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Kirk Hammett Rig Rundown: Guitars, Amps & Pedals

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If you like Metallica, you probably noticed that Kirk Hammett played on quite a lot of different guitars over the years.

This deep dive into his guitars, amps, and pedals aims to shed light on the tools that craft his legendary tone.

Whether you’re a guitar veteran aiming to replicate Hammett’s sound or a newcomer curious about the makings of a rock icon, this guide provides a detailed look at the man’s equipment choices.

Guitars Used By Kirk Hammett

guitars used by kirk hammett

Kirk Hammett’s guitar collection is a meticulously curated arsenal, each piece playing a pivotal role in the creation of Metallica’s monumental sound.

Obviously, he played on A LOT of different guitars over the years. This is a few of his most frequently used axes.

Let’s explore the instruments that have become synonymous with Hammett’s sonic identity, highlighting their unique features and contributions:

  • Ibanez RG 170 Black: A cornerstone of versatility in Hammett’s rig, this guitar epitomizes the superstrat concept. It boasts a humbucker-single coil-humbucker pickup configuration, offering a wide tonal palette from heavy riffing to piercing solos, mirroring the RG series’ commitment to aggressive playability.
  • ESP Mummy: Not just a visually striking instrument, the ESP Mummy has been a mainstay in Hammett’s recording arsenal since ’96. Its unique combination of pickups and wood selection delivers a tone that’s “just right,” making it a go-to for studio work.
  • ESP KH-2 Ouija Board: Beyond its supernatural-themed aesthetics, this signature model packs a powerful punch. The Ouija Board guitar is a testament to Hammett’s unique style, offering both crushing tones and a slice of Metallica’s mystical imagery.
  • Gibson 1959 Les Paul: A touchstone of classic rock, this ’59 Les Paul brings warmth and depth to Hammett’s heavier metal context. Its rich, full-bodied sound provides a lush backdrop to Metallica’s sonic assault, showcasing Hammett’s versatility and reverence for guitar history.
  • Fender Stratocaster: Seen in the “I Disappear” music video, the Stratocaster adds a contrasting clarity and sparkle to Hammett’s tone. With its single-coil pickups, it offers a bell-like quality that beautifully complements the band’s heavier textures.
  • Jackson Flying V Randy Rhoads: This model emphasizes Hammett’s metal prowess, delivering sharp, aggressive tones ideal for Metallica’s thrash metal roots. The Flying V is as much a statement of style as it is a tool for musical expression.
  • ESP Wavecaster: A unique piece in Hammett’s collection, the Wavecaster features a Lucite body and a built-in wave machine, highlighting his adventurous spirit. Used on “Am I Evil,” it showcases Hammett’s willingness to push the boundaries of guitar design and sound.

Kirk Hammett’s guitar selection is a rich tapestry of modern high-performance instruments and revered classics, each chosen for its ability to convey a part of Metallica’s complex musical narrative.

From the cutting-edge technology of ESP to the timeless allure of Gibson and Fender, Hammett’s guitars not only define his sound but also his evolution as a guitarist. These instruments serve as both the paint and brush in Hammett’s creation of Metallica’s monumental sonic landscapes.

Perfect for Metallica fans: James Hetfield Rig Rundown.

Amps

guitar amps

Kirk’ Hammett’s’s sonic arsenal is as much about his choice of amplifiers as his diverse collection of guitars. Each amp in his rig is carefully selected to sculpt the iconic Metallica sound, offering a spectrum from clean, shimmering tones to the aggressive distortion Metallica is known for. Let’s dive into the amplifiers that have powered Hammett’s legendary tone:

  • Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier: A mainstay in Hammett’s rig, the Dual Rectifier is renowned for its versatile high gain, providing the thick, muscular distortion that Metallica’s heavy riffs demand. Its ability to toggle between different rectification modes gives Hammett a range of tonal options, from tight and aggressive to fluid and expansive.
  • Marshall JCM800 2203: This amp brings the classic Marshall roar to Hammett’s sound. The JCM800 2203 is known for its straightforward, punchy overdrive, which has been a key component in crafting the energetic and raw sound of Metallica’s earlier albums.
  • Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+: A rare gem in the amp world, the Mark IIC+ is prized for its smooth, singing lead tones and tight, focused rhythm sounds. Hammett uses this amp to achieve the expressive solos and nuanced textures that are a signature part of Metallica’s sonic landscape.
  • Randall RM100KH Kirk Hammett Signature: Tailored to Hammett’s specifications, this modular amp head allows for a high degree of customization. The RM100KH reflects Hammett’s personal tone preferences, enabling him to explore a wide array of sounds, from vintage vibes to cutting-edge aggression.
  • Diezel VH4: The Diezel VH4 is noted for its precise, articulate gain and multi-channel versatility. Hammett incorporates this amp for its ability to deliver detailed, high-fidelity distortion, adding depth and clarity to Metallica’s layered guitar tracks.
  • Fender Tone-Master: For cleaner tones, Hammett occasionally turns to the Fender Tone-Master. This amp provides pristine cleans that complement the band’s heavier moments, demonstrating Hammett’s ability to navigate between tonal extremes with ease.
  • Boss Katana Air: For more intimate settings or when on the move, Hammett has been seen with the Boss Katana Air. This compact, wireless amp offers convenience without compromising on tone, suitable for practice sessions or backstage warm-ups.
  • Randall KH103 Kirk Hammett Signature 120W Tube Guitar Amp Head: This amp is a testament to Hammett’s relentless pursuit of the perfect metal tone. The KH103 provides all the power and tonal flexibility needed for Metallica’s massive sound, with custom voicing that caters to Hammett’s detailed tonal demands.
  • Mesa/Boogie Triple Rectifier: An evolution of the Dual Rectifier, the Triple Rectifier offers even more power and versatility. With its three channels and bold, dynamic response, it’s capable of delivering everything from sparkling cleans to the most aggressive overdrive.

Hammett’s choice of amplifiers showcases his commitment to tonal excellence and versatility.

From the searing distortion of the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and the classic roar of the Marshall JCM800, to the refined overdrive of the Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+ and the cutting-edge technology of the Randall KH103, each amp contributes to the dynamic and diverse soundscapes that have defined Metallica’s music.

Together, these amplifiers form the foundation of Kirk Hammett’s legendary tone, driving Metallica’s sound forward and cementing their place in rock history.

Pedals

pedals used by kirk hammett

Let’s have a look at some of his pedals! Surely, some of these iconic models really contributed into shaping his famous tone.

  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer: A staple for many guitarists seeking to boost their signal with added warmth and sustain, the TS9 Tube Screamer is key to Hammett’s ability to cut through the mix with his solos, providing a smooth overdrive that complements his amp’s natural distortion.
  • Dunlop KH95 Kirk Hammett Signature Cry Baby Wah: This signature wah pedal, tailored to Hammett’s specifications, offers the expressive, vocal-like tones that have become a signature element of his playing style. The KH95 provides the sweep and midrange punch ideal for Hammett’s dynamic lead passages.
  • Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive: Used primarily during the early days, the Boss SD-1 provides a natural overdriven sound with a responsive dynamic range, perfect for adding grit and edge to Hammett’s rhythm playing.
  • DigiTech Whammy: The Whammy pedal allows Hammett to pitch-shift his guitar signal up or down with foot-controlled precision, creating dramatic harmonic sweeps and dive bombs that add a unique dimension to his solos.
  • MXR EVH117 Flanger: Borrowing a page from Eddie Van Halen’s playbook, Hammett employs the MXR EVH117 Flanger to add swooshing, jet-plane effects to certain passages, enriching Metallica’s sonic palette with textural depth.
  • Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler: The DL4 is utilized for its versatile delay effects, enabling Hammett to layer his sound with ambient repeats or sharp, rhythmic echoes that enhance the atmospheric elements of Metallica’s music.
  • KHDK Ghoul Screamer: Co-founded by Hammett, KHDK’s Ghoul Screamer overdrive pedal provides a customizable tone with multiple switches for fine-tuning the overdrive’s character, offering everything from subtle enhancement to full-on distortion.
  • TC Electronic Flashback X4 Delay: For expansive soundscapes, Hammett turns to the Flashback X4, which offers a plethora of delay types along with the ability to save presets and control them in real-time, perfect for crafting intricate delay patterns live.
  • Dunlop Cry Baby GCB95: Before his signature model, the GCB95 Cry Baby was Hammett’s go-to wah pedal, famous for its expressive sweep and the quintessential wah sound that complements lead and rhythm parts alike.
  • KHDK Dark Blood Distortion: Another KHDK creation, the Dark Blood delivers high-gain distortion with a distinct midrange punch, suitable for the heavier aspects of Metallica’s repertoire, providing the crushing tones that drive the band’s riff-heavy sections.

