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John Frusciante Amp Settings Guide

John Frusciante Amp Settings Guide

Anyone who is into rock music knows about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the American rock band born in Los Angeles, in 1892.

Although the band’s formation went through some changes through the years, the most recognizable members are Anthony Kiedis (vocals), Flea (bass) Chad Smith (drums), and John Frusciante (guitar).

John Frusciante is the main responsible for the band’s notoriously famous guitar riffs, emotive solos, and amazing tones.

Although John has a few releases under his name spanning a few different music genres, he is most famous for his role as a guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

John clearly knows what he likes the most in terms of gear, as he’s been an avid user of the Fender Stratocaster, Marshall amplifiers, and a few guitar pedals that are actually easy to find nowadays for a moderate price, apart from a couple of exceptions.

His sound features a combination of different techniques that make it unique. Depending on the song, it may be clear and bright, or saturated with a full body. His use of dynamics and contrasting approaches to riffs and solos have contributed to the band’s distinctive sound and emotional character.

In this John Frusciante Amplifier Settings Guide, we will go over everything that makes the guitar parts in the Red Hot Chili Peppers sound so remarkable.

john frusciante amp settings

Bottom Line Up Front

Since the 80s, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have released several records, they have won multiple Grammy Awards, and their ability to remain popular and relevant throughout the last decades is proof of their value in the rock music scene.

John Frusciante’s guitar parts have been crucial in creating the legendary reputation that the band has attained during their career, and even though his style is innovative and difficult to replicate, we can still analyze what he likes to use to achieve his signature tones, as well as his influences.

If you want to sound like John Frusciante, start by setting your amplifier the following way: Gain at 5, Treble at 6, Middle at 6, and Bass at 4.

For these settings to be as effective as possible, you should also be using equipment that is at least similar to John’s. You might need to adjust a few parameters depending on the equipment you’re using. Some of the most common issues will be explained later on.

This means using a Stratocaster (it doesn’t need to be a Fender, but it should have single coil pickups), and either a Marshall amp or something that can get a nice British-style crunch. The choice of pedals is arbitrary, but we’ll discuss John’s preferences in this guide, as well as alternatives to them.

John Frusciante Amplifier Settings: Straight Outta Dani California

I came up with these settings while playing my custom-made Stratocaster with single coil pickups and a Marshall Origin 50 combo. While this amplifier isn’t used by John Frusciante, it still does a great job of providing crunchy tones perfect for rhythm playing.

When I need a bit more gain and volume, any low-gain overdrive or boost pedal will do the trick. I used a Boss SD-1 overdrive and a Xotic EP Booster. If you’re using a mostly clean amplifier, I’d recommend trying a distortion pedal to compensate, such as the Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion, one that John Frusciante has used for years (you can hear it in “Dani California”, during the chorus section).

Start by adjusting your amplifier to these settings:

  • Gain: 5
  • Treble: 6
  • Middle: 6
  • Bass: 4

Out of all the parameters, the Gain is the most flexible one, as it heavily depends on the song/song section, and whether you’re choosing to get your dirty tones mainly through your amplifier, or any overdrive/distortion pedals you may have available to you.

John’s tone doesn’t emphasize low-end frequencies, which is why the Bass is low. Since Stratocasters and single-coil pickups tend to sound bright by themselves, the Middle and Treble shouldn’t be set too high or your sound might end up being too piercing, shrill, or thin.

What you’re going for is a guitar tone that complements the rest of the band’s instruments, rather than trying to fill in everyone’s shoes at once, which is something tricky to figure out when playing by ourselves.

Don’t be afraid of using settings that seem to contrast too much with these, as it depends largely on the gear you’re using. Trust your ears and make small adjustments each time.

What Does It Mean to Have an Amazing Guitar Tone?

Iconic and timeless guitar tones come in various shapes. It is impossible to say who has the best tone out of every guitarist out there because it is extremely subjective, and depends largely on the context.

For instance, a nasal, cutting tone might sound weird by itself, but it might be perfect to cut through a dense mix, making it a great tone for that occasion.

For guitarists, one of the most important skills is knowing what adjustments you need to make to go from your current sound to the one that is in your head.

To do this, you must know what affects a guitar’s tone the most, and what your gear is optimized to do. This doesn’t mean that peculiar combinations can’t achieve amazing tones, but you might have to work a little harder when polishing details.

My years of experience as a guitarist in the studio and on the stage have taught me that the factors that influence a guitar’s tone the most are the following:

  • 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: Overdrive, Distortion, Fuzz, Modulation, Time-based Effects, etc

If it wasn’t already, it should be clear to you that the amplifier’s settings play a role in defining your overall tone, but they are only a part of the whole pie.

