How to Sound Like Arctic Monkeys: Amp Settings Guide


If you want to achieve the classic Arctic Monkey’s tone, then you’ll need to nail the amp settings. It can be quite difficult to dial in the perfect tone, particularly if you’re using a different rig, but it’s definitely possible with a bit of know-how.

In this article, I’ll take you through a complete guide to achieve the Arctic Monkey’s tone by going through the basic amp settings, some common problems you may run into, and also some specific songs.

Keep in mind though, that this guide is only a starting point. You’ll need to make some adjustments for your specific rig. It’s not really accurate to give a one size fits all setting for each control, because every amp and guitar is different. With that said, let’s get started trying to dial in that tone.

The Quick Answer

To get the Arctic Monkeys guitar tone, you’ll need a crunchy overdriven tone by either having the gain setting on your amp midway, or use an overdriven pedal through a clean amp. Have the gain, mids and treble higher for lead sections and then decrease the gain and mids lower for rhythm sections.

Here’s a good starting point for the amp settings to sound like Jamie Cook and Alex Turner.

Alex Turner (lead)

  • Overdrive/ gain: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Bass: 4
  • Treble: 7

Jamie Cook (rhythm)

  • Overdrive/ gain: 4
  • Mids: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Treble: 4

The Basics

So let’s jump into the basic controls. These of course will vary depending on which type of amplifier you own.

There are two main types of amp: tube (valve) and solid state. The difference in this context, is the way that they produce a distorted tone.

Tube amps won’t usually have a “gain” setting to achieve the distortion. Instead, this kind of effect is achieved when the volume is cranked up and the tone starts to break up and crackle.

Solid state amps have a specific “gain” or “overdrive” control which produces this distortion effect.

Most people reading this will have a solid state amp, but if you’re unsure, then simply search your amp’s make and model to find out.

Now let’s jump into the main amplifier controls and how to adjust them to sound like Arctic Monkeys.

Gain

Generally, there are two types of “gain” that bands use: overdrive and distortion.

  • Distortion: thick and heavy gain often associated with heavier genres of music like metal.
  • Overdrive: sounds crunchy, gritty and lighter that distortion, more commonly used by indie and rock bands.

Check out this quick clip if you want to hear the difference between overdrive and distortion.

To sound like Arctic Monkeys, you need an overdriven tone.

If you have a tube or valve amp, you can achieve this by cranking the volume up until you achieve a crackling tone.

If you have a solid state amp, then you’ll need to balance the gain setting. You want it high enough so that the tone breaks up, but not too high that it starts to sound more distorted than overdriven.

On most amps, having the gain setting on 4 is a good place to start.

The key is to turn the volume up fairly high, and then turn the gain up just enough so that the tone sounds crunchy, and then stop. Don’t be tempted to turn it up higher or it’ll start sounding more like metal.

Don’t worry if the tone sounds a little thin, we can work on that with the EQ settings, and later on in the common problems section of this article.

You’ll usually need higher gain on the lead guitar compared to the rhythm guitar as well. So consider increasing the gain to around 5-6 for lead sections and decreasing it to 3 for the rhythm parts.

EQ (Bass, Mids and Treble)

The EQ settings control the bass, mids and treble frequencies. This affects the overall tone produced.

Some amplifiers have separate bass, mids and treble controls. Here’s what they do.

  • High bass “boomy” and deep tone, low bass creates a thinner tone
  • High mids provides the tone with more depth and allows it to carry over the other instruments in the band
  • High treble creates a sharper and crisper tone, low treble creates a more mellow sound

Other amplifiers have different controls like presence and contour.

  • Presence works the same as treble. Increasing it makes the tone sharper.
  • Contour is basically the opposite of mids. So decreasing the contour control is like increasing the mids, and causing the tone to sound fuller.

Some amplifiers have an all-in-one EQ or tone control which works to adjust the overall sound, instead of using individual bass, mids and treble controls.

Turning the EQ control counter-clockwise increases the emphasis on the bass, whereas turning it clockwise increases the treble emphasis.

For the lead guitar parts, you’ll need a high treble and mids control. For the rhythm sections, you’ll need lower treble and mids, but higher bass.

Here’s a good starting point.

LEAD:

  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7

RHYTHM:

  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 4

If you have a single EQ or tone control, have it on around 7 for lead guitar and 4 for rhythm guitar to start with.

You can then make the necessary adjustments to increase or decrease the depth or sharpness of the tone.

Take a look at this complete guide to amp settings to learn more about the different controls and how they affect the overall tone.