It’s just a glimpse of his pedalboard, but it should give you a brief idea of what effects he likes to use.

How To Sound Like Kirk Hammett?

how to sound like kirk hammett

Aiming for that Kirk Hammett vibe in your own playing? While you might not have his exact setup (or his decades of shredding experience), you can still channel some of that Metallica magic into your sound. Here’s how to start:

  • Start with the Right Axe: Grab a guitar that can handle high gain without losing clarity. Kirk’s preference leans towards ESP guitars with humbucking pickups for their ability to deliver thick, meaty tones, as well as their fast, comfortable necks for shredding. A guitar with a Floyd Rose tremolo is a plus for dive bombs and whammy bar theatrics.
  • Amp Settings for Metallica Muscle: Dial in a distorted tone with a chunky low-end and a crisp high-end on your amp. Kirk often uses Mesa/Boogie and Marshall amps, so aim for models or simulators that can replicate the tight, aggressive distortion these brands are known for. Set your amp for a bit of a mid-scoop but keep enough mids to ensure your solos cut through.
  • Distortion and Overdrive Pedals: Layer your amp’s distortion with a pedal like the Ibanez Tube Screamer for solos. It boosts your signal, tightening up the low end and emphasizing the mids, making your solos sing with sustain and attitude.
  • Essential Wah-Wah Pedal: A significant part of Kirk’s sound is his expressive use of the wah pedal. A Dunlop Cry Baby, especially the Kirk Hammett signature model, allows for those sweeping, vocal-like tones during lead passages. Practice using the wah to accentuate phrases and add expression to your playing.
  • Add Flavor with Modulation and Delay: Incorporate a flanger, like the MXR EVH117 Flanger, to add swooshing, dynamic textures to specific parts. Use a delay pedal, such as the Line 6 DL4 or TC Electronic Flashback, to create atmospheric echoes or thickened soundscapes, experimenting with different delay times and feedback settings.
  • Pitch Shifting for Dramatic Solos: A DigiTech Whammy pedal can elevate your solos by allowing you to pitch shift notes up or down in real-time, adding a unique dimension to your playing style.
  • Practice Techniques and Expression: Beyond gear, Kirk’s playing is characterized by fast legato runs, expressive vibrato, and precise picking. Work on your speed, accuracy, and dynamics, paying close attention to how he articulates notes and transitions between them.

Mastering Kirk Hammett’s sound is as much about capturing his spirit of exploration and expression as it is about the specific equipment.

Experiment with your gear, tweak settings until they feel right, and play with the emotion and intensity that Kirk brings to his music. It’s a journey through sound that’s as rewarding as it is challenging.

Final Thoughts

guitar pedal

Yeah, I know – that’s a lot of gear. Some of these guitars and amps are VERY expensive. And obviously, there’s even more stuff that he used over the years.

But generally, cracking the code to Kirk Hammett’s legendary tone is a blend of right gear, skillful play, and raw emotion.

But remember, gear is only half the story. Hammett’s heart and soul in every note turn simple riffs into anthems. Practice hard, play with passion, and always keep exploring.

Hopefully this guide was helpful! Thanks for reading. Reviews of some of these guitars and pedals may be available on my YouTube channel.