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How to Capture Mick Mars’ Mötley Crüe Guitar Tone

The next in a series of step-by-step guides to home recording

Jim Dalrymple

If I said we were going to take a look at Robert Deal’s guitar tone, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article. However, put Mick Mars’s name in there and here you are.
Mick Mars (born Robert Deal) started one of the craziest heavy metal bands of all time ― Mötley Crüe. Mars began the band with bassist Nikki Sixx in 1981 after posting an ad in a Los Angeles newspaper. Singer Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee also joined that year, rounding out the line-up of the celebrated Crüe.
Mötley Crüe was brash, loud and didn’t seem to care about anything but playing music and partying more than anyone else. By all accounts, they did a remarkably good job at doing all of those things.
Mars is actually a blues guitar player at heart and it shows in a lot of his songs. He spent years in blues bands around L.A. before forming Mötley Crüe, and luckily he brought those influences to the new music.
I’m a big fan of Mars’ early Crüe music and of the latest album Saints of Los Angeles. For me, Saints is a great album, maybe outdone only by Shout at the Devil.
Of course, there were a lot of albums in between and some good songs, but they just weren’t as raw as those two albums.
“Shout at the Devil,” “Looks That Kill,” “Too Young to Fall In Love,” “Saints of Los Angeles,” “Kickstart My Heart” ― I could go on endlessly here, but those are just a few of the classic guitar riffs that Mars wrote over the years.
I was saddened to see Mick struggle with illness in the later part of his career that eventually caused scoliosis. However, after hip replacement surgery, Mars made a triumphant comeback to Mötley Crüe, eventually recording on the band’s new album.
Mick has a lot of gear, including many Gibson models. He has used Les Paul Customs, a Gibson Flying V, Fender Strats, Kramers and PRS, among others.
His amps weren’t quite as plentiful as the guitars. It will probably come as no surprise when I tell you Mars used a Marshall JCM800 ― that is the ultimate hard rock amp, after all. He also used a Soldano amp. In addition to a Dunlop Crybaby, Mars also used a lot of rack gear in his setup.
We wanted to give everyone a chance to be able to download the preset for their favorite application. So, to make this tone on the computer, I am going to use three applications, not just one like I normally do. I’ll be using IK Multimedia’s AmpliTube, Line 6 Pod Farm and Native Instruments’ Guitar Rig 3.
Since the presets are available to download for the major applications, I won’t go over the detailed settings ― you can just download it and install it in your application.
I will, however, give you some tips I found when making the tone. The most important thing to remember when making a tone for Mick Mars is to not overdo the distortion.
You can do a lot when you start off with the right amp, so using a lot of high-gain distortion isn’t really necessary. In fact, two of the three tones I made for Mick Mars don’t even have a distortion effect in them. I let the amps do the work.
I am using a high-gain guitar when making the tones, so keep that in mind when you start playing. All three tones have a lot of room to push the gain up if you need to.
I was listening to Saints of Los Angeles when making these tones. I hope you enjoy playing some Mötley Crüe songs as much as I do.

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