From his start in the massively influential Rage Against the Machine to Audioslave, and even his solo work, Tom Morello has had a diverse career as a guitarist.
And his sound has been just as diverse as his career. Today, I want to go over the gear used by Tom Morello so that we might understand where his unique sound comes from, and how we might recreate it.
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Tom’s most famous guitar, and the one he used most in Rage Against the Machine, is his “Arm The Homeless” guitar. This is a completely custom guitar made from various parts, including a Kramer neck, Ibanez Edge tremolo, and EMG active pickups.
The Squier Contemporary Telecaster and Contemporary Stratocaster are great Fender alternatives. The Epiphone Les Paul Modern is a great budget guitar, while the Ibanez Artcore series is a more affordable Artstar.
The JCM800 is quite a prohibitively expensive piece of equipment, especially when also used with a cabinet. If you are looking to use an amp stack, the Marshall ORI50H amp head and ORI412A cabinet make a killer combo, perfect for Rage Against The Machine type music.
Because of all the unique and crazy sounds Tom is known for, you would be forgiven for thinking that he has a massive pedalboard. But the truth is that he mainly relies on his own knowledge to create the effects he does, and keeps his pedalboard relatively simple.
One of his most utilized pedals is the Dunlop Cry Baby. A very common pedal among guitarists, Tom frequently uses it during solos.
He also has a signature Cry Baby, although there doesn’t seem to be any significant difference between it and the standard Cry Baby. It is more just a recreation of his ‘80s model.
This might be the most essential pedal for recreating Morello’s sound. The DigiTech Whammy is a unique pedal used for pitch-shifting a guitar, creating some very trippy sounds.
The Whammy can also be used as a harmonizer, effectively turning one guitar into two.
Next up is the Boss DD-3. Morello has two of these delay pedals that he uses for different delay effects.
One is used to switch between a slap-back style delay and a more Van Halen-style sequencer effect. The other delay pedal is used for a longer delay which he usually uses during solos alongside the Whammy.
One very interesting pedal that Tom uses is his DOD FX40B EQ. It isn’t so much interesting for its features, but rather how he uses it.
The EQ is kept flat on the pedal for the most part, but the level is set slightly higher than his amp’s. That means that he is using the pedal more as a boost than an EQ.
Although he doesn’t use this pedal quite as often, Tom also has a Boss TR-2. This pedal is used on occasion to add some extra effect to a few Audioslave songs like Gasoline and Like a Stone.
Another pedal that isn’t used quite as often, but is worth a mention, is Tom’s MXR Phase 90. This popular can be heard in the intro of Killing in the Name.
Morello’s Amp Settings
Now that we know what gear Tom Morello uses, we can take a look at how his amp is set up.
There are actually two different ways you can dial in your amp’s settings, depending on the amp you have. We can call these settings High EQ and Low EQ.
For the High EQ setting, we are going to boost the treble, while keeping the bass and mids fairly low. This setting works great for a Marshall or Marshall-style amp.
The gain isn’t cranked all the way since Morello has more of a crunchy overdrive than a pure distortion. The volume is kept around halfway since he boosts the amp with his EQ pedal. If you don’t use a pedal to boost the amp, then you can turn the volume up slightly.
Your settings should then be:
- Bass – 4
- Mids – 4
- Treble – 7
- Gain – 7
- Volume – 5
Low EQ is simply the opposite of High EQ. This time the bass and mids are boosted, while the treble is pulled back. The treble isn’t lowered as much as with the High EQ settings, as this will make your sound too dark.
Volume is again kept halfway, while the gain can be pushed slightly.
Your settings should then be:
- Bass – 6/7
- Mids – 5
- Treble – 5/6
- Gain – 7.5/8
- Volume – 5
These settings likely won’t be perfect at first but should be a good starting point for you to make adjustments until it sounds right.
Morello’s unique sound doesn’t come entirely from the gear that he uses. While it does form an important part of his sound, a large part of it comes from the way he plays and uses other things like his whammy bar to create the crazy effects he is known for.
If you truly want to emulate his sound, remember to experiment. Unconventional playing methods often lead to unconventional sounds.