Green Day is one of those bands with an iconic sound. Even people who aren’t really into rock music probably know what a Green Day song sounds like.
From Boulevard Of Broken Dreams to Jesus of Suburbia, Green Day has written some classic rock anthems. Not only do they have very recognizable songs, but also a very recognizable sound.
The man behind this sound is their frontman and guitarist, Billie Joe Armstrong. His sound has changed very little over the band’s long career. It is still as raw and impactful as it was on the band’s debut album.
His sound is also a very distinctly clean and clear tone without overpowering distortion. Because of these factors, his guitar tone is a really good one to want to emulate.
But how does Billie Joe achieve this fantastic rock tone? Well, it might be a bit easier than you think.
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Billie Joe Armstrong Amp Settings – Green Day Tone!
Green Day’s sound is a fairly standard punk rock one. This makes it really easy to replicate. There isn’t any crazy EQ tweaking or a lot of gain going on. Armstrong’s guitar tech, Hans, has given enough information in rig rundowns about the amp settings.
As long as you have an amp with a decent sounding gain channel, you should be able to get close to his sound quite easily. Just set all of your EQ to 12 o’clock, dial the gain and volume back a bit, and you are good to go.
Your Green Day amp settings should look like this:
- Bass – 5
- Mid – 5
- Treble – 5
- Gain – 4
- Volume – 4
The amp settings above should cover you for a large number of their well-known hits like Holiday, Wake Me Up When September Ends and 21 Guns.
Songs like Basket Case and When I Come Around from ‘Dookie’ and Boulevard of Broken Dreams from ‘American Idiot’ have a slightly crunchier sound. To get a bit more crunch, simply turn up the gain a bit and add some more midrange.
Amp settings for emulating Billie Joe Armstrong should then be:
- Bass – 5
- Mid – 6
- Treble – 5
- Gain – 6
For crunchiest Green Day songs like Brain Stew / Jaded, turn the gain up to 8 or 9.
If you feel the sound is a bit muddy, simply turn the bass down a bit. You might also need to dial back the gain a bit and increase the volume slightly to balance it out.
I wouldn’t go any further than about 6 on the gain knob. Armstrong’s sound isn’t that heavy and too much gain will start to distort it too much and you will lose the clarity of his sound.
Billie Joe’s Amps
Billie Joe’s amp settings are straightforward, but his amp setup is a bit more complex. He uses a combination of amp heads, cabinets, preamps, controllers, and switches.
Note that these are some expensive high-end equipment that he uses for live settings. There’s no need for you to spend anywhere near as much when you’re just attempting to clone his tone for solo practice or for small gigs.
For most people on a budget, you can get nail almost his exact tone with a small tube combo amp like the Marshall DSL5CR or even a capable solid-state amp with digital effects, like the Marshall Code 50.
For bedroom practice, you can spend just around $100 for a capable digital amp like the Boss Katana Mini, and still get the typical crunchy Green Day tone!
Finally, if you want to get even closer to his sound (that is, his exact tone), here is his actual amp setup.
Armstrong uses two Marshall 1959SLP Super Lead 100-watt Tube Heads as his amp heads – a pink one named ‘Pete’ and a silver one named ‘Meat’. These have been his go-to heads since the early ’90s, but might be hard to find new these days.
He also has a Custom Audio Electronics 3+ SE tube preamp that he uses for clean parts (hard to find these days).
Billie Joe sticks with the tried and true Marshall for his cabinets. Specifically, two Marshall 1960B cabinets are used to run the amp heads and preamp through.
Controllers and Switchers
To make switching between the heads and preamp easier, an RJM iS-8 is used. Eight guitar inputs get split between the CAE 3+ SE and the Marshall heads.
An RJM RG-16 switcher and MasterMind MIDI controller are also connected to the amp heads. Armstrong uses the MasterMind to switch between his four presets.
The four presets are Clean, Mid, Big, and Big Effect. Clean and Mid simply bypass the Marshall heads and only the CAE 3+ SE preamp is used.
Big uses the two Marshall heads and bypasses the CAE 3+ SE. Big Effect is for solo parts and activates a Boss BD-2 Blues Driver pedal.
Billie Joe’s Guitars
Even though he has used many different guitars throughout his career, like many other rock guitarists, Armstrong mainly plays Fender and Gibson models.
Nicknamed ‘Blue’, Billie Joe often plays a Fernandes. This was his first guitar. It’s a Japanese Stratocaster copy.
Fernandes guitars are a bit hard to find these days. Luckily, you can just use any Squier Strat you want, like an Affinity or Contemporary for a bit more punch. They’ll get you pretty close tone wise.
Or, you can just get the cheapest Squier Strat, specifically the HSS version of the Squier Sonic Strat, and mod it according to your needs.
Les Paul Jr
As for Gibson, Armstrong mostly plays Les Paul Jr’s. A Custom 1957 Les Paul Junior would be perfect since he prefers ’50s Les Paul Jr’s.
It’s totally understandable if you’re not open to the idea of shelling out 4 grand on a Gibson. In that case, you can get tremendous bang for your buck with this Epiphone Billie Joe Armstrong Signature Les Paul Junior that costs only a small fraction of the vintage Gibson model.
Billie Joe’s Pedals
Armstrong might not be known for his pedals and effects, but there are a few he uses on various Green Day songs. His pedal selection is also not very exotic and he goes with a few well-known and widely available models.
I mentioned the Boss BD-2 Blues Driver that Armstrong uses for solo parts. The BD-2 is a great pedal that pairs nicely with the Marshall amp heads.
There are a few Green Day songs where Billie Joe uses a tremolo effect. For this effect, he uses a Boss TR-2. The TR-2 is one of Boss’ most famous pedals and it makes sense that he would pair it with the BD-2.
Similar to the TS9, the Ibanez TS808 is more of an organic-sounding distortion pedal. The TS808 creates a nice and smooth tone while also boosting the mids.
For the softer clean parts, Armstrong uses an MXR M102 Dyna Comp. This is a great pedal for times when you need more tone control by dialing it back a bit.
Just like the rest of his pedal selection, Armstrong has gone for a workhorse wah pedal. The Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby is a straightforward wah pedal that adds some great texture and detail when you need it.
For songs like Kill The DJ, Armstrong uses an MXR Carbon Copy Delay. Just like the Dyna Comp, the Carbon Copy is a great-sounding pedal that does exactly what you want it to.
Billie Joe’s guitar tone is actually pretty straightforward. Punk rock music isn’t very complex and the sound shouldn’t be either. The whole DIY style of punk rock means that you should only really need a guitar and an amp.
Billie Joe Armstrong is a great example of a guitarist that has developed an iconic sound with basically just a guitar and amp. Even when he adds pedals, they are simple and without any thrills.
So, grab your Strat, plug it into a Marshall amp, and start jamming some Green Day!