Grammy-nominated DragonForce has become a household name for any fan of melodic power metal, and that pivotal trait is largely credited to none other than the massively creative shredder, Herman Li. Although based around a classical style inspired by guitarists such as Joe Satriani, and Steve Vai, it’s simple enough to tell Li apart from his heroes given his palpable technical approach to the guitar.
Herman is well known for his virtuoso solos, showboat stage moves, and 80s power metal tone combined into one, with pace and melody as the cutting edge of the sensational Dragonforce. His influences go beyond the aforementioned top-shelf slingers, as Jason Becker played a huge part in Li’s understanding of composition while citing Jeff Beck as one of his primary sources of inspiration as well as notorious rhythmic players such as Keith Richards.
What Guitars Does Herman Li Use?
Herman Li plays an Ibanez EGEN18 which is his signature guitar model. He’s played his EGEN guitars throughout most of his career. Inspired by the original S Series, the EGEN is a creative and innovative designed guitar. Li has also used several other guitar models during his career.
See the full list of Herman Li guitars and gear below.
|Years Used||2007 to Present|
The EGEN18 is Li’s first signature Ibanez guitar and the first model in the E-Gen line. It was first known as the EGEN1 but was renamed the following year. It is based on Li’s previous S-series guitars, a line that served Herman mighty well up until his rise to stardom. Still, it boasts several model-specific characteristics, such as the Kung Fu Grip on the upper horn, extended sculpting on the bottom cutaway, and a few more features crafted under Li’s requirements.
The Ibanez EGEN1/EGEN18 model is one of Li’s three main guitars on stage as well as his most iconic guitar. It has a flamed maple top on a mahogany body, which is attached to a maple and walnut neck with a rosewood fingerboard that looks absolutely ferocious.
It has custom DiMarzio HLM pickups that were primarily designed to produce Herman’s powerful, distinctive sound. To support Li’s wild whammy stunts, a modified version of the Edge Zero tremolo bridge has also been provided.
This modification limits the movement of the bar to give Li more control over the sound of his insane whammy licks. It gives him the ability to get the perfect pitch of the note he wants when he does vibrato. The Egen 18 also has a Luminlay fretboard for clarity during dark stage shows.
The first Egen 18 that Li got from Ibanez is his favorite. He has used the guitar so often that its original Matte Finish has been completely buffed to make it into a gloss finish guitar. He has cracked the body of the guitar multiple times and has also cracked the headstock once, which he filmed himself while it was being fixed on a YouTube video.
Li has grown quite attached to this guitar over the years as he himself has agreed to have played this guitar to hell and back. When asked why he did not replace it when it broke, he said that this particular model is unique and sounds better than any other piece in his catalog. The original 18 is simply irreplaceable for him.
|Years Used||2010 to Present|
The EGEN8 is a less expensive variant of the EGEN18, which was Li’s first signature model. This one, like the 18, is also modeled after the Ibanez’s S series guitars. Nevertheless, its specs and craft are a tad toned down in comparison to the original EGEN issue.
It has a flamed maple top with a rosewood fingerboard and an African mahogany body. The Edge III tremolo replaces the 18’s Edge Zero piece, and the pickups are Ibanez Vintage instead of DiMarzio HLMs.
In spite of the fact that it lacks certain premium features, the EGEN 8 is still one of the highest performing six-strings in the market with a unique seal of quality and craftmanship and needless to say, a standout piece in Li’s collection. As yet another seminal piece for the stage, it also became the first introductory axe into the Herman Li world, as the guitarist intended it to be a guitar that inspired musicians.
As a fun fact, this guitar was Li’s weapon of choice to challenge Megadeath’s Kiko Loureiro to a shredding battle, one that he took on blindfolded and absolutely destroyed.
|Years Used||1995 to 2006|
The S470 has a special place in Li’s guitar arsenal. He flaunted this sleek beauty in one of the most iconic songs of DragonForce, like ‘Through the Fire and Flames’ and ‘Operation Ground and Pound.’ It was one of the pieces that laid the ground basis for his EGEN signature line. Additional to spending over a decade as Li’s main go-to along with its sibling 540S, it recorded the band’s breakthrough tune, “Through the Fire and the Flames”.
