Big, beefy, djenty rhythm guitars. Brutal, heavy, and just raunchy enough to give any listener “stank” face.
There’s really nothing like hearing an extremely tight groove from a djent artist that’s got their part locked right into the grid when it’s mixed properly. Massive, booming drums help push the rhythm forward, but with djent it’s all about that technical proficiency and above all else – accuracy.
Unfortunately, many artists don’t have what it takes to succeed as djent musicians. Sometimes it’s their lack of proficiency, but there are also some players out there who can shred better than any of their peers that just can’t seem to break through – all due to their tone (or lack of it).
Strap in for a wild ride as we get into what it takes to “make it” as a djent guitarist, tonally.
Delicious Djent Rhythm Guitars
In just about any hard rock or metal genre, bands pride themselves on huge walls of guitars in their mixes. There’s a reason bands with the budget use stack upon stack of guitar amps as their backdrop – they visually depict the sound they’re after. (Spoiler: most of the time, those cabs are empty except for maybe one or two; look for the mic).
But it stands to reason that the visual appeal conveys the message. In the studio, we don’t have that luxury – things need to sound as massive as those rigs look.
With djent, this means a few different tweaks to get your tone sounding just right.
For starters, get things spread WIDE in your mix. Double tracking guitars is an extremely common practice for djent rhythm guitars – but it only works when both performances are extremely accurate and tight. If you check both of those boxes, panning one track hard left and the other hard right will ensure you’re taking full advantage of the range you’ve got available.
If double-tracked rhythms still aren’t cutting it for you size wise, you’ve got two other options for going bigger. The first is a spatial widener like Sidewidener. These plugins give the perception that your range extends even further to the sides, but make sure you don’t lose mono integrity if you choose to go this route. Sounds pushed too far to the sides can start to have phase issues and even disappear completely when played through a mono speaker.
Your other option is to double down with quad tracking – recording four takes of the guitar part and panning two to the left and two to the right (or spreading them more evenly across the mix). If you go this route, be cautious that you’re not making a guitar mix that’s too thick or you won’t have room for the other instrumentation in your mix.
Tighter Amp Tones
Regardless of the approach you take for your guitar mix, a major part of your overall tone is going to come from the gear you use. Djent guitarists love using down-tuned and extended range guitars, often reaching for the lowest strings on 8-string and 9-string guitars to give them the sound they’re after.
These strings often overlap into bass territory and are lower than most amps can reproduce accurately. There’s a reason bass cabinets are larger with bigger speakers and more electricity running through them – it takes a LOT of energy to move those lower frequencies. Guitarists that try with smaller guitar amps often find their tone to become tubby and bloated – not the descriptions anyone wants to use for guitar tone.
Instead, many successful djent guitarists are turning to digital options that take full advantage of the frequency spectrum all the way down to 20 Hz (the limit of human hearing). Just check out this example from Mark Sorsby using djent legend Misha Mansoor’s signature Toneforge plugin:
As you can hear in the video, the tone of his guitar is tight and sits forward in the mix thanks to controls that just aren’t available on physical guitar amps.
Follow The Leaders
Djent is a genre that’s well known for a very specific sound, so often the best thing we can do is follow along as leaders in the space pioneer the direction for it and adjust accordingly until we’re able to step into that “tastemaker” space ourselves.
We partnered with Misha to come up with a bundle that puts his favorite tones in your hands as soon as you load the plugin. With the Toneforge Metal Starter Pack, you’ll get instant access to Toneforge Misha Mansoor Ultimate, including 11 presets created by Misha himself and access to the back-of-amp settings, expanding the tonal options beyond what standard users get.