Nuno Bettencourt Explains Unusual Way He Sets Up His Marshall Amp

Nuno Bettencourt, the Extreme guitarist and a modern-day virtuoso considered as one of the greatest 6-string players today, recently revealed a somewhat unusual way that he dials in the tone on his guitar amp. Promoting Extreme’s new album “Six,” Bettencourt sat down with Ultimate Guitar for an interview where he was asked about guitars and gear that he used on the record.

But, as Nuno revealed, his setup is “always pretty boring.” And despite what many might think, “boring” doesn’t mean that you’ll be getting a bad tone. He added:

“It’s always the same thing I’ve been doing. The guitar ran straight into an amp. I use a [Pro Co] Rat pedal there that I’ve been using since I was a kid. I use a Marshall, 2000 DSL.

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Going more into it, Bettencourt also explains how his amp choice can weird people out sometimes, saying:

“But when I tell people, they sometimes get confused. ‘Really? We don’t really like the way those amps sound.’ I’m like, ‘Look, it’s different amps for everybody, right?’

And, interestingly enough, this isn’t the only thing that may weird people out. Going to the way he dials in his tone, Nuno explained:

“But the way I dial it in is very different. I like to turn up loud but I don’t like the sound to be harsh or hurt me when I play loud.

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“So if somebody saw my settings on the amp, most people would think it’s a mistake. They’d say, ‘Somebody messed with your sounds.'”

“Because the high end is at 2, midrange is at 2, the bass is at like four or six, and the distortion is like at about 12 o’clock, and I don’t use Rat pedal for distortion. But when I turn it up, it sounds right. It’s warmer, it’s browner, and it suits me and I can play more progressively when most people would turn up a lot of the high-end and things like that.

During the chat, Bettencourt was also reminded of his experience playing through Eddie Van Halen’s rig and how he realized that he still sounded like himself. Ultimately, Bettencourt became one of the guitar players who’s so adamant that the very essence of one’s guitar tone actually resigns in their fingers and not the gear that they’re using.

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With the Eddie rig experience in mind, Nuno was then asked whether he thinks “there’s no need for us to spend so much time or money on buying expensive gear and just go with what we already have here in our fingers.” He replied:

“Yeah, look, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, you could have a $4,000 amplifier or you can have a $200 practice amp.

“I have this little Blackstar practicing amp that I use. If you go into my dressing room and you heard that, if you don’t know that, you would know that’s me down the hall. That’s just it.

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Now, as Nuno further added, he didn’t think that amps and other gear is completely irrelevant. It’s just that it all comes back to what you already have with you:

“Of course, amps help and effects and things like that. But no matter what you do, you’re stuck with yourself. You’re stuck with your fingers, you’re stuck with your own tone. And for me, I would prefer discovering. I think we discovered people a lot by how much they don’t use in front of their fingers.

He also added:

“I noticed that a lot with the Van Halen stuff as well. When Eddie was a little bit more… Phasers and things are different. I think I talked more about things like choruses and things that really change the modulation of the sound of the note.

Midnight Express - Nuno Bettencourt

“It’s when you really hear what somebody does when it’s hitting their fingers and it’s the most pure as it can be. And I love that.

“And I love myself a good chorus here. Delay is not what I’m talking about, delay just colors what I’m already talking about. But I think you need to be confident you need to be okay with yourself first before you start, you know, ‘wearing makeup.‘ [Laughs]

Going back to his unusual setup and not actually using the Rat pedal for distortion, Nuno did elaborate on that earlier this year. Yeah, it is one of the pedals that he said he couldn’t go without. But despite it technically being a distortion effect, Rat means something else to Nuno. He explained:

“I generally prefer going straight into my amp, except for this [Pro Co] Rat pedal that I’ve had for ages.”

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“It’s supposed to be a distortion, but I turn the distortion all the way off. It’s there purely to tighten up my bottom-end, especially for single-note riffs like ‘Suzi (Wants Her All Day What?)‘ from ‘Extreme II: Pornograffitti.‘”

“I’m the only guitar player in the band, so I want to cut through and sound big. The only way to get the response I need is through a Rat pedal. It’s been there since day one and ain’t going anywhere.”

“I tried playing without one and fuckin’ hated it! [Laughs] Other players think it’s not doing anything and would probably wonder if the battery is dead. It doesn’t change a single thing except for the tightness of the bass frequencies.”

Photos: SebastyneNet (Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt at South Park Festival in Tampere, Finland, June 2015 photo 01)

  • 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.