How to Capture Chris Shiflett’s Foo Fighters Guitar Tone
The Next in a Series of Step-by-Step Guides to Home Recording
When you think of famous Gibson guitar players, the first names to come to mind are probably Jimmy Page, Zakk Wylde, Angus Young, Slash and even Les Paul himself. However, there is another Gibson artist that has made a name for himself over the last 10 years – the Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett.
From the very beginning the Foo Fighters have always shown a penchant for versatility. With hits like “Big Me” achieving mainstream radio play, the band has been able to experiment and write songs that take them back to their alternative roots, and this formula has always worked very well for them.
Additionally, Shiflett works with quite a collection of Gibsons, including a ‘57 Les Paul Goldtop, a Les Paul Junior, Les Paul Custom, ES-335 and a Firebird. When it comes time to amp all those guitars, Shiflett has turned to Marshall and Mesa Boogie – not a bad combination for an alternative guitar player with punk roots! He also doesn’t rely on many effects to shape his sound, for the most part using only a flanger, phaser and a delay.
I’ve said many times that if you start with your guitar and amp in trying to shape your tone, you won’t need a lot of effects to get the sound you’re looking for. So I’m always happy to see mainstream guitarists do this.
In order to build Shiflett’s guitar tone, I’ll be using Native Instruments' Guitar Rig 3 on my computer. The tones we’ve built lately have been using a few new items and we’ll continue that with this tone as we’ll use a splitter for the two amps.
I decided to use models of the same amps that Shiflett himself uses. The first amp I put in was a Marshall Plexi model with a Matched Cabinet. Settings for the Plexi are Volume I: 7; Volume II: 2; Bass: 8; Mid: 6; Treble: 8; and Presence: 7.
The cabinet is a 4x12 with the mic position at 57 percent toward mic A, and the Dry/Air setting at 3.31. Volume on the cabinet is -6.8db. That’s half of Shiflett’s tone, now we’ll move on to the Mesa Boogie amp.
Native Instruments uses a model called the Instant Gratifier to model the Mesa Boogie. The settings for this amp are Master: 10; Gain: 5; Bass: 6; Mid: 2; Treble: 9; and Presence: 6. The mic position on the cabinet is 41 percent toward mic A, the Dry/Air setting is 2.11 and the cabinet volume is -18.2db.
You should notice the big difference in this setup is the use of a splitter. Split A should be above the first amp and Split B above the second amp. The Split Mix box allows you to pan the amp sounds and crossfade the tones until you’re satisfied with the sound. I have Pan A at 31 and Pan B at 28, giving a little bit of signal from both sides in the middle.
The last item I put in this guitar tone is a Screamer, and the settings for this are Volume: 3; Tone: 7; and Drive: 8. For many of the songs, you can actually turn off the Screamer and just go with the amps.
That’s it. Now go play some Foo Fighters!