Paul Gilbert - The Curse of Castle Dragon - Cover by Tommo. Experimenting with tones and hand position

EDIT: here’s the version that I ended up posting on youtube. Not perfect but at some point you gotta stop and move on :slight_smile: - Tabs and technical notes will follow.

Hey All,
It’s been a while since I managed to record something nice! I have been practicing Curse of Castle Dragon by Paul Gilbert quite obsessively for the last two months, and in the past couple of days I stumbled upon a right hand position that seems to make Paul’s palm-muted shenanigans a bit easier for me. I think it also facilitates an almost-neutral pickslant, so it works well for the usual 3nps clichés.

It is similar to the Gambale position, with a closed fist except for the pinky that glides on the pickguard. Aesthetically I like it less than my default hand position but hey, it seems to do the job for this style. It is also quite comfortable for the downpicking sections of the song (and I usually hate downpicking, so this was a nice surprise).

With this position I managed to get a couple of decent takes of the song in the past two days (still featuring more or less obvious mistakes though).

You can see the new position in action in this practice recording which is almost all double tracked (except for the main solo). IIrc the videos are from the right channel.

I combined stuff from two different recording sessions, as it might be obvious :slight_smile:

EDIT: DIs, bass/drums midis and reaper files can be found at

Apart from what I described there’s no “cheating” so there’s a few warts here and there.

The tone is all done with VST plugins:
Nembrini Noise Gate -> Mercuriall SS11X Lead Channel (all at noon) -> TPA1 power amp (stock settings) > Pulse IR loader with one Ownhammer Vox Ac30 room mic IR panned left and a Fender cab panned right (also room mic) > Nembrini room reverb.

I will do some more tests with mixing the various takes I have recorded, to see if I can come up with a better version to publish publicly on YT.

In the meantime, let me know what you think and if you have any advice on tone or how to make the best of my takes at the mixing stage, and let us discuss this new hand position if anyone wants to try it :slight_smile:


When you’re 100% ready regarding the audio, send me the DI tracks, I would like to make a full mix of that. You sound fantastic by the way, that obsessive thing must work. :grinning:


Super clean technique, and very nice rhythmic playing. And also, your fretting hand technique is as good as your picking. Keep it up.


You’re my hero of the day! I remember buying the GOOMY DVD back when Paul released it, more or less just for this very song. Sadly, I was far away from learning the fast licks, maybe in part because being stuck in “inside and outside picking” terminology. Now that CtC made me aware of certain motions and mechanics it might be time for another try.

I really can’t contribute anything helpful but well earned praise here. I like that you kept gain quite low, but maybe you can try to add a tad bit more to hold the sustain of these meaty, wide PG-Bends in this song a bit longer.

By the way, I now recall posting a somewhat similar comment on your Erotomania thread exactly a year ago. Better really start practicing in 2020! :smiley:


Thanks all, very nice and encouraging as usual :slight_smile:

You motivate me further to try and make a final mix with the takes I have. Because if I try to record this some more I might go mad :sweat_smile:


Killer. What specifically is different about the hand position? In general I still see the two “forms” we’ve talked about, your downstroke escape one and the slightly more flexed USX form. That nice bit around 3:20 is a cool demonstration of how to do 2nps lines with each of these ‘modes’. That’s UD-UD on the stop strings, right? Nice work.s


Besides being an awesome player, tommo has been helping me quite a lot with my technique and I met him virtually thanks to this forum.

It’s the best guitar community I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you Troy as well, for your eye opening content and this healthy community.


Thanks for stopping by @Troy! I know there’s always a lot to do at CTC headquarters so I really appreciate that you took the time to listen / watch to this level of detail.

Well spotted about the 3:20 mark! On the middle strings I am using USX, on the high strings DSX.

The novelty of this Gambale-ish position is that the primary usx and primary dsx forms are a bit closer to each other, and it is easier to do palm muted lines with both forms (in my more standard forms I can only palm mute from the primary usx setup - and with palm muting engaged I have much reduced “2way pickslanting” capabilities).

As already mentioned, all this positive feedback encourages me to do a bit more auditioning of my takes to produce a final mix of this song in the next week or two. I will accompany that with my usual TLDR analysis and transcription if it can be of interest :slight_smile:

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Superb playing Tommo! Sounding terrific on this guitar.
You have a great ear for these tracks, it’s got those time machine type of passages, love it.


