Blink 182’s catchy and accessible approach to pop-punk garnered the band massive success during the 90s.
Their simple songs, laced with humorous and comedic lyrics, quickly made their way into the hearts of teenagers across the globe.
So today I’m taking a deep dive into the guitars and gear singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge used to achieve his iconic tone.
I’ll also share with you all the settings you need in order to replicate his signature sound for yourself.
Table of Contents
Tom’s tone can be described as bright, lively, and energetic. It has a very present string attack while still retaining enough thickness to sound heavy on the muted power chords.
Despite having such a specific signature tone, there was nothing too crazy about the guitars he’d use to get it.
Tom DeLonge signature Fender Stratocaster
Tom was a big fan of simplicity when it came to his equipment, and nothing expresses this ethic better than his signature model.
While it is fundamentally based on a Fender Stratocaster, arguably a quite complicated guitar, his signature model has had all the bells and whistles stripped from it to make it as easy to use as possible.
Instead of the triple pickup configuration it used just a single white Seymour Duncan SH-8B in the bridge position, along with a single volume knob.
No tone knob, no pickup selector, and no floating bridge. This was an instrument you could just plug in and play.
While this guitar is now discontinued, you can achieve similar results from any Stratocaster-style guitar. All it needs is a humbucking pickup in the bridge position.
Something like the Squier Affinity series would be a great choice if you’re on a budget, or if you can afford it, the Fender American HSS works great too.
Epiphone ES-333 Tom DeLonge
In addition to his Stratocaster, Tom would also use his ES-333 Tom DeLonge signature model which can be seen in the music video to Feeling This.
This was essentially designed to be a cheaper and more stripped-down version of his signature Gibson archtop.
It uses just a single Gibson USA Dirty Fingers bridge pickup that is controlled by a single volume knob, ultra simple!
While this guitar has also been discontinued, you could easily achieve a similar tone with a regular Epiphone ES-355 and just install a Gibson Dirty Fingers in the bridge position.
While the overwhelming majority of Blink 182’s songs are in E standard (E A D G B E), they do have a few songs which utilize a drop D tuning such as Kaleidoscope and Feeling This.
Feeling this also uses a capo on the second fret in order to keep the song in E, but still enable you to play in a dropped tuning.
The song Obvious is tuned to C# standard (C# F# B E G# C#)
Tom has always been able to strike that perfect balance between nice and saturated palm mutes while still retaining a bright and lively stringy quality to his tone.
Now there’s a bit of a secret behind this, and it comes in the form of using 2 amplifiers simultaneously.
Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier
The Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier is a tried and true classic. Tom used this for the majority of his distorted tones as it provides that wonderful compressed Mesa-style distortion.
Tom has mentioned that he liked it because it fills up every piece of the sonic spectrum, which is essential when your band only has 3 members. The guitar is pulling a lot of weight!
Obviously, a Mesa Triple Rec is a pretty hefty piece of kit and not exactly ideal for home use.
You may wish to consider something a bit smaller and more affordable such as the Mini Rectifier or even the Boss Katana-50.
While the Mesa does have fantastic saturated distortion, there’s this extra focused and bright quality to his tone which came from a JCM-900 which was blended with the Mesa.
What’s very unique about the way he used the JCM-900 is that he would use it on the clean channel and drive the gain all the way up which gave a dirty mid-focused sound.
He used this dual-amp setup for their legendary Enema of the State album.
Now for the average player, blending 2 large and expensive amplifiers together is out of the question.
Here something like the Victory Kraken is a good alternative that can provide that nice blend of high-gain saturation while still providing that bit of stringy spank to your pick attack.
Blink 182 Amp Settings
There’s a careful balancing act that needs to be played when dialing in a Blink 182 amp tone.
It needs to have a thick and massive quality to it while still delivering that mid-range aggression that their musical style demands.
Gain: 7 – You’ll need to push the gain as far as it can go for that lush saturation, right up to the point where you start to lose the pick attack, and then back it off just a smidge to ensure it stays aggressive.
Bass: 4 – With a dedicated bass player the overall guitar tone should be slightly more mid focussed, so backing off the bass just a hair helps the guitar to sit in the pocket better.
Mids: 6.5 – A generous mid boost helps to replicate the JCM-900 Tom would mix into his tone.
Treble: 6 – A small treble boost just helps the pick attack come through a bit without turning the tone brittle or harsh.
All The Small Things
Everyone’s favorite Blink 182 song! Here you’ll need to back off the gain just a bit to get the verse extra tight. You should also push the bass up a little to get the palm muting on the verse extra beefy.
This track forgoes the quick palm-muted power chords in lieu of a more open and sustained sound. You can crank the gain and pull the high-end back a little to get that pushed wall of sound type tone.
Adam’s Song (clean)
The clean tone in Adam’s song is quite warm and thick without a great deal of pick attack. You’ll want to use one of the neck pickup positions here and pull the treble back a little so the tone is nice and warm.
Tom was actually well known for not using any pedals for the longest time, believing that running directly into the amp provided the purest tone.
However, this changed during the later years of Blink as he introduced a few drive pedals and modulation effects to help augment his clean tones.
The Fulldrive from Fulltone pedals was used as a tube screamer to help drive his Fender Twin Reverb.
It’s a fairly standard drive pedal which is similar to something like the Ibanez TS9 or the classic TS808, which are both derivatives of the legendary Maxon OD808.
MXR EVH Flanger
The MXR EVH117 Van Halen signature pedal was only used during the later years of Blink 182 and Angels and Airwaves.
He would use this fairly liberally over his tone rather than as a subtle modulation effect.
For many applications, the EVH Signature pedal might be a bit overkill, something like the MXR M152 can achieve a very similar sound for a far cheaper price.
Defining a Generation
Blink 182 were at the forefront of the pop-punk genre, and the style and sound they crafted inspired an entire generation of youngsters to pick up the guitar.
Despite multiple hiatuses, Blink’s sound and presence is still very much felt in the music world and I hope you have fun trying your hand at recreating their signature sounds.