Ibanez introduced the S470 electric guitar in 1992 as part of its S series. It features a beautiful mahogany body bolted to a maple Wizard II neck with a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with ‘S wave’ position markers. Its features include the famous Ibanez Evolution pickups and a ZR double-locking tremolo bridge which debuted in this model. And the natural wood finish looks gorgeous.
Ibanez EGEN18 Custom
|Years Used||2015 to Present|
Herman has gone to great lengths to maintain his EGEN18 throughout the years. It is no surprise that he has a specially customized model of his favorite EGEN18 guitar to relieve pressure off from his original issue.
This special customization involves the addition of some LED lights on the neck. The fretboard dot inlays now glow purple, while it also has a special trick up its sleeve. The guitar has a unique new feature called the ‘Chase Mode’.
In this mode, green LEDs laid out on one side of the fretboard glow according to the frets that Li has his fingers on. This makes it a fantastic tool for live performances and adds to the flair of Li’s guitar mastery. Spec-wise this guitar is the same as other EGEN18 models owned by Herman.
Ibanez EGEN18 DRG
|Years Used||2016 to Present|
The Ibanez EGEN18-DRG is one of Herman Li’s most recurred Signature guitars. This time, it sports a Dragon’s Blood red finish, introduced in 2006with a more aggressive look and sound when compared to other variants. The Dragon’s blood model, as the name suggests, is more focused on the overall theme of Li’s band, the ‘DragonForce.’
This guitar model, just like its other variants, has a mahogany body that comes topped with flamed maple. It features the trademark Kung-Fu grip modeled using Herman’s hand and the usual custom DiMarzio pickups. As per usual it sports the Edge-Zero tremolo bridge, which lets Li perform any number of crazy dive-bombs to his heart’s content.
The scalloped fingerboard is Herman Li’s own touch. This design makes it easier for him to bend notes on the higher frets. The body shape is designed to allow for great flexibility and playability – perfect for heavy rhythm downstrokes and shredding.
Li has been seen playing this guitar underwater during a show on a cruise ship in 2018. This was not his first time playing an Egen 18 underwater during a show. He has done this several times, although he claimed it was to be retired after finishing the band’s 2018 tour.
Ibanez JEM7v Steve Vai Signature
|Years Used||2019 to Present|
The JEM7v is a sick-looking guitar that delivers a punchy tone worthy of one of the world’s greatest guitarists. Being a huge Steve Vai fan, it’s no surprise that Li owns this signature model by Ibanez. This guitar has a white body with floral patterns on the pickguard and ‘The Tree of Life’ inlays in the fretboard. The body wood is alder, while the neck is a 5-piece maple/walnut with an ebony fretboard.
The guitar has DiMarzio Evolution pickups and split-5 wiring. It also has Steve Vai’s signature Monkey Grip on the bass side of the guitar body wing. The guitar features in Li’s live Twitch streams and on the DragonForce YouTube Channel. This is easily one of the most iconic Herman Li guitars of all time.
|Years Used||2006 to Unspecified|
Ibanez introduced the 540S7, a seven-string S series solid body electric guitar, in 1991. FujiGen created it in Japan (a factory in Japan). The 540S7 was Ibanez’s first seven-string guitar outside of the Universe series, as well as the first seven-string guitar in the S series.
It has a mahogany body attached to a maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot fret marks and a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard. It features DiMarzio Blaze pickups, which inspired Herman in developing his ultimate aggressive tone. It also has a Lo-Pro Edge 7 double-locking tremolo bridge, which is perfect for Li’s wild whammy techniques.
Li has used the Ibanez 540S7 in songs like ‘Revolution Deathsquad’ and ‘Storming the Burning Fields’. He also utilized it in the bridge section of ‘Operation Ground and Pound,’ just before the 2nd verse starts, and also used it in the outro of ‘Heartbreak Armageddon.’