Hey @Twangsta! Been a while :smiley:

Thanks @hamsterman, although I can often do the “grip of death” on the neck when I’m playing something difficult - I’m a bit of a heavy-handed player with both hands (one intentional, one not so much)

Good point, you spotted one of the bits where I struggled with getting an expressive sound. I may try also to add some delay to achieve the same result.

@BillHoudini (and anyone who may be interested), here is a shared folder with the DIs I used, the bass/drums midi, and two reaper files showing how the various takes are spliced together. I hope it all works as intended. Looking forward to hearing your version :slight_smile:

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Here is a very rough mix, I couldn’t get my cymbals to sound properly, but life is too short for that!

I used Howard Benson’s STL Tonality suite for the guitar sounds, the Valhalla Room Reverb and the EZMix for some pseudo-mastering.

Hope you like it!


Wow cool mix @BillHoudini, there is much more note definition in this tone, especially on the “Paul Gilbert Lick” on the low strings!

Did you use a Marshall amp & cab, and did you have to remove a lot of bass? I prefer the timbre of Vox & Fender cabs but I really love the way the notes are popping out here.

For example I am very happy that now I can hear all the notes in the ascending/descending runs at 0:56 and 1:04.

The only downside of this is that it is easier to hear some small timing issues, both between the two takes and between the takes and the very exact midi backing track (hehe yes let’s blame the machine!) - for example at the beginning of the main riff at 0:49.

Is there any way to compensate for that without editing my takes? By the way, did you have to edit something in the takes?

I used the “Wizard” amp sim on the Suite, it’s a very close simulation of the Wizard Modern Classic, a Canadian take on the whole “modded Marshall” thing. It’s my favourite amp sim to practice and record with. For convenience, I didn’t use any external IRs, I used the matching cab provided in the Suite.

The whole thing was boosted with the Mercuriall Greed Smasher, a very accurate emulation of the Mesa Boogie Grid Slammer. It’s an overdrive with a lot of character in my opinion and quite versatile.

On this particular signal chain I didn’t have to remove any Bass, I set it at 4.5-5, that’s the good thing with modded Marshalls even in an amp sim format, they don’t have those bass “farting” issues.

Of course all this is my aesthetic on the whole “hot rodded rock tone” thing. It’s quite unforgiving as you noticed and this is probably why I think I suck all the time! :joy:

Unfortunately I’m not a good DAW editor, so I can’t really manipulate the takes in that way, but we could always keep the best of the two and record a new one when you’re back from your break from all that recording madness. By the way, recording two takes on this is insane and fantastic at the same time.

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Don’t encourage me to go down this rabbit hole :rofl:

I’m not a huge fan of manipulating the takes, but I thought one could maybe modify the midis a bit so that they follow better the guitar… is that cheating? :thinking::thinking:

That is possible, the unfortunate thing is that we would have to sync 3 things. First the takes 1 and 2 between them and then those two with the midi tracks. It’s a lot of work for someone that doesn’t know the DAW inside out. I guess a professional studio guy could do this in 5min.

I don’t think it’s necessary though, it’s not a perfect result, but it sounds phenomenal in my opinion.

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I think I may have found a less “cheaty” way :smiley:

I think it’s the very sharp attack of the overdriven bass that emphasizes bits where I’m not exactly “on the grid”. With a clean bass with softer attack, like in the video I posted, these small deviations are less obvious.

I’m going to make a mixing attempt with Mercuriall Spark this evening, to try and get something closer to what you did!

Here is a new mix, where I tried to interpolate between Bill’s version and mine - I’m now using the crunch channel of the Mercuriall SS11-X for the double-tracked parts, boosted by a Greed Smasher:

Tommo Castle Dragon Crunchier.mp3 (5.3 MB)

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Nice tones Bill, I’ve got to look into those plugins; I haven’t been able to enjoy DI for a while now. I miss the convenience.

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Thanks @Twangsta ! I really like that suite, probably because it has a very good modelled Plexi and a modded Plexi as well. I don’t use anything else to be honest, I had an Axe Fx but sold it because I wasn’t gigging and I was only using 2-3 amps.

The Howard Benson Suite along with Mercuriall and Neural DSP are the go to plugins for guitar in my opinion.

@tommo that’s a very nice end result. You can rest now, I know this whole thing drove you crazy haha


You should see my partner who had to listen to all the versions* (and is not a fan of shred guitar) :joy:

I’ll sync with the videos and put in on YT on the next few days.
(unfortunately I lost almost the whole performance for one of the channels as I didn’t realise the camera SD card was full!)

*=during breakfast, and on a totally voluntary basis