John Petrucci Amp Settings & Guitar Rig – A Closer Look!

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

Often referred to as the grandfather of progressive guitar, John Petrucci is the guitarist all the other guitarists want to be.

He has fantastic songwriting skills, flawless technique, and most importantly he’s a big ol’ gear nerd, just like us!

John spends a lot of time choosing the right equipment to meticulously craft his ideal tone, so today I’m going to show you how you can achieve such a tone for yourself.

Guitars

Early Dream Theater fans will know him as an Ibanez user, sporting the original RG with DiMarzio pickups and that iconic Picasso-style artwork.

But after a falling out with Ibanez, John was prompted to move over to Ernie Ball MusicMan guitars and has never looked back since.

John Petrucci JP Signature models

Ernie Ball’s JP line of guitars were designed in collaboration with John to realize his vision of the perfect guitar.

This guitar line is constantly being iterated on and new models are released yearly. There are now dozens of guitars in the line, all with unique wood choices and finishes.

A big focus is always put on the tonewoods of the guitar, John likes to make what he calls a ‘tonewood cocktail’ which usually combines the body wood with a thick maple cap.

Sometimes using a mahogany tone block in the middle of the body.

This is then paired with his signature DiMarzio Illuminator pickups. Although long-time Dream Theater fans (myself included) will probably have a soft spot for the classic DiMarzio D-Sonic.

The current production run of JP guitars includes the Ernie Ball Musicman JP15.

MusicMan’s partner company, Sterling by Musicman, also makes a more affordable line of Petrucci signature guitars for those on a smaller budget.

This includes a newer JP150FM, or if you prefer the older style with that big bowl arm cutaway the JP60 is also a great choice.

MusicMan Majesty

You might think after over a decade of iteration the JP line of guitars has been refined to absolute perfection.

So everyone was quite surprised when the Majesty line appeared out of nowhere and were so radically different in design and ergonomics.

Some of the models you’ll see John frequently using are the Musicman Majesty Emerald Sky, the Majesty Spice Melange which has a beautiful burled top, and the green Majesty Enchanted Forest.

Obviously, these guitars are quite costly, so Sterling guitars stepped up once again to create a fantastic line of affordable Majesty guitars which include the Sterling Majesty MAJ200XSM and MAJ 200.

Tuning

Dream Theater has well over a dozen full-length studio albums under their belt, with each using a mixture of 6, 7, and even 8 string guitars. This leaves us with quite a lot of tunings to contend with!

Here’s a quick rundown of the various tunings they have used:

6 string:

E Standard (E A D G B E)

E♭ Standard (E♭ A♭ D♭ G♭ B♭ E♭)

Drop D (D A D G B E)

D standard (D G C F A D)

C standard (C F B♭ E♭ G C)

B♭ standard (B♭ E♭ A♭ D♭ F B♭)

A Standard (A D G C E A)

7 string:

E standard (B E A D G B E)

D Standard (A D G C F A D)

C Standard (G-C-F-B♭-E♭-G-C)

8 string:
E Standard (F♯-B-E-A-D-G-B-E)

Amps

John has been a long-time user of Mesa Boogie amplifiers.

He needs to use every possible kind of tone under the sun in Dream Theater, crystal clear cleans, classic rock crunches, gritty distorted rhythms to hyper-saturated leads.

This has made him learn heavily about Mesa’s Mark series of amplifiers as they are the very definition of versatile when it comes to guitar tone.

Mesa/Boogie JP-2C

Out of all the amps John has used throughout his career, the Mark IIC+ was always quite special for him. He’s even described it as his “Holy Grail” amplifier.

But as Mesa moved on to make the newer Mark IV and V models, the IIC+ was mostly relegated to studio use only.

This all changed in 2016 when John was able to unofficially reintroduce the MKIIC+ in the form of his own signature amplifier, the Mesa/Boogie JP-2C Mark IIC.

This is the ultimate John Petrucci head and embodies everything he needed from his guitar tone.

For those on a budget, you may wish to consider something like Mesa’s own Mark Five:25.

Or if you’re open to digital modeling, a Kemper Profiler will give you instant access to all of Mesa’s amplifiers at once.

John Petrucci Amp Settings

As John uses quite literally dozens of different sounds and patches in his guitar setup, there is no singular tone that will allow you to do everything John does.

But here is my suggestion for a great regular driven Petrucci tone that’s tight, articulate, and defined.

Gain: 6 – John tends to let his technique do the talking, so instead of oversaturating the gain he’ll normally back it off a bit and just dig in harder with the pick when he needs more aggression.

Bass: 5.5 – As the single guitarist in Dream Theater John needs to have slightly more full-sounding guitars than normal, so a small boost here helps to thicken things up just a tad.

Mids: 5 – The Mesa amp has a very good mid presence when left at 5 so leaving this as-is works quite well here.

Treble: 5 – Johns’s guitars are usually quite smooth on the top end, so there’s no need to boost this.

Pull Me Under

Everyone’s favorite Dream Theater song to learn, unlike some of the more recent albums, this track has slightly boosted gain and a bit more of a trebly sound.

Gain: 8

Bass: 5

Mids: 5

Treble: 7

Metropolis Part 1

Definition and articulation are key points to this song. As you’ll be using a lot of ‘wet’ effects on the guitar here, it’s important to have the guitars be able to slice through the mix.

Gain: 7

Bass: 4

Mids: 5

Treble: 6

In The Name of God (lead)

The solo section in this song (or most of the songs on Train of Thought for that matter) is nearly impossible to play if you don’t have the right tone. Here you’ll need lots of saturation and compression to get the notes as even and clean as possible.

Gain: 9

Bass: 4

Mids: 7

Treble: 6

Pedals

John is a huge fan of pedals, he’ll take several drawers worth and route them to a switching box which allows him to change multiple pedals at once, negating the need to tapdance around to change the tone.

Dunlop JP95 John Petrucci Signature Cry Baby

The JP95 Cry Baby is John’s own signature wah pedal.

Unless you absolutely need the in-built 6 band EQ you can achieve very similar tones using the more affordable GCB96 Cry Baby.

Fractal Audio Systems Axe-Fx II

For us mere mortals, an Axe-FX II would be an entire rig. But the thing is the Axe FX has one of the most comprehensive FX suites built right into it. This is why it’s a staple in the guitar arsenal of so many noteworthy bands like Breaking Benjamin and Polyphia.

So when you’re John, you can use this high-end piece of gear purely to handle your modulation effects.

Fortunately, there are some great dedicated multi-fx units such as the Line 6 POD Go or the TCE Plethora X3 which can achieve similar results far cheaper.

Carl Martin Compressor/Limiter

A solid compressor is an important aspect of reducing your dynamic range when it comes to both fast lead playing or big open chords where you need to hear each string.

Unfortunately, Carl Martin pedals are not widely available, but the Keeley Compressor Plus makes a great affordable alternative.

Final Thoughts

With several decades of guitar, amp, and pedal experimentation under his belt, I’ve only been able to scratch the surface of John’s full guitar rig.

But with the gear covered in this article you’re going to be left with a very solid and reliable guitar tone that can hold its own in any professional musical setting.

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About Liam Plowman

Liam is a British musician who specializes in all things guitar, audio, and gear. He was trained as a guitar technician at the Oxford Guitar Gallery and currently teaches at multiple music schools across the UK. Key skillset includes purchasing unnecessary guitar equipment and accumulating far too many plugins.

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