Considered one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time, Jimmy Page has inspired countless others to pick up the guitar, myself included. His sound helped to take Led Zeppelin beyond other rock bands of the time and could even be considered the blueprint for modern rock.
But what goes into creating the sound of not only a genre but an entire generation? That is what I will be going over in this article – the gears that Page used and how to get that Led Zeppelin tone.
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When it comes to the right guitar for playing Led Zeppelin, there is only one answer: Gibson. Specifically, a Gibson Les Paul.
Even more specifically a 1950’s Les Paul. Of course, a 50’s Les Paul might be a bit too expensive for many. Any Les Paul will do just fine, like the Les Paul Tribute. You can even use an Epiphone Les Paul and still get fairly close to Page’s sound.
Just be sure to use a guitar with classic Gibson humbuckers. Page played his 1959 Les Paul pretty much as is, not changing anything apart from the tuning machines and sanding down the neck slightly.
And you can’t talk about Jimmy Page’s guitars without mentioning his double-neck Gibson SG. A Custom EDS-1275 is a great modern version of the classic double neck SG.
Just like his guitar, there is really only one amp to use for a Zeppelin sound. Marshall is the first thing that comes to mind for most people.
Page’s Marshall of choice is a 1959 Super Lead. This amp can be quite hard to come by these days, though. Fortunately, the 1959HW is an almost perfect recreation of the original Super Lead.
These amp heads can then be paired with basically any Marshall cabinet. Something like an MX412AR should have more than enough power.
With the right guitar and amp, it is time to dial in Jimmy Page’s tone. His tone is actually quite straightforward.
You really just need to crank up the bass and treble a bit, while keeping everything else about halfway. This should get you very close to the Led Zeppelin sound.
In other words, set the bass and treble to around 7 or 8. Presence should also be set around 8.
Mids should be set to around 5 or 6. The same goes for gain. Page’s sound is actually less gain-heavy than you would expect and only needs to be set to about 5.
There also isn’t a lot of reverb in Page’s sound. That can just be set to about 4. As for the volume and master, just like the mids, set those to 5 or 6.
To sum up:
- Bass – 7/8
- Mids – 5/6
- Treble – 7/8
- Gain – 5
- Reverb – 4
- Volume – 5/6
- Master – 5/6
Of course, this is just a basic setup. The settings will differ a bit depending on the song.
Black Dog for example will need a bit more mids, while Kashmir needs a bit less. Whole Lotta Love is a heavier song, so it needs some more gain and a little less treble.
Here are some basic amp settings for a few of Led Zeppelin’s most popular songs:
- Bass – 8
- Mids – 8
- Treble – 7
- Gain – 5
- Bass – 7
- Mids – 4
- Treble – 7
- Gain – 5
Whole Lotta Love
- Bass – 7
- Mids – 6
- Treble – 6
- Gain – 6
Stairway to Heaven
- Bass – 6
- Mids – 4
- Treble – 8
- Gain – 2
- Solo Gain – 5
Guitar Tone Controls
Jimmy Page’s guitar tone is very sharp, punchy, and biting. There is also a lot of sustain in his tone.
It is important to have your guitar set up right if you want to get as close to his tone as possible. Especially if you are playing something other than a Les Paul.
To get the right amount of sustain, you want to adjust your guitar’s volume as little as possible. Keep the volume cranked for the most part and only dial it back slightly when absolutely necessary. The volume dynamics should come more from your playing than the guitar’s volume.
To get that sharp and punchy tone while still having crystal clear notes, play around with the treble on your guitar. It will probably be set quite high to get it just right. I have found that 3/4 to about 4/5 is the sweet spot for the guitar’s treble.
While Page has never been known for his pedal setup, there are a few noteworthy pedals he has used throughout his career. Fuzz, delay, and phasers are perhaps his three most used pedals.
For a fuzz pedal, the best would be to use one with germanium transistors. They have more of a vintage sound than silicon transistors.
For the real Zeppelin sound, the Tone Bender MKII is the fuzz pedal to go for. It is no longer in production, though, and even a second-hand one can be too expensive for most. The Electro-Harmonix Big Muff and Dunlop Fuzz Face are both great alternatives.
The delay is a similar situation. A tape delay is the one preferred by Page. Specifically, the Echoplex T-Rex Replicator is the one you would want to go for to get the most authentic sound.
As for the phaser, any decent pedal will do. My choice would be the MXR M101.
Using Distortion Pedals Instead of Amp Distortion
If you aren’t getting quite the distortion you are looking for, or you want to get a more British sound, you can always use a pedal.
There are a lot of pedals that would be great to get a Zeppelin tone. My top picks would be something from Friedman. Either the BE-OD or Dirty Shirley. The Wampler Plexi is also fantastic for getting a British overdrive.
Page’s sound is very big. The best way to get such a big sound is through a power amp stack. But if you have a lower power amp and feel like you aren’t getting enough power, try adding a boost or preamp pedal.
Jimmy Page showed us that all you really need to create one of the greatest guitar sounds is a guitar and amp, and that one of the greatest combinations is the Gibson Les Paul and a Marshall amp.
Now go out there and Rock and Roll!