Gear Rundown: Dimebag Darrell

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Gear Rundown: Dimebag Darrell

Words by Mixdown Staff

We examine the equipment of a shred icon.

Pantera were known for helping to popularise groove-based playing in thrash/post-thrash metal, combining elements of classic metal, ‘80s thrash and Texas boogie into something new.

Dimebag Darrel

While the sound of the band was a combination of all four players, a major part of that sound can be put down to the work of guitarist Darrel Lance Abbot, otherwise known as Dimebag Darrell.

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1981 DEAN ML

“My main guitar is still my blue ’81 Dean with the Kiss stickers,” said Dimebag in a 1994 interview with Guitar World. “That guitar just can’t be topped. I use that on all the songs that are in standard tuning. When we tune down to D, I use my brown tobacco-burst Dean.”

The story goes that as a teenager the young would-be guitarist lusted after owning a Dean guitar.

“My dad bought me my first Dean for Christmas,” he said. “I broke his ass for it – it cost him $1100. He really had to go out of his way to afford that for me. But I was dying to have one, and he fixed me up. For that, I’ll be forever grateful to him. But not two weeks later, I won another Dean in a guitar-playing contest.”

At the age of 16 Dimebag then sold the axe to a pawn shop to be able to buy a car, and through some act of fortune the instrument ended up in the hands of guitarist Buddy Blaze, then working for Kramer Guitars. Blaze made some additions to the guitar including Floyd Rose locking system, Bill Lawrence L-5000-XL pickups and a custom paint job including the now iconic lightning bolts.

Dimebag’s Dean ML before and after its paint job

“Anyway, he (Buddy Blaze) got the one I actually won, and he painted the lighting bolts on the body, threw the pickups in, threw the Floyd rose on it, and he was getting famous at that time and I asked him if he would do a Dime guitar for me. So Buddy goes yea I’ll do the guitar for you, and next thing I knew, the next day on my doorstep there was a big box. I opened it up, and I totally knew there was a Dean in there. I popped up the case, and it was the lighting bolt Dean from fu**ing hell man. Greatest guitar I ever had – will ever have in my whole life! Thank god I still got it now. I’ve lost it one time, and I had to pay 2500 bucks to get it back.”


Dimebag switched to Washburn after Dean ceased operations in 1994. The guitars he used then were basically copies of his Dean ML. He then returned to Dean when they resumed business in 2004.


Dimebag collaborated with Dean on the design for this guitar just months before his death. It is basically a version of the ML, and although he certainly played the prototype, by the time the model was released he had passed away.


Released by Dean as a tribute to Dimebag’s ML, this model featured a rosewood fretboard, DMT designe pickups and a Pantera Far Beyond Driven graphic with gloss finish.



“My old man showed me how to play barre chords, and that’s when things started getting really heavy,” remembered Dimebag of his early years playing. But I think the turning point came when I discovered an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Fuzz. Feedback! Distortion! Dude, that was all she wrote.”


“Musicians tend to get bored playing the same thing over and over, so I think it’s natural to experiment,” said Dimebag. “On ‘Good Friends’, for example, instead of playing a traditional solo, I just opened my guitar up all the way and let it feed back for effect. I discovered the pure feedback wasn’t quite enough, so I added a Digitech Whammy Pedal to the equation, which helped produce a sound that was completely fucked up. I don’t really have any training in theory, so I just kept turning knobs until I found the most wicked sound.”


“Because I used the Whammy Pedal on the rhythm part, I decided to use it on the lead as well,” said Dimebag of the song ‘Becoming’ from Far Beyond Driven. “The only thing I had between my guitar and my amp was my Dunlop Wah and the Whammy, so like an idiot I decided to try and play my solo using both effects simultaneously. I figured it was going to sound horrible, but everyone started saying, ‘That’s cool, dude, that’s cool.’ So I kept it, and then I doubled it and it was done!”


Dimebag had used the Dunlop Crybaby DCR-1SR, a remote pedal to run his rack unit, onstage and then received a signature Dunlop Crybaby.


Despite having his own signature model, the MXR DD11 Dime Distortion, he often favoured the Zakk Wylde version onstage.



Used on Cowboys From Hell and The Great Southern Trendkill.


“I stuck to what I’ve always used – Randall amps,” said Dimebag of his equipment on Far Beyond Driven. “The only thing that was really different on this album is that the signal from my guitar was routed through three Randall amps which were recorded simultaneously on each track — three amps mixed down to one track. One stack was effected with my MXR flanger, for a kind of hollow sound; another stack was just straight up and dry, and the third was set similar to the dry stack except that it had a little more gain. Separately, one sounded horrible, one sounded great and the other sounded bassy; but together they sounded incredible.” He also used this head on Vulgar Display Of Power.


Dimebag used solid state amps until he discovered the Krank amplifiers. He would later receive a signature model from the company, dubbed the Krankenstein.



Dimebag’s love of the Furman PQ-3 helped shape his sound, he used these units throughout the years onstage with his Randall RG100, and on many of his major albums. He owned several original PQ-3’s and in 1998 approached the company to ask for them to make him a new one. They did so, resulting in an updated model that added a front panel input to the original 1976 faceplate design.

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