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How to Capture Malcolm Young’s AC/DC Tone

The next in a series of step-by-step guides to home recording

Jim Dalrymple
|
02.02.2009

If ever there were an underrated guitar player, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young would have to be among the top. With some of the greatest riffs in rock, Young surely holds a place in history.

Malcolm isn’t the flashy guitar player running all over the stage. His fingers aren’t flying up and down the neck as you watch in amazement at how fast he can go. Malcolm Young is the backbone of one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play music.

That’s a pretty solid résumé.

With tracks like “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” “Back In Black,” “For Those About to Rock,” “Problem Child,” “T.N.T.” and the venerable “Highway To Hell” to his credit, Young has proven his worth as a guitarist many times over.

I have heard the critics say AC/DC has made the same album over and over again for years. I say, so what! The band’s popularity has not waned; in fact, they’ve only become more popular as young listeners continue to find their music.

In 2008, AC/DC once again released a studio album, its first in eight years, proving they still had it. “Black Ice” is pure AC/DC, just as pure as “High Voltage” and so many albums before it.

With songs like “Rock N’ Roll Train,” “Big Jack” and “Spoilin’ For A Fight,” AC/DC proved they could still rock with the best of them. And if the album wasn’t proof enough, try getting a ticket to one of their shows. Many sold out in minutes after going on sale.

Malcolm regularly takes a back seat to brother Angus and his school boy costume, both on-stage and in the press. Angus is the band’s star, no doubt, but you have to give Malcolm his due — he is one of the best riff-writers ever.

In the U.S. AC/DC has sold more than 70 million albums in its over 30 years of producing music. That gives them the distinction of being one of the five top-selling bands in American music history.

Malcolm uses a Gretsch Jet Firebird guitar with a variety of Marshall amps to create his tone.

I used Marshalls in dual tone configurations for all the applications — Guitar Rig 3, AmpliTube and Pod Farm — I used to make Young’s tone on the computer.

What I was striving for was a combination of vintage sound and grit, to present the older AC/DC tone and the more modern tone. Through the combination of older Plexi models and the more modern JCM800 amp models, I was able to lay a good foundation for Malcolm Young’s tone.

I had more fun making Malcolm’s tone than any I can think of at the moment. He is truly one who should be saluted.

Download the Malcolm Young Guitar Rig preset here.

Download the Malcolm Young Pod preset here.

Download the Malcolm Young Amplitube preset here.

Check back next week for Jim's piece on How to Capture Bruce Kulick's KISS tone!
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