Weezer Amp Settings – Sound Like Brian Bell & Rivers Cuomo!

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

For many rock and roll fans, Weezer is a nostalgic band that represents a simpler time in music.

Forgoing the hyper-polished productions and complicated song structures in favor of catchy and memorable tunes that simply feel too to listen and sing to.

So today I’ll be taking an in-depth look into the guitars, amps, and settings guitarists Brian Bell and Rivers Cuomo used to craft their raw and distinct guitar sounds.


Weezer makes use of all the classic guitars you know and love. The Strat, the Tele, the Les Paul, you name it!

But there are a few that stand out as being distinctly iconic to Weezer.

Gibson Explorer 70s

While the Gibson Explorer might conjure images of James Hetfield blasting metal riffs on stage, guitarist Brian Bell has used it as his main guitar since around 2009.

The ultra-metal look of an explorer provides a humorous dissonance against Weezer’s otherwise traditional look.

Brian’s described the Explorer as providing the best of both worlds, meaning it produces a great tone but is also robust, good-looking, and can withstand the rigors of touring.

If you’re looking for something a little cheaper the Epiphone Explorer is pretty much identical in appearance at a fraction of the cost.

Fender Stratocaster

Rivers Cuomo, much like Brian, uses a ton of guitars including the previously mentioned Gibson Explorer.

But one you’ll see crop up time and time again is the good old Fender Stratocaster. The Strat is tonally diverse enough to handle all the clean and distorted tones Weezer utilizes with ease.

One point of confusion is that early on you’ll often see Rivers using what looks like an H-H configuration Stratocaster, but it’s in fact a custom Warmoth.

If you look carefully you’ll notice there’s no branding on the headstock.

In recent years Squier has been very open to producing Strat-style guitars that utilize humbucking pickups.

So I highly recommend the Squier Affinity Stratocaster as it’s cheap and utilizes both humbucking and single coil pickups to produce comparable tones.


Weezer will commonly use what they refer to as Weezer tuning which basically means every string is tuned 1 semitone down to D#/Eb standard (D# G# C# F# A# D#).

This is purely to keep the songs within the band’s more comfortable vocal range.

However, there are a few songs here and there which are just in standard tuning.


Weezers’ guitar tones can simply be described as eclectic. One minute you need a bright and spanky clean tone, the next you’re on full-bore distortion with huge amounts of hairy fuzz.

The good news is you don’t need much gear to make these tones happen.

Kemper Profiler

Both Brian and Rivers utilize the Kemper heavy in their live setups.

It’s no secret that they lean towards classic, vintage, and oftentimes rare old amplifiers that you can’t simply walk into a Guitar Center and buy off the shelf.

This makes the prospect of taking these valuable amplifiers out on the road particularly unsettling as they may get damaged, lost, or stolen.

This is where the Kemper profiler comes in to save the day, it allows you to profile an amplifier and take a digital copy of it on the road with you which sounds essentially identical to the real thing.

For anyone who isn’t interested in lugging huge amounts of gear around, or whose gear is too valuable to constantly take outside, this thing is a godsend.

While no other amp modelers on the market quite have the profiling technology of a Kemper, if you want a modeler that’s equally small and convenient to take out, the Line 6 Helix Stomp makes a very affordable alternative.

Matchless C-30

A small boutique amp that was originally used by Brian after he didn’t have time to get his Kemper ready for a festival, so he ended up using this one instead.

It’s a nice little 30-watt 2×12 combo amp that has taken inspiration from the old vintage Marshalls.

Being a smaller manufacturer, these amps tend to come with a hefty price tag. So I recommend the Boss Katana as a nice and versatile alternative.

Weezer Amp Settings

Weezer utilizes a lot of different tones in their music. But their main distortion style I would describe as being quite rowdy and not particularly tight.

Gain: 7 – Decent saturation of the gain helps to get that heavily driven sound. This by itself will be lacking in harmonics, but you can use a fuzz/od pedal to pick up the rest of the slack.

Bass: 6.5 – Weezer’s primary distortion sound, despite being hairy, is actually quite warm and rock-ish. So here a nice bass boost helps to thicken everything up.

Mids: 5 – There’s nothing particularly special going on with the mids, keeping it 5 allows you to get enough presence without it becoming too boxy.

Treble: 6.5 – A generous treble boost allows you to enhance the fuzzy aspect of the sound and inject a bit more life and energy into the tone.

Say It Ain’t So (clean, Rivers)

As opposed to Brian’s spanky and bright clean sound in this song, Rivers uses a much warmer and distinctly more Stratocaster-like sound. A good boost to the bass here can help to enhance the thickness of the chords.

Gain: 1

Bass: 7

Mids: 5

Treble: 6

Island In The Sun (clean)

The clean tone of Island In The Sun is distinctly brighter, and if you listen carefully there’s just a hair of breakup. So just the tiniest bit of a gain and a nice treble boost here work great!

Gain: 1.5

Bass: 7

Mids: 5

Treble: 7

Beverly Hills

The distorted tone for the chorus of Beverly Hills is, as opposed to many other Weezer songs, much clearer, lower in gain, brighter, and can be muted quickly for the pauses.

This requires a significant reduction in the gain and bass, with a generous treble boost.

Gain: 5

Bass: 5

Mids: 5

Treble: 6


While the band does utilize the Kemper profiler which has its own suite of in-built effects, Brian has mentioned he still prefers real pedals so he can see the knobs and can easily adjust things on the fly.

Dunlop Cry Baby Wah

Brian can be seen using the GCB95 Cry Baby from Dunlop on many live shows and is often used for leads.

The GCB95 is already one of the most affordable Wah pedals on the market, but if you’re having trouble finding one the Behringer HB01 Hellbabe is a serviceable replacement.

Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi

That fuzzy distortion is one of the most important aspects of Weezer’s guitar tone, and it primarily comes from the Electro-Harmonix Big Muff Pi which is an iconic fuzz sound that gained popularity in the 70s thanks to guys like Jimi Hendrix.

Despite being old, it’s still very popular, widely available, and is used by many modern bands such as Korn to get that really gnarly fuzz sound.

If you’re on a budget the Behringer SF300 is about as cheap of an alternative as you could hope for.

Modern Vintage

Weezer is a great example of how you can apply that old-school rock ethos and tone to modern music productions and achieve it through gear.

It’s a lot of fun making these classic rock sounds and I hope you enjoy having a go at getting these tones for yourself using your own gear!

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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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