I was still in high school when Paramore’s smash album Riot! hit the iPods of the world’s pop-punk-leaning teenagers. All of a sudden, all the punk girls I knew were sporting Haley Williams-esque haircuts.
No small part of Paramore’s smash success was the angular, thick guitar sound of Josh Farro, joined on the supporting album tour by Taylor York.
The powerful, driven sound of Riot! is perhaps best exemplified by the album’s major hit, and arguably Paramore’s signature song, “Misery Business.” For this article, I based my gear recommendations on that song and its instantly recognizable riff.
Table of Contents
The Paramore sound is a thick, powerful, overdriven humbucker tone. You’ll need a suitably high-output humbucker-equipped guitar to capture the chunky palm mutes of the Paramore tone.
Another major piece of the puzzle is the counterpoint between the palm muted guitars and the higher melodies played by the other guitar.
The densely stacked sound of an army of humbucker-equipped guitars was a defining feature of mid-2000s pop punk, and it’s important to have a guitar capable of handling chunkiness as well as the jangle and punch of the higher ranges.
Early in Paramore’s career, Josh Farro was partial to Les Pauls and Telecasters. The humbucker-equipped Telecaster Deluxe was a mainstay of Paramore videos and live shows in the Riot! Era, so I’d make the case to use the Tele as the main foundation of your Paramore tone.
The Vintera Telecaster is probably the modern guitar closest to the one Farro would have used before Paramore blew up. The stock Fender humbuckers have enough bite and power to push your amp into Paramore-esque drive, and, being a Tele, can handle the sparkling cleans of their contrasting bridges.
At the lowest end of Fender’s price range, the Squier Affinity Telecaster with humbuckers is an excellent option. While the Squier humbuckers lack the clarity and punch of their higher-priced brethren, the guitar is reliable and well-built for its price point.
Touring guitarist Taylor York, although he did not appear on the album, extensively used Les Pauls live with Paramore. He mostly played a Les Paul Standard, which means there are plenty of affordable options available.
I wouldn’t normally recommend a signature model, but the Slash Epiphone Les Paul Standard probably has the best pickups of any Epiphone model at its price point.
The dual-guitar interplay of Paramore is a huge part of their sound, and conventional wisdom is for each guitarist to play a different instrument. If you’re in a band looking to capture some of the Paramore tone, I’d recommend one play a Tele and the other a Les Paul.
For those of you enjoying playing your favorite songs at home, I’d recommend the Telecaster Deluxe, as it has a more versatile tone for this kind of music than the Les Paul.
Both Paramore axemen were fans of the most popular high-gain 2000s amp: Marshall’s new-millennium JCM2000.
Unfortunately, this amplifier is no longer in production, but you can capture some chunky Marshall tube amp tones with the British builder’s modern lineup.
Marshall have been making some terrific combo amps in recent years, including some specifically built for overdriven modern rock tones. The DSL20CR is a combo amp with enough power and volume to easily keep up with even the most enthusiastic drummers.
Another option, although a head rather than a combo amp, is the Blackstar HT20RH, another 20-watt amp based on the classic tube drive Marshall voicing. The main difference between these two amplifiers is in volume staging.
While Marshall amps tend to “jump” in volume unevenly – the gap between 2 and 4 on mine is particularly wide – Blackstar amps are specifically built to address this. They have a more even taper as you turn the volume up.
This makes adjusting from home practice to rehearsal or even gig volume much easier.
Paramore Guitar Tone – Taylor York Amp Settings
For Paramore’s tone, you’ll need to run your amp pretty hot. It’s a thick, overdriven tone with plenty of natural-sounding compression.
However, like most sounds, it’s not quite as gain-heavy as you might think, with plenty of articulation and chime in the sound.
You don’t need to set your gain control much further than halfway for this sound. This should be enough gain to get a nice overdriven sound without venturing into full-bore metal territory.
As always for musical styles heavy on palm muting and orchestrated guitar parts, you want to leave plenty of room for your bass player. Setting the bass control to 5 gives you enough warmth to sound thick without getting woofy or undefined.
This is a classic mid-forward sound. You need the guitar to cut through against the bass, drums, and vocals, so turn up the midrange and let your playing techniques do most of the tonal work.
I wouldn’t set the treble much higher than 6 for this tone, as much more will risk becoming brittle and unpleasant with too much pick attack.
For the early Paramore tone, you don’t need too many pedals. A simple overdrive and a digital delay should be enough to capture most of the tones on “Misery Business.”
Although in recent years, Farro and York have branched out into boutique overdrives and fancy modeling software, back in 2007 they were using mass-produced Boss and MXR effects.
Both Farro and York were major users of the Boss Giga Delay, which is no longer in production. However, for the clear, crisp Boss delay sound, it’s hard to beat the DD-8 Digital Delay, or for something more elaborate, the DD-200.
If you’re looking to capture the era-defining Paramore guitar tone, you’re certainly not alone. The gear in this guide will get you most of the way to emulating the riff-ready driven sounds of Paramore’s golden era.