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Historical development, sound aesthetics and production techniques of the distorted electric guitar in metal music

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The sound of the distorted electric guitar is particularly important for many metal music genres. It contributes to the music’s perception of heaviness, serves as a distinguishing marker, and is crucial for the power of productions. This article aims at extending the research on the distorted metal guitar and on metal music production by combining both fields of interest. By the means of isolated guitar tracks of original metal recordings, ten tracks in each of the last five decades served as sample for a historical analysis of metal guitar aesthetics including the aspects tuning, loudness, layering and spectral composition. Building upon this insight, an experimental analysis of 287 guitar recordings explored the effectiveness and effect of metal guitar production techniques. The article attempts to provide an empirical ground of the acoustics of metal guitar production in order to extend the still rare practice-based research and metal-oriented production manuals.

Keywords: aesthetics; distortion; guitar; heaviness; history; production

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bielefeld University

Publication date: March 1, 2017

More about this publication?
  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

    The aims of the journal are:
    • To provide an intellectual hub for the International Society of Metal Music Studies and a vehicle to promote the development of metal music studies;
    • To be the focus for research and theory in metal music studies – a multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) subject field that engages with a range of parent disciplines, including (but not limited to) sociology, musicology, humanities, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, psychology, history, natural sciences;
    • To publish high-quality, world-class research, theory and shorter articles that cross over from the industry and the scene;
    • To be a world leader in interdisciplinary studies and be a unique resource for metal music studies.
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