Brian "Head" Welch
From Guitar Player Online=
After the shred wave crested in the early '90s, it seemed that Steve Vai's progeny -- a horde of young players wielding rainbow-swirled 6- and 7-string Ibanez guitars -- were losing interest in the acrobatic guitar that epitomized late-'80s rock. As the post-Vai generation abandoned the ideal of guitar virtuosity, they became obsessed with sounding heavy -- very heavy. Many achieved this heaviness by tuning their guitars down a whole-step or more.
That hunger for bowel-waggling chunk is what brought the 7-string back from the near-dead. Laws of physics dictate that there's only so low you can detune a low E string before it starts to sound floppy. But try a .060 tuned down to B or A, and you're ready for some serious rumble.
One of the heaviest of this new breed of bands is Korn. With not one but two 7-string players -- plus a 5-string bassist -- Korn's bottom line is way, way low. Guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, one of the band's guitarists, says that even with a low seventh string, which he tunes to A, the band didn't feel they were getting enough low end, so he and fellow Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer went a step further. "We were one of the first bands to get really into the 7-string," says Welch. "After a while, we noticed that more people were playing 7-strings, so we thought, 'Let's go lower!' So my seventh string is tuned to A, and the rest is like a regular guitar, but a whole- step lower [D, G, C, F, A, D, low to high]." Welch uses a .060 for his bottom string, and the other six strings are from a standard Dean Markley Light Top/Heavy Bottom set (.010-.052).
Welch says he first became interested in the 7-string after jamming with Shaffer. "Munky had a 7-string and it sounded so heavy, I knew I had to get one," he says. Shaffer owned two at the time, and let Welch use his spare. Within a month, Welch decided to buy an Ibanez Universe of his own.
According to Welch, getting used to the 7-string was deceptively simple: "As far as figuring out where to go on the neck, it was really natural. I didn't have to think about it too much. I just looked at it, understood it, and that was it."
But that wasn't really "it." The confident Welch was in for a surprise. "I actually thought I had mastered the 7-string after one week of sitting at home practicing," he says, "and I figured, cool, I can play it now. But then I went to a Korn rehearsal, put a strap on my guitar, and stood up. It was totally different. My whole week of practicing sitting down was for nothing. I couldn't play anything standing up, because I had to reach around much more. The neck felt really fat, and I just wasn't used to it.
That's how Welch's style of playing bent over originated. "I had to do that at first so I could reach the chords," he reveals. "After another month of practicing, I got it all down and I didn't have to play bent way over like that anymore, but that posture became a habit."
In the studio and onstage, Korn works out its music to ensure the two 7-stringers don't step on each other and muck up the groove. "Everyone has a say," Welch says proudly. "Usually we're going for the fattest tone, and we do whatever it takes for each song. If it's not right, we change it."
On Korn's new album, Follow the Leader, Welch and Shaffer used a variety of high-wattage Mesa/ Boogie and Bogner amps, and a 100-watt Rivera Bonehead head that Welch paired with a 4x12 Rivera cabinet. The Bonehead has a separate sub-woofer output, which Welch used to feed a specially designed Rivera 2x12 Los Lobottom cabinet driven by a 320-watt Rivera TBR-5 power amp. The Rivera rig offers a bottomless cup of thump, and that's exactly what Welch was after.
For the new album, Welch used a trunkful of effects, including a Big Muff fuzzbox, a Small Stone phaser, an array of Boss pedals, and the ubiquitous DigiTech Whammy pedal -- which the guitarist used to extend the range of his 7-string guitar even further. "We didn't use the Whammy pedal for pitch bending," he explains, "but as a harmonizer. Sometimes I'd pitch my guitar up an octave and play something on the high strings. You can't tell it's a Whammy pedal, and it doesn't even sound like a guitar. It sounds more like a harp. On one song, "All in the Family," me and Munky pitched our guitars down an octave. When you hear our low As an octave lower, it sounds so heavy, it's sick!"