J Mascis Amp Settings – Get that Dinosaur Jr. Guitar Tone!

Author: Liam Whelan | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Dinosaur Jr. was one of the most influential bands on the grunge scene of the 1990s. Their howling, distorted guitars, drawling vocals, and thunderous approach to rock and roll led the charge for countless American alternative bands. It’s not a coincidence that Kurt Cobain once asked Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis to Join Nirvana: Dinosaur Jr was a driving force of the era.

J Mascis remains one of the most influential guitar players among alternative players thanks to his innovative, almost brutally primal approach to the instrument. In this article, I’ll go over the key pieces of gear you need to achieve the classic Dinosaur Jr. tone.

J Mascis Guitars

J Mascis has played a wide range of guitars over the years He’s been pictured with various Gibson and Fender models in some of Dinosaur Jr.’s biggest music videos. Despite this, by far the most commonly associated guitar with Dinosaur Jr. is the Fender Jazzmaster.

Mascis learned to play on a secondhand 1950s model Jazzmaster. The story goes that he walked into the guitar store with $400 ready to buy a Stratocaster, but the Stratocaster had gone up in price. The Jazzmaster was a mere $300, so Mascis bought the Jazzmaster, and the rest is rock and roll history.

You could pick up most Jazzmaster models, run through the riffs in “Feel The Pain” and get pretty close to the Mascis tone. Fortunately for his fans, J Mascis worked closely with Fender guitars to produce a signature model Jazzmaster in an eye-catching white-and-gold color scheme.

My favorite thing about this Jazzmaster is that Mascis was clearly aware that most guitar players who want a signature model are still learning and simply trying to emulate their heroes. Accordingly, the Mascis Jazzmaster is a Squier guitar with an appropriately accessible price tag.

I strongly recommend this guitar for most alternative playing as its pickups handle heavy distortion much better than most Fender guitars.

If, however, you’re looking for something more upmarket, Fender also released a Mascis model Telecaster based on the Tele he plays in the “Feel The Pain” video.

I should note that Mascis’ own guitar has aftermarket Kinman pickups, so he isn’t always using the exact pickups from his signature model. However, for most guitar players, the signature model will do the trick.

If you’re playing another Jazzmaster or a Fender guitar with an appropriately sized pickup cavity, the J Mascis high-output pickup set will help with handling the fuzzed-out tones of classic Dinosaur Jr. on any guitar.

J Mascis Amps

These days, J Mascis tours with a few different amplifiers that he uses for different sounds. He travels with a pair of Marshalls, a vintage Hiwatt, and a Fender Twin.

He’s run a few different amplifiers over the course of his career, but generally speaking, J Mascis plays Marshall, Fender, or Vox amplification. His taste in Marshalls is decidedly vintage, following a more 1960s-esque Super Lead template than the 1980s JCM800 sound.

The other British amp Mascis has appreciated, on and off, over the years is the Vox AC30, or its younger brother, the AC15.

As for Fender amps, Mascis typically plays a Fender Twin, generally preferring Tweed-voiced amps to more modern Fender voicings. At home, he supposedly plays a small Fender Champ practice amplifier.

I should point out that, generally speaking, J Mascis uses so much fuzz that your choice of amp isn’t necessarily a deal-breaking proposition. I’d recommend a British-sounding tube amp for this tone.

A Marshall combo like the DSL40C or my personal favorite of recent years, the Studio Vintage, would be a great place to start.

The Vox AC15 combo is another amplifier that you can use, although its natural overdriven tone, to my ear, isn’t as pleasant as that of the Marshall.

Finally, you could try running a Fender Twin Reverb or its diminutive cousin, the Blues Junior.

J Mascis Amp Settings

You’ll want to run your amp relatively neutral for this tone so your guitar pedals can do most of the work of coloring and shaping your tone.

Volume: 6-8

You want to run your tube amp nice and hot for this tone and get the slight compression and tube saturation of the Dinosaur Jr. tone.

Bass: 6

Let your low end warm up this tone so at higher distortion levels it doesn’t become buzzy.

Mids: 8-9

J Mascis usually runs his midrange quite high to maintain the definition in his tone.

Treble: 8-9

Depending on your amp, you might need to pull back the treble, but as a general rule, keeping it in pace with your mids for this tone is best.

J Mascis Effects

J Mascis is a known aficionado of effects pedals and has used hundreds of different pedals over the course of his career. In this section, I’ll recommend a few key tonal colors that he uses.

Chief among these is his taste in fuzz. The obvious choice for this is the EHX J Mascis Big Muff, but he typically also runs a Tone Bender-style British fuzz (like the JHS Bender). Generally speaking, these treble booster-style fuzzes are used to hit his amplifier harder and boost his signal. Mascis avoids “clean” and “transparent” boosts, preferring to add color and depth to his sound.

For modulation, Mascis’ favorite effect seems to be the Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress.

When not using fuzz, Mascis prefers a relatively light overdrive, often deploying the Fulltone OCD or a similar pedal.

J Mascis also often used a Univibe for a different flavor of tremolo.

As for echoes, J Mascis’ tone is far too dense and heavy for most reverbs to be of much use. On a Fender-style amp, the built-in reverb is more than enough. Otherwise, if you want to use some echo, Mascis has been known to deploy the EHX Oceans 11 Reverb.

Final Word

Capturing the monolithic sound of Dinosaur Jr is easier said than done, but fortunately, modern gear will get you most of the way. The bones of the tone can be achieved with a Jazzmaster, a tube amp, and a fuzz. The rest is up to you.

Avatar photo

About Liam Whelan

Liam Whelan was raised in Sydney, Australia, where he went to university for long enough to realize he strongly prefers playing guitar in a rock band to writing essays. Liam spends most of his life sipping strong coffee, playing guitar, and driving from one gig to the next. He still nurses a deep conviction that Eddie Van Halen is the greatest of all time, and that Liverpool FC will reclaim the English Premier League title.

Leave a Comment