PRS Herman Li Custom 2021
Li’s PRS Custom 2021 is basically a one-of-a-kind, unique-looking instrument. The combination of purple with maple, an Edge Zero double-locking system, and HSH configuration make this guitar, unlike any PRS model. It also comes with Fishman pickups with a translucent rainbow finish. Insane!
The two guitars are very similar in specs but differ on the bridge. And the PRS does leave out Li’s signature Kung Fu grip that he had on the Ibanez. It’s certainly interesting to see if this guitar makes it into production.
BC Rich Herman Li Custom
|Years Used||2020 to Present|
This BC Rich USA Custom guitar was specifically made for Herman Li as an experiment and features some similar specs to his classic Ibanez line. The guitar features a mahogany body with a fiery flamed maple top, finished in purple. It has purple DiMarzio humbucking pickups with a single-coil in the middle. The classic rosewood fretboard suits his playing style
Its Sophia double-locking tremolo bridge has been improved so it can easily withstand Herman’s ‘flying guitar whammy trick’. The neck-through-body design allows for extra-long sustain and flavorful articulation. This guitar has a heavy, clear tone that’s well-suited for power metal.
Li’s technical prowess allows him to make the most of any guitar, and you can see that in full display when he unveiled this guitar on his YouTube channel.
Ibanez EGEN 7-String Custom
|Years Used||2011 to Present|
The Ibanez EGEN-7, unlike its other EGEN siblings, is a one-way custom, meaning it is unavailable for the masses to buy. It’s a seven-string variant of the original EGEN model, which was made for Li’s special use for a few specific songs like ‘Fallen World’, ‘Give Me The Night’, ‘Heart Of The Storm’, and a few others.
According to Li, the neck on this guitar is a copy of the original Ibanez 540S7 neck, and the bridge on this one is called Edge-Pro, which is a slightly modified version of the Edge-Zero featured on the EGEN18.
The Edge-Pro bridge is also used by Li’s fellow bandmate and another guitarist of DragonForce, Sam Totman. The main reason is the convenience of exchanging guitars on-stage and making replacements on tour. The EGEN 7 is another one of Li’s three most iconic (the other two being the EGEN18 and EGEN8) and favored guitars for performing live.
Timetable Showing Each Guitar Played by Herman Li at Each Point in His Career
|Ibanez||S470||Mahogany Oil||1995 to 2006|
|Ibanez||540S7||Black||2006 to Unspecified|
|Ibanez||EGEN18||Transparent Violet||2007 to Present|
|Ibanez||EGEN8||Platinum Blonde||2010 to Present|
|Ibanez||EGEN 7-String Custom||Chameleon Purple||2011 to Present|
|Ibanez||EGEN18 Custom||Matte Purple||2015 to Present|
|Ibanez||EGEN18 DRG||Dragon’s Blood||2016 to Present|
|Ibanez||JEM7v Steve Vai Signature||White||2019 to Present|
|B.C Rich||Herman Li Custom||Custom Purple||2020 to Present|
|PRS||Herman Li Custom 2021||Pink-Purple Burst||2021|
Herman Li Amps Overview
Kemper Profiler PowerRack
Years Used: 2013 to Present
If you’re a guitarist yourself, you’ve probably heard of this monstrosity. You can save every sound you create in the studio as a preset on the Kemper Profiler PowerRack and recall it effortlessly on-stage. A solid 600-watt power amp is pre-installed, and the amp modeling and emulation are identical to the original Kemper Profiling Amplifier. It is housed in a 19-inch rack-mountable enclosure too.
The Kemper Profiler PowerRack allows Li to create his own amp profiles that he can access at any time and play with as desired. As a result of this, he has complete control over the sound of your profiled amps, thanks to Kemper’s high-tech wizardry. It’s a must-have for guitarists like Herman Li, who are both studio and stage savvy.
Rocktron Prophesy II
Years Used: 2008 to Present
The Prophesy II boasts an incredible DSP processing power with nearly infinite tone-shaping possibilities. The drop-out-free DSP processing engine built around dual 24-bit/66MHz Motorola chips was one of the best in its time.
