John Petrucci Names One Common Rhythm Guitar Tone Mistake, Explains Why He Doesn’t Use Noise Gate

Dream Theater guitar legend John Petrucci explained what he believes is a wrong approach to shaping your rhythm guitar tone. Speaking at the recent John Petrucci Guitar Universe Camp Masterclass, which was shared on Ola Englund’s YouTube, he said that adding effects to an otherwise crunchy rhythm tone for metal music might not be the best idea. After showcasing his guitar tone, Petrucci said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“And this is actually the lesson number one — I see people make a mistake with this all the time. It might be a taste thing but I’m just gonna put it out there.”

“I think your crunch sound, your main rhythm sound… And the style of music I play is more metal so I’m kind of coming from the metal perspective. If you don’t play metal, maybe this doesn’t apply. But, for me, that sound should be dry.”

John Petrucci Master Class - Tone Demonstration

As he adds, there should be no effects of any kind added to the sonic equation, except for the distortion. This also goes to dynamic effects like compression. However, as John also adds, he’s against the use of noise gates as well. He explained why that’s the case:

“Don’t put reverb on there, that is a mistake number one. No reverb, no compression, no noise gate.”

“I know a lot of people like to use noise gates. I don’t use them because I think it kind of plays with the dynamics — the natural dynamics that the amplifier has.”

There’s a whole science involved in how noise gate, or noise reduction, actually works. Without getting too geeky about the details, these devices come with a threshold parameter control. Anything below the set threshold will be eliminated.

In practice, this means that noise gate pedals remove those quiet but unwanted noises while you’re not playing. Contrary to what some people may think, it won’t “clear up” your overall tone but just remove hums, hisses, and other annoying sounds while you’re not playing. Here’s a brief guide below on how that works.

Audio Gates & Expanders Explained #1

However, as Petrucci also added, he’s not entirely against the use of noise gates. As he explains, it comes down to what kind of music you’re playing. He offered:

“But if you’re playing a style that’s very stop-and-go and you need a real heavy sound and you need to have that gate — I’ll let it pass. [Audience laughs]”

“But me, personally, I like to set the amplifier so it’s like on the verge of feeding back and then I pull it back a little bit.”

John Petrucci (Dream Theater) on his new company Tonemission, his new IR Pack, Shred vs Feel & more

In a recent interview with Killer Guitar Rigs, John Petrucci discussed his recently launched company Tonemission. So far, the brand offers an impulse response pack named John Petrucci IR Collection: Vol. 1 although it’s expected to see more of them in the near future.

Explaining how this idea came to be, John told us:

“Well, the actual idea of Tonemission in the name came a while back, many, many years ago. Because I’m just like… Most people probably listening to us or watching us just obsessed by tone and guitar sound. And the whole journey or mission that I’ve been on, it’s just very… Everybody has their own story and their own version of that.”

THIS IS WHERE IT GETS REAL! | Tonemission x John Petrucci

“But it’s very common amongst guitar players, especially in our community, where we get so passionate about what we like and so opinionated about what kind of guitar sound that we like, what kind of amps and gear and guitars and things we like to use. So the idea of a ‘tone mission’ and that word kind of came to mind many years ago.”

“And I sort of always imagined it in sort of a twofold way. One was a more generalized kind of community way where I’d like to sort of establish a place where people could share their own Tonemission stories the way that I have done my whole career. Just kind of have a place for people to do that. And obviously, these places exist all over the internet, of course. But I wanted to foster that with, with Tonemission someday.”

“And the second part — I wanted to create a brand that I could branch out with my own products and that carried that Tonemission brand and logo that would kind of equate to just being really high-quality products in this domain. They could be electronic products, they could be guitar products, hardware, software, or whatever. But it was kind of more of an open term that I use for a company that I wanted to build.”

John Petrucci - Terminal Velocity (Official Video)

“So this was a while back. And it’s taken many, many years. And I sort of finally found the first thing that I thought would be worthy of actually launching the company and everything that goes along with that. Like the website and the socials and everything else. So that’s what this is all about. But the idea came up a while back.”

Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Dreamtheater – Wacken Open Air 2015-1619 (cropped)), Kuriosatempel (Boss NF-1 Noise Gate)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.

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