Dave Grohl has been celebrated since the 90s when he gained recognition as Nirvana’s drummer. However, his skills are not limited to drumming, as he’s been building an even bigger reputation as the singer and guitarist in the American band called Foo Fighters.
This American musician is also a proficient songwriter and producer, as his decades of experience in the music business allowed him to hone his skills in several areas. This is the kind of knowledge that someone would use to craft a stellar guitar tone, something that Grohl can do effortlessly.
Dave Grohl is known for favoring raw guitar tones that are reminiscent of classic rock bands of the 70s and the 80s, and he uses gear that reflects these tastes, such as Gibson guitars with humbucker pickups and Marshall amps.
In this Dave Grohl Amp Settings Guide, you will learn how to adjust your gear to sound as close as possible to the man himself, or whether you might benefit from using a different type of guitar, amplifier, or pedal.
Quick Tips: How to Get That Dave Grohl Sound
Dave Grohl’s signature sound is characterized by being powerful, dynamic, and energetic. Even though he uses overdrive and distortion frequently, his tone is not overly saturated as it would be if he were playing heavier genres like metal.
Adjusting your amplifier properly for the tone you have in mind is crucial, as this will affect how your guitar and pedals will interact with it. Dave Grohl does not usually play in alternate tunings, nor does he appreciate having overly complex rigs, which should make your task slightly easier.
To sound like Dave Grohl, you should start with the following settings on your amplifier: Gain at 6, Treble at 6, Middle at 7, and Bass at 5.
Keep in mind that this is a starting point and that different amplifiers will yield different results even if the knobs are set the exact same way, which means you’re likely to need a few adjustments once you test these settings.
Throughout this guide, I’ll include suggestions of equipment that will get you closer to his core tones, such as guitars with the appropriate type of pickups, and drive pedals that capture his vibe.
Dave Grohl Amplifier Settings: Don’t Be a Pretender!
The amp settings presented in this section are meant to get you started and headed in the right direction, but they don’t guarantee that you will nail Dave Grohl’s tone magically in just a couple of minutes.
Emulating a guitarist’s tone involves using gear similar to theirs, but you also need to get as close as possible to their approach. This means paying attention to how they pick and bend the strings, their vibrato, and other techniques that ultimately define someone’s playing style.
For a Dave Grohl-inspired tone, I’d recommend starting with a guitar that features humbucker pickups. He uses Gibsons, but you can get similar results with many other options. The amp can be a Marshall or anything that can get a decent amount of grit.
Start with the following settings to get closer to Dave Grohl’s tone:
- Gain: 5-7 (depending on how much gain the amp has)
- Treble: 6
- Middle: 7
- Bass: 5
Some of these will need to be adjusted depending on the record or track you’re using as a reference, especially the gain, as Dave Grohl plays with clean, overdriven, and distorted sounds depending on what he’s going for.
If you plan to get your distortion from pedals, then you should also lower the gain knob on your amp to avoid having too much saturation, and even uncontrollable feedback.
Try not to increase the Bass too much. You want low end and body, but you don’t want that to overwhelm the other frequencies, making your tone sound muddy and unclear.
The Treble should also be high enough so that the sound is bright and cuts through the mix, but not shrill and overly piercing.
My advice is to always reduce whatever you have too much of. Consider backing down on a certain frequency range before increasing something else, and your tone will be more balanced and easy to adjust.
What Are the Ingredients of an Amazing Guitar Tone?
I have a lot of musician friends who play several instruments, from guitar to drums, bass, strings, keyboards, and more.
In all of my years of experience as a musician, I have never found anyone who likes discussing gear and tone more than guitarists, me included. We can go on for hours about guitars, pedals, amps, and all kinds of tricks that help us achieve the stellar tones we dream of.
However, it is fair to ask what exactly constitutes a mind-blowing guitar tone that will get everyone talking about it. Although the amplifier’s settings are crucial, you probably know that it isn’t enough and that there are a few more things to discuss.
From my personal experience as a session musician and an overall guitar nerd who has spent countless hours comparing and trying out different things, I strongly believe that these are the things that influence your tone the most:
- Guitar Body Type: Solid Body, Semi-hollow Body, Hollow Body
- Pickup Choice: Humbuckers, Single-coils, P90’s, Goldfoils, etc
- Amplifier Type: Solid State, Tube Amp, Plugin/Emulator
- Amplifier’s Settings: Volume, Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Presence
- Effect Pedals: Distortion, Overdrive, Fuzz, Modulation, Reverb, Delay, etc
You can now see that even though the settings on your amplifier are important and you have to put some thought into them, there are many other factors to consider when you’re crafting your sound, or when you’re trying to emulate someone else’s.
