Here's my Cliff Burton Effects/Pedals Analysis. Also, I'm trying to improve upon his bass tone, and

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Andy Kromer, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Andy Kromer

    Andy Kromer

    Dec 7, 2016
    This is going to be a long one guys, so bear with me please!

    And by the way, I'm also posting this on Reddit, so if you want to see opinions over there, here is the link:

    A little background:

    Clifford Lee Burton was a bass player for the thrash metal band Metallica. He died in a tragic bus accident in 1986 when the bus slipped on black ice and fell on him. He was known for his unconventional playing style, wildly soloing on his bass like a guitar player, and he used a myriad of pedals to get his signature bass tone.

    List of his gear (note that this spans the first three albums of Metallica)


    Rickenbacker 4001 Burgundy Glo

    Alembic Spoiler (stolen)

    Aria Pro II SB 1000

    Aria Pro II SB Black n' Gold (replaced his Rickenbacker, as he didn't think the Ric was good for the road)

    Effects Pedals (Note that this is all throughout Metallica's first three albums):

    Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi

    CS-2 BOSS Compressor

    Morley Tel-ray Power Fuzz Wah (some people say he used a Boost instead of Fuzz, but this is wrong)

    Ibanez TS808 (an overdrive pedal that sometimes replaced his Big Muff when he played live)


    Mesa Boogie D-180, 200 watt All Tube Bass Amplifier

    Mesa Boogie 4x12 Cabinet

    Peavey Mark IV Series 400 Bass Amp

    My Goal: To replicate and expand upon his sound. One of the major problems with his sound was that all of his pedals were made for guitar, not bass. This sucked the bass out of his tone, as the pedals weren't made to handle those low frequencies. I'm going to try to get all of the BASS versions of his gear. One of the things I would like is that there should be an option to configure the pedals in such a way to make it sound exactly like the guitar version, but this isn't strictly required for me to be satisfied.

    My Gear:


    A Hohner 5 string bass with Cliff's favorite brand strings (rotosound steels) (I'm trying to get a high quality 4 string bass, maybe a Ric 4003)

    Effects (I have questions for most of them which I will list after the gear):

    CS-3 BOSS Compressor

    Electro Harmonix Bass Big Muff Pi

    Cliff Burton Tribute Series Power Fuzz Wah (modern fuzz setting)

    Ibanez TS9B (B is for Bass)

    All of the settings for the pedals (excepts for the TS9B) I'm going to use the settings that are on this amazing video that NAILS his tone, and this is the closest thing to his studio tone that I could find.


    Ampeg BA-108 bass amp all settings at 12 o'clock (I will try to get a more high quality bass amp, I have some pretty bottom line stuff when it comes to basses and amps)

    Alright, here come the questions!

    About the CS-3 Compressor: I've heard that it's not very good compared to the CS-2. Is it worth the extra 50$ for the CS-2? Also, is the CS-2 is compatible with bass? Again, I'm trying to get his tone but with a good low end.

    About my tribute wah pedal: There are two big differences between the original tel-ray and this updated tribute version that worry me. One, there is no tone knob for the fuzz, only intensity and level. Will this affect my tone? Two, the tribute version is an optical wah, which is unlike other Morely Wah Pedals. This gives me some sweep issues where the wah is concentrated in the middle. Any thoughts? I do NOT want to take it apart and mod it.

    Another separate issue I want to bring up is how the tribute's wah doesn't like to get along with separate fuzz boxes, so I've heard. Are there any solutions? I've also heard that you need a buffer or something like that.

    About the Ibanez TS9B: Cliff used a TS808. How different do they sound? Plus, I have no idea what the settings would be when he uses this live. What do you think?

    About my amp: I have Treble, Mids, and Bass knobs. What should their settings be? I don't know much about EQ.

    If you've made it this far, thank you for taking your time to read this, I really do appreciate it. If you could try to answer at least one of my questions that would be amazing!
  2. ERicks


    Feb 22, 2014
    I think a big thing to keep in mind is that any player's technique and approach on the instrument is going to have a bigger influence on their sound than any gear will. That said, if you want to take Cliff's sound and use it for a jumping off point on your own, I'm not sure that you need specific pedals, bass version or not....the idea being-take what he used, or at least the types of pedals, and check a bunch of stuff out, see what works for you and what doesn't. There are some mistakes (the Peavey amp, some of the Morley stuff, etc) in the gear you have listed for him, but that's trivial...there's a ton more stuff available now than when he was alive, and I'm sure if he was still around he would be taking advantage of what we've got now. It's fun to go down the rabbit hole with specific gear a dude used, and I definitely check it out myself sometimes, but you can hear how even Cliff took his influences like Geezer Butler and Hendrix and put his own spin on their sounds and styles to come up with his own thing. It seems like you've got a good set of pedals right now-I would think an upgrade to your amp might be the best way to get an improved sound over what you've listed here. Otherwise, take what gear you have and learn each of them inside and out and how they work together, and learn how to make the most of them under YOUR fingers rather than trying to figure out what specific settings Cliff used...I guarantee he changed his settings depending on the situation.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2016
  3. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    IMO this is a huge waste of time. His tone isn't worth obsessing over. There are awesome shaging pedals and amps and basses out there that you could be trying instead of being like a horse of other bass players trying to sound like one other bass player.

    Don't forget, everything's sounds different in the studio.

