“Amps and pedals aren’t there to elevate our playing, they’re there to get out of the way of our playing”: Nuno Bettencourt says personality should come before gear
Nuno Bettencourt has emphasised the importance of having a setup that doesn’t “get in the way of what you’re trying to say”.
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In a new interview with Total Guitar, the Extreme rocker shares his philosophy when it comes to tone and gear, noting how all of that is secondary to one’s musical personality.
“I’ll be backstage playing through this small Blackstar amp in the dressing room. And it sounds so good the sound guy will walk in and say, ‘Can we just mic that fucking thing up?!’ And then Steve Vai might come in and it will instantly turn into his sound,” Bettencourt says.
“We know amps and guitars are important, but your own DNA is bigger than that. You end up realising that amps and pedals aren’t there to elevate our playing, they’re there to get out of the way of our playing. We all know what we sound like in our heads. That’s what you want to come out of the speakers.”
Explaining that gear can sometimes be a hindrance instead, Bettencourt says, “Sometimes your tone can get in the way of what you’re trying to say. You hear Eddie Van Halen on the first four or five albums and then you hear inklings of other effects and stereo splits on the later records, and it became something different.”
“For me, it was all about raw Eddie, because he was just plugged in, with nothing else getting in the way. When you start processing things it can get lost a bit. If I use a delay or phaser, it has to colour what I’m doing rather than change what I’m doing. It’s got to be a nuanced effect.
He adds: “The amp you play through matters a bit but not hugely… Whenever I’m making music, I want something that doesn’t get in the way of my DNA. I like hearing my personality come through.”
“Even Zakk Wylde, when he’s putting on the craziest effects and that crazy vibrato that sounds like two fretboard’s worth, he still cuts through. It’s all about making the gear work for you!”
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