Changing just one of these pieces of the puzzle can completely change the character of your sound, and that’s one of the beautiful aspects of this. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, you should be excited about the fact that there are infinite possibilities.
While having the appropriate gear is necessary to nail someone else’s guitar tone, that won’t be of any value if you don’t use the correct technique to go along with all the equipment.
This means that you have to study your guitar idols and try to get into their head. See how they attack the strings, how they approach different sections, among other things, and as you repeat this process, everything will come to you more naturally.
Dave Grohl’s Tone: No Shortage of Raw Rock n’ Roll Energy
The electric guitar is an instrument that can be approached from a simple point of view, but it can also be expanded upon and become as complex as you want it to. Some guitarists plug in straight to their amplifiers, while others like to develop crazy pedalboard setups that might make playing the guitar seem like rocket science.
Dave Grohl is somewhere in the middle, but he is definitely closer to the less complicated side of things. While he doesn’t plug in straight to one amp, he also keeps it fairly straightforward. He uses one amp for clean sounds and another for his dirty tones. Effects-wise, he has a few staple pedals that he likes to use, but nothing out of this world.
Check below to know what this piece of rock and roll history likes to play the most.
Dave Grohl’s Guitars
Dave Grohl naturally has a nice guitar collection, but when it comes to recording with Foo Fighters or performing on stage, he is generally associated with the Trini Lopez, a Gibson guitar that is similar to the famous ES-335, but with a few different details such as the headstock and the F-holes’ shape.
Gibson Trini Lopez Standard Custom Reissue
The Gibson Trini Lopez is the guitar that Dave Grohl considers to be responsible for the sound of the Foo Fighters. He bought it between 1992 and 1993, in Bethesda, Maryland, while he was still playing as Nirvana’s drummer.
Dave says he didn’t even know anything about the artist Trini Lopez, and he just thought the guitar looked cool because it was like a Gibson ES-335 with a different headstock and diamond-shaped F-holes.
This guitar ended up being the core of his sound as the Foo Fighters’ guitarist, and it eventually led to the development of the Gibson DG-335.
The Gibson DG-335 is born out of a collaboration between Dave and the Gibson Custom Shop. This guitar pays tribute to the Trini Lopez that he is known for playing. It features a pair of vintage-voiced Burstbuckers, chrome hardware, split diamond inlays, white binding, and a gorgeous Pelham Blue and Ebony finish.
Dave Grohl’s Amplifiers
Dave Grohl seems to have found what he likes the most about guitar amplifiers and decided to stick with that. He seems to be a big fan of the VOX AC30 for clean sounds and the Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier for dirty tones.
The VOX AC30 is one of the most popular British amplifiers, and countless guitar legends have used it, like Brian May from Queen and The Edge from U2.
Dave Grohl uses these for his clean sounds, but due to their dynamic character and large range, he has also used them in the studio to record naturally overdriven sounds instead of using a distortion pedal.
If you crank the volume on a tube amp like the VOX AC30, you can adjust the amount of overdrive by playing softer, harder, and by adjusting the volume knob on your guitar, making it a very versatile tool for the studio and the stage.
Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier
The Dual Rectifier is known for one thing, and that’s extremely high-quality dirty tones. This is why Dave Grohl uses these on the road and in the studio to obtain his most saturated rhythm and lead tones.
He uses a 100W head version of this Mesa Boogie amp, and he uses it alongside his VOX AC30 for clean sounds.
Dave Grohl’s Effect Pedals
Even though Dave Grohl is not known for using large and complex pedalboards, there are a few effect pedals that he enjoys using from time to time. Find a few examples below.
- Pro Co RAT
- MXR M101 Phase 90
- Boss DM-2 Delay
- Pro Co TurboRAT
- MXR M133 Micro Amp
- Xotic Effects EP Booster
- Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man Delay
- Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
- Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler
- Univox U-915 Uni-Vibe
How to Replicate Dave Grohl’s Tone on a Moderate Budget
For someone who plays mostly at home, with their friends, or even small gigs, it might not make sense to assemble a rig that costs multiple thousand dollars. Fortunately, the gear that Dave Grohl likes to use live and in the studio has features and requirements that are also met by many alternative options that are much softer on your wallet.
