Sound Like Stevie Ray Vaughan: Gear, Amp Settings, Effects


Stevie Ray Vaughan was an incredibly skilful guitar player with an amazing tone which many guitarists would love to emulate. However, it’s very difficult to sound like your favourite player and you’ll need to be clued up on the best gear and settings to use.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the best guitar, amp and effects to use to sound like SRV. But don’t worry, even if you don’t own the same rig, you can still sound very close by dialling in the right guitar and amplifier settings too.

Just looking for example amp settings? Scroll down the article to get presets for some of Steview Ray Vaughan most popular songs.

Sound Like Stevie Ray Vaughan

To sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan you’ll ideally need a Fender Stratocaster and Fender amplifier with built-in reverb and a tube screamer and wah-pedal. Use the neck pickup in isolation and have the gain on 5, treble on 7, mids on 6, bass on 5 and reverb on 2 to start with on the amp.

Contents:

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan Rig Rundown
  • SRV Guitar and Amp Settings
  • Troubleshooting Common Issues

Stevie Ray Vaughan Rig Rundown

Before we jump into the guitar and amp settings you’ll need, I think it’s a good idea to get an understanding of the equipment SRV used to get his iconic tone.

Even if you don’t own the same guitar and amp, it’s good to know what type of equipment underpinned his tone so you can tweak the settings on your own rig to get a closer match.

Guitars

Stevie Ray Vaughan was famous for playing a Fender Stratocaster with three single coil pickups. Specifically, he used a 1963 Strat with ’59 pickups which had a fairly low vintage output to give SRV a bright and twangy tone.

If you’re looking for a more affordable model then check out the Squier Classic Vibe series. If you don’t own a Strat-style guitar then you should ideally still try to still with single coil pickups especially in the neck position.

Links to Suitable Guitars:

Here are the specifications for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s signature Fender Stratocaster.

FeatureSpecification
Body WoodAlder
Neck WoodMaple
Fretboard WoodPau Ferro
Frets21, Narrow Tall
PickupsCustom Shop Texas Special
Bridge6-Saddle Vintage Tremolo
Neck ProfileThick Oval
Fretboard Radius12”
FinishGloss Polyurethane
HardwareGold-Plated
Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Fender Stratocaster specifications

You’ll notice that the signature Strat has a pau ferro fretboard, however SRV actually used a rosewood fretboard but due to export restrictions it is very difficult to source rosewood.

Maple fretboards are not ideal if we’re being really specific here because they sound a bit brighter and sharper, but it won’t make much difference at all so I wouldn’t worry too much about it!

It’s well worth noting that Stevie Ray Vaughan used 13-gauge strings which are very heavy. Typically, Stratocasters come with 9-gauge strings. Here is a list of the thickness of each string he used:

  • Low E: 0.58
  • A: 0.38
  • D: 0.29
  • G: 0.19
  • B: 0.15
  • High E: 0.13

Using heavier strings will help you to achieve a more similar tone, however many players will find 13-gauge strings incredibly difficult to play on. I recommend choosing a gauge that you feel comfortable with first and foremost, however it is worth experimenting with slightly heavier strings if you’ve never tried them before. Just don’t jump up more than one size at a time.

SRV also tuned his guitar a half step down to E flat which reduced the string tension and made them a bit easier to play on. I recommend using E flat tuning if you’re trying to achieve the right tone.

It’s also worth mentioning that the action on SRV’s guitar was quite high meaning the strings could ring out for longer to increase sustain. You can increase the action on your guitar if you want to, however this will affect the playability and feel of your instrument and there are other ways to increase sustain which are probably worth trying first, for example using a compressor pedal.

Fender Stratocaster (image links to Amazon)

Amps

Stevie Ray Vaughan used a variety of amplifiers throughout his career most notably from Marshall, Fender and Dumble. Unfortunately, many of the specific amps he used are no longer available. However, there are many great alternatives available currently.

SRV mainly used Fender amplifiers for his driven tones and famously used the Vibroverb which is no longer in production. Good alternatives include the Fender Blues Junior V and ’65 Deluxe Reverb. These amps have a slightly scooped mid-range and a crisp and clear tone.

Stevie Ray Vaughan used Marshall and Dumble amplifiers for his clean tones, such as the Dumble Steel Stringer and a ‘1959 Marhsall Plexi. These amps are known for their excellent sustain and mid-range punch.

