The Sounds and Style Of Dimebag Darrell

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The Sounds and Style Of Dimebag Darrell

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Get Creative With Your Distortion

Dime’s sound was massive, with crushing amounts of distortion, scooped mids, boosted lows and highs and a tight noise gate to keep it all under control. One way to approximate this sound on your own is to use a high-output ceramic pickup (like his signature Seymour Duncan model, the Dimebucker, developed in 2002) into a high gain amp with a graphic EQ to scoop out those mids and boost the other stuff. Experiment with different EQ placements: I like to use it in the amp’s effects loop rather than between the guitar and amp. His signature Randall amps had the EQ built in. You can try it between the guitar and amp too and see if that works with your gear. And even if you’re not into Dime’s playing, you can apply this idea to your own sound and see if you can unearth something extra-special with the help of an effect-loop EQ.

Get Creative With Your Pickup Choices Too

Although Dime used a variety of Bill Lawrence humbucking pickups throughout most of his career, in 2002 he teamed up with Seymour Duncan to design the Dimebucker, a very hot pickup that somehow retains its punch and attack even while adding a saturated sustain to your notes. Dime tried a wide range of different pickups from a number of brands to find a neck pickup to pair well with the Dimebucker, but what he settled on was the Seymour Duncan ’59 model. Now, while there’s a really great-sounding neck version of the ’59, it didn’t have enough juice to keep up with the Dimebucker, so Dime used the hotter bridge model in the neck position instead, and found what he was looking for.

Gate, Gate, Gate

According to Dime’s guitar tech Grady Champion, Dime’s rig was utterly squealing whenever the noise gate was turned off. Don’t be afraid to set ridiculous amounts of distortion if your gate is able to keep things sounding tight. But even if you’re not into high-gain tones, Dime showed us that you can use noise gates for musical effects too. ‘Check out Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills,’ where he stood near drummer Vinnie Paul and found that Vinnie’s snare drum was triggering the release of the noise gate. Whenever Vinnie hit the snare, Dime’s anged guitar sound suddenly rang out then clamped back down again.

The Cool Whammy Bar Squeal Trick

Dime had a very innovative Floyd Rose trick which you can hear at the end of ‘Cemetery Gates’ and in numerous other places. First, dump the bar all the way down until the string goes slack. Then use the ring finger of your fretting hand to sort of pull down and release the G string in order to get it vibrating, then use the same finger to sound a harmonic as you raise the bar. This will give you a really unique note attack as well as a hella cool rocket squeal sound. For extra points, don’t just stop once the bar reaches its neutral floating point: if your guitar is routed to pull up on the bar as well as push down, turn the bar towards the back of the guitar and press down on it to raise the note. One you’ve practiced it a bit you can really zero in on specific pitches, which is exactly what Dime does on ‘Cemetery Gates’ as he and Phil Anselmo go note-for-note.

Know When To Hold ‘Em

Dime could play anything but listen to his solo in ‘5 Minutes Alone.’ For most of the solo, the dude just grabs onto one note and turns it into a rising and falling siren sound. He augments it with a delay for a bit of extra vibe and then follows it up with some more precise shredding, but that moment really stands out just because it’s so unexpected and simple.

Know How To Build An Intro

‘Cowboys From Hell?’ That intro starts with a simple open E-string pedal while rocking through a fast anger setting, before Dime starts teasing the classic riff’s melody. Then all hell is unleashed. Or go entirely in the opposite direction and listen to ‘Strength Beyond Strength,’ where a fast sliding riff gives you less than one second to prepare for the hardcore riff barrage that is to come.