Red Hot Chili Peppers are perhaps one of the most well-known and recognizable bands on Earth. They have several massive hit songs and albums under their belts.
And a large part of that success is due to the skills and sound of guitarist John Frusciante. But what goes into creating such an iconic guitar sound?
Let us take a look at the gear and amp settings he uses to create such a fantastic guitar tone.
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John Frusciante’s Guitars
Of course, the best way to recreate John Frusciante’s sound is by using similar gear. That means using the right guitar.
While Frusciante has used a number of different guitars throughout his career, he is perhaps best known for playing Fenders – specifically, the Fender Stratocasters.
While any Strat should get you the right sound, for the best experience an older model would be the way to go. Either a ‘50s or ‘60s Fender Strat. And if you want to be especially accurate, put a set of Seymour Duncan SSL-1 pickups in your Strat.
Frusciante also used a 1963 Fender Tele during the recording of By The Way. If you want that album’s specific sound or just want a more twangy sound, a Fender American Original ‘60s would be a great option.
Another important guitar to mention is his Gretsch White Falcon. It is debated whether Frusciante had a 1955 or a 1965 White Falcon. But it is known that his White Falcon can be heard on some of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ biggest hits like Californication and Otherside.
Frusciante has used a number of other guitars from Gibson, Ibanez, as well as other Fenders. But the three I talked about above are among his most well-known and iconic.
John Frusciante’s Amps
Now that you have the right guitar, it is time to get the right amp. Just like his guitars, Frusciante has used a number of different amp heads and cabinets. But there is one pairing that can be considered his go-to.
For the amp head, Frusciante uses a Marshall Silver Jubilee which he pairs with a Marshall Major cabinet. An original Major might be a bit hard to come by, but an MX212R or MX412BR will work great depending on how much power you are looking for. If you are looking for a bit more of a vintage sound closer to his vintage Major, then I would recommend the 1960BX.
Getting your hands on both a Silver Jubilee and a 1060BX can set you back quite a bit. For something a bit more budget-friendly, a Marshall SC20C is a great alternative.
Dialing in the Tone – John Frusciante Amp Settings
Once you have got the right guitar and amp, you can start dialing in John Frusciante’s tone. Unfortunately, there isn’t a complete, in-depth breakdown of Frusciante’s amp settings.
That means we have to rely on guesswork and some fiddling to recreate his sound as accurately as possible. John Frusciante’s sound is luckily not very complex, so, getting close to a similar sound isn’t too difficult.
Overall, Frusciante’s sound is quite bright and rounded. There isn’t a lot of bottom end to it and the gain isn’t overwhelming.
That gives us a fairly good idea of what our amp settings need to be – plenty of treble, a little bass, and the mids and gain somewhere in the middle.
To get the sound nice and bright I would set the treble to about 7. If it isn’t bright enough then you can push it up to 8, but I wouldn’t go any higher.
Since you don’t need a lot of bass but you also don’t want it sounding too thin, setting the bass to 3 should do the trick. You can turn it up to a 3.5, maybe a 4 if the tone is a bit thin.
The mids is where it gets a bit tricky. It seems like everyone has a wildly different idea of how much or little mids should be in Frusciante’s tone.
Depending on who you ask, the mids should be anywhere between 3 – 7. I feel 3 is way too little and starts getting too much into scooped mids territory. Setting it to 7 also seems too excessive as Frusciante’s tone isn’t really that punchy and aggressive.
Setting the mids to 5 seems to be the best spot in my opinion. It rounds out the tone just enough. Of course, your experience might differ and you should just adjust until it sounds right.
The gain should also be set about halfway, or 5. This gives the tone enough crunch without becoming too aggressive.
As for the presence, that should be set to around 4 or 5. The output should be around 6 or 7.
Here is a quick summary of John Frusciante’s Amp Settings:
Treble: 7 – 8
Output: 7 – 8
Presence: 4 – 5
For effects and solos, Frusciante has a few pedals that he utilizes.
Whenever John needs some extra punch during a solo, like the one on Dani California, he uses a BOSS DS-2. The DS-2 is a fantastic distortion pedal and a staple on countless pedalboards.
To boost his clean tone a bit without coloring it too much, he uses the MXR M133. This is a great pedal if you just need to give your sound a little boost.
For any wah sections, Frusciante uses an Ibanez WH10. The WH10 allows you to adjust the depth and set it to true, buffered, or bypass mode.
Sometimes the most iconic guitar sounds are made using the simplest setups. John Frusciante is proof that you don’t need anything more than a guitar and an amp to create a distinct sound that is recognized by almost everyone.
And now you also have the tools and the know-how to recreate the sound of one of the most recognizable bands in the world.