For example, Gibson guitars are generally quite expensive, especially semi-hollow bodies and guitars with special features such as those found on the Trini Lopez model. In terms of amplification, a VOX AC30 and a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier can be swapped for lower wattage, more affordable amplifiers that can still produce excellent clean tones and dirty sounds to die for.
Since Dave Grohl is not known for using very complex pedal setups, you also don’t need to give this an enormous amount of thought as you would for a Davig Gilmour-inspired rig, for example. Nevertheless, the right choice of pedals can make all the difference if you know how to use them properly.
In this section, I’m giving you a few of my favorite suggestions to get closer to Dave Grohl’s tone.
The Guitars: Semi-Hollow Body with Humbuckers
The Epiphone ES-335 is modeled after Gibson’s original version of this iconic design that has been used by countless guitar legends over the last decades. Even though it features a semi-hollow body, it is still a rocking machine, and for a fraction of the price of a Gibson, you still get a very capable and decent guitar that won’t be light years away from Dave Grohl’s tone.
It features a layered maple body, a C-shaped mahogany neck, an Indian laurel fingerboard with a 12″ radius, and a pair of Alnico Classic PRO humbuckers voiced for a vintage tone.
If you’re looking for a classic design with an affordable price tag, look no further, the Epiphone ES-335 is undoubtedly one of the best options within this price range.
Ibanez Artcore Expressionist AS93FM
Although many people associate Ibanez with modern-style guitars designed for shredders and high-gain, this brand also makes extremely good semi-hollow body instruments that have captured the attention of legendary musicians such as John Scofield.
Although the AS93FM from the Artcore Expressionist Series doesn’t have all the features that a guitar in the $1000-$2000 is expected to have, it still delivers a variety of qualities that are always welcome with an affordable price tag.
Equipped with a pair of Super 58 humbuckers, this guitar delivers warm and full-bodied tones easily, it handles overdrive and distortion with class, and it would be a great tool to play the guitar parts from any Foo Fighters song.
D’Angelico Premier DC
D’Angelico has a reputation for building quality instruments, and that didn’t happen by chance. Their guitars are consistently well-built, and the Premier DC is a versatility monster.
With its solid center block in the middle of the body, it can handle overdrive and distortion with ease without going into feedback too quickly. Its combination of woods and its Supro Boltbucker pickups ensures it will perform great whether you’re going for a crispy clean tone or a high-gain riff that is as saturated as it can be.
The looks also match its amazing sound, with mother-of-pearl headstock inlays, multi-ply binding, and a beautiful 5-ply pickguard. I probably wouldn’t guess that this guitar costs less than $1000!
The Amplifiers: Classic Rocker’s Paradise
VOX AC15C1 1×12
The VOX AC15C1 is the natural choice for players who don’t want to carry around the VOX AC30, which is notoriously heavier and also more powerful.
VOX has set the standard for chimey clean tones with a little grit, and the 15W version is more manageable in terms of not having to pierce anyone’s ear drums to get to that gorgeous edge-of-breakup tone.
It comes with a 12″ 25W Celestion Greenback to make it sound extra mellow, Normal and Top Boost channels, and even spring reverb and tremolo, making it a complete amplifier that will serve its purpose beautifully, not just to those who are pursuing Dave Grohl’s tone, but also a wide variety of sounds that have been recorded by celebrated artists worldwide.
Fender Blues Junior IV Lacquered Tweed
The Fender Blues Junior has always been one of my favorite Fender amps below $1000. It is compact, powerful enough to keep up with other musicians in the room, and it can deliver both great clean tones as well as classic rock tones with the right amount of saturation and detail.
This Lacquered Tweed version isn’t just prettier, as it actually sounds better than the Standard option. The spring reverb is upgraded, and while it doesn’t sound as sweet as it does on the Deluxe Reverb or the Princeton Reverb, it is still a step up.
This particular version comes with an Eminence Red and White Blues 12″ speaker, but there are a few different versions out there. I encourage you to try as many as you can, side by side if possible, to see which one can get closer to the sound you’re looking for.
It features a “FAT” switch, which gives your sound an extra kick by emphasizing low frequencies and the gain. Mine stays on all the time and I love it.
Marshall ORI50C Origin 1×12
Marshall amplifiers were never known for their clean tones because they are eclipsed by the range of distorted sounds that they can produce. From the legendary JTM45 to the hot-rodded JCM900, there’s a Marshall out there for every rocker in the world.
