Anyone with a background in rock ‘n’ roll music should know that it isn’t the tools that you’ve got, but the way that you use them. If you want to stand out in today’s rock landscape, no expensive guitar or effects pedal is going to replace the value of hard work, practice, and creativity.
However, there’s no denying that gear still contributes massively to the signature sound of the world’s best guitarists.
A prime example of this is Jimmy Page – if you’re a fan of Led Zeppelin, you’ll know all this fantastic guitar player and his ability to send listeners to another dimension through his gorgeous guitar skills.
Sure, you can practice Led Zeppelin riffs and try to play like Jimmy Page as much as possible, but without knowing about his gear set-up, this is going to be difficult.
Don’t worry, because I’m here to help – music researchers have long since been documenting the settings that Jimmy Page used for his guitar amplifier when playing with Led Zeppelin, and I’ve decided to compile all available information into this following guide.
Whether you’ve just started learning Led Zeppelin songs are you are looking to add that extra edge for your next cover band, read on to find out more about Jimmy Page’s amp settings!
Bottom Line Up Front: Jimmy Page uses a Marshall Plexi 1959SL 100W amplifier to reach his famous tone, settings his amp settings to have the gain at 6, the bass at 8, the mids at 6, and the treble at 7.
This was primarily applied to his Gibson Les Paul and Fender Telecaster and was occasionally augmented by pedals such as the Boss SD-1 and the MXR M101.
What Contributes to Tone?
Before we dive into the complicated world of Jimmy Page’s amplifier settings, I think it’s going to be important to get a key term defined – tone.
Tone is perhaps one of the most important words in music, a word that people use to describe the sonic qualities of a sound. It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing the electric guitar like Jimmy Page, the violin, or the piano, tone is a universally important property of sounds.
Some key examples of tone are the clean sounds of classical electric guitar, the gritty sounds of overdrive, or the powerful and bright timbre of a stadium guitar. All of these different sound profiles are examples of tone, and they can be achieved through a combination of guitar equipment.
Tone is ultimately only made out of a few properties, beginning with the tonewoods and the shape of a guitar. These properties determine how the frequencies of the strings resonate before being converted to digital audio through pickups.
Pickups come in various numbers and types and also contribute to the tone, with most guitarists favouring the beautiful response of humbucker pickups.
After the guitar signal is created, most electric guitarists will process it with a variety of effects pedals. Only then is it sent to the guitar amplifier, where final adjustments can be made to the guitar tone.
Being the last element in this chain, amplifier settings are essential when crafting the perfect guitar tone. You can bet your money that Jimmy Page spent countless hours fiddling with his guitar amps and trying to find the perfect tone, just like every other guitarist has.
Jimmy Page’s Amp Settings
As I just mentioned, emulating the sound of Jimmy Page’s amp settings will require various specific pieces of gear such as certain guitars, pedals, and of course amps. However, the specific amp settings that he uses are also a massive contributor, shaping the overall tone of his tech stack.
Luckily for you, there’s a ton of research online documenting the amp settings that Jimmy Page used throughout his career. As a foundation, you could go ahead and switch your amp settings to the following parameters:
- Gain = 6
- Bass = 8
- Mids = 6
- Treble = 7
If you’ve switched your amp settings to this and have a simple, clean FX chain, you should already be making progress. The gain is set to slightly above average to provide the distorted bite that is signature in Led Zeppelin songs without taking a step into the next decade and creating a heavy metal guitar tone.
The bass is high, the treble is high, and the mids are low – this helps to create a powerful wall of sound that hits you with strong low and high frequencies, without the muddiness present in mid frequencies.
It’s undeniable that these settings aren’t going to perfectly replicate Jimmy Page’s sound without some additional gear purchases. However, it’s a great place to start and you should already be starting to get that Led Zep feeling!
Jimmy Page Amp Settings for Different Songs
Sure, the last set of guitar settings provides an excellent foundation for emulating Jimmy Page’s sound, especially when it comes to the grittier and crunchier tones of Led Zeppelin songs on the heavy side.
However, if you’re a long-time listener of Led Zeppelin like me, you’ll be fully aware that this band was not a one-trick pony – they wrote heavy songs, soft songs, and songs in between. I’ve chosen three songs of varying overall sounds and have sourced the amp settings for them, so that should help you yield more specific results!
“Stairway To Heaven” Amp Settings
The first Led Zeppelin song that I wanted to focus on is the absolute classic “Stairway To Heaven”. I wasn’t around when this song was released, but my Father has always told me about how it blew a lot of people’s minds.
There was a lot of rubbish on the news about how guitarists such as Jimmy Page were just making noise and playing random notes, putting it through as much distortion as they possibly could.
This is a load of rubbish and Jimmy Page knew that, but if anything was going to change the haters’ minds, it was this delightful ballad. The amp settings for it are as follows:
- Gain: 2
- Bass: 6
- Mids: 4
- Treble: 8
As you can see, Jimmy Page took the gain all the way down for this one, only leaving a tiny bit of overdrive. The treble was put up much higher and the mids were scooped, leaving a bass level of just above average.
