Amp Settings for Punk Music: Get the Perfect Punk Tone


Getting the perfect punk tone can be a challenge, so I’ve created this article to help you dial in the best amp settings to achieve that iconic sound. I’ll be addressing different types of punk tones, common problems and fixes, and giving you some example settings to try too.

Just looking for some punk amp presets and examples? Scroll down to get example amp settings for loads of iconic punk songs.

The Quick Answer

To get a good punk tone with your electric guitar, start with the following amp settings:

  • Gain: 5-7
  • Bass: 4-6
  • Mids: 6-8
  • Treble: 5-7

Keep in mind that these are just a starting point. This article is filled with tonnes of tips and example settings so you can dial in the exactly the kind of tone you’re looking for with your particular guitar and amplifier.

Contents

  • What Makes a Good Punk Tone?
  • Common Problems
  • Amp Setting Examples for Popular Punk Songs

What Makes a Good Punk Tone?

The punk tone is very hard to define because there are so many different styles and every band has a different signature tone. I’m going to break some rules here by generalising the tone into two categories: classic British punk rock (think Ramones and the Pistols), and modern punk pop (think Green Day and Blink-182.

This is a huge simplification of the punk genre but it’s not possible to dissect the tone of every punk band in this article (although I will give some example settings later on in the article if that’s what you’re looking for).

Here I’ll assume you already have a good understanding of what the gain, bass, mids and treble controls on an amplifier do. If you aren’t familiar with these controls, check out my complete guide to amp settings to learn exactly what they do.

Classic Punk Tone

It’s best to start with your guitar set to the bridge pickup and ensure your tone and volume controls are set to maximum.

The classic punk tone is more overdriven than distorted. The exact setting you’ll need depends on what type of amplifier you’re using. If you have a solid state amp, then start with your gain setting on 6 to begin with and use the driven channel on your amp (if your amp has multiple channels.

If you have a valve amp then you’ll need to push this so you get plenty of saturation but without it turning into metal. The amount you’ll need to crank a tube amp is hugely dependent on how much headroom it has, so I can’t give an exact number here.

When it comes to the EQ controls, here’s a good starting point:

  • Bass: 4-5
  • Mids: 6-7
  • Treble: 5-6

Having the mids slightly boosted will get you half the way there. You’ll need a decent bit of treble to provide some clarity but not too much to the point where it sounds harsh. The bass is often kept on the lower side for classic punk.

Modern Punk Pop

The gain will usually need to be a bit higher hear because most punk pop bands sound distorted rather than overdriven. Start with your gain control on 7-8 to begin with an adjust from here. If it sounds a bit muddy, you can turn it down.

I actually prefer to use a distortion pedal here instead of my amplifier for the gain as it helps me to achieve a better punk tone. If you have a distortion pedal, run it through a clean amp to keep as much clarity and reduce the amount of feedback.

The distortion pedal also helps me easily switch between clean and distorted tones which is very useful for a lot of pop punk bands who play clean intros and then distorted choruses.

With regards to the EQ settings, start with the following:

  • Bass: 5-6
  • Mids: 6-7
  • Treble: 5-6

Does your amp have additional controls such as presence and contour? Check out my complete guide to amp settings for more help with these controls.

Make sure you check out the brand-specific amp controls guide which is relevant to you, to get the most from your rig:

Common Tone Problems

All amplifier and guitar combinations sound different, so if you’ve dialled in the settings above and it doesn’t sound right, then don’t worry because this next section should fix that.

I’ve listed some common problems you may be having and multiple fixes for each problem. The fixes are listed in order of priority and you should try one fix at a time, listen for the difference and then move onto the next to make the process as efficient as possible.

Muddy Tone

  • Make sure you are using the bridge pickup and that the guitar’s volume and tone controls are on full
  • Increase the treble
  • Decrease the bass
  • Decrease the gain

Too Much Feedback

  • Decrease the gain
  • Decrease the volume
  • Position the amp in front of the guitar and as far away from it as you can

Tone Sounds Weak Instead of Punchy

  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the gain
  • Increase the bass
  • Use a distortion pedal

Not Enough Gain (even when using maximum amp settings)

  • Ensure you are using the bridge pickup and have the guitar’s tone/ volume controls on maximum
  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass
  • Use a distortion/ overdrive/ boost pedal

Not Enough Sustain

  • Increase the gain
  • Increase the bass
  • Increase the mids
  • Use a compressor pedal

Tone Sounds Too Harsh and Sharp

  • Decrease the treble
  • Increase the bass

Here are a few rig specific tips to consider as well.

Tips for Specific Amp Brands

Different amps have different tones, so here are some tips to achieve the punk tone with different amp brands.

  • If you have a Fender amp, then you may find that you’ll need more mids and bass, but less treble. You may also need more gain as many Fender amps are quite “clean” sounding.
  • If you have a Marshall or Orange amp, then you may need less mids and bass, but more treble.
  • If you have a modern American amp such as Line-6 or Peavey, then you may need more mids and less gain.
  • If your guitar has single coil pickups (e.g. Telecaster or Stratocaster guitars), then you’ll probably need more mids and bass, but less treble.
  • If your guitar has humbucker pickups (e.g. Les Pauls), then you’ll probably need more treble but less bass and mids.

Here are some example amp settings for some of the most popular modern and classic punk songs of all time. As I’ve been saying throughout the article, there’s no one-size fits all approach to dialling in your amp settings and it’ll vary depending on your rig. However, these amp settings can be used as a starting point to help you get close before making the final tweaks using the tips above.

Anarchy in the UK

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 5

*A phaser pedal is also pretty much essential here.

London Calling by The Clash

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 6

Basket Case by Green Day

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 5

Looking for more Green Day songs? Check out my complete Green Day Amp Settings Guide for more.

Teenage Kicks by The Undertones

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 4

Personality Crisis by New York Dolls

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 6

Blitzkrieg Bop by Ramones

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7
  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

Check out my complete guide to sounding like Blink-182 on guitar.

In Too Deep by Sum 41

Clean

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 5

Distorted

  • Gain: 8
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 4

Self Esteem by The Offspring

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

Rise Above by Black Flag

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 7
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 3

The Middle by Jimmy Eat World

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 5

Sugar, We’re Goin Down by Fall Out Boy

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 6

Misery Business by Paramore

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 5

99 Red Balloons by Goldfinger

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 8
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 4

Last Resort by Papa Roach

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 6

Dirty Little Secret by The All-American Rejects

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

Here are some more articles you might enjoy:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts