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When it comes to achieving a killer metal tone, many guitarists believe that custom guitars are an absolute necessity. The idea of owning a guitar explicitly tailored to their preferences can be enticing. However, the truth is that you don't need a custom guitar to achieve a fantastic metal tone. In fact, renowned companies like Ormsby, Ibanez, ESP, and others offer stock models that come loaded with excellent sounding pickups and top-quality hardware. In this article, we'll explore the world of stock models and explain why they are more than capable of delivering the goods, you just need to know what you’re looking for.

The Myth of Custom Guitars

Custom guitars have long been associated with achieving the ultimate metal tone. There is a common misconception that only a guitar built to specific specifications can produce the desired sound. While custom guitars certainly have their merits and can provide a unique playing experience, they are by no means a requirement for modern metal. The market is filled with exceptional stock models from reputable manufacturers that are designed specifically for delivering powerful and aggressive tones. Companies like Ormsby, Ibanez, and ESP have proven their expertise in crafting instruments that meet the demands of metal guitarists worldwide.

Quality Stock Models in the Market

While there are many companies to discuss, Ormsby, Ibanez, and ESP are renowned guitar manufacturers known for producing high-quality instruments that cater to metal players. When you look at the lineup of guitars they offer, you'll find a wide range of models specifically designed for modern metal. It’s a safe bet that many of the modern metal guitarists you listen to are probably endorsed by Ormsby, Ibanez, or ESP.

Ormsby guitars have garnered substantial recognition within the metal music community. These instruments are highly regarded for their quality, often featuring components sourced from renowned manufacturers such as Seymour Duncan and Bare Knuckle for their pickups. Ormsby's product lineup encompasses a wide array of body shapes, neck profiles, and finishes, catering to diverse playing styles and tonal preferences among guitarists.

( 📸: Ormsby Guitars)

Notable modern metal Ormsby guitarists: Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Alan De La Torre (Traitors), Dakota Alvarez (Hollow Front), Brian Moore (The Browning), Neal Tiemann (Carnifex)

Ibanez, a brand that needs no introduction in the guitar world, has long been associated with metal music. Their stock models, such as the RG and S series, are revered for their fast necks, powerful pickups, and solid construction. Ibanez guitars have been wielded by many metal icons, and their affordability makes them accessible to a wide range of guitarists.

Notable modern metal Ibanez guitarists: JB Brubaker (August Burns Red), Sabian Lynch (Alpha Wolf), Jake Bowen (Periphery), Tim Henson & Scott LePage (Polyphia), Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah)

(📸: Bandwagon Asia)

ESP, another prominent player in the metal guitar market, has a reputation for crafting instruments that excel in delivering heavy tones. Their stock models, like the LTD series, boast high-output pickups and robust hardware to withstand the aggressive playing styles often associated with metal music.

Notable modern metal ESP guitarists: Michael Valeri (Brand of Sacrifice), Cody Fuentes & Alex Tehrani (Spite), Neil Westfall (A Day To Remember), Josh Middleton (Architects), Joakim Karlsson & Nicholas Ruffilo (Bad Omens)

Note: Many of these artists have their own custom models with these companies. We just wanted to show you who is using which guitar company. These companies also offer affordable stock models.

The Advantages of Stock Models

While custom guitars offer a level of personalization and exclusivity, stock models come with their own set of advantages, particularly for metal guitarists:

  1. Affordability: Stock models are generally more affordable than custom guitars, making them accessible to a wider range of musicians. This affordability allows metal guitarists to invest in other essential gear or explore different tonal options without breaking the bank.
  2. Accessibility: Stock models from reputable manufacturers like Ormsby, Ibanez, and ESP are widely available through various retailers, both online and in physical stores. This accessibility means you can easily try out different models, compare them, and choose the one that suits your preferences.
  3. Versatility: Stock models offer a wide range of options and configurations to cater to different metal subgenres and playing styles. Whether you prefer a super strat design for shredding or a single-cut for crushing rhythms, you'll find stock models that fit the bill. These guitars often come with versatile pickup configurations, allowing you to explore various tonal possibilities.
  4. Customization Potential: While stock models come with excellent pickups and hardware, they can still be customized to suit your specific needs. You can swap out pickups, modify the wiring, or make other adjustments to fine-tune the guitar's sound to your liking. This customization potential allows you to tailor the instrument without starting from scratch.

By choosing a high-quality stock model, metal guitarists can enjoy the advantages of affordability, accessibility, versatility, and customization potential without compromising on tone and playability.

( 📸: Ibanez)

Modern Metal Tone without Custom Guitars

Now that we've established that stock models can deliver exceptional metal tones, let's explore how you can achieve a modern metal sound without the need for a custom guitar. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Technique: Remember that tone is not solely determined by your gear. Your playing technique plays a vital role in achieving a great metal tone. Pay attention to your picking attack, palm muting, vibrato, and overall precision. Practice and refine your technique to get the most out of your stock model and unlock the full potential of your metal sound.
  2. Pickups: The pickups in a guitar play a crucial role in shaping your tone. Stock models from reputable manufacturers often come equipped with high-quality pickups that are specifically designed for delivering powerful and aggressive metal tones. However, if you want to fine-tune your sound further, you can explore aftermarket pickup options that cater to your preferred metal subgenre. 
  3. Strings: Choosing the right set of strings can significantly impact your metal tone. Opt for strings that provide the right balance between tension, clarity, and aggression. Experiment with different string gauges and materials to find the ones that complement your playing style and desired tone.
  4. Amplification: Your choice of amplifier and effects pedals also contributes to your metal tone. With the right combination of gain, EQ settings, and effects, you can achieve crushing rhythms and searing lead tones. Experiment with different amp models and pedal configurations to find the sound that resonates with your musical vision.


In conclusion, the idea that you need a custom guitar for a good metal tone is a myth. Companies like Ormsby, Ibanez, and ESP have proven that stock models can deliver exceptional metal tones with their high-quality pickups and hardware. These guitars offer affordability, accessibility, versatility, and customization potential, making them ideal choices for metal guitarists. By focusing on factors like your technique, pickups, strings, and amplification, you can achieve a modern metal tone with a stock model.

Remember, it's not just about the gear you have; it's about how you use it and the connections you make with other musicians. Join our Modern Metal Songwriter Facebook Group to become part of a thriving community and share your own insights and comments about modern guitars!