Setting Up Your Stompbox for Rock

Stomboxes for guitarists are like ingredients for chefs: when used correctly, they add signature flavors.  Whether it’s a stompbox with 10 tones or a stompbox with 100 tones, it’s important to find the right balance of satisfying tastes.  When it comes to establishing a rock tone, you’ll mainly want to focus on getting the most drive and crunch from your instrument.

For intermediate guitar players, our DM4 Distortion Modeler is a great starting point for achieving that rock sound zest.

Before even diving into stompbox tones, review some favorite albums or musicians that incorporate alluring and iconic tones.  Is it an overdriven riff that jumps out, or a warm chord progression?  Keep these in mind while adjusting the settings of a stompbox.

For the DM4 in particular, there are 16 distortion channels to choose from.  Though we at Line 6 have our own signature settings (classic distortion, heavy distortion, jet fuzz and buzz saw) most of these tones can be found in multi-effect stompboxes.  The secret to stompboxes is precision, and this is achieved through the dial knobs.  These dials resemble the knobs on an amp and are easy to follow and adjust. The DM4 in particular features a knob for controlling the drive, bass, mid, treble and volume, but these controls are pretty standard for other stompboxes.dm4 300 stompbox

The drive knob adjusts the gain, which controls how much distortion is added to the tone. The gain makes the input run harder, creating an overdriven sound that produces super heavy and crunchy tones.

Adjusting the bass knob modifies the low-end tones, and provides a deeper resonating sound.  The mid knob allows for tweaking the mid-range tones, while the treble knob alters the high-end tones.

Here are four examples of how to adjust the control knobs for achieving rock tones. Although these tone names are specific to the DM4, their tone adjustments follow iconic rock settings that can be universally adapted.  Tune the knobs as follows (indicated by how much the knob should be turned):

Classic Distortion

This tone features a more aggressive heated sound, with a slight fuzz bite.

Drive: more than 1/2
Bass: 1/2
Mid: less than 1/2
Treble: less than 1/2
Volume: more than 1/2

Heavy distortion

Inspired by glam-metal and heavy metal, this tone is all about shredding and overdriven sustain and feedback.

Drive: fully turned up
Bass: more than 1/2
Mid: less than 1/2
Treble: more than 1/2
Volume: almost fully turned up

Jet Fuzz

Featuring a cool blend of distortion and phaser, this sound will give flight and dimension to lead riffs and chord strumming.

Drive: 1/2
Bass: fully turned up
Mid: less than 1/2
Treble: 1/4
Volume: more than 1/2

Buzz Saw

This tone emits a buzzing distortion with a warm hum and often resembles 60’s rock.

Drive: fully turned up
Bass: 1/2
Mid: 1/2
Treble: 1/2
Volume: less than 1/2

Once a player finds the right tone, it's time for precise adjustments.  This is the chance for musicians to make slight corrections and define their own sound. For example, don’t get discouraged if a tone with the mid turned up sounds offsetting.  Find a sense of balance and play around with the treble and bass settings.  A guitarist’s ear is a vital tool when adjusting tones, and fine-tuning mainly comes down to personal preference.