    The Morley Wah apparently isn't great, I haven't read a single good review of the Bass Tubescreamer, the Bass Muff is crap compared to many of the clones available of old Muffs, and the CS2 & 3 really suck tone and low end.
  4. Andy Kromer

    Andy Kromer

    Dec 7, 2016
    Thanks guys. I guess I was acting like a fanboy and got carried away. Really carried away.
    Reggie Hamilton likes this.
  5. Ba55Man1ac

    Ba55Man1ac Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Treble is your friend. Forget bass-specific pedals. Want that wah to scream... ditch the Bass Muff & TS & go for geetar versions.

    There are several big Burton-related threads here.
  6. Andy Kromer

    Andy Kromer

    Dec 7, 2016
    Isn't the bass muff better by default though since you can turn off the bass boost whenever you want?
  7. Ba55Man1ac

    Ba55Man1ac Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Yep definitely should do that, but the fuzz voicing is quite different too. A shame it doesn't have a treble boost. The gtr version is less scooped & has more gain.

    My Morley screams like a banshee running into my Animato clone (a very treble-heavy fuzz).
    Andy Kromer likes this.
  8. LSMFT6

    LSMFT6 We brake for nobody Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2006

    Good luck on your quest, sounds like you're off to a good start. My birthday happens to be 9/27/86, if that helps :thumbsup:
    Andy Kromer likes this.
  9. Andy Kromer

    Andy Kromer

    Dec 7, 2016
    Does the "dry" type help at all?
  10. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 15, 2003
    I think Cliff died on the 26th.... are you hinting you are Cliff reincarnated? =0)
  11. LSMFT6

    LSMFT6 We brake for nobody Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2006
    All the info I've ever been able to find says the 27th, including his obituary, headstone and Wiki page :ninja:
  12. DDXdesign

    DDXdesign formerly 'jammadave' Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 15, 2003
    Doh, my mistake, all these years I thought it was the 26th. Either way, I'm keeping an eye on you, cliffy.
  13. gregmon79

    gregmon79 I did it for the muff... Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    You also have to remember if you're trying to mimic his tone SPECIFICALLY, you should try and get the EXACT gear he used. It makes a difference. I also wouldn't bother getting bass specific pedals. That's where some of his tone came from if thats what he used. Also, it will be very hard to get his exact tone due to the fact of how he played. No one played like him. No one. His attack and technique were HUGE in his tone. So good luck! But I really do think if you're that serious about it, you should at least match his gear. Even then though, it will be pretty tough to impossible. But you wont be the first guy to try it. Or the last.
    Helix likes this.
  14. jbybj

    jbybj Supporting Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Los Angeles
    I may be way off base here, but I'm pretty sure if you want an authentic rendition, you need to swap out the South Park characters on your amp for Simpsons characters. South Park is not period correct. Good luck in your quest.
  15. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    No problem, it was a learning moment for you (we've all been there, I think) -- and IMO, it's not a wild goose chase.

    As noted, everyone has different technique -- two players can get different tones using the exact same gear. That said, I've heard local players do a fantastic job of imitating famous musicians' tones. F'r instance, one local guy nailed the Tool bass tone using a Ken Smith Burner bass and a rack rig. I'd suggest using similar gear to Cliff, and amending as necessary. Good luck!
  16. If you change or "improve" anything it's not his tone anymore. It's yours. That's cool.
    HolmeBass and Helix like this.
  17. Slough Feg Bass

    Slough Feg Bass Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2007
    San Francisco
    ah man, scratch all that stuff ! Make it easy on yourself by just starting with some dirty toys.

    I can get a pretty mean Cliff style tone using a Bassballs pedal and a Bad Horsie wah. I found my pedulla with the bartolinis gave the meanest sound with those two pedals.

    but hey, that is just me and what I did. experiment to your heart's desire, and when the other guys give your solo spot, open that stuff up and show the people some grit & grind.
    gregmon79 likes this.
  18. That TS9B is not a great pedal. I think a Rodenberg 808B would be stellar driving your fuzz wah. It's a nice tube screamer clone with plenty of gain.

    There are numerous muff clones that give you lots of control over your mids, which will help your bass sound more like Cliff's by matching the mids his basses pumped through the Big Muff.

    And a better/bigger amp will never hurt.

    The biggest trick will be to get the guys in your band to give you an even bigger slice of the mix. Metallica has always relegated their bassists to a puny presence on their recordings, even Cliff is barely there on much of what he recorded with them.
  19. Ulf Buck

    Ulf Buck Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2015
    South Florida
    I played Seek and Destroy at a club a couple months ago using the following. 88 Peavey Dynabass both pickups dimed volume treble 12 o'clock, mid 1 o'clock, bass 1 o'clock, through a darkglass b7k ultra 3 o'clock on drive and , 1 o'clock on blend, eq flat except bass at 1 o'clock through a gk 1001rb set pretty clean with a fender 810pro . I yank extra hard on the string for this song it sounds mean and nasty I like it. Wack on 4 string e chord during the wah part.

    Indulge me below with crappy phone vid. I have to alter the bass line (less percussive, notes ring longer etc...) due to one guitar in the band but the crowd dug it.
  20. Ba55Man1ac

    Ba55Man1ac Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Sydney, Australia
    Hmm give it a go. I can definitely hear some dry blended in to some of his solos (6:35 of Orion for example). You might want to route the dry around the wah though... perhaps a Boss LS-2 to loop & mix.
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