This ultimately resulted in the clean, stadium sound necessary to portray an epic such as “Stairway To Heaven”. However, rest assured that Page cranked up the gain to 5 when it came to the song’s iconic guitar solo!
“Black Dog” Amp Settings
The next song is “Black Dog”, which I believe is the first Led Zeppelin song that I ever heard! I must have been only five years old so the memory is fuzzy and I may have heard other songs by them, but this was the one that got me bopping my head for the first time!
It’s bluesy and dirty, and the structure is absolutely killer – the band’s songwriting stands out on this track. The song simply wouldn’t be the same without Page’s guitar tone, which was made up of the following settings:
- Gain: 5
- Bass: 8
- Mids: 8
- Treble: 7
Something interesting here is that all three EQ dials (Bass, Mids, and Treble) are all set to high values of eight or nine. This gives the guitar tone a very full spectrum with boosts on all frequencies, resulting in that gorgeous dirty blues tone that the song boasts.
I was surprised to learn that the gain is only cranked up to 5 as the tone has so much grit to it, but I think that is thanks to the added value that the EQ boosts bring.
“Heart Breaker” Amp Settings
We’ve covered the softer ballads, the dirty blues riffs, and the generalized crunchy-yet-clear tone of Jimmy Page, so all I think is missing is a song like “Heart Breaker”.
On its surface, this seems like a similar tone to a track such as “Black Dog”, but it’s quite different – just take a look at the following settings and you’ll see what I mean:
- Gain: 6
- Bass: 8
- Mids: 6
- Treble: 4
Page has his gain and mids relatively high, but the interesting thing here is the treble and bass. As you can see, the guitarist veered away from his go-to tone to reduce the treble to just 4, also cranking the bass up to 8. This massively reduced the presence of high frequencies and replaced them with lower frequencies.
Listen closely to the song and you’ll see why – it’s a very rhythm focussed track with only a few flourishes of lead guitar.
Bass frequencies are much more important to a rhythm guitarist, so this decision shows Jimmy Page’s fantastic ability to adapt to different tones for different songs, and demonstrate himself as an all-around versatile guitarist! What a legend.
Jimmy Page’s Gear List
We’ve taken a look at exactly how Jimmy Page adjusts his amp settings to achieve certain Led Zeppelin signature sounds, but as I have mentioned several times already, there’s more to it than that. Specific guitar sounds require specific amplifiers, effects pedals, and of course – guitars.
Therefore, I think it would be a smart move to zero in on some of the most iconic and frequently used pieces of equipment that Jimmy Page used throughout his time in the band. Let’s start things off with arguably the most important part, the guitar itself!
Jimmy Page’s Guitars
As one of the greatest and most famous guitarists of all time, it should come as no surprise to you that Jimmy Page has sported a huge collection of guitars throughout his career, with some online sources suggesting he owned over fifty varieties!
However, we don’t have enough time to go through all of these, so let’s take a look at the two most prevalent examples throughout his career.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar
Ah, the Gibson Les Paul… every time I write about a famous guitarist, this guitar almost always makes the list. It will forever be known as one of the greatest guitars of all time, and for good reason.
The build quality, tonewoods, and style of this instrument is something that many guitarists such as Page felt to be irreplaceable, leading to him using it throughout the majority of his career.
However, you might notice that there are few pictures of him using this in live settings, yet you can find plenty of interviews of the musician talking about it.
That’s because he favoured this instrument for recording in the studio due to its incredible internal tone and its ability to produce “blistering high pitches”.
I’m sure that the guitarist used this instrument for some live gigs too as I know from experience that it’s incredibly comfortable to perform with live. However, it’s no surprise to me that it was used on the majority of Led Zeppelin recordings – it’s a truly timeless guitar.
- Incredible tone for studio recording
- Excellent comfort for live performances
- Fantastic intonation that helped Jimmy Page reach his highest pitch guitar solos
- It will forever be known as one of the highest quality guitars out there
- It’s worth every penny, but the Gibson Les Paul is a pretty expensive guitar that I’d only recommend for intermediate players
Fender Jimmy Page Dragon Telecaster
Would Jimmy Page’s career truly be appreciated if he didn’t receive his own custom-made Fender signature guitar at one point? This second guitar was made especially for Jimmy, and boy does it put out a heck of a sound.
Telecasters were all the rage back when this was made for the guitarist in the ‘60s, and Page proceeded to use it as frequently as possible. Unlike the previously mentioned Gibson Les Paul, the guitarist used this more frequently at live shows.
There is a ton of footage online of Jimmy Page shredding this guitar live in the late ‘60s, which he puts down to the instrument having a highly unique stand-out tone.
However, the guitar has quite a sad history. Late in his career, a friend of Jimmy’s made the somewhat reckless decision to give the guitarist a ‘present’ by giving the guitar a brand new paint job.
Although that was arguably a kind gesture, it resulted in the instrument’s wiring and overall tone getting messed up, only leaving the neck pickup to do the instrument justice. It’s safe to say that Page was not happy about this in the slightest, and the guitar has sadly never been the same since.