You don’t have to pay a fortune to get the same amp as SRV to sound similar to him though. I’ll be going through the best amp settings for different equipment later in this article.

Links to Suitable Amplifiers:

Effects/ Pedals

SRV used quite a few different effects but I’ll be focussing on the three most important ones here:

  • Overdrive
  • Wah
  • Reverb

Stevie Ray Vaughan was a big fan of the Ibanez Tube Screamer overdrive pedal which is well known for its boosted mid-range. He originally started with the TS808, then the TS9 and finally the TS10. The TS10 is no longer in production but you can easily find either a TS9 or TS808, or even a Mini Tube Screamer which sounds more like the TS808.

SRV primarily used the tube screamer as a boost pedal. I recommend having the drive on around 4-5 and the tone as low as possible.

It’s also worth investing in a wah-pedal if you don’t own one to get the tone just right. The best wah-pedal to go for here is the Vox Wah pedal which was also famously used by Jimi Hendrix. This is an important pedal to have for some specific songs such as “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Say What!”.

If your amp doesn’t have built-in reverb then I highly recommend investing in a reverb pedal. Not only is it essential if you want to sound like SRV, but it will also be useful in pretty much every other tone you’re trying to create because it adds some life and depth which makes a huge difference to the overall sound.

Amazon Links to Suitable Pedals:

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

Vox Wah

MXR Reverb

Images link to Amazon

Sounding like Stevie Ray Vaughan isn’t just about your gear and amp settings, it’s about your skills too.
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Guitar and Amp Settings

In this next section I’ll guide you through the best guitar and amplifier settings to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’ll discuss the ideal settings for different types of guitars and amps so you can get your tone as close as possible regardless of your rig.

It’s important to keep in mind that you may need to make some tweaks, especially if you’re not using similar equipment to SRV, so I’ll address some common issues in final section of the articles.

Guitar Controls

If you are using a Stratocaster then in most cases you’ll want to use position 5 of the pickup selector to activate the neck pickup in isolation. For some tones you may want to use position 4 (middle and neck pickup together) to brighten up the tone slightly, however SRV mainly used position 5.

If you have a guitar with two single coil pickups, such as a Tele, again I recommend using the neck pickup in isolation here. The same goes if you’re using a guitar with a HSS configuration.

If your guitar has humbucker pickups then I recommend using the middle position which activates both the neck and bridge pickup. This will help prevent the tone from being too warm and full, and give it some brightness.

With regards to the volume and tone controls, I recommend having them on maximum if it’s possible to control the volume using a pedal instead. This will ensure you don’t lose the high-end frequencies which can happen when you roll back the tone and volume knobs.

Amp Settings

To sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan, start with the following amp settings:

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 2

It’s impossible to give one-size-fits-all amp settings because it really depends on what rig you’re using, so make sure you just use these settings as a starting point and be prepared to make some adjustments.

Most of SRV’s tones had light levels of overdrive so make sure you don’t crank the drive/ gain setting up on your amp. You’re just aiming for a bluesy tone here.

With regards to the EQ settings, I find that boosting the treble is very helpful. You’ll also likely need a fair amount of mids to make sure the tone cuts through and then a moderate amount of bass to ensure that tone sounds smooth.

However, it really does depend on the guitar and amp you’re using. If you have a guitar with humbucker pickups then you’ll likely need to increase the treble more and then decrease the bass and mids compared to if you’re using single coil pickups. The same goes if you’re using a British style amp such as a Marshall, Orange or Vox, where you may need to decrease the mids compared to if you’re using a Fender amp.

Some amps have additional controls so make sure you also check out the brand-specific amp controls guide which is relevant to you, in order to fully understand all the settings and so you can get the most from your rig:

In this next section I’ll list some amp settings you can use as a starting point for SRV’s most popular songs. Remember, you may need to make some tweaks based on your rig, and the next section in the article will help you to do that so make sure you keep reading.

Pride and Joy Amp Settings

  • Gain: 5
  • Bass: 4
  • Mids: 5
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 2

Little Wind Amp Settings

Intro (Clean)

  • Gain: 1
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 2

Overdrive

  • Gain: 3
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 8
  • Reverb: 2

Texas Flood Amp Settings

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 5
  • Mids: 7
  • Treble: 7
  • Reverb: 2

Mary Had a Little Lamb Amp Settings

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

Lenny Amp Settings

  • Gain: 4
  • Bass: 6
  • Mids: 6
  • Treble: 8
  • Reverb: 3

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Depending on the amