How To Sound Like KYUSS: Dialin’ In The Desert Sound

how to sound like kyuss
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If you play guitar and you’re after a guitar tone similar to KYUSS, you’ll need to know how Josh Homme set up his guitar and what gear he used – here’s everything you need to know…

If you want to get that quintessential desert, stoner rock sound that was originally popularised by Josh Homme and his first band KYUSS, you’ll need to first understand what guitar tuning Homme used back in the day.

From here, you’ll need to get an overview of the type of gear that Homme used to create his sound. The good news is that Homme has never been much of a fan of expensive gear – he has been known to play Epiphone guitars and an assortment of other boutique-brand guitars during his almost three-decade-long career.

What Tuning Did KYUSS Use?

In order to get that low and dirty sound, you’ll need to tune your guitar down to C Standard. The vast majority of KYUSS and early Queens of The Stone Age is in C Standard. If you don’t know what that looks like, it looks like this: CFA#D#GC – and, yes, you’ll probably need some thicker gauge strings to do it properly. I use these ones – they’re awesome.

Josh Homme’s KYUSS Era Guitars & Guitar Rig

As for guitars, Homme has used all sorts throughout his career. He used an Epiphone Dot pretty extensively while recording Songs For The Deaf, for instance, and during his KYUSS years, he can be seen using a trio of 1984 Ovation Ultra GP 1431 guitars. He has a red one, a sunburst one, and a black one. During his time in KYUSS, this model of guitar was Josh’s daily driver.

how to sound like kyuss

With cabinets and amps, Homme has a pretty massive selection. But in the context of KYUSS, he used a Marshall JCM900 100 watt head paired with an Ampeg 8×10 cabinet. This was his most-used set during the KYUSS years. And it was actually designed for bass guitars. But Homme used it to create effect to create KYUSS’ iconic, bass-heavy guitar sound.

This is the most commonly spotted rig that Homme used during his KYUSS years. He was also known to switch things up, though, especially in the studio. Homme has also been known to use Ampeg SVT cabinets, an Ampeg V-4B head, a Sunn Model T Amplifier Head, a Peavey Decade, and an Ampeg VT-40 amplifier. The dude likes Ampeg.

What Pedals Do You Need To Get “That KYUSS” Sound?

Back in the day, contrary to popular belief, Josh Homme didn’t use many pedals at all with KYUSS. The vast majority of his guitar tone came from his amp settings. He did use a wah-wah pedal, likely a Dunlop Cry Baby, and Boss SD-1 to push the signal for solos and lead parts but for the most part, Homme didn’t touch pedals in his KYUSS years.

Many reports and articles claim Homme used an Electro-Harmonix Big Muff to get his iconic sound. But this was not the case. The bulk of KYUSS’ guitar tone came from how Homme set up his amps and the style of amp he used – the dude used bass cabinets and amp heads for a lot of KYUSS’ records and when they play live. This is where ALL the low-end came from.

And most of the guitar effects featured on KYUSS records were achieved by esoteric microphone positioning, using old and unorthodox equipment, like bass amps, and a load of other stuff that is now part of the never-ending mystery of how Josh Homme gets his guitar tone. It is the stuff of legend. And it is stories like the one below that made Homme’s guitar tone such a talking point.

Some modulation sounds are present on Kyuss albums as well, but at least a handful of these were created in the studio using unorthodox recording methods. Engineer Joe Barresi has stated that some of the phase and flange-like tones on Blues for the Red Sun were created by an assistant engineer who stood in front of Homme’s cabinets swinging a Shure SM57 in circles over his head.

How To Play Guitar Like Josh Homme

Part of Josh’s style is that he takes things away when he plays. But subtracting notes from power chords and/or scales, he effectively creates a completely different, odd sound while still managing to keep in key with what’s going on around him. He even has his very own scale named after him – The Josh Homme Scale.

Basically, he’s a very creative player. He grew up on ZZ Top, The Vaselines, The Ramones, The Misfits, and a punch of other punk and hardcore bands. These all informed how he approached guitar in his early years, helping him to develop his own, iconic sound. And it is this sound that made KYUSS so influential and it is also what turned his second band, Queens of The Stone Age, into one of the biggest bands on the planet as well.

I don’t know Josh Homme, so rather than me making educated guesses about what he does and doesn’t do on the guitar, why not just get a quick lesson on his style, where it came from, and how he approaches things like licks and solos, from the man himself?



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