Jeff Buckley Amp Settings & Gear – Get His Guitar Tone!

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

Although singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley is best known for his ethereal, powerful voice, his guitar playing is also excellent. Buckley was a master of well-chosen notes and inversions, with an expansive chord vocabulary and tasteful, often minimalist licks and lead lines.

Buckley’s playing embraced a range of styles, including delicate fingerpicking and overdriven rock. In this article, I’ll cover the key pieces of gear Jeff Buckley preferred to play over the course of his tragically short career and how you can capture some of his tone for yourself.

Jeff Buckley Guitars

Jeff Buckley’s best-known guitar sound is a crisp, clean, Fender single-coil. If you think of the delicate arpeggios on “Hallelujah,” that’s precisely what he was playing. Buckley, like many other guitar players, appreciated a range of instruments, including Les Pauls and a twelve-string Rickenbacker.

However, Buckley’s primary instrument for most of his career was an early-1980s Fender Telecaster. Buckley modified his Tele to include a Seymour Duncan Hot Lead stack in the bridge.

This pickup made a big difference to his tone: the stacked humbucker is, for all intents and purposes, a single coil-sized humbucker. While it doesn’t sound like a PAF-loaded Gibson guitar, it did lend additional warmth and edge to Buckley’s guitar tone, particularly when playing with overdrive.

Buckley’s Tele also had another major difference from the standard Telecaster configuration: it featured a top-loading bridge rather than the typical string-through-body setup of most Fender guitars. This had a subtle effect on the guitar’s tone, but you should be able to get close to his sound without it.

A typical Fender Telecaster is, for this reason, my first recommendation when chasing the Jeff Buckley tone. Fender guitars have in recent years embraced a wide range of price points, so there should be a viable Tele for pretty much any budget.

Most working guitar players find the American Professional series to be the best combination of value and build quality. The ‘50s Vintera Telecaster would also be a good bet, as it emulates some features of 1950s Telecasters that were present in Jeff Buckley’s Tele.

At a lower price point, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster is my main recommendation for the Buckley sound.

For maximum Buckley tonal accuracy, I recommend investing in a stacked Seymour Duncan pickup for your Telecaster’s bridge position. The Telecaster Hot Stack is the closest modern model to the pickup Jeff Buckley used.

Jeff Buckley Amps

If you listen to Jeff Buckley’s live recordings, it is readily apparent that he preferred clean, loud Fender amplification. This video from Buckley’s early career perfectly encapsulates his typical tone and simple setup.

Buckley, as he enjoyed commercial success with Grace, took to the road with both Fender and Mesa/Boogie amplifiers. He used the Fenders for clean sounds and the Mesas for his dirty tones.

The good news for modern guitar players is that the Mesa/Boogie dirty tone is, for all intents and purposes, a hot-rodded Fender amplifier.

That means you can achieve most of Jeff Buckley’s tones with the right Fender amp.

Buckley’s preferred Fender amplifier was the Vibrolux, the closest modern equivalent to which is the Vibro Champ, which admittedly is a much smaller amplifier.

If you need more volume, the Deluxe Reverb is a great amplifier. You’ll want to add a Fender-style vibrato effect to this with a pedal, which I’ve addressed in the pedals section of this article.

The final recommendation I can make for this tone is the Universal Audio ‘65 Dream amp/pedal, which is a very convincing emulation of a vintage Fender amplifier.

Jeff Buckley Amp Settings

Most of Jeff Buckley’s otherworldly guitar sound came from his choice of chord voicings and simple guitar-and-amp setup. Accordingly, nailing his amplifier settings is a key piece of the tonal puzzle.

Volume: 5

You need a certain degree of tube amp warmth to get the Buckley tone, but you don’t want to drive your amp into saturation.

Bass: 6

This is a reasonably warm sound, so set your bass to about 6.

Mids: 5

You don’t need a hefty midrange peak in this tone, so set your mids nice and neutral.

Treble: 5

Tame your treble and let your picking technique provide most of your high-end attack.

Gain: 5

You don’t need very much gain at all for this tone, so I’d recommend setting it to about 5.

Jeff Buckley Effects

If you’re using a Fender amplifier for this tone without a vibrato function built-in, you’ll want to add a Fender vibrato effect to the mix. Likewise, you may need to add a “drippy” Fender spring reverb to get the precise echo effect Buckley often deployed for his clean playing.

Fortunately, Fender’s Tre-Verb pedal offers both of these effects with options to dial in vintage-specific amplifier effects. I’d recommend setting this pedal to the ‘63 or ‘65 reverb setting and the “opto” or “HM” tremolo setting to get closer to Jeff Buckley’s sound.

For overdrive, Jeff Buckley preferred the Marshall Drivemaster and the EHX Hot Tubes. When he needed extra saturation, Buckley often deployed a fuzz pedal, such as the Boss Hyper Fuzz or MXR Hendrix Fuzz. Both of these were emulating the sounds of the Fuzz Face as Jimi Hendrix used it, so I’d recommend simply deploying a Fuzz Face if need be.

Occasionally, Buckley deployed the swooping, whooshing tone of a classic Boss Flanger.

Overall, I should note that Jeff Buckley’s tone did not depend on pedals. He used them sparingly live to add seasoning and sparkle to his. tone, but they were not cornerstones of his guitar playing.

Buckley’s extended chord voicings and playing style were more responsible for his sound than his array of stompboxes.

Final Word

Jeff Buckley’s guitar tone isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s much easier to accomplish when you have the right gear. A ‘’50s-style Fender Telecaster set (usually) to the middle position, a Fender amplifier, and an arsenal of chord extensions and inversions are all you need to get in the ballpark of his legendary sound.

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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.

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