Sound Like Slipknot: Iconic Heavy Metal Guitar Tone

Formed in the fly-over state of Iowa in 1995, Slipknot had plenty of gripes to shout about. Donning grotesque masks, the nu metal nine-piece brought a completely new take to a stagnating metal genre. Their mysterious members, crushing chaos and relatable lyrics gripped metalheads in a way no band had done since Metallica almost a decade before.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

Slipknot: High-gain monsters

Slipknot became synonymous with the nu metal trend in the late ’90s and early noughties, spitting out expressive, sometimes grotesque lyrics, crushing guitar riffs and powerful percussion. It certainly caught the attention of million globally. There were a lot of bands of similar ilk at the time, but none were as prominent as the original nine-piece. They’ve enjoyed continual success thanks to their ear for a big melody and general accessibility, despite the taboo first appearances.

The arrival of Slipknot’s first self-titled album set the record straight. It was a monster on all fronts. Layers upon layers of tracks, walls of metallic-sounding guitars, industrial drumming thumps mixed the with the technicality of main drummer Joey Jordison’s chops. It isn’t a surprise that five albums later they’ve achieved legendary status.

Guitarist duo Jim Root and Mick Thompson incorporate sludgy drop-tuned riffs, an occasional solo and more than a splash of melody into their dual lead playing. Their almost percussive feel at times syncs up the host of drummers to great effect. Have a listen to the playlist below to get an idea.

Listen To The Original


It might a surprise to some that Jim Root rotates between three signature Fender guitars; a Jazzmaster, Telecaster and Strat all built to similar specs. These aren’t your vintage-inspired Fender guitars. They’re built to an incredibly high standard for metal players.

All are equipped with active EMG pickups, usually an 81 in the bridge and 60 in the neck for the aggressive tones Slipknot utilise. Hardware choices and looks-wise they’re the most modern you can get from the Californian guitar builders. All feature solid black or white finishes, ebony fretboards, modern ‘C’ necks, hardtail bridges and a lone volume knob. There’s no better choice for getting both the Slipknot sound and look. If you prefer a more colourful aesthetic, anything with EMG active pickups from the likes of Ibanez, ESP or Schecter will get you very close.

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Second guitarist Mick Thomson is endorsed by Fender-owned Jackson guitars. He used to play an Ibanez, but now uses a signature super-strat Soloist designed from the ground up to be a metal machine. Thomson helped design the guitar’s extremely high-output signature Seymour Duncan Blackout pickups. Like Jim Root, he keeps it simple with one volume knob and a three-way switch. However, he has an intriguingly-designed fixed Floyd Rose bridge based on the classic floating trem design.

Matt and Rabea both decided to find guitars with EMG pickups while avoiding the Jim Root signature, which they felt was slightly cheating. Matt picked an ESP LTD Eclipse with plenty of weight behind the tone. Rabea favoured an Ibanez RG more similar to the design of Thomson’s guitar. Both come in between £400-£500, which is a great price for the inclusion of top quality humbuckers.

If you’re feeling inspired check out our modern shape guitars.


A good high-gain amp is key to recreating Slipknot’s thick distortion. Jim Root swears by big and bold Orange amps. He has a signature Dark Terror but doesn’t always use it in live setups. He opts for the larger Rockerverb 100 going into a Celestion Vintage 30-loaded Orange 4×12. Its harsh British tones sound slightly different to his bandmate’s rig. His tone is achievable through a number of different amp brands – it’s a classic setup used by many metal players stretching back to the eighties.

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Thomson sticks with his signature Rivera KR7. It’s a beast of an amp at 120 watts, with its voicing able to tighten the bottom-end and boost the mids to punch through the many layers of Slipknot’s music. The matching cab has a high headroom to keep the sound as pristine as possible. This is a little more tricky to capture perfectly as Rivera is a very niche brand but an EVH 5150, Mesa Boogie Mark V or Synergy amp will get you in the same ballpark.

Find tube heads at Andertons here.


Both guitarists have relatively simple pedalboards and rackmount setups as the high-gain amp channels do most of the work. On the rare occasion Slipknot use a clean tone and some ambient effects. Jim Root has two MXR Carbon Copy delays differing in delay time controlled by his engineer backstage. He has another one onstage for any crazy oscillations and a Cry Baby Wah used during solos.

Other effects such as the Boss Noise Suppressor stay on the rack as an “always on” effect ensuring silent, sharp staccato. Clean effects like the Holy Grail Reverb, EH Micro POG and Maxon Phaser and Auto Filter are used more sparingly.

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His counterpart is even more utilitarian. Mick Thomson keeps all his effects rack-mounted. He uses a Carbon Copy delay, a Death By Audio Fuzz War and a custom octave fuzz made by his tech Kevin Allen.

If you’re interested in finding out how to achieve the tones of your favourite artists, check out more of our Sound Like articles.

Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big prog/modern metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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