How to Sound Like The Killers: Amp Settings Guide


Some of the first electric guitar songs I learned were by The Killers, and I always had trouble dialling in the amp settings to get the right sound. In this article I’ll take you through a step by step guide to sound more like Dave Keuning using any guitar and amp.

Just looking for amp presets? Keep scrolling down to find a list of example amp settings for some of The Killers’ most popular songs.

Quick Guide to The Killers Amp Settings

To sound like The Killers, start with the following amp settings:

  • Channel: Clean
  • Gain: 4-5
  • Bass: 3-4
  • Mids: 7-8
  • Treble: 7-8
  • Reverb: 2-3

It’s very important to recognise that these amp settings should be used as a starting point. Unless you have the same equipment, it can be almost impossible to achieve an exact tone match. However, I’ll guide you through the process of setting up your amp to get as close as possible.

The Basics

Before we jump into the example amp settings for The Killer’s most popular songs, I wanted to take you through the basic settings which really underpin their sound. I’ve split these into three main categories:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

Gain

Different types of amps have different ways of controlling the gain.

Most people reading this will probably have a 2 channel amp (clean and distorted), and in which case for a lot of The Killer’s songs I’d recommend using the clean channel. This is because you only want some light-medium overdrive and not full-fat distortion.

When using the clean channel, have your gain set at around mid-way to achieve some crunch. For some songs, you may want to try using the distorted channel and turning the gain down a bit though. The key is to get an overdriven tone, not a super heavy distorted one.

If you have a single channel amp, then you’ll need to increase the gain until you achieve some light-moderate overdrive. The setting you need to achieve this really varies from amp to amp so you’ll need to experiment.

Alternatively, you can use a pedal to achieve your overdrive effect. This will work with either a single or dual-channel amp, but in both cases you’ll want your amp running very clean (low gain) and let the pedal create the crunch.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

There are three controls to unpack here:

  • Bass
  • Mids
  • Treble

The bass setting affects the low-end frequencies and for most songs you’ll want this to be on low-medium otherwise it will sound too “boomy”, so start with this on 3-4.

The mids setting is quite important here and most songs will require a moderate-high mids setting to give the tone plenty of depth and fullness. I’d recommend starting with this on 7-8.  If you find that it dominates the mix too much, turn it down. If the tone sounds weak and thin, turn the mids up.

The treble controls the high-end frequencies. Again, this should be medium-high so I’d recommend starting with this on 7-8. Having the treble too high will cause the tone to sound too harsh and sharp, but having it too low will cause it to lose definition and clarity.

Some amps don’t have individual bass, mids and treble controls and instead have a single control usually named EQ/ tone. In this case, the 3 controls are blended into one and you should adjust it to favour the treble frequencies (usually around 6-8 on most amps).

Some amps have additional controls so 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

The most common effects used by Dave Keuning are:

  • Reverb: this is a very popular built-in effect in many amps. It can be left “always-on” at a low level to make the tone sound more lively.
  • Delay: this is sometimes built into the amp but is more commonly achieved using a pedal.
  • Chorus: this makes it sound like multiple guitars are playing at the same time. It helps to provide depth to the tone. Some amps have a built-in chorus effect but typically you’ll need a pedal.
  • Overdrive: an overdrive pedal can be used to boost the gain and volume for solos.

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Amp Settings for Popular The Killers Songs

In this section I’ll be listing some example amp settings for some of The Killer’s most popular songs. Again, these are to be used as a starting point and it’s highly likely they’ll need some tweaking. Skip ahead to the next section to troubleshoot some common problems.

When You Were Young Amp Settings

  • Gain: 3
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 8
  • Reverb: 3

Mr. Brightside Amp Settings

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 3

Somebody Told Me Amp Settings

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

All These Things That I’ve Done Amp Settings

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

Smile Like You Mean It Amp Settings

  • Gain: 3
  • Bass: 3
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 2

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

In this section I’ll address some common problems and how to fix them. There are multiple “fixes” for each issue, but I suggest making one adjustment at a time, starting from the top of the list so you are able to diagnose the issue and learn more about your amp.

Tone Sounds Too Harsh and Bright

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

Dry and Flat Tone

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

Muddy Tone

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

Thin Tone (Lack of Punch)

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

Sounds Too Distorted Rather Than Overdriven

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do The Killers use?

Dave Keuning of The Killers primarily uses Hiwatt Gilmour and Fender Hot Rod Deville amplifiers.

What guitars do The Killers use?

Dave Keuning of The Killers primarily plays a Gibson Explorer but also plays a Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Les Paul and Gibson SG.

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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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