rich menga
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Getting The Tony Iommi Black Sabbath Sound

I got asked on Facebook on whether it's required to have a Gibson SG to get that desirable Tony Iommi (of Black Sabbath) sound. The answer is no, you don't. Most of what makes for an Iommi sound has more to do with playing style instead of what guitar you have. Check out the video below and see (and hear) for yourself!

If you need more help or if you've already seen the video before coming here, see notes below the video. Just scroll down.

Even with all the technique tips, you might still be having trouble getting the sound you're looking for.

Here are some tips:

For STRATOCASTER style guitars with single-coil pickups

Whether you have a Fender, Squier or some other guitar with single-coil pickups in it, you are battling two problems when going for Iommi tone. The pickups are low-output by design, and you have buzz/noise issues.

Also, you may not be getting the right attack sound for the pick you're currently using.

Here are a few things that will help.

DigiTech Grunge - The best metal pedal for the Strat that exists. You wouldn't think so because it's labeled "Grunge", but for Strat single-coil pickups there is no better. Crank it up, then turn "HIGH" all the way down, and you've got it. Most Strats have a bridge pickup with no tone control. With the Grunge, no problem. Keep the HIGH knob down and you can crunch out without sounding "clanky".

BOSS CS-3 Compression Sustainer - Combined with the Grunge above, this will greatly punch up your distorted sound, especially for solo notes. The CS-3 is not cheap, so if you want something cheaper than gets the job done, see the MXR Dyna Comp.

Fender Steel Picks - Tony did use metal picks and that does contribute to certain "squeak" you hear on certain Black Sabbath songs. The problem with steel picks is that the squeaking may be too much of a problem, and you'll break strings fast. The alternative is the Big Stubby. It's a thick pick, but it's something you'll probably get used to quicker and it has a very good attack sound. They're perfect for metal playing.

MXR Noise Clamp - With the Strat you're going to get lots of buzz and noise on the bridge pickup. You need this to get rid of that noise.

For guitars with HUMBUCKERS in them

DigiTech SC-2 - The Grunge doesn't work all that well with humbuckers, but the SC-2 does. What makes the SC-2 great is that has a "Scoop Mode" where the midrange can either by cut out or brought to front, resulting in a crazy-good metal sound. The dirt cheap alternative is the Behringer UM300 specifically for the reason it has a midrange EQ control that you can turn down to "scoop" or turn up to cut through a mix.

BOSS CS-3 Compression Sustainer - You need this for the same reason as you would need for the Strat. Makes for better solo notes.

Big Stubby picks - On the Strat you can get away with steel picks, but not with humbuckers. The Big Stubby is the best choice here.

MXR Noise Clamp (optional) - You may or may not get a ton of noise with your humbucker guitar using the SC-2 and CS-3. If you get a ton of noise, get the Noise Clamp. If not, skip it.