Eagles / Joe Walsh Amp Settings – ‘Hotel California’ & Others!

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

Whether it was with The Eagles, the James Gang, or as a solo artist, Joe Walsh has been a true American guitar hero for about as long as American guitar heroes have existed.

Walsh’s emotional, groove-laden playing propelled him to the top of the charts as a young man and he’s stayed atop the Mount Rushmore of guitar players ever since.

It’s no surprise that most budding rock guitar players want to emulate a piece of his tone, dripping with vintage drive and old-school cool.

In this article, I’ve dissected the key elements of Joe Walsh’s guitar tone in two classic Walsh tracks: The Eagles’ “Hotel California” and the James Gang’s “Funk # 49”.

These staples of classic rock radio offer a great starting point for any guitar player looking to capture rollicking guitar sound with plenty of power and attitude.

I’ll look at the gear Joe Walsh used and include some affordable modern alternatives for today’s generation of guitar players.

Be warned: once you’ve entered classic rock tone paradise, you may check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Guitars

Joe Walsh played plenty of guitars over the years. He famously sold Jimmy Page his #1 Les Paul Standard, for example.

When most people think of Joe Walsh’s tone, however, they think of the solo in “Hotel California” or the intro to “Funk #49.”

For both of these tracks, Walsh deployed a studio favorite, his trusty Fender Telecaster. Walsh called the instrument “old” in the 1970s, so it was most likely a late-50s model.

Fender offers a Telecaster with 1950s-accurate specs, the Vintera ‘50s model. This would be a great place to start.

Guitar players on a tighter budget will appreciate the lower-priced equivalent, the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Tele.

Set your pickup selector to the bridge position and get ready to rock.

Joe Walsh Amps

Readers familiar with the “more is more” attitude of most classic rock guitar players may be surprised to learn of Joe Walsh’s affinity for smaller tube amps.

Joe Walsh favored small Fender amplifiers for studio work. This rang true throughout his time with The Eagles as well as the James Gang, so for his classic tone I’d recommend tracking down a reasonably priced Fender amp.

For the “Hotel California” lead sound, you’ll want a vintage-sounding Fender “tweed” amp. These were so named because the cloth covering over the speaker resembled tweed cloth.

On “Funk #49” Walsh eschewed the tweed for what was then a more modern Fender “blackface” amplifier. These offered a little more sparkling treble and tight low end in the tone.

The Fender Blues Deluxe is a 1×12 combo amp with plenty of grunt and push for playing with a loud rock and roll band. Bedroom guitar players may find it a little much, however.

In that case, I recommend the Fender Pro Junior, a smaller amp with lower wattage. It isn’t quite as loud as the Blues Deluxe but will do the trick.

Either of these Fender combo amplifiers will get you most of the way to embracing some of Joe Walsh’s guitar tone.

Joe Walsh Pedalboard

Most of Joe Walsh’s classic recordings were cut before guitar pedals were as widespread as they are now.

Most of his work with the James Gang, for example, was recorded with his guitar plugged straight into the amp. For “Funk #49,” you can simply crank your Fender tube amp and let it rip.

The Eagles, on the other hand, were a considerably more organized entity. With two other guitar players in the band, Joe Walsh needed some tweaking to set his tone apart from the rest.

The “Hotel California” solo, arguably the band’s magnum opus, demands the use of a few effects. You’ll want subtle echo and phaser effects for Joe Walsh’s parts in the solo.

We’re not talking about Eddie Van Halen’s plane-taking-off phase tone here. Joe Walsh’s use of phaser was far more subtle, working with the delay to add a hint of shimmer and warble to his lead lines.

Joe Walsh is an avowed user of Boss effects pedals. The Boss Phase Shifter, which is a durable, affordable pedal, lacks some of the warmth of Walsh’s tone. I’ve found that the MXR Script Phase 90, which is a replica of the warm, pleasant circuit MXR used in the ‘70s, can be used to get closer results.

Either way, you want to set your phaser to slow.

For your Eagles echo effects, Boss’s Digital Reverb is a great option. Boss Digital Delay is also a great choice.

 

Most guitar aficionados agree that Joe Walsh will have used a combination of both for “Hotel California.”

If you’re looking for something with more Seventies warmth, the Echoplex Delay pedal and Keeley’s Magnetic Echo sound astonishingly similar to a classic tape delay.

Set the reverb so it’s very short. Time the delay so that the echoes are in time with the song.

These are the key ingredients to Joe Walsh’s lead tone on “Hotel California.”

Joe Walsh Amp Settings – ‘Hotel California’ (Eagles) Tone!

Joe Walsh set his amp to avoid clashing with the two other guitar players in The Eagles.

The below settings should get you in the ballpark of his lead tone, but be prepared to tweak the EQ depending on your own playing style.

For the “Funk #49” tone, however, simply turn everything on your amp up to ten. Run it Hendrix-style, and let the power flow through your fingers.

Gain: 3

Joe Walsh avoided using too much gain and saturation, preferring to let the guitar’s natural voice dictate his playing.

Volume: 4

This feels like it won’t be enough volume, but Joe Walsh’s tone is surprisingly quiet. It lacks the noise of a tube amp pushed into breakup, hanging out at the edge of breakup. Around 4 should do the trick, but you can turn up if you need to.

Mids: 4

You don’t want much midrange honk for this guitar sound. Let the bright, airy Telecaster do its thing without any mid-heavy nasality.

Treble: 7

There’s a lot of bite and sparkle in Joe Walsh’s guitar tone. Set your treble to 7.

Bass: 3

You don’t need much bass for this guitar sound. Joe Walsh was playing a Telecaster, which is a naturally bright guitar, on purpose, to stand out against the darker humbucker-equipped tones of Don Felder and Glenn Frey’s Gibson guitars.

Presence: 3

You don’t need much up-front aggression for this guitar sound. The presence knob at about 3 should give the guitar enough harmonic character to stand out without dominating any other instruments.

Other Equipment

A few other factors affected Joe Walsh’s legendary tone.

Chief among them is his choice to keep the action on his guitars extremely low. Action, the distance from string to fretboard, affects your guitar’s playability and tone.

Guitars with higher action have a little more resonant length to their strings. This results in reduced playability, but a more resonant, harmonically rich tone.

Guitars with lower action, on the other hand, have less resonant length to their strings. While the guitar might be easier to play, the sound won’t be as dense and rich.

Think of it like the difference in tone between an acoustic guitar and an unplugged electric guitar, respectively.

Joe Walsh preferred light strings and very low action, and used feather-light nylon picks. I recommend the Herco .65, as this was a commonly used guitar pick in the 1970s.

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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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