How to Sound Like Iron Maiden: Amp Settings Guide


Iron Maiden are one of the most iconic classic metal bands of all time and their tone is one which many aspiring guitarists love to try and emulate. However, the tones of their three guitarists Murray, Smith and Gers is notoriously difficult to pin down. So, in this amps settings guide, I’ll give you as much information as possible along with plenty of example settings so you can sound more like Iron Maiden.

Quick Guide to Iron Maiden Amp Settings

To sound like Iron Maiden on the electric guitar, start with the following amp settings:

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

It’s important to note that these amp settings are to be used as a starting point and unless you have the exact same rig as Dave Murray, Adrian Smith or Janick Gers for a particular song then it’s almost impossible to sound exactly the same as Iron Maiden.

However, I’ve designed this article to guide you through the process of setting up your amp’s controls to sound as close as possible Iron Maiden in the easiest way possible and regardless of which guitar and amplifier you own.

The Basics

Before we move onto the example settings for specific Iron Maiden songs, I think it’s a good idea to unpack the different settings you’re likely to find on your amp and how to adjust them to sound more like the band. This involves looking at three main sections:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

To avoid over-complicating things I’ll mostly be talking about Iron Maiden’s lead guitar tone (Dave Murray). To switch to more of a rhythm tone I recommend decreasing the treble and mids slightly.

Gain

There are two options you can for to get your distorted tones:

  1. Directly from the amp
  2. With an overdrive/ distortion pedal

If you are using your amplifier, then you’ll need to know if you have a solid state or tube (valve) amp. Most people reading this will have a solid state amp which usually has two channels (clean and distorted) and a control called either gain or drive. For most songs, it is a good idea to start with the distorted channel and have the gain/ drive control on around 6 to begin with.

Many players make the mistake of turning the gain up too high when trying to sound like Iron Maiden but you should generally avoid having it at maximum as this will cause it too sound too heavy and muddy in most cases.

If you have a tube amp then you’ll need to crank it until it has a very overdriven tone but doesn’t lean too far into the pure distortion.

Alternatively, you can use a distortion or overdrive pedal to get your driven tone. This will often worked best when using the clean channel on your amp and having the gain set as low as possible. This method makes it easier to switch between your clean and distorted tone in songs like “Fear of the Dark” and “Hallowed Be Thy Name”.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

The EQ section of your amplifier adjusts how warm, full and bright the tone is. On some amps you’ll just find a single control called either EQ or tone, and on others you’ll get independent treble, mids and bass controls.

  • The bass setting should be kept moderately low on most amplifiers to sound like Iron Maiden. They have quite a “tight” low-end which means you shouldn’t need to turn it up much. Aim to start with this on 4-5 to begin with.
  • The mids setting should be moderate so keep this on around 6-7 to begin with. This will help provide plenty of depth to your tone and allow it to cut through the mix.
  • Start with your treble setting on 7-8 to begin with as this will ensure the tone is crisp and clear (instead of muddy). If it sounds too harsh and is interfering with the vocals then it can be turned down.

The amp and guitar you’re using will heavily influence your ideal EQ settings.

If you are using single coil pickups then you may need to increase the mids and bass and decrease the treble. The opposite is true if you are using humbuckers.

Also, if you are using a Fender amp then it’s likely that you’ll need to increase the mids more compared to if you are using something like a Marshall or Orange amp, so be prepared to make some tweaks here.

If your amp has a single EQ/ tone control, then adjust this to favour the treble frequencies. On most amps this will be around 3/4 the way clockwise.

Some amps also have other controls such as presence and contour. Check out my complete guide to amplifier controls to learn how to adjust these controls and many more to get the best settings possible.

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

Whilst effects pedals are not essential, they can be very useful when trying to dial in that Iron Maiden tone. Alternatively, you may find some effects that are built-in to your amplifier that can be utilised instead.

Here are some effects that are worth using:

  • Reverb: this is particularly useful for clean sections to prevent the tone from sounding dull and dry.
  • Wah: useful when playing most of Dave Murray’s solos.
  • Phaser: useful when playing most of Dave Murray’s solos.
  • Distortion/ Overdrive/ Boost pedals: useful for solos or for switching between clean and distorted sections.

Sounding like Iron Maiden 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.

In the next section we’ll look at some example amp settings for Iron Maiden’s most popular songs. These are not the exact settings used by the band, and they may need some tweaking to suit your rig. However, they can be used as a good starting point to try and get you closer to their tone. Don’t worry if things don’t sound spot on yet, the next section will address some common problems you may be experiencing.

Run to the Hills Amp Settings

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

The Trooper Amp Settings

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

Fear of the Dark Amp Settings

Clean:

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 6

Distorted:

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

The Number of the Beast Amp Settings

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

Hallowed Be Thy Name Amp Settings

Clean:

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

Distorted:

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 9

2 Minutes to Midnight Amp Settings

  • Gain: 6
  • 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.

Troubleshooting

If you’ve used the example settings above and the tone doesn’t sound quite right, don’t worry! In this section I’ll address some common issues you might be having on your journey to sounding like Iron Maiden.

I’ve listed multiple fixes for each issue, however it may not be necessary to adjust every control. The best thing to do is to try one adjustment at a time (all the “fixes” are listed in order of priority) and then listen for the differences. This is the most efficient way of fixing the problem and getting a better understanding of your amp.

Not Enough Sustain

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

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

High Feedback

  • Decrease the gain
  • Decrease the volume
  • Position the amp in front of the guitar and as far away from it as you can
  • Use a noise gate pedal

Thin Tone

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

Dry and Dull Tone (During Clean Sections)

  • Add some more reverb
  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass

Distortion Sounds too Heavy

  • Decrease the bass
  • Increase the treble
  • Decrease the mids
  • Use an overdrive pedal instead of the gain setting on your amp

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps did Iron Maiden use?

Iron Maiden’s guitarists Murray, Smith and Gers are well-known for using Marshall amplifiers.

What guitars did Iron Maiden use?

Iron Maiden’s lead guitarist David Murray primarily uses a Fender Stratocaster, whilst Adrian Smith is best known for using Jackson guitars and Janick Gers is well-known for using a Fender Stratocaster.

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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