Josh Homme Amp Settings & Gear – QOTSA Guitar Tone!

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

Josh Homme is surely one of the modern era’s foremost guitar players. His work as a founding member of Kyuss is enough to earn him a spot in the pantheon of modern guitar heroes, which is to say nothing of his efforts with Eagles of Death Metal or alongside rock royalty Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones in Them Crooked Vultures.

By far his most commercially successful, and most influential, work has been with the Queens of the Stone Age, often affectionately abbreviated to QOTSA.

In this article, I’ll run through the key elements of Josh Homme’s QOTSA tone, and how you can evoke some of the magic of his sound from the comfort of your own rehearsal space.

Josh Homme Guitars

Unlike most guitar heroes, Josh Homme rarely, if ever, plays “classic” guitar hero guitars like Stratocasters or Les Pauls. Homme avoids using famous guitars and prefers unique or interesting guitars, typically playing instruments from budget manufacturers or obscure guitar builders.

Reportedly, Homme owns between 30 and 40 guitars, but I’ve always associated his QOTSA sound with that of a hollow-body guitar. While his Kyuss sound came courtesy of cheap Ovation Les Paul copies, he switched to a retro-cool Motor Ave Bel Air in the early 2000s with the launch of Queens of the Stone Age.

Nailing down the exact guitar that Josh Homme was using is pretty tricky given the frontman’s well-known penchant for privacy. His taste in guitars is very eclectic, and finding the obscure vintage models he prefers can be a challenging errand.

Although Homme has a signature guitar from Australian builder Maton, he played Epiphone Dot 335 models pretty consistently through the early 2000s.

That would be my first recommendation for the QOTSA tone, although I should note that Homme used his Dots for songs in standard tuning, and many of their songs feature drop tunings. You can see Josh Homme wielding his Epiphone Dot in this video.

Pretty much any of the humbucker-equipped Epiphone hollow body lineups will do the trick for this sound. Another option for those who feel the 335 body is too large might be the smaller 339. Guitar players trying to channel the retrofuturistic cool of Josh Homme’s fashion sense might like the look of the Uptown Kat, which features mini-humbuckers.

A similar, more affordable guitar is the Squier Starcaster, another humbucker-equipped hollow-body. There’s also an even more affordable version of the Starcaster, the Affinity Starcaster, so you can access that classic hollow body tone on a tighter budget.

Josh Homme Amps

Perhaps due to his preference for down-tuned guitars, Josh Homme prefers to play his guitars through bass amps. Homme kept many of his studio amplifier choices secret over the years, and, as with his taste in guitars, avoided using major-brand amps in favor of a more unique tonal flavor.

However, in recent years, Homme has opened up about his choice of amplifiers, and as a result, devoted QOTSA fans can now know which amps he used to get his classic sound.

For years, Josh Homme played Ampeg SVT bass amps.

Assuming that most guitar players, like me, are playing clubs rather than festivals and arenas, I’d recommend a smaller iteration of these amplifiers. Ampeg’s Micro SVT stack is a great place to start.

Surprisingly, given the massive, warm tone of classic QOTSA, Josh Homme recently revealed that he has been using small Peavey solid-state combo amps in the studio for most of their records. I actually played an old Peavey Bandit combo for a long time and can attest to the durability and quality of these amplifiers.

He actually used a Peavey Decade for years, although that model is no longer in production.

I rarely recommend modeling amps for particular tones, but the Boss Katana does a fairly good impression of an old-school solid-state amp when you set it right.

My Boss Katana 100 Mk2 Next to my PRS Guitar.

As a final note, much of Josh Homme’s signature booming low end came from his use of bass cabinets as well as bass heads. You’ll want to use a speaker cab designed for a bass guitar for this sound.

Josh Homme’s QOTSA Amp Settings

To get in the zone for Josh Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age amp settings, be prepared to run your settings very differently from an ordinary hard rock tone. We’re running a lot of low-end, but not so much that the sound becomes muddy or unclear.

Volume: 7-8

Get a nice, thick, loud amount of volume. Kyuss, and Queens of the Stone Age, were notoriously loud live bands in their prime.

Bass: 6-7

You’re running a fairly bass-heavy setup, but you’ll want to have your bass set to about 6 or 7 for the characteristic Homme low end.

Mids: 8

You need a midrange spike to boost your tone and cut through the mix.

Treble: 5.5

You don’t need much treble for this sound – just enough to prevent your tone from becoming muddy or too dense is about right.

Josh Homme Effects

Josh Homme himself has used a broad variety of effects over the years, but there are a few main effects units that he used to achieve the classic tone on “No One Knows.”

Fortunately, unlike his taste in guitars and amps, Homme prefers widely available mass-produced pedals. Chief among these is the Boss Super Overdrive. He sets the level and tone knobs to maximum, and the drive knob as low as possible.

I would recommend using the Boss GE-7 EQ pedal to help shape your EQ and get a mid-boost where necessary.

Finally, where appropriate, use an octave generator such as the EHX POG.

Josh Homme Tuning

Josh Homme often detuned his guitars to C standard (low to high: C, F, A#, D#, G, C), including on “No One Knows.” You’ll need thicker strings to achieve this and maintain tuning stability, so I’d recommend Beefy Slinky or heavier.

Final Word

Josh Homme’s elusive QOTSA tone has been the stuff of guitar players’ dreams for decades now. With the right gear, the right tuning, and tight rhythm playing, you can effectively capture some of the magic of his groovy, powerful 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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