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Black Hole Sun: Introduction, Gear & Tone


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Black Hole Sun

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Hi all, this is Tony for Guitar Tricks and today we are going to learn one of the best alternative rock songs ever written: "Black Hole Sun", as made famous by Soundgarden. In this song you are going to hear the perfect blend of classic effects with a modern rock feel. We are going to start by tuning the low E string down to D, not because we are going to do the one finger metal chug, but because we are going to make some really interesting chords using the drop D tuning. We're in 4/4 time (with an occasional bar of 2/4), in the key of G, at a tempo of 52 BPM.

There are two very distinct guitar parts in this song. Guitar1 is a lightly over driven crunch sound that takes care of the bottom end in the intro and choruses with arpeggio style picking and strumming. The second guitar is taking care of the higher frequencies with some cool shell voicings that have a warbling Leslie effect with arpeggio picking giving it a really cool vibe. It almost sounds like an old Hammond B3 organ.

There is one other guitar part in the song that only happens in the intro and it was the perfect contrast for the intro. This guitar part sounds like someone singing falsetto or a violin bowing out a sad melody or a melody that builds tension and asks a question which the verse comes in and answers. To play this part you will need an eBow and a slide. I will go into more detail in the lessons to come.

Soundgarden used a large compliment of vintage amps and guitars. The guitars you would see played the most were those beautiful Guild S-100's and S-300's modeled after the Gibson SG body style; a Gretch hollow body, a Gibson Firebird, or the occasional Telecaster were used. For amps, a large compliment of Mesa Boogie gear (4 or 5 different heads) were used, along with Fender Twin Reverbs and Vibro-Kings for a lot of the clean sounds.

The first thing you hear that stands out is the rotary effect in the intro and verse sections. It's hard to say whether he was using the Jim Dunlop Rotovibe or the Hughes and Ketner tube Rotosphere because he had both on his pedal board, but I will tell you how to get pretty close to this sound. You also hear a slight bit of chorus to really add to the Leslie effect and really make it pop. For the solo section he used an MXR Crybaby wah pedal. And lastly for almost the whole song but especially the clean parts he was using stock amp reverb in his Fender amps. The reason these amps and effects work so well for the alternative rock genre is because alternative rock is made up of vintage type tones with more modern style rock progressions and Soundgarden is one of the best in this genre.

Here is the gear and settings I am using to get the desired effect. First I am using a POD HD Pro (rackmount) effects unit. For the clean tones with the Leslie effect I am using the Fender Twin Reverb amplifier. Settings are bass at 6, mids at 8, and treble at 8 with a factory sounding spring reverb in about 13% of the mix. For the crunchier sounds I am using a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp model with the gain on about 3 or less, bass at 5, mids at 9, and treble at 7. I'm not running any effects on the Mesa amp model at all.

For the Leslie effect I'm using a Rotovibe type modeler on the high speed setting. For the chorus effect I'm using a Boss chorus type modeler at about 30% depth with a pretty high rate but only about 10% mix, just enough to blend nicely with the Leslie.