Many things can change your sound subtly or drastically, and to be as effective as possible in nailing someone else’s tone, you must pay attention to every variable.

Also, as you have probably heard before, your gear isn’t everything. Just because you’re playing a Stratocaster into a Marshall, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to sound like Frusciante immediately.

You should spend a few hours listening to his recordings with as much attention as you can, compare his sound with what you’re achieving with your setup, and make slight adjustments along the way.

Lastly, and for me, this is the most important part of emulating another guitarist’s sound, is paying close attention to their technique and general approach to the guitar.

You can’t expect to sound like Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits if you play everything with a pick, nor you can sound like James Hetfield from Metallica if you’re not down-picking aggressively, right?

Study your idols extensively, paying attention to their vibrato, how they attack the strings, how they bend, whether they use the volume control on the guitar a lot, and everything else you notice while watching them.

Getting into their head may seem impossible, but if you do this for long enough, you’re going to get there eventually.

John Frusciante Tone with the Red Hot Chili Peppers: Jangly Cleans & Powerful Drives

John Frusciante’s gear setup is fairly straightforward, which spells good news to anyone trying to sound like him. Having the same equipment does not guarantee anything, but it is a good nudge in the right direction.

Check below for a description of what he likes to use.

John Frusciante’s Guitars

1962 Fender Stratocaster

1962 fender stratocaster John Frusciante Amp Settings

This guitar has been John’s main instrument for a very long time. He bought it in 1998 shortly after rejoining the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with the help of Anthony Kiedis, the band’s singer.

It features a slab fretboard with a 7.23″ radius, made from rosewood, an alder body, and it doesn’t seem to have been modified at all, meaning that it features Fender’s original pickups and electronics.

You can hear this guitar on most Red Hot Chili Peppers recordings that took place after 1998.

1955 Fender Stratocaster

1955 fender stratocaster John Frusciante Amp Settings

Apart from the 1962 Stratocaster, this 1955 model is the guitar that people associate with John Frusciante the most. He generally uses guitars with a rosewood fretboard, but this one features a maple neck and fretboard.

It originally had Seymour Duncan SSL-1 pickups, but John had those swapped for custom-wound pickups made at the Fender Custom Shop by Paul Waller.

1963 Fender Telecaster Custom

1963 fender telecaster custom John Frusciante Amp Settings

In the early 2000s, John favored Telecasters over Stratocasters for some time. His most famous one is a 1963 Fender Telecaster Custom that features a two-tone sunburst finish, a rosewood fretboard, and double binding.

Later on, he eventually went back to playing mainly Stratocasters, but he still brings out the Telecaster occasionally.

John Frusciante’s Amplifiers

Marshall Major 200W

marshall major 200w John Frusciante Amp Settings

The Marshall Major is the hardest amplifier to find out of all that are mentioned throughout this guide. John uses his combined with the Marshall Silver Jubilee, or with a JMP 2203.

He then sets one to sound cleaner, and the other one to sound more distorted. He also uses pedals such as the Boss DS-2 in front of the amps to push them harder into distortion, especially if the amp does not have a master volume.

Marshall Silver Jubilee

marshall silver jubilee John Frusciante Amp Settings

The Silver Jubilee is one of Marshall’s most celebrated amplifiers due to its versatility and high-quality distortion sounds. He started using one during the Californication sessions between 1998 and 1999, and he decided to add it to his live rig.

John Frusciante’s Pedals

boss ds-2 turbo distortion John Frusciante Amp Settings
Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion

John is not usually seen with gigantic pedalboards that seem as hard to operate as a space shuttle, but there are a few pedals that he enjoys using a lot, both live and in the studio. Here are some examples of what you are likely to hear him playing:

  • Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion
  • Ibanez WH10 Wah
  • Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble
  • Boss SD-1 Overdrive
  • MXR M133 Micro Amp
  • Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi
  • MXR M102 Dyna Comp
  • Ibanez TS-9 Tube Screamer
  • MXR M101 Phase 90
  • Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler

The number of affordable pedals and the lack of any “boutique” options with inflated price tags is refreshing to see, and it is proof that you don’t need to buy extremely expensive gear to achieve a legendary sound.

Apart from the discontinued Boss CE-1, all of these pedals can easily be found at music stores for decent prices.

How to Sound Like John Frusciante Using Modern-Day Equipment

Some of the gear that John Frusciante enjoys using is very difficult to find, and if you can, it will probably set you back quite a bit. For instance, Fender Stratocasters from the ’60s, the older Marshall models, and some pedals such as the discontinued Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble are expensive and rare.

