Guitar Tones and Making of ‘Christmas Presence’

Latest Album Heavy Metal Workout II

‘Christmas Presence’ is my first single-release, and hence the title, it’s a Christmas instrumental track. I love this holiday season and have aways wanted to write a Christmas song.

My original version of Christmas Presence was written and recorded back in 2012. Earlier this year, I decided to revisit this song as I wanted to release it. I ended up re-recording the entire song from scratch as there were many changes I wanted to make. In short, I wanted this to be an original track with a hint of Christmas carols rather than a cover or rendition.

» Buy/Listen to Christmas Presence on iTunes

» Buy Christmas Presence on Amazon

» Listen to Christmas Presence on Spotify

» Buy Christmas Presence on CD Baby

Christmas Presence Guitar Tones

I want to elaborate on the guitar tones and recording process for this track. First I’ll cover the amps and devices I used for all of the electric guitar tracks.

Like most of my albums and releases, I typically record two rhythm guitars and hard-pan each track. This gives you that full sound. I don’t get into layering; that seems overkill (just my opinion). For this particular song, I also have some melodic harmonizing leads which are also panned. The guitar solos and bass tracks are up the middle, and drums are done in stereo.

Fender Mustang IV for Rhythm and Melodies

For the rhythm and melodic harmonizing leads, I used the Fender Mustang IV 2×12 combo. This is a modeling amp with a decent array of tones. I miked this amp using the Shure SM57 mic.

I used the American 90’s amp setting. I believe this is modeled after the Mesa Dual Rectifier, though I’m not certain. But this tone really help captivate the feel of the song.

Positive Grid BIAS FX for Leads

For the actual guitar solos, I used the plugin that I’ve been using for quite some time now, and almost exclusively. Positive Grid’s BIAS FX. This is their amp and effects package. I also used this on my last full album, Heavy Metal Workout.

The guitar solos were recorded using the ’04 Insane 5153 amp paired with the 4×12 Celestion V30 cabinet. This combination gives you a phenomenal lead tone. It has that driving hard rock-heavy metal tone and stands out in the mix.

POD HD500 for Clean/Ambient

There’s a specific ambient tone I created several years ago using the Line 6 POD HD500. I know some may frown upon using this unit for an album or official release. But I love this tone and have yet to find anything that replicates it.

I’m using the Blackface amp model with heavy reverb and delay. The reverb is the highlight, and Line 6 calls this effect Particle Verb. It gives me that deep, spacey tone. I’m also using a delay with modulation. This adds to the ambient feel I was going for when I created the tone.

Acoustic and Bass Guitar Tones

I’ll briefly cover the acoustic and bass guitar tones I used for Christmas Presence. The acoustic was recorded direct using a Presonus Studio One Pro compressor and EQ plugin. Ideally, I’d prefer to record my acoustic tracks with a mic but I don’t have the proper room setup for that. The acoustic in this song was minimal so recording direct worked just fine.

For bass, I used my trusted Studio Devil Virtual Bass Amp plugin. I’ve been using this plugin for a few years now (this was also used on Heavy Metal Workout). To me, this amp sim surpasses every other bass plugin I’ve used.

Toontrack Metal Machine

I don’t play drums well enough to record them professionally, and I’ve yet to partner with a drummer (I hope this changes in the near future). So I’ve been using Toontrack software.

I have both EZ Drummer and Superior Drummer. Since I don’t get into the deep editing, I mainly use EZ Drummer with the Metal Machine expansion pack, which has some amazing kits and sounds.

The first step in my method for using drum software is finding loops that are appropriate for each section of the song (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, solo, etc.). Then I’ll go into those sections and make changes as I see fit. For example, I may want more toms at the end of a section, or a crash, or create my own fill, and so forth. I end up customizing the loops. This requires a bit of patience.

Recording Christmas Presence

Now that I’ve gone through the guitar tones, I’ll chat about the recording process. Although I had the tracks for the original version that I recorded four years ago, I made the decision to start from scratch.

I wasn’t entirely happy with the original arrangement. It sounded too much like a rendition of Carol of the Bells. My goal was to have an original Christmas song yet throw in hints of familiar Christmas melodies, just enough to give it that true Christmas vibe.

I started recording the clean-ambient guitar track first, as that’s the intro and slowly builds up. From there, I threw in some basic drum loops from Toontrack Metal Machine to serve as a metronome (I prefer to lay the initial tracks with drums rather than the click track). Then I started recording the rhythm tracks with the Fender Mustang.

Once I had the rhythms and laid down the melodic leads, followed by the bass track and drums. I like to save the guitar solos for last and those are the most time consuming. The solos took weeks. I couldn’t seem to capture what I wanted at first, but I eventually nailed it. I spent some extra time with the drums too, as this is a multi-part song with a timing change.

Single Release – Christmas Presence

Christmas Presence was fun to write and record! As I said in the beginning, I love Christmas time; it is indeed my favorite time of the year.

I hope you enjoyed this write-up on the making of Christmas Presence. I have have a similar post on my main musician site, which you can read here: – The Making of Christmas Presence.

Keep it Metal,


» Buy/Listen to Christmas Presence on iTunes

» Buy Christmas Presence on Amazon

» Listen to Christmas Presence on Spotify

» Buy Christmas Presence on CD Baby

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