mechanization of drum sounds. I use programmed drums in my solo music because I can't afford to hire a professional drummer and a real studio, but it's probably my least favorite aspect of my own music. A good drum recording with detail and dynamic range will do a lot more for my overall perception of an album than particular guitar tones.

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I share this sentiment, Don Q. I like a nice, clean, mid-heavy distortion (so you can actually hear the individual tones being played, as well as chords etc.), I don't like overcompression (or much studio magic at all, really - why can't sound guys just record a fucking band in a room?), and I'd rather play in standard tuning - E or Eb, depending on what kind of music I'm playing. If I'm after a Slayer/Morbid Angel or a doomy vibe, I might tune down to Eb (or even half way between E and Eb, just to fuck with people's ears!); otherwise I'm always in E. But then, I've got a seven string if I want to play deeper, heavier stuff. Still standard tuning!

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  • 1 month later...

I think everything has it's place. Down tuning definitely has a sound that, for certain situations, gets an idea across like nothing else. But Whenever I write, I tend to stay away from it. Some limitations inspire creativity, others inspire complacency. Early on in my youth I found myself addicted to drop D and played in nothing but that, recycling bad ideas. Stopped using anything but standard tuning, and found my creativity exploding. That being said, I also started writing more on the piano. So the increase in creativity could be completely unrelated! I will say that because standard tuning has been explored so greatly, it has a very "disguised" tonality. Could be anything. Many alternate tunings, open-tunings, etc., haven't been used for as many different purposes, and therefore have very powerful associations with certain kinds of music. I like that when I hear things in standard I don't immediately think of a singular artist or genre. Those are my thoughts, for whatever they're worth.

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Me personally, I much prefer tuning down but I'm a bassist with a penchant for stoner doom so naturally I'm more into the ultra-heavy sound, usually sticking around in B, not to mention I like mudding up my tone pretty thick and nasty sounding. But as Progmountain said everything has its place. Hell, alot of black metal is in E standard and you can find some of the most sinister tones there, all depends on the person wielding the axe really.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I typically play electric guitar in drop D, just because I've grown accustomed to it since starting to really delve into the sabbathy bluesy riffs & the patterns all make more sense in drop D (plus, that little extra low does the trick without overdoing it, *in my opinion*) As far as distortion, I've always trusted in my amp's gain. I like the classic single channel high gain tube heads, but I can't get myself to throw any pedals in front of them; the natural power of the tubes hit my special spot... So in conclusion, I am kind of with ya! I'm only 23, but my ears prefer the music from the 70's more than any other "decade"!

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  • 4 months later...

I'm with you, man.

I don't think there's anything wrong with down tuning, in moderation, but to have it be the standard (like it obviously has become) perplexes me.

I think it makes the guitars sound muddy, and makes it that much easier for the guitars to overtake the bass, in the mix. There's really no reason why standard tuning should be exactly that...the standard.

I like the guitars to have a sharpness to them, and down tuning eliminates that.

As for basic distortion, I'm not 100% sure I know what you mean there. I think most of the issues you're talking about here come from the mix itself, not necessarily the effects used. I'm really more of a classic metal guy, like yourself. I think old school Metallica and Megadeth were as good as metal gets, both in terms of sound, and musicianship. Not saying I hate everything that's newer, but I think metal reached a point where there was so much effort to make music more heavier than the musicians before them, that the music became an arms race, to the point where most of it devolved into noise.

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