Angus Young is one of the most iconic guitarists of all time. In addition to being a member of an iconic rock band AC/DC and a highly respected player, his guitar tone has become famous and widely sought after. Players dream about achieving his crisp, clear tone and his guitar playing style. In this article we will look at some ways you can manipulate your rig to sound like Angus!
One of the big mistakes players make when chasing after the elusive Angus Young tone is using too much gain on their amplifier. Angus’ tone is really based on volume and fingers.
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Angus Young’ guitar rig is actually the simplest!
He is known for plugging his guitar straight into his amplifier. No pedals or special tricks involved; he simply knows how to get the most out of the gear that he has and uses the knowledge to achieve the tone. One of the big mistakes players make when chasing after the elusive Angus Young tone is using too much gain on their amplifier. Angus’ tone is really based on volume and fingers. Now obviously no one can completely sound like Angus because there is only one Angus Young, but one can study his technique and get very close and realising that dialling more gain on the amp will get you further away from the tone is key.
Why volume is of utmost importance to Angus Young’s tone quest?
Angus typically uses Marshall tube amps. On most tube amps, mainly old school Marshall Plexis, when you turn up the volume you drive the tubes of the amp harder which causes them to distort. This is a “cleaner” distortion than turning the gain on the amp all the way up, in fact it will be ideal to keep the gain in the range from 1-5 (depending on your amp). Alright, let’s dive into the specific gear that will accomplish this goal and have you sounding like Angus in no time!
Angus Young Guitars
Angus is famous for playing the SG style guitar. In this case, because the rig is so simple (literally just a guitar plugged into an amp), the type of guitar matters very much. The SG Angus uses is made of the wood mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. Mahogany gives a darker sound which serves to fatten up chords and gives some more depth to the low end. Also, Angus has 2 humbuckers on his guitar, typically they are PAF style and relatively low output.
Axe choice #1: Gibson Angus Young SG Series
This SG is made by Gibson, the brand that also makes Angus’ guitar. It features a mahogany body and neck as well as 2 humbucking pickups. It is a great guitar that will get you the sounds you need while not breaking the bank. If you are looking something a little more wallet friendly check out this next one!
Axe choice #2: Epiphone G-310
Again this is a guitar made out of mahogany and features the humbuckers just like option 1. However, cheaper guitars are cheaper because they are made out of inferior materials so if you have the cash I encourage you to do some research!
Now that we have the guitar portion decided lets talk amps, probable the most important part of the Angus Young sound!
Angus Young Signature Guitar Pick-Ups
Gibson Signature Pickup: Angus Young has teamed up with Gibson to create the ultimate pickup for the searing riffs that he is known for. Enamel coated wire, special Alnico V magnet and matching coils make this Angus Young Signature Humbucker provide a 1-2 combination of vintage style punch and ripping tone that will cut through almost anything.
Angus Young Guitar Amps
Angus is famous for using Marshall amps, typically old school Plexi style amps. Lets take a look at some potential amp options.
Amp choice #1: Marshall DSL15C
Price: $600 USD
Here is a nice portable, great sounding Marshall that won’t break the bank. It features 2 channels and is an all tube amp, this is the most important factor. In order to get that old school sound that Angus uses the amp has to be a tube amp (unless you’re really good at programming!) If you’re looking for the next level up from this combo (maybe a full stack) check out the DSL series from Marshall!
Amp choice #2: Marshall JTM45
This is a very very expensive amp but if your very serious about achieving an authentic Angus tone look no further than this bad boy right here!
Amp choice #3: Wampler Plexi Drive
Price: $200 USD
This choice technically isn’t an amp, it’s a pedal, but it is a relatively cheap way to get an awesome Marhall Plexi sound through the amp you already own! If you’re on a strict budget check this one out.
When it comes to amp settings keep everything around half way, don’t crank the distortion! The sound has to remain very clear and not over powered by distortion. Keep in mind, don’t sacrifice clarity for gain!
Picks and Stings
Angus uses very heavy gauge picks and strikes the strings very hard but he is careful that no string noise gets in the way of the tone. I would recommend experimenting with some .60mm picks and trying to see how hard you can pick riffs. You should also check out some heavier gauge guitar strings, but not too heavy they need to be easy to bend! Try anything above .10!
Angus also has very rough and powerful vibrato. His vibrato is more involved than blues vibrato. Angus puts a lot of strength into his vibrato and bends by using his whole hand in a forceful up and down motion.
If you’re interested in sounding more like Angus Young, we suggest you study some of the scales and chord progressions he uses to make his music. The free blog here at UberChord has several articles that can help you explore that knowledge and follow Angus’s path. You can start by studying the key of dm for guitar, passenger let her go guitar notes, and can you play guitar without a pick.