Sound Like Red Hot Chili Peppers: Amp Settings Guide


In this article, I’ll be going through how to adjust your amp settings to get the Red Hot Chilli Peppers tone. We’ll start off with the basic starting point, then move onto their most popular songs, and finish up with some tips to tweak the settings if they don’t sound perfect straight away!

Quick Guide to Red Hot Chili Peppers Amp Settings

To sound like Red Hot Chili Peppers on guitar, choose a clean channel or use very low gain, low-mid bass, and mid-high treble and mids settings. Adding some reverb will also help achieve the best tone.

  • Gain: 1-2
  • Bass: 2-4
  • Mids: 6-7
  • Treble: 6-7
  • Reverb: 3

Keep in mind that this is just a starting point and you will need to adjust the controls for your rig. Unless you are using the same guitar, effects pedals and amps, you will probably not be able to get the tone to sound completely identical. With that said, you can use this guide to get as close as possible!

The Basic Controls

There are several main controls to consider when dialling in your tone:

  • Gain
  • Bass
  • Mids
  • Treble
  • EQ
  • Effects

On some guitar amps, the bass, mids and treble setting may all be combined into a single “EQ” control. If you’re using a different brand of amp, the settings may not always be called the same, so we will take a look at the common alternative names too.

Gain

Red Hot Chili Peppers are well-known for their clean tones, and rarely use any distortion or overdrive. If you are using a solid-state amp (instead of a tube/ valve amp), then you may need to have a tiny bit of gain (aka drive or distortion) to have any volume. Try and have the gain as low as possible to achieve the desired volume.

Exceptions include “By the Way”, where the gain will be low to medium (start on around 3-4), and “Cant Stop” where the gain will usually be on around 3. Otherwise, try and keep the gain on 2 or below.

Bass

The bass setting controls the low-end frequencies, the higher this setting, the “boomier” and fuller the tone will often sound. Usually the bass setting will be medium-low if you are trying to sound like the Chili Peppers, so start on around 2-4.

Mids

The mids, hence the name, controls the mid-range frequencies. Guitars provide the mid-range frequencies in the band, whilst bass guitars of course provide the low-end and vocals provide the upper-end. Keep the mids setting on around 6-7 to begin with to provide the tone with plenty of substance and depth.

On Marshall amps, the mids control may not be present. Instead, it will have a “contour” control, which is essentially “mids” in reverse. So for scooped settings on this type of amp, have the contour set higher.

Treble

The treble controls high-range frequencies, which provide clarity and crispness. The guitar tone is usually quite pronounced in the Chili Pepper’s songs, so have the treble on around 6-7 so that it is defined, but not too sharp. For Marshall amps, the treble control will usually be called “presence” instead.

EQ Control

Some amps will not have separate bass, mids and treble controls, and will instead have an “EQ” or “Tone” control. Turn this on medium-high to provide more emphasis on the mids and treble, compared to the low-end bass frequencies.

Effects

Your amp may have some built-in effects, or you may be using separate effects pedals. Either way, here’s how to make use of them:

  • Reverb: this will provide the tone with more depth and life, try and have this on between 2-4.
  • Overdrive: this can help when you are performing solos.
  • Boost: again this will be useful for solos.
  • Chorus: this makes it sound like two guitars are being played at once. Useful for “Scar Tissue” and “Can’t Stop”.
guitar amp settings guide

Amp Settings for Popular Songs

Now we’ve been through the basics, let’s look at the amp settings for John Frusciante and Dave Navarro for some of the band’s most popular songs. Remember though, these are just starting points and you will probably need to make some adjustments. Skip ahead to the next section for common issues and how to fix them.

Californication Amp Settings

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 5

Solo:

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

Under the Bridge Amp Settings

Intro:

  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

Main:

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

Can’t Stop Amp Settings

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

Solo:

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

Snow (Hey Ho) Amp Settings

  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 6

Otherside Amp Settings

  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 4

Solo:

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

Scar Tissue Amp Settings

  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7

By the Way Amp Settings

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

Fixing Common Problems

As I mentioned earlier, the numbers given so far are just starting points, and your exact settings will depend on your amp, guitar and any pedal effects you’re using. So if you’ve tried the pre-sets above and they don’t sound quite right, then here are some common problems and how to sort them.

Make sure to only adjust one control at a time and listen for the changes so you’re able to pinpoint the issues.

Thin and Weak Tone

This is common during the very clean sections, as the low gain setting will remove some depth to the tone. Try these adjustments:

  • Increase the mids
  • Increase the bass
  • Switch to the neck or middle pickup

Tone Sounds to Sharp

If your guitar sounds a bit too bright and twangy, make these changes.

  • Decrease the treble
  • Increase the mids
  • Switch to the neck or middle pickup

Flat Tone

This can frequently happen with low gain settings, here’s how to adjust it:

  • Add some reverb either on your amp or using a pedal (this will make the biggest difference)
  • Increase the mids (decrease the contour on a Marshall amp)

More Tips to Sound Like Red Hot Chili Peppers

Looking for some more tips? Here are some great ways to help your tone sound closer to the Chili Pepper’s.

  • Improve your sustain by lowering your pickups and making sure the tuners are tight, or consider thicker strings.
  • Compression pedals are great if you want to achieve a more professional and polished tone. Here’s what they do.
  • Choose an overdrive pedal instead of adding gain or distortion as this will add more grit rather than heaviness.
  • Switch between pickups in lead and rhythm sections to avoid having to change your amp settings. Bridge pickups are best for lead, and neck for rhythm.
  • Reverb is key to getting a good tone, so consider investing in a pedal.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a bit more info on what equipment Red Hot Chili Peppers use if you want to really emulate their tone.

What amp does Red Hot Chili Peppers use?

Frusciante is well known for using a Marshall amplifier such as the Silver Jubilee.

What guitar does John Frusciante play?

John Frusciante often plays a Fender Stratocaster. He has performed live using a variety guitars and also uses Telecasters and Jaguars.

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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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