Effects

It’s also worth noting some of the effects that Alex Turner and Jamie Cook use to achieve their signature tones. Here are some helpful effects.

  • Reverb
  • Delay
  • Overdrive
  • Fuzz

Generally, when playing most songs you’ll benefit from using some reverb to create a fuller and more present tone.

These effects can either be achieved using pedals, or through an amplifier, it really depends on what make and model of amp you’re actually using.

Take a look at this article on pedal effects to learn more about this topic.

The Story So Far

Here’s a quick info-graphic to show where we are up to with the amp settings. Remember that this is just a starting point and you will probably need to make some adjustments based on your rig, but here’s a good starting point for the rhythm and lead sections.

Alex Turner (lead guitar)
Jamie Cook (rhythm guitar)

Want to know what instruments Arctic Monkeys play? Here’s an article on the different rigs they have used on each album.

 

 

 

 

Common Issues

So now we’ve got a good starting point, let’s talk about some of the common issues you may be having and how to address them.

Muddy Tone

A lot of guitarists struggle with a muffled and muddy sounding tone. This is fairly easy to address and is usually due to either the gain being too high, or the treble and bass balance being a bit off. Here’s how to fix it.

  • Turn the bass down and treble up
  • Decrease the gain and increase the volume slightly

Thin and Brittle Tone

If you’re struggling with the opposite problem, and your tone sounds too weak and thin, then you’ll need to adjust the bass and mids to give the tone more depth. Here are some adjustments you can make.

  • Increase the bass and mids
  • Decrease the treble slightly
  • Increase the gain slightly

Heavy Distorted (Not Overdriven) Tone

This is another common problem players face when trying to sound like Arctic Monkeys. It’s hard to get the balance between an overdriven crunchy tone, and a heavy distorted tone, particularly if you’re using a solid state amp.

To sound like Alex Turner and Jamie Cook, the gain needs to be more overdriven than distorted. Here are some ways to fix this issue.

  • Use an overdrive pedal instead of the gain setting on your amp
  • Increase the treble and decrease the bass and mids slightly
  • Turn the gain down and the volume up

Specific Songs

Now that we’ve been through all the basics and common issues, I thought it’d be a good idea to round off this post with some more specific amp settings for some of the band’s most popular songs.

Again, these are just starting points, so if it doesn’t sound spot on, then go back to the section above and make the adjustments to really dial in the Arctic Monkey’s tone.

Do I Wanna Know?

This is arguably the band’s most popular song, with an iconic opening riff that continues through the verses. There is one guitar for the majority of the song until the outro. Here’s a good starting point for the lead guitar amp settings.

  • Gain/ Overdrive: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 6
  • Reverb: 3

R U Mine?

The guitars in “R U Mine” have the similar kind of thick overdriven tone as they do in “Do I Wanna Know”. Again, one guitar features for most of the song, so here’s a good starting point for the amp settings.

  • Gain/ Overdrive: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 3

Fluorescent Adolescent

This song has a guitar thinner tone compared to the singles in the AM album. Again you’ve got an overdriven tone, but two guitar features for most of the song this time. Here’s where to start with the amp settings.

Rhythm Guitar:

  • Gain/ Overdrive: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 6
  • Reverb: 1

Lead Guitar:

  • Gain/ Overdrive: 6
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 6
  • Reverb: 2

I Bet That You Look Good On The Dancefloor

This Arctic Monkeys classic also has two guitar featured through the majority of the song. For the rhythm guitar, there’s a lighter overdriven tone in the verse and intro. For the lead guitar, there’s a heavier overdriven tone throughout the song.

Check out this guitar cover to see the lead and rhythm sections split out.

Here’s a breakdown of the amp settings for each section.

Rhythm

  • Overdrive/ gain: 3
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 4
  • Reverb: 1

Lead (chorus, intro and bridge)

  • Overdrive/ gain: 4
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 6
  • Reverb: 3

Brianstorm

This is one of the more difficult Arctic Monkeys songs to play on the guitar but it has on the most recognisable riffs. Both guitars have pretty overdriven tones in the intro and chorus, and then they back off and sound lighter in the verse.

The easiest way to transition between the two is to use either a boost or an overdrive pedal. If you don’t have access to either, then you can make do by dialing back the tone and volume control on your guitar in the verse. Here’s a good starting point for the amp settings.

Verse

  • Gain/ overdrive: 3
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 4
  • Treble: 6

Intro, Chorus and Bridge

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

Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the website to learn more about getting the perfect tone.

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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