How to Capture Nuno Bettencourt’s Extreme Guitar Tone
The Next in a Series of Step-by-Step Guides to Home Recording
Nuno Bettencourt is one of those guitarists who you can like without actually liking the band he plays for. Bettencourt rose to prominence in the 1990s as the guitar player for Boston-based Extreme, a ‘funky metal’ band that scored its first and only No.1 hit with the acoustic love song “More Than Words.” Ironically, the majority of the band’s songs were electric.
Not everyone liked Extreme or their sappy, chart-topping ballad. In fact, it seemed to be one of those bands that you either loved or hated; there was very little in between for most fans.
Fortunately, many managed to look past the music they didn’t care for to recognize the genius of Bettencourt’s guitar playing. Without a doubt, Pornograffitti caught the world’s attention when it was released in 1990.
And there’s a good reason for that. “More Than Words” (see video above) and “Hole Hearted” were great songs with soulful acoustic guitar parts. Bettencourt showed his guitar prowess on “When I’m President,” “Get the Funk Out,” “Decadence Dance” and “Li’l Jack Horny,” too.
Just listen to the guitar in those songs ? that’s some great stuff.
Bettencourt used quite a bit of equipment over the years, although he stayed true to his guitar and amp choices throughout his career. Pretty much from the beginning Bettencourt used Washburn guitars. Washburn now has several Nuno Bettencourt signature models called the N series to honor his accomplishments.
Of course, being a rocker in the ’80s and ’90s, Bettencourt had a nice complement of Marshall amps backing him up on stage every night. But Marshall wasn’t the only amp he relied on; he also had some Fender Twin Reverbs for those softer moments.
Like most of us who can remember playing the classic analog pedals, Bettencourt was a big Boss and MXR fan, using digital delays and phasers. He also used a Digitech Whammy, a talk box, octaver and several other pedals throughout his career.
To make Bettencourt’s guitar tone at my home computer, I’ll be using Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3.
I tried quite a few combinations before I finally came up with a tone that I was satisfied with. The one thing I couldn’t get was the little bit of grit that Bettencourt has at the end of his notes. No matter what combination of overdrive pedals and amps I tried, I just couldn’t make it sound right. I ended up turning to an effect that I don’t use much to achieve the sound I was looking for.
I used the Lead 800 amp model in Guitar Rig 3, which is its model of the Marshall JCM 800. I left the boost button off because we are going to boost the signal with a screamer instead. The amp settings are Master 9; Pre-amp 9; Bass 6; Mid 7; Treble 10; and Presence 8.
The cabinet mic crossfade is 53% towards Mic A and the Dry/Air setting is 5.86 Air. The Volume on the cabinet is -6.4db. That should give you a basic rock tone that can be used for many guitar tones.
We have a few effects to add now that will shape the tone a little bit. The first thing we’ll add is a quad delay. The delay settings are Dry/Wet 38.7% Dry; Time 31ms; Feedback 13.7%; Modulation Rate 0.26Hz; and Depth 0.
I also put in a Screamer to add some thickness to the tone. The settings are Volume 4; Tone 2.5; and Drive 4. That should give it just enough to fatten up the amp sound.
The last thing I added was a compressor. Normally I’ll add a compressor when I record, but this time I put it in the effects chain, giving the tone some bite on the back end. The Volume is -13db and the sustain is at 5.57.
There you go, a nice Nuno Bettencourt tone to play some ’90s classics. Have fun!