Fortunately, today’s marketplace has a lot more options than it did a few decades ago, and you can find decent gear even if your budget is not very high.

In terms of guitars, you should try to get a Stratocaster (Squier or Fender, but other brands like G&L are more than capable), and as for the amplifier, a Marshall or a British-style amp is your best bet. If it has a distortion channel, you might be able to save up a little on a distortion pedal.

Lastly, there are several pedals for sale nowadays that don’t cost an absurd amount of money and that sound perfect for this endeavor. Frusciante himself uses a few of these inexpensive pedals, such as the SD-1 and the DS-2.

The Guitars: Fender Strato-Land

Choosing a guitar to nail Frusciante’s tone is pretty straightforward. He is known for using vintage Fender Stratocasters all the time, making a Stratocaster with single coils the logical choice. The specific make and model depends on your budget. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions.

Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Stratocaster

squier classic vibe '60s stratocaster John Frusciante Amp Settings

The Squier Classic Vibe is hands down my favorite budget Stratocaster. It costs less than $500 and it gives you a lot of value.

If your budget isn’t huge right now, you can get one of these and upgrade it little by little. The most significant upgrade would be a new set of quality pickups, which would drastically improve the sound and feel of the instrument.

It has a vintage-style synchronized tremolo, 21 frets (what I like the least about it), a “C” shaped maple neck, a bone nut, and a 5-way selector switch.

If you’re trying to spend as little as possible on a guitar but you still want something efficient and comfortable to play, I wouldn’t look any further past the Squier Classic Vibe.

Fender Vintera II ’60s Stratocaster

fender vintera ii '60s stratocaster John Frusciante Amp Settings

If you’re looking for a step up from the Squier Classic Vibe, the Fender Vintera II ’60s Stratocaster is a safe choice. Just like the Classic Vibe we’ve just seen, this guitar is inspired by the ones manufactured by Fender in the 60s, staying true to the specifications and features that they had back then.

This means that you also get a “C” shaped neck, 21 frets, and other interesting parts such as a 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo.

The rosewood fingerboard sports a 7.25″ radius and it is extremely comfortable to play. The biggest upgrade in comparison to the Classic Vibe is the pickup choice. On this guitar, you get a set of Fender Alnico V vintage-style single coils.

Fender 70th Anniversary American Professional II Stratocaster

fender 70th anniversary american professional ii stratocaster John Frusciante Amp Settings

The 70th Anniversary American Professional II is a Stratocaster made for the most demanding artists who will put it to good use in the studio and on the stage.

This exquisite celebration model boasts an alder body with a flamed maple top, a maple neck with a “Deep C” profile, and a set of 70th-anniversary V-Mod II single coils that are at the core of this guitar’s voice and soul.

Other features worth mentioning include its real bone nut, a 2-point tremolo bridge, Fender Deluxe tuning machines, and 22 frets, as opposed to 21.

If John Frusciante didn’t have his vintage Stratocasters at hand, I’m sure that he wouldn’t mind playing one of these at all!

The Amplifiers: Mostly Marshall Drive

When deciding which amplifier to use for this purpose, there is some room for variation. John Frusciante uses mostly Marshall amplifiers, but you could also use something like a VOX (also a British-voiced amp) and complement it with a distortion pedal to achieve the most saturated tones that John uses.

Check out my top picks below.

Marshall ORI50C Combo

marshall ori50c combo John Frusciante Amp Settings

Marshall is associated with the “sound of rock”, something that did not happen by chance. So many guitarists ranging from blues to heavy metal have had their hearts conquered by this brand that it’s no wonder John Frusciante is one of them.

The amplifiers he uses are much more expensive and hard to find than the ORI50C, but don’t be yourself be fooled by price and availability. Sure, a Marshall Major would get you closer, but this combo offers stellar overdrive and distortion at a fraction of the price.

I’d use it for any guitar part that requires overdrive, and use something like the Boss SD-1 or the DS-2 to get really gritty and saturated for intense chorus sections and solos.

If you don’t have any pedals, don’t worry, this amp is more than capable of dishing out some gnarly distortion!

VOX AC15 Combo

vox ac15 combo John Frusciante Amp Settings

Another icon of the British rock & roll sound, the VOX AC15 is a smaller version of the highly acclaimed AC30, which has been used by many guitar legends like Brian May and The Edge.

John Frusciante has used VOX amps, mainly for their clean sound, and I also agree that these excel at clean and edge-of-breakup tones. With a little help from a distortion pedal, you can still get as saturated as you may want.

The AC15 is lighter and easier to push into overdrive than its 30W cousin, and there’s also an upgraded version of this one that comes with Alnico Blue speakers.

