Fender Amp Settings and Controls: A Complete Guide


Fender amplifiers are a popular choice for both pro guitarists and new players. The settings on each brand of amp often differ, so it’s sometimes hard to get to grips with the controls if you’ve just got a new amplifier. In this article, I’ll be going through all the main controls on a Fender amp, how to set it up to get the best tone, common problems and how to fix them, and also some example settings for different styles of music.

The Quick Answer

Fender amps usually have two channels (clean and distorted), and 5 main settings in addition to the volume control. The gain setting allows you to control the level of distortion, and the bass, middle and treble controls allow you adjust the tone. Most Fender amps also have a reverb effect built in.

The Main Controls

Let’s start by going through some of the main controls you’ll find on Fender amps including Hot Rod, Mustang, Champion, Rumble, Tone Master, Vintage Modified and Vintage Reissue models.

Channels

Many Fender amps have two channels available. One is for purely clean tones, and the other is for distorted tone. The distorted channel will usually have a “gain” setting, allowing you to control how distorted the tone will be.

Gain

The gain control can be found on many Fender amps on the second channel settings. Turning the gain up will cause the tone to become more distorted. Low-mid gain settings suit blues, rock and indie well, whilst high gain settings are suitable for heavier genres such as metal.

Treble

The treble control on a Fender amp allows you to adjust the high-range frequencies. Turning the treble up will cause the sound to be crisp, sharp and bright, allowing the separate notes being played to be heard more distinctly. Having the treble on a lower setting will make the tone sound more mellow.

Middle

The middle or “mids” setting on a Fender amp allows you control mid-range frequencies. Turning the mids setting up will allow the tone to sound fuller and provide more depth, whilst turning it down is often called “scooping the mids” and may be compensated by having high bass and treble settings instead, which is often used for heavy metal.

Bass

The bass control on an amplifier adjusts the low-end frequencies played through the amp. Having a high bass setting is common in metal and heavier genres of music, and creates a “boomy” quality to provide depth and fullness to the tone. However, having the bass setting too high can cause it to sound a bit muddy in some cases.

Reverb

Reverb is an effect seen on pretty much all Fender amplifiers. When using reverb, you essentially create the effect of playing in a very large room, by providing echo. Reverb is very popular and used by many professional guitarists in all genres of music to give the tone more life and prevent it from sounding dull and flat.

Fat Switch

The “fat” switch can be found on some Fender amps such as the Blues Junior which adds compression and volume to the tone, allowing it to be used for solos to boost the sound. It does this by increasing the preamp gain.

FX

Some Fender amps have an FX control, which may be split into two settings “FX-select” and “FX-level”. This allows you to add effects like reverb, delay, chorus and tremolo. Delay causes a note to be played back repeatedly, chorus makes it sound like multiple guitars are being played and tremolo causes quick variations in pitch also known as “vibrato”.

Speed and Intensity

Some Fender amps such as the Twin Reverb, have speed and intensity settings. These allow you to modify the tremolo effect. Speed adjusts the rate of the vibrato effect, and intensity adjusts how deep the effect is.

Getting a Starting Point

Now we’ve been through what all the controls on a Fender amplifier actually do, let’s talk through a good method of setting your amp up to achieve a specific tone. This method works for any style of music and is an effective way of dialling in a very specific tone with any guitar.

  1. Make sure your guitar’s tone and volume control are set to maximum and choose the desired pickup.
  2. Select the channel (distorted or clean).
  3. Start with a comfortable volume.
  4. Set the reverb, bass, mids and treble controls to midway, and turn off all other effects.
  5. If you are using gain, start with this on 1 and increase it slowly, listening for the differences. Stop at the desired level before the tone starts to become too muddy.
  6. Adjust the mids control up to provide more depth, or down to cause it to sound “scooped”.
  7. Increase or decrease the treble control to either sharpen or soften the sound.
  8. Increase or decrease the bass control to make the tone heavier or lighter.
  9. Add some light reverb if the tone sound dull and flat.
  10. Add any effects using the FX control.

The key to dialling in the best amp settings is to make changes individually and listen out for the difference they cause.

This allows you to fully understand your amp, and get as precise as possible with the tone. It might take a little while at first, but this method will train your ears to be able to make changes much faster and more effectively in the future.

Fender Amp Example Settings

If you’re in a rush and don’t want to use the recommended method, then I’ve made some example settings (presets) to help. However, keep in mind that these are still just a starting point and will sound different based on the guitar you are using, so take them with a pinch of salt and be prepared to make adjustments.

Amp Settings for Rock

  • Gain: 6
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Reverb: 2

Amp Settings for Metal

  • Gain: 9
  • Treble: 7
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 7
  • Reverb: 3

Amp Settings for Blues

  • Gain: 3
  • Treble: 6
  • Mids: 7
  • Bass: 4
  • Reverb: 2

Amp Settings for Country

  • Gain: 2
  • Treble: 8
  • Mids: 5
  • Bass: 3
  • Reverb: 2

Clean (Warm) Amp Settings

  • Gain: 1
  • Treble: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Bass: 6
  • Reverb: 2

Clean (Bright) Amp Settings

  • Gain: 6
  • Treble: 8
  • Mids: 6
  • Bass: 3
  • Reverb: 1

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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.

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