How to Sound Like ZZ Top: Amp Settings Guide

ZZ Top have an iconic tone which is hard to emulate, but in this article I’ll take you through a complete guide to dialling in the right amp settings to sound as close as possible to Billy Gibbons, no matter what guitar and amp you own.

Just looking for amp presets? Keep scrolling down to find a list of example amp settings for some of the most popular ZZ Top songs.

Quick Guide to ZZ Top Amp Settings

To sound like ZZ Top, start with the following amp settings:

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

Keep in mind that these amp settings are designed to be used as a starting point only. In reality, there’s no universal answer as every rig sounds different. However, in this article I’ll guide you through each setting so you can achieve the closest possible tone with your guitar and amp.

The Basics

Okay, before we dive into more presets we need to get clear on the basic controls:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Effects

This will help you to really understand what underpins the ZZ Top sound.


To get a good level of overdrive for most songs you have three options:

  • Use an overdrive pedal through a clean amp
  • Use a clean amp channel and set the gain high (8-10)
  • Use a distorted amp channel and keep the gain moderate (4-6)

If you have an overdrive pedal available I would go with this option as it will allow you to more easily dial in the right level of crunch and saturation.

If you don’t want to use a pedal then try the second or third approach.

For my amp, I prefer to use a distorted channel and keep the gain moderate as this achieves the right kind of overdrive. However, on some amps it’s actually better to go with a clean channel and crank the gain, so it’s worth trying both approaches.

EQ/ Tone (Bass, Mids, Treble)

If you have a 3-band EQ, start with the following settings:

  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 6

If the tone sounds a bit too muddy and warm, turn down your bass control. If it sounds a bit weak and thin, turn the bass up.

On most amps you’ll probably want to go with a moderate-high mids setting to get that punchy sound. You can always turn it down a bit if it dominates the mix too much.

I’d recommend starting on a moderate setting for the treble. You’ll need enough treble to get a crunchy sound and prevent the tone from sounding muddy, however you don’t want it to sound overly harsh and bright.

If you have a single EQ/ tone control instead of independent bass, mids and treble controls then again you should start with this in the middle. If it sounds too bright and sharp, turn it down. If it sounds too muddy, turn it up.

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:


You don’t need a whole hosts of effects but here are a few that you might find useful:

  • Overdrive: an overdrive pedal can be used through a clean amp for your gain, or as a boost for solos and choruses.
  • Treble Booster: this will help to “tighten” the sound and give it a crispier and crunchier quality.
  • Fuzz
  • Octave

If you really want to improve your guitar playing then I recommend checking out Guitareo. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial here to get access to all the online lessons and start making real progress today

Amp Settings for Popular ZZ Top Songs

In this next section we’ll look at some presets for the most popular ZZ Top songs. These are not the precise settings used by the band and will likely need some adjustments to dial in the right tone based on your rig. Skip ahead to the troubleshooting section if things don’t sound quite right yet.

La Grange Amp Settings


  • Gain: 2
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 5

Verse/ Chorus

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

Sharp Dressed Man Amp Settings

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

Gimme All Your Lovin’ Amp Settings

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

Tush Amp Settings

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

Legs Amp Settings

  • Gain: 6
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • 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

Struggling to get your amp to sound just right? Not to worry, this next section should clear up any problems.

I’ve put together a list of the most common problems you might be encountering on your quest to sound like ZZ Top and a list of fixes. Work your way down the list and make one adjustment at a time and then listen out for the difference.

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

Lack of Sustain

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

Muddy Tone

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

Check out my guide on how to fix a muddy amp for more causes and fixes.

Thin Tone (Lack of Punch)

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

Dry and Flat Tone

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What amps do ZZ Top use?

The ZZ Top guitarist, Billy Gibbons most frequently uses a Fender Deluxe or Marshall Plexi or JCM amplifier.

What guitars do ZZ Top use?

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top typically uses a Gibson Les Paul electric guitar.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:


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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