- Perfect for recreating Jimmy Page’s live guitar sound
- Much cheaper to obtain than the expensive Gibson Les Paul
- Flawless electronics and pickups
- Not ideal for emulating Jimmy Page’s studio sound
- A guitar that sadly has an unfortunate history for the guitarist
Jimmy Page’s Effects Pedals
Because Led Zeppelin was one of the first hard rock or even heavy metal bands in the world, their sound was not as complicated and of high production value as bands heard today.
Bands back then generally relied on the tools that they had such as somewhat rudimentary amps and did not have the freedom to experiment with countless effects pedals like we have access to these days.
However, Jimmy Page was still open to experimenting with pedals later in his career – let’s take a look at a couple of his favourites.
Boss SD – 1 Super OverDrive
As we discussed earlier, the distorted tones of Led Zeppelin were primarily down to excellent control of the Gain setting on Jimmy Page’s amps. However, the guitarist began to experiment with overdrive pedals later in his career, settling on the Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive for the majority of his performances in the ‘80s.
Take a look at some live pics from the era and you’ll see it everpresent on his pedalboard. It’s no wonder because the pedal delivers an overdriven bite that I am yet to find on a similarly priced pedal.
It just goes to show the quality of Boss products, as Jimmy Page had all the money in the world at this point, yet he still settled on the SD-1.
- A very affordable overdrive pedal
- It’s just as effective in the ‘20s as it was in the ‘80s
- Boss has an excellent reputation for high-quality products
- You could argue that there are more versatile alternatives available these days
- Was only used by Jimmy Page during the ‘80s and onwards
MXR M101 Phase 90
Led Zeppelin wasn’t exactly known for experimenting with crazy modulation effects, but if you’ve covered their back catalogue, you’ll know that Jimmy Page sprinkled a bit of phase modulation on his tone here and there.
Some clear examples can be found in tracks such as “Dazed and Confused” and “Immigrant Song”, and this out-there sound was all down to the MXR M101 Phase 90.
The guitarist is even pictured using this pedal during the band’s famous 1985 Live Aid concert! It’s a simple pedal that was undeniably used sparingly by the guitarist. However, when he did use it, it contributed massively to the sound in a way that no other pedal of the time could.
- An essential pedal if you’re looking to play “Immigrant Song” or “Dazed and Confused”
- Still stands up in comparison to modern phase modulation pedals
- An extremely minimalistic pedal that only has one parameter dial
- Whilst I love the simplicity, there are much more complex and intricate phase modulation pedals on the market these days
Jimmy Page’s Amplifier – Marshall Plexi 1959SLP 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head
We’ve covered the amp settings of Jimmy Page and the guitars and effects pedals he used to augment it, but we’re missing one incredibly crucial detail – what amplifier did the dude use? It’s an excellent question, one that can be answered with one simple word – Marshall.
Jimmy page is well known for being a serious advocate of Marshall amps, primarily favouring the Marshall Plexi 1959SLP 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head.
However, this wasn’t just any old Plexi – the guitarist famously modded the amplifier to feature KT-88 valves, which meant that the amp could reach dizzying volumes of 200 watts! Check out just about any Led Zeppelin live footage and you will see this amplifier in all its glory.
The guitarist certainly used many other amps for studio recording to achieve different tones, but this modded Plexi 1959SLP was the amp that truly shone brightly for live performance.
- You can’t get much better quality than Marshall amplifiers
- Can be combined with KT-88 valves to double the volume!
- Works with most stacks
- Excellent for recreating Led Zeppelin’s live guitar sound
- If you want to recreate Jimmy Page’s Marshall sound, you’d need to mod this amp with KT-88 valves, and that’s no easy task!
Well, that has just about brought me to the end of my knowledge in regards to Jimmy Page’s amp settings! We’ve covered a lot of information from the amp settings themselves to the guitarist’s amp preference, favourite guitars, and effects pedals.
To bring all of this information to a close, let’s take a breather and answer some frequently asked questions. I hope that it helps summarize everything that you’ve learned!
Answer: Jimmy Page’s amp settings change depending on the song he is performing, but the foundation of his settings is to set the gain to 6, the bass to 8, the mids to 6, and the treble to 7.
Answer: Jimmy Page is well known to be a serious advocate of Marshall amps, particularly favouring the Marshall Plexi 1959SLP 100W Tube Guitar Amp Head modded with KT-88 valves.
Answer: Jimmy Page relied on the gain of his Marshall amps for overdrive throughout most of his career, but from the ‘80s onwards, he often used a Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive to augment his tone.
Answer: Jimmy Page has an enormous guitar collection, but he primarily uses a Gibson Les Paul Standard for recording, and a Fender Jimmy Page Dragon Signature Telecaster for live performances.
You should now have everything you need to replicate the amp settings of Led Zeppelin’s fantastic guitarist, Jimmy Page! As we have seen, amp settings are only a piece of the puzzle to emulating his fantastic tone, with an amplifier, guitars, and effects pedals playing a large role in the timbres.
Ultimately though, there’s nothing that can emulate the sound of Jimmy Page like a ton of guitar practice!
Good luck on your guitar journey, and who knows – perhaps in the future I’ll be writing about how to replicate the guitar tones and amp settings of your band! Crazier things have happened!