How to Sound Like Foo Fighters: Amp Settings Guide


Foo Fighters are one of my favourite rock bands and they’re songs are some of the first ones I learnt when I first got into playing the electric guitar. However, when playing along to these tracks one of the hardest parts I found was dialling in the correct amp settings.

In this article I’ll take you through some basic concepts to make you sound more like Dave Grohl and Chris Shiflett. I’ll also give you plenty of example amp settings for their most popular songs and troubleshoot some common issues.

Quick Guide to Foo Fighters Amp Settings

To sound like Foo Fighters on the electric guitar, start with the following settings:

  • Gain: 6-7
  • Bass: 3-4
  • Mids: 6-7
  • Treble: 7-8

These settings are only designed as a rough starting point and will likely need to be adjusted based on your equipment and the song you’re playing. Unless you’re using the same gear as Dave Grohl, Chris Shiflett or Pat Smear, it’s almost impossible to get your rig to sound exactly the same. However, I’ve designed this article to guide you through the process of setting up your amp to sound as close as possible to Foo Fighters using your current guitar and amp.

The Basics

In order to get a good understanding of the settings needed to sound like Foo Fighters, I’ll first be going through the fundamentals before we jump into examples for specific songs. There are three main aspects to consider here:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

There are almost always two guitars playing in each Foo Fighter’s songs (Dave Grohl and Chris Shiflett). The exact settings you’ll need depends on which part you’re trying to play, the exact song itself and of course your guitar and amp, so there’s a lot to unpack here.

Gain

There are two types of amplifier: solid state and tube. The type you’re using will dictate how you generate distortion. If you are using a solid state amplifier (most reading this article will be) then start with the gain set on around 6-7. If you are using a tube amplifier you’ll need this cranking close to maximum in most cases.

Alternatively, you may be using a distortion or overdrive pedal. This is useful because many Foo Fighters songs have clean and distorted sections and the pedal will allow you to switch between them. The quality of the gain is also usually better than cheaper solid state amps.

When playing the rhythm sections (Dave Grohl mostly), the gain will usually be higher then when playing the lead sections (Chris Shiflett), but this will depend on the specific song.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

Some amps have a single tone/ EQ control, whereas others have individual bass, mids and treble controls to give you more freedom to shape the tone.

The treble control adjusts the brightness and crispness of the tone. This is usually moderately high (7-8) for a lot of songs to give the tone plenty of definition when using high gain which prevents it from sounding muddy. The treble is higher for the lead parts (Chris) compared to the rhythm sections (Dave).

The bass control adjusts the low-end frequencies and usually is set quite low for most songs to make the tone sound tighter. Start with this on around 3-4 to begin with. If the tone sounds too loose and warm then you can decrease it, and if it sounds too thin then you can increase it.

The mids control is usually moderately-high for most Foo Fighters songs so start with it on around 6-7 to begin with. The mids will give the tone more fullness so you can increase it more if it sounds too thin. If it sounds too overbearing then you can decrease it.

Keep in mind your guitar’s pickups too. If you are using single coils then you’ll usually need more bass and mids and less treble. If you are using humbuckers then you’ll often need more treble and less bass and mids.

If your amp has a single EQ/ tone control, set this so it favours the treble frequencies as opposed to the bass which is normally around 2 o’clock on the dial.

Some amps also have additional controls such as presence and contour. Check out my complete guide to amp settings to learn what these controls (and others) do and how to adjust them to get the best possible tone.

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

Effects Pedals

Although for most songs you can get close to the right tone with just an amp, pedals are still very useful if you have them. Here are the most important:

  • Reverb: useful for providing more depth, especially when using a clean tone
  • Compressor: this will provide more smoothness, saturation and sustain (all very helpful)
  • Overdrive/ Distortion: allows you to easily switch from clean/ distorted sections
  • Delay: used in specific songs e.g. The Pretender
  • Phaser: used in specific songs e.g. Breakout

Sounding like Foo Fighters isn’t just about your amp settings, it’s about your skills too.
Check out this 14 day free-trial for Guitar Tricks to access over 11,000 lessons and 1000 songs to become a better player today.

Okay, so we’ve addressed the fundamentals. Now it’s time to look at some of Foo Fighters most popular songs. Again, keep in mind that these examples are to be used as starting points and will likely require some tweaks to adapt to your guitar and amp. If you try the examples and it doesn’t sound quite right, skip ahead to the next section where I troubleshoot some common issues.

Everlong Amp Settings

Intro

  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 7

Main

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

The Pretender Amp Settings

Clean Tone

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 7

Distorted Tone (Dave)

  • Gain: 7
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 6

Distorted Tone (Chris)

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 8

Best of You Amp Settings

Intro (Dave)

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

Intro (Chris)

  • Gain: 3
  • Bass: 2
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 7

Main (Dave)

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

Main (Chris)

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 7

Learn to Fly Amp Settings

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7

All My Life Amp Settings

Intro

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

Main:

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

My Hero Amp Settings

Chris

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7

Dave

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

Monkey Wrench Amp Settings

Dave

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

Times Like These Amp Settings

Dave

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

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

If you’ve been through the example settings and it doesn’t sound quite right, then this section should fix that. I’ll go through some common problems and how to fix them to really dial in the best tone.

Each issue listed has several fixes, but you may only need to adjust one control on your amp. The fixes are listed in order of priority and you should adjust each control individually and listen for the differences so you can target the specific problem.

Muddy Tone

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

Not Enough Saturation

  • 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
  • Use an overdrive pedal into a clean amp instead of an amp with high gain

Thin and Empty Tone

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

Not Enough Sustain

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do Foo Fighters use?

Foo Fighters primarily use Mesa/Boogie amps for driven tones and a Vox AC30 for clean tones.

What guitars do Foo Fighters use?

Chris Shiflett uses a Fender Telecaster with humbucker pickups and Dave Grohl has used a lot of guitars over his career but is most associated with a Gibson ES-355.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:

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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