Back in the day, the Prophesy II by Rocktron was one of the ultimate flagship effects processor units available on the market. It should be pretty evident that it found its way into the arsenal of someone as legendary as Herman Li. Li says that the Rocktron Prophesy delivers the shredder sounds of the 80s that he loves.
Bogner Uberschall 120-Watt Tube Guitar Amp Head
Years Used: Unspecified
For Li, the Uberschall guitar head is a worthy investment since it allows him to unleash the wrath of his extreme high-gain channels like nothing. A typical clean channel with plenty of headroom and control over parameters like volume, gain, bass, middle, treble, and presence is included.
Bogner developed the 100W all-tube Uberschall guitar head specifically for severe, heavy, and aggressive music, fitting Li’s criteria perfectly. In addition, the tube-buffered effects loop allows him to run all of his wild effects through it, making it even better suited to his needs.
Peavey JSX 412
Years Used: Unspecified
The JSX 412 is a heavy-duty loudspeaker cabinet featuring four 12″ custom JSX speakers and 400W of stable power handling. Onstage, Herman leverages a pair of these, and these beasts are an excellent match for his powerful sound.
The JSX 412 is a versatile speaker cabinet that can handle any playing style, including Li’s. The bass end is reinforced while the chiming mids and highs pierce through, making the tone wonderfully balanced.
Herman Li Pedals and Effects Overview
Source Audio SA110 Hot Hand
This, one could say, is Li’s magical ring. Yes, the Hot Hand is a device that sits like a ring on his right hand and is powered by a 3-axis accelerometer that converts motion into a dynamic and exact expressive signal. This signal can be used to control filter sweeps, drive levels, modulation, and wet/dry mixes, among other effect settings.
When Li shakes the Hot hand, it creates intense vibration, allowing him to imitate exotic sounds similar to those heard in video games. This is only one example of its capabilities. The expression ring can be used in various ways, including to create whammy and wah effects.
This magical ring is for sale on the market, but only Li has been able to bring it to justice. Herman Li himself has said that it is like the secret hi-tech weapon in his guitar rig.
Boss ST-2 Power Stack
The BOSS ST-2 Power stack pedal can handle most of Li’s distortion needs, from fat crunch to super high gain. It features simple controls, such as the sound knob, which combines the amplification level and sound character simultaneously.
When he’s on-stage, he can quickly crank in anything from vintage grit and punchy drive to full-on assault distortion, allowing him to perform anything with dramatic tone swings with ease. When the gain is dialed down, the ST-2 produces a rich and full clean tone, making it a versatile tool in Li’s armory.
Boss PS-5 Super Shifter
The PS-5, as the name suggests, is a “Super Shifter” with three-voice harmony and detune a configurable key knob and four effect modes, including Super Shifter, which allows for four octaves of shifting. This pedal is a tiny shifter that doesn’t skimp on functionality or technology, making it an excellent complement to Li’s setup.
Ibanez WD7 Weeping Demon Tone-Lok Wah
Ibanez’s WD7 Weeping Demon is a multipurpose wah pedal with a wide range of knobs that may be used in various playing styles and settings. In addition to spring and regular footboard action, it incorporates a switch-free footswitch, auto-off delay, adjustable Q and low-pass filters, and a selectable frequency range. The friction and tension of the pedal can both be adjusted.
Even from the outside, this pedal has a rugged appearance befitting a metal musician like Li. The Ibanez WD7 is a tremendous all-around pedal with a tank-like design. This makes it another good piece of gear in Li’s pedalboard.
DigiTech HM2 Harmony Man Intelligent Pitch Shifter
The DigiTech HM2 Harmony Man creates harmonies depending on your chord progressions. By studying and remembering guitar chord progressions from before the solo, the HM2 harmonizer automatically generates live three-part guitar harmony over lead/solo performance.
That’s quite cool, isn’t it? Li is a huge fan of collecting cutting-edge technology for those who don’t know, and this harmonizer pedal is yet another example. It allows him to mimic video game sounds.
DigiTech WH-4 Whammy
The WH-4 whammy is a pitch shifter pedal that allows Li to adjust and manipulate the pitch of his guitar in real-time with an expression pedal while playing. This whammy pedal is yet another favorite piece of equipment in his arsenal that allows him to create some wild and quirky squeals, huge dive bombs lower than any whammy bar, and bends that are otherwise impossible.
Dunlop Tortex Standard 1.14mm Guitar Picks
Dunlop guitar picks seem to be increasingly popular among modern guitar players. Their extensive range of gauges, forms, sizes, and materials enables the player to find the perfect pick for their unique playing style, thanks to their diverse selection.
Musicians of any genre understand that a pick is an essential part of their tone, from classic country to nu-metal.
Every great player understands that their pick is an intrinsic part of their tone, and Dunlop guitar picks, which are made of premium materials and have the perfect mix of dimensions, provide the ideal grip for a speedy player like Herman Li. So it’s no surprise that these picks have become Li’s go-to companions, whether he’s off-stage or on-stage.
D’Addario NYXL0946 Super Light Top / Regular Bottom, 9-46
NYXL0946 is a hybrid set that combines the low strings of a standard light set (.046) with the high strings of a super light set (.009). As a result, the set has the required fundamental low end on top of the great flexibility offered by the high strings. This is perfect for a player like Li, who loves to include all that fast shredding and the crazy whammy tricks into his playing.
These strings are apparently break-resistant, which provides that extra bit of freedom, confidence, and power to the player, especially on-stage. So it’s clear why Herman Li prefers these.
Line 6 Relay G90 Digital Wireless Guitar System
The Line-6 G series here is responsible for one of Li’s primary responsibilities while he is on stage. He uses it as his sole wireless system.
All the pomp is justified because heck he even played with it underwater. That’s crazy! He said that no matter how high he jumps with this on-stage, there hasn’t been a single time it failed.
The G90 also includes a Cable Tone Simulator feature, which allows you to adapt the sound of the relay wireless system to the sound of your favorite cable. On top of that, it has 12 compatible channels and a 300-foot line-of-sight. It would make any guitarist salivate, and it is an ideal companion for Herman Li’s erratic on-stage persona.
Li and Dragonforce became a critically acclaimed act in 2006 upon the release of the anticipated “Inhuman Rampage” back in 2006 following the release of their breakthrough hit single “Through the Fire and Flames” back in 2004. Ever since the band’s seminal success, Herman Li became a sought-after household name and reference to guitar players around the world for his unparalleled almost inhumane prowess and gentle personality.
While the latter years have seen a more stepped-back Dragonforce, Li’s been wasting no time endorsing signature models, partnering up with several top names in the industry, and further cementing his name as a referential figure in the world of guitars. This is without a doubt a man who lives for his craft and nothing else.
Herman Li has quickly become one of the most recognized and renowned guitarists. He has won two Metal Hammer Golden Gods ‘Best Shredder’ awards and four Guitar World Readers’ Polls.
Li’s fascination for video games is seen in his music. He frequently uses sound samples from old arcade games. For example, in the Inhuman Rampage song ‘Through the Fire and Flames’, Li used repeated Pac-Man-like sounds.
Herman believes that studying the instrument itself is the best way to develop as a guitar player. As a result, Herman continuously improved his E-GEN signature guitar series from 2008 to 2019. Currently, he is working on a new guitar to fit his evolving view of the instrument.
Li’s playing style is characterized by fast legato and staccato licks, exotic scale runs (such as the harmonic minor or Phrygian dominant scale). He also used a significant amount of fancy whammy bar techniques, quick sweep picking riffs, tremolo picking, double-handed tapping, along with some crazy fast and juicy shredding. Honestly, if he is not a guitar god, then who is?
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I’ve been playing guitar since I was 13 years old and am an avid collector. Amps, pedals, guitars, bass, drums, microphones, studio, and recording gear, I love it all.
I was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania. My background is in Electrical Engineering, earning a Bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State University. With my engineering experience, I’ve developed as a designer of guitar amplifiers and effects. A true passion of mine, I’ve designed, built, and repaired a wide range of guitar amps and electronics. Here at the Guitar Lobby, our aim is to share our passion for Music and gear with the rest of the music community.