How to Sound Like Pearl Jam: Amp Settings Guide


Pearl Jam are a very iconic rock band with a rich history and many classic hits which guitar players love to learn. However, if you want to sound like them, you’ll need to be clued up on your amp settings. In this article, I’ll guide you through the process of setting up your amp to sound like Pearl Jam and give you plenty of example settings to plug in and try out.

Quick Guide to Pearl Jam Amp Settings

To sound like Pearl Jam on the electric guitar, start with the following amp settings:

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

It’s vital to note that these settings are just here to get your started. Unless you’re using the exact same rig, it’s almost impossible to sound exactly like Pearl Jam. The precise settings you’ll need will also depend on which amp and guitar you’re using.

However, the aim of this article to guide you through the process of dialling in your amp settings to sound as close to Pearl Jam as possible regardless of the equipment you’re using.

The Basics

I’ll be giving you some example amp settings for Pearl Jam’s most popular songs a little bit later in this article, but first I wanted to go through the settings which underpin their iconic tone so you can get a good understanding of why it sounds like it does. We’ll be looking at the following settings:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

Gain

There are two main types of amplifier: tube (valve) and solid state. Most people reading this will have a solid-state amp.

Solid-state amps usually have 2 channels (clean and distorted) and a gain control. For most songs, you’ll want the gain control to be on around 5-6 to begin with.

Tube amps sometimes have multiple channels, but can just have a single channel and use a master control to adjust the distortion. In this case, the exact setting you’ll need will depend on the headroom of the amp.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

The bass, mids and treble controls are collectively known as the EQ controls and are used to shape the tone.

  • Bass: start with this on 5-6 to begin with. If it sounds too muddy and loose, decrease it. If the tone sounds very thin then you can increase it.
  • Mids: start with this on 6-7 to begin with. You may need this slightly higher for lead playing compared to rhythm playing.
  • Treble: start with this on 7-8 to begin with. If the tone is too crisp and harsh, turn it down. Alternatively, if the tone is too muddy then you should turn it up. For lead tones this setting is usually higher compared to rhythm tones.

If you have single coil pickups in your guitar then you may need to turn the treble down and turn the bass and mids up. However, if you have humbucker pickups then you may need to decrease the bass and mids and then increase the treble.

The pickup placement will also affect the EQ. The bridge pickup will sound brighter and clearer as there is more treble emphasis compared to the neck pickup which sounds warmer as it has more bass emphasis. So make sure you are also utilising the pickup selector as well as your amp settings.

If your amp has a single EQ/ tone control instead of independent bass, mids and treble controls then have this at about 1 o’clock so it favours the treble frequencies slightly compared to the bass frequencies.

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

You don’t need a tonne of pedals to sound like Pearl Jam but there are some effects that you might find useful including:

  • Delay and reverb: gives the tone some more life and depth
  • Pitch-shifter: thickens the tone
  • Overdrive: used as a boost for solos or for switching between rhythm and lead
  • Wah: useful effect for several songs

Sounding like Pearl Jam isn’t just about your amp settings, it’s about your skills too.
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Amp Settings for Popular Pearl Jam Songs

As promised, in this next section I’ll be listing example amp settings for Pearl Jam’s most popular songs. I want you to keep in mind that these are just to be used as a starting point and aren’t the exact settings used by McGreedy, Gossard and Vedder. It’s very likely that you’ll need to tweak them to get the tone just right, and the next section in the article will help with that.

Alive Amp Settings

Clean:

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

Rhythm (Distorted):

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

Solo:

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

Even Flow Amp Settings

Rhythm:

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

Lead/ Solo:

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

Black Amp Settings

Clean:

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

Distorted:

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

Jeremy Amp Settings

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

Last Kiss Amp Settings

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

Yellow Ledbetter Amp Settings

Clean:

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

Distorted Rhythm:

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

Distorted Solo:

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

Daughter Amp Settings

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

Better Man Amp Settings

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 5
  • 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

It’s very likely that you’ll need to make some tweaks to your amp setting so you sound as close to Pearl Jam as possible. So, in this next section I’ll address some common issues you might be having.

I’ve listed multiple fixes for each issue, however you may only need to make one minor adjustment. I recommend working through each fix individually in the order listed and listening to the difference before altering any other settings. This will help you diagnose the issue in the most efficient way.

Thin Tone

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

Muddy Tone

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

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

Lack of Sustain

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

Tone Sounds Too Harsh and Dominates the Mix Too Much

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do Pearl Jam use?

Although all the guitarists in Pearl Jam have used multiple amps, they are best known for using the following:

  • Mike McCready: Satellite Atom and Fender Bassman
  • Stone Gossard: Matchless H/C-30 and Vox AC-30
  • Eddie Vedder: Fender ’57 Twin-Amp

What electric guitars do Pearl Jam use?

Although all the guitarists in Pearl Jam have used multiple guitars, they are best known for using the following:

  • Mike McCready: Fender Stratocaster
  • Stone Gossard: Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster
  • Eddie Vedder: Fender Telecaster

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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