How to Sound Like Kirk Hammett

Ever since he replaced Dave Mustaine in Metallica in 1983, Kirk Hammett has broadened the group’s horizons. As a guitarist, his vision and technique takes in everything from Cuban folk music to jazz. As a metal icon, he’s the very essence of the brooding virtuoso, a genius whose impossibly fiddly solos (before St. Anger, anyway) are tossed off with cooler-than-thou nonchalance.

As well as being undeniably great, Hammett has excellent taste in gear—which is bad news for you, as his Mesa/Boogie gear is quite expensive. More problematic, the Strategy 400 power amp in his rig is out of production—so get ready for some costly bidding on eBay if you’re looking to replicate Hammett’s tone precisely. A good alternative is the Recto 2:100 power amp at around $1,419. Otherwise, be ready to drop $1,749 for the TriAxis preamp and around $899 for the Mesa/Boogie Recto 4x12 cabinet. And don’t forget the $2,399 it will cost to bag Hammett’s signature ESP KH-2. No, it’s not cheap sounding like Metallica.

The good news is that there are inexpensive options that will put you close to that mighty tone. ESP’s entry-level LTD range also throws up some realistic options, and at $699, depending upon the shape of guitar that suits your style; you can go for either the KH-203 or KH-202 guitars. If you’re a bit tech savvy, you can buy EMG-81 humbucker pickups as a retrofit unit (about $124, excluding fitting) and put it together with the Afterburner circuitry ($57) for added output.

In the amp department, a Mesa/Boogie Recto-O-Verb “Series 2” 1x12 combo will set you back a cool $1,479, but it has a 50-watt output and delivers a scorching range of modern metal tones. The Hughes & Kettner Warp 7 1x12 combo is a cheaper option that supplies 100 watts of grunt for around $709. Hammett’s Line 6 DL4 delay pedal and MM4 modulation stomp box modeler retail for $349 apiece, but cheaper options abound, so shop around. Finally, check out Line 6’s Über Metal pedal ($139.99) to add bite to your tone. Hammett also loves to stomp on a wah pedal for solos, and his wah of choice, of course, is a Dunlop Crybaby Classic wah-wah pedal with a Fasel conductor for $203.

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Guitar World Staff

Since 1980, Guitar World has been the ultimate resource for guitarists. Whether you want to learn the techniques employed by your guitar heroes, read about their latest projects or simply need to know which guitar is the right one to buy, Guitar World is the place to look.