Woody Crunch: Mustaine’s Countdown Gear

October 13, 2010 | By | 3 Replies More

Mustaine_Dave_92_1Once again was listening to the semi-miraculous satellite radio the other day, and the Megadeth tune “Skin O’ My Teeth” came on. Now, I’m not a huge Megadeth (nor chip-on-the-shoulder Mustaine) fan, but do have a couple Megadeth discs and usually enjoy the rhythms, attitude and tight playing of that band.

So while my finger hovered over the button to change the station, channel or whatever those things are called in satellite radio land, I stopped when I heard this juicy, Snickers-bar-meets-milkshake-and-sawmill crunch coming out of the car speakers. The spider sense went off – I was having a WoodyTone moment.

The tone I heard, at the beginning of “Skin O’ My Teeth,” is on the far right edge of woody, but to my ears has good tonal qualities utterly lacking in the drop-tuned, no-mids BS that I believe still dominates the metal genre these days.

Give it a listen – hopefully on good speakers:

That tune, and album, was released in 1992.

Countdown Gear


> Not sure what guitar in particular Dave (or Marty Friedman) used on that tune in particular, but Mustaine was using a Jackson King V, likely his sig model, which was a neck-through model with an ebony fretboard, poplar wings on the V, a Kahler 3310 bridge and a high-output Seymour Duncan pickup, likely a Duncan Distortion wound by Maricella Juarez (aka MJ).

> The signature V (the KV1, I believe) had 24 frets, two volume controls, 1 tone knob and a 3-way selector switch.

> Friedman also used a high-output Duncan pickup, either a Duncan Distortion or JB.


In case there's any doubt about the rig, here's Dave's '92 live rig with the CAE and VHT units in it (guitardudeproducts.com photo, click to see bigger).

In case there's any doubt about the rig, here's Dave's '92 live rig with the CAE and VHT units in it (guitardudeproducts.com photo, click to see bigger).

Other than production/engineering magic, here’s where the wood is. Both guitarists used the Custom Audio Electronics 3+SE preamp with a VHT 2150 power amp, which used 6550 tubes. The cabs were Marshall 4x12s, not sure what speakers but in his signature Marshall cabs he likes Celestion V30s – but rated at 70w per speaker.


> One reason Megadeth’s riffs sound so snappy is they’re played in standard tuning. Here’s Dave from a semi-recent Guitar World interview:

“I feel that the guitar needs to be tuned to A440 so you can get the correct response out of it. And I believe that if you play some of those low-tuned songs [by other metal bands] on a guitar in standard tuning, you’ll hear that a lot of them don’t have good melodies. It becomes almost atonal and percussive. But now everybody does it, and because everybody’s in a band and has a song, you hear it more and more.

> Here’s what Dave prefers now, gear-wise, with more on the megadeth.com website: GHS Dave Mustaine Signature Progressive strings gauged .010-.052, Shure KSM 32 and SM 57 mics. He also now uses Seymour Duncan LiveWire Dave Mustaine active pickups.

‘Hangar 18,’ live, ’92

Category: Celestion speakers, Custom Audio Electronics, Dave Mustaine/Megadeth, GHS Strings, Jackson guitars, Marshall, Seymour Duncan, Shure, VHT

Comments (3)

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  1. El Nene says:

    I used to be a big fan of Megadeth, and I learn a lot about guitar playing because of it. Things changes,and my preferences too (I love blues, hard rock and rockabilly too) but Jimi Hendrix, EVH, Brian Setzer, SRV, Mustaine and Friedman, has got a big influence on me, on my playing and my way of thinking about guitar tone and composition. Maybe Mustaine is underestimated or underrated (sorry for my english), but I think he has a great and good taste in terms of guitar tone and riffs. Rust In Peace, Countdown To Exctintion and Youthanasia are masterpieces for every metal fan.
    Great Post!….and again sorry if you can`t understand me very well, my english sucks LOL

  2. Jeff says:

    I personally have a been a huge fan of Megadeth’s tone, particularly Mustaine’s. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to replicate his tone without spending a ton of money. I use a Peavey VYPYR amp, which offers more tonal variations than most amps, but still find it impossible to get the exact tone used on Countdown To Extinction. However, Dave Mustaine does have a Zoom pedal that just became available. I haven’t used one, and haven’t been able to find any videos of people using them on Youtube. Hopefully that pedal will be able to give us the ability to jam out to one of the greatest metal albums ever made. I hope so….

  3. Khriss Bliss says:

    I use a Dunc Distortion to approximate his tone, but i believe he was using JBs at the time. And Friedman used either a JB jr or JBJ, as did Al Pitrelli when he joined. But i dont use more than 22 watts. 50 watts tube amps can push alot of air with most any pickup, but i suggest at least alnico 8 or ceramic when rockin smaller combo wattages if you want that minimum DZJUGG in the low string chords.

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