Marshall DSL20CR

marshall dsl20cr John Frusciante Amp Settings

Some people want amplifiers that are as simple as possible, while others appreciate having one that is as complete as possible, with features that cater to the bedroom guitarist as well as the touring musician.

The Marshall DSL20CR brings a lot of that to the table, with Gain and Volume controls for each channel, built-in reverb, an effects loop, an adjustable power level, and even a Softube speaker-emulated output so you can record conveniently and quietly.

While this amplifier is personally not my cup of tea and I’d rather get the Origin 50, I still think it would be very valuable for anyone looking to get closer to John Frusciante’s classic distortion sound.

The Pedals: Simple, Yet Effective

Apart from overdrive and distortion, building a pedalboard to nail John Frusciante’s sound should take into consideration which songs you’re using as a reference. Apart from the wah, the effect pedal he seems to use the most is the chorus.

Here are a few pedals I’d include in a John Frusciante-inspired rig.

Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion

boss ds-2 turbo distortion John Frusciante Amp Settings
Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion

This suggestion was taken from John Frusciante’s pedalboard itself. If it is good enough for him, I’m sure it is also a good choice for you to get closer to nailing his tone!

This affordable Boss pedal costs less than $100 and it provides a full-range distortion that is rich in harmonics, saturation, and gain. Furthermore, it has two turbo modes.

One offers a flat frequency response, and the other has a mid-boost which will help you stand out in the mix much better.

If you can’t decide which one suits you, you can connect the pedal to an external footswitch that allows you to toggle between both modes.

Boss CE-5 Stereo Chorus Ensemble

boss ce-5 stereo chorus ensemble John Frusciante Amp Settings

John Frusciante is a big fan of the iconic Boss CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, but this pedal is rare and quite expensive nowadays. Fortunately, the CE-5 also does a great job of providing a classic chorus sound without breaking the bank.

This stompbox offers high and low-cut filters so you can shape your chorus with more precision and details than with most options. Apart from that, you get Level, Rate, and Depth controls.

Dunlop Crybaby 95Q

dunlop crybaby 95q John Frusciante Amp Settings

John likes to use an old Ibanez wah that is difficult to find nowadays, and it also doesn’t seem to be built to the same standards as other wah pedals that are sold almost anywhere.

One of my favorites is the Dunlop Crybaby 95Q. It features a “Q” control to edit the wah effect, a built-in boost that can also be adjusted, and my personal favorite: it engages as soon as you start using it, there is no switch to press at the toe position.

While many are used to the traditional way of engaging and disengaging a wah pedal, I’d suggest that you try this one out to see how it feels. One of the most notable improvements is how it doesn’t start to get noisy and scratchy as soon as the normal Crybaby models.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About John Frusciante’s Amplifier Settings

Question: What guitars and amplifiers does John Frusciante use when playing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Answer: Although John Frusciante can be seen playing several guitars, his favorite is the Fender Stratocaster, which he’s used extensively throughout his career. In terms of amplification, he’s a fan of Marshall amplifiers, having used the Silver Jubilee, the JCM 800, and the Major extensively.

Question: What amp settings should I use to sound like John Frusciante/Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Answer: The best settings also depend on your choice of guitar and amplifier, but as a starting point, use these settings if you want to sound more like John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers: Gain at 5, Treble at 6, Middle at 6, and Bass at 4.
These work better with a Stratocaster with single coils and a Marshall amp with a bit of grit, but you could potentially achieve similar results with other equipment choices.

Question: What are John Frusciante’s most used effect pedals when playing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Answer: John Frusciante is not known for using extremely complex pedal setups, but there are a few staples that have been with him for a long time. Some of his favorite pedals include the Boss SD-1, Boss DS-2, Boss CE-1, MXR Micro Amp, MXR Dyna Comp, and the Electro Harmonix Big Muff.

Closing Considerations about John Frusciante’s Amplifier Settings

john frusciante amp

After analyzing John’s gear and sound extensively, you surely realize that a great guitar tone is a combination of several factors that all play their part. Having the correct amp settings for the job is crucial, but that’s not everything.

For a great John Frusciante/Red Hot Chili Peppers guitar tone, you should start with the following settings: Gain at 5, Treble at 6, Middle at 6, and Bass at 4.

Obviously, the results will depend on your choice of guitar and amplifier. These settings are meant for a Stratocaster with 3 single coils and an amplifier that can produce a decent bit of overdrive and distortion, such as a Marshall. You will also need to adjust the Gain depending on what song you’re trying to nail.

As always, do your research, but don’t neglect the impact that copying someone else’s technique has on getting closer to their sound. Do this as much as possible, and you’ll see that everything starts to connect eventually. Consistency is key!

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