How to Sound Like Alice In Chains: Amp Settings Guide


Sounding like Alice In Chains is no easy task as their tone can be difficult to pin down. In this article, I’ll give you as much information as possible so you can dial in the right amplifier settings to suit your rig so you can sound as close as possible to the American rock band. I’ll also be giving some example amp settings for some of their most popular songs so you can get a good starting point.

Quick Guide to Alice In Chains Amp Settings

To sound like Alice In Chains, start with the following amp settings:

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

Keep in mind that these amp settings are designed to be used as a starting point. Unless you have the same rig, then it’s almost impossible to sound exactly like AIC for a particular song. However, it is possible to get close with most rigs. This article will guide you through the process of setting up your amp to get the closest possible match with your amp and guitar.

The Basics

Before we dive into the example amp settings for AIC’s most popular songs, let’s take a look at the fundamental settings which underpin the band’s iconic tone. We’ll be looking at the following sections of the amplifier:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

Gain

There are two routes you can go with for your gain: 1) using your amp, 2) using a pedal.

If you go with option 1 and just use your amplifier to get a distorted tone then it’s good to start with a setting of 6-7 for your gain control and use the distorted channel of your amp (if it has 2 channels). You don’t want to go overboard on the gain or it will start to sound too muddy and heavy.

If you have a tube (valve) amplifier, then the chances are that it’ll need cranking up quite high to achieve the desired level of saturation, especially if you are running an amp with a lot of headroom such as a Fender.

If on the other hand you are using a distortion or overdrive pedal, then you should use the clean channel of your amp and have the gain as low as possible. On most pedals, the drive control should be at around 5-6 and the tone control on around 5-6 as well.

Using a pedal is a good idea because it will allow you to easily switch between your distorted and clean tones which is necessary for certain Alice In Chains songs. Alternatively, you may need a footswitch for your amp which allows you to switch between channels without touching the amp mid-song.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

The EQ section of the amplifier shapes the tone. Some amps have separate bass, mids and treble controls and others have a single control called EQ or tone.

  • Bass: start with this on 5-6. You don’t want the bass to be too high or the tone won’t sound very tight. If you feel like the tone needs more depth then turn the bass up, however if you feel like it sounds too muddy then turn it down.
  • Mids: start with this on 7-8. This will help give the tone plenty of punch and depth.
  • Treble: start with this on 7-8. If the tone is too harsh and bright, turn it down. If it sounds muddy, turn the treble up to increase the clarity and note separation.
  • If your amp has a single EQ/ tone control then have this turned to around 6-7 so it favours the treble frequencies.

If you are playing Jerry Cantrell’s lead sections, then you may want to increase the mids and treble to allow the tone to cut through more. If you are playing rhythm sections (e.g. William DuVall or Layne Staley parts), then you may need to turn the mids and treble down.

Keep in mind that the EQ section of your amp may need a fair bit of adjusting depending on the amplifier and guitar you have.

If you have a Fender amp, then you’ll likely need more mids and less bass and treble for example compared to if you are using a Marshall amp.

I recommend using the bridge pickup on your guitar for all the distorted sections. You’ll ideally need a guitar with a humbucker pickup, however if your guitar has a single coil pickup in the bridge then you can compensate for this by increasing the mids and bass and decreasing the treble.

Some amps have additional controls so make sure you also check out the brand-specific amp controls guide which is relevant to you, in order to fully understand all the settings and so you can get the most from your rig:

Effects

There are several effects which are very useful when trying to recreate the Alice In Chain’s tone. You can use the effects which are built-in to your amplifier (if it has any) or effects pedals.

  • Reverb
  • Wah
  • Boost/ Overdrive
  • Chorus

Amp Settings for Popular Alice In Chains Songs

In the next section I’ll list some example amp settings for some of Alice In Chain’s most popular songs. Keep in mind that these are not the exact settings used by AIC, and they are only designed to be used as a starting point. It’s highly likely that they will need tweaking, which I’ll be discussing in the next section.

Man in the Box Amp Settings

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

Would? Amp Settings

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

Nutshell (Solo) Amp Settings

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 8
  • Treble: 8

Rooster Amp Settings

Clean:

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

Distorted:

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 8
  • Treble: 8

Them Bones Amp Settings

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 8
  • Treble: 7

Down In A Hole Amp Settings

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

I’ve also made an article with example amp settings for over 40 popular guitar songs here to help you sound more like your favourite players.

Common Issues

Okay, so what if you’ve dialled in the amp settings suggested above and your tone doesn’t sound like AIC? Well there’s no need to panic because in this section I’ll be addressing some common problems you may be having on your quest to sounding like Alice In Chains.

I’ve listed several common issues and multiple fixes for each of them. I recommend working through each “fix” in order by making minor adjustments to your amplifier and listening carefully to the differences. It may be that you only need to make a single adjustment to get the tone spot on. If it requires further tweaks, simply move onto the next fix.

Muddy Tone

  • Decrease the bass
  • Decrease the gain
  • Increase the treble

Lack of Sustain

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

Thin Tone (Lack of Punch)

  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass
  • Increase the gain

Tone Sounds Too Harsh and Bright

  • Switch to the neck pickup if you are using the bridge or middle
  • Decrease the treble
  • Increase the bass

Too Much Feedback

  • Decrease the gain
  • Move the guitar and amp as far away from each other as possible
  • Position the amp in front of the guitar rather than behind it
  • Use a noise-gate pedal to reduce feedback

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do Alice In Chains use?

The lead guitarist of Alice n Chains, Jerry Cantrell, has used various amplifiers throughout his career including a Marshall JCM800, Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier and Fender Twin Reverb. The band’s current rhythm guitarist, William DuVall, is best known for using a Metropoulos DVL-1 amplifier.

What guitars do Alice In Chains use?

The lead guitarist of Alice In Chains, Jerry Cantrell, is best known for using a G&L Rampage electric guitar and has also used various Gibson Les Paul models. The band’s current rhythm guitarist, William DuVall, primarily uses a Gibson Les Paul Standard.

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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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