The ORI50C from the Origin Series is featured on this list because of its overdriven sounds that can go anywhere from an edge-of-breakup tone to a full, powerful distortion that sounds as good as many drive pedals dream to sound.
Some of the most interesting features on this amplifier include its FX loop, foot-swichable gain boost, a “Tilt” control that blends bright and normal sounds, and the 12″ Celestion Midnight 60 speaker which is responsible for its unmistakable British tone.
The Effect Pedals: Keeping It Simple
Pro Co FAT RAT Distortion
Dave Grohl is a fan of the original Pro Co RAT distortion pedal, a staple in many pedalboards due to its extreme versatility and high-quality sounds in an affordable package.
The FAT RAT improves upon the original design, but it also comes with a more expensive price tag. If you feel like the new additions don’t bring much to the table for you, then I’d advise looking into the original version.
The FAT RAT features an LED switch that the previous iteration doesn’t have, a “Stock/Fat” switch, and a “MOSFET/Stock” switch that produces a smoother upper midrange than the original RAT.
Boss DM-2W Waza Craft Delay
The DM-2 delay is another pedal that you can spot on Dave Grohl’s pedalboard. it is known for a dark and warm delay sound that deteriorates with every repetition and contrasts with digital delay beautifully.
The DM-2W is the Waza Craft version of this iconic stompbox, bringing a few new possibilities into the same Boss pedal format that we all love.
The maximum delay time has been increased from 300ms to 800ms, and it has other useful possibilities such as an optional split wet/dry outputs and compatibility with an expression pedal.
Xotic EP Booster Mini Boost
The Xotic EP Booster might come in a small package, but it packs a serious punch. It is hands-down my favorite Xotic pedal. I’ve also had the SL Drive and the SP Compressor, but the EP Booster is the only one that never left my pedalboard after getting it.
This booster is based on the preamp stage of the legendary EP-3 Echo Processor, used by many legendary guitarists such as Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, and Jimmy Page.
Many players only used this echo unit for the added warmth and boost that the pre-amp section provided, which eventually led to Xotic creating a mini pedal that contains the same advantages in a much more convenient box.
I like to use mine as a boost for solos or place it at the end of the signal chain engaged all the time with the boost knob set to zero, just to give it that small amount of color that makes all the difference.
FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Dave Grohl’s Amplifier Settings
Question: What guitar amp settings should I use to sound more like Dave Grohl?
Answer: Even though you should take the amp’s model, the electric guitar, and the room where you’re playing, these settings are a good starting point to sound like Dave Grohl: Gain at 6, Treble at 6, Middle at 7, and Bass at 5.
Question: Does Dave Grohl like to use any effect pedals on his studio and live rigs?
Answer: Dave Grohl is not known for using complex pedal setups, but there are a few that he enjoys using to add variety and color to his tones. He likes the Pro Co RAT distortion and a variety of delays like the Line 6 DL4, the Boss DD-3, and the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man.
Question: What kind of guitar should I use if I want to sound like Dave Grohl?
Answer: Dave Grohl’s favorite guitar is by far the Gibson Trini Lopez, which is very similar to the Gibson ES-335, a semi-hollow body guitar with humbuckers. You don’t need to find one of these two to get close to his sound, as many guitars meet these requirements with a less expensive price tag.
Closing Considerations About Dave Grohl’s Amplifier Settings
By now it is clear that optimizing your amplifier’s settings for the tone you want to achieve is a must if you’re looking to nail something specific, but you can never neglect other variants such as the amp’s choice, any pedals on the signal chain, and other important aspects such as the playing techniques you employ.
If you want to sound more like Dave Grohl, try starting with the following amp settings: Gain at 6, Treble at 6, Middle at 7, and Bass at 5.
In terms of his gear, Dave Grohl can be seen playing a Gibson Trini Lopez or his signature model, the Gibson DG-335, which is inspired by the Trini Lopez. This is essentially a semi-hollow body guitar with vintage-style humbuckers, meaning that you can get close to this with a large variety of guitars spanning several prices.
He mainly uses a VOX AC30 and a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier for his clean and dirty sounds, respectively.
When it comes to effects, he does not seem to be extremely into them, although he likes using some pedals such as the Pro Co RAT distortion, a few modulation pedals like the MXR Phase 90, and an assortment of delays such as the Electro Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man and the Line 6 DL4.
It is recommended to find gear that makes it easier to get close to someone else’s sound, but playing in a similar style and approaching the guitar’s techniques with a clear objective in mind is just as important, if not more.