Robert Fripp

In The Box: "Level 5" - Robert Fripp

I’ve always been attracted to the wonderful guitar tones created by progressive guitar players. In particular King Crimson was a real driving force of such magnificent potpourri of guitar recordings. Of course, you can’t talk about King Crimson without tipping your hat to the founder and tone guru Robert Fripp. There are so many landmark recordings to choose from, but I wanted to start chasing the tone on the song “Level 5” from the 2003 King Crimson album The Power To Believe. It possesses heavy guitar riffs that the band has become known for over a cacophony of drum grooves. Number one, I love this track because it is an instrumental, letting the Fripptonics shine through as the lead instrument and number two it holds a mystifying hypotonic excitement, attracting the listener like a moth to a flame. His guitar tone can be emulated by using many of the Plug-ins available on the market today.

First, I zero in on the components of the tone I’m trying to emulate. To achieve Fripp’s “Level 5” guitar tone, I determined that I had to craft a sound emulating the following:

Level 5 Tone Characteristics

  • Overdriven humbucking tone
  • Long sustain of single notes
  • Distorted saturation in chords
  • Violin tone on higher registered notes

There are many excellent amp plug-ins out there, but I used Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro (via an Avid Fast Track Duo interface). If you use another plug-in, you can probably approximate my choices, as many manufacturers provide a “usual suspects” menu of similar amp flavors, even if they go by different patch names.

The Chase Begins

After establishing my “sound goals,” I used a 1983 Kramer Striker with a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates in the bridge position, through the Studio Devil Pro Preset #009 Hi Gain Rack to achieve that “Fripptronics.”

Studio Devil Amp Modeler Pro (See Pix 1)

Pix 1

  • First Preset #009 “Hi Gain Rack” and chose Preamp setting #14 – “Rack Preamp” (Pix 2)
  • I activated the “Graphic EQ” boosting the low-mids and highs for that clear massive guitar riff tone in the song
  • I chose a “4x12 Modern” speaker cabinet (Pix 3)
  • For the cabinet EQ setting I chose the 32K on the slider
  • Lastly I activated the gate to restrain the noise from the preamp and set the “Hall Reverb” to 12 o’clock to give some ambience
Pix 2

Pix 2

I had fun experimenting with this track and enjoyed the many choices for detailed adjustments that the Studio Devil had to offer. I like the fact that I was able to adjust the filter size of the cabinet in the room and dial in the low-mids with the Graphic EQ. Another real advantage is being able to activate a noise gate, reverb size, which can make all of the difference when recording. It is also worth noting, if you don’t want to mess with the graphic control EQ, there are separate bass, mid, treble and presence controls in the pre-amp section, as well as a gain control and boost toggle switch.

Pix 3


BRIAN TARQUIN is the winner of multiple Emmy Awards, having established himself as a top-rate TV composer/guitarist. In 2006, SESAC honored him with the Network Television Performance Award. In addition, Tarquin has produced and composed the Guitar Masters series, trading licks with such guitar greats as Leslie West, Steve Morse, Billy Sheehan, Frank Gambale, Andy Timmons, Chris Poland (Megadeth) and Hal Lindes (Dire Straits). For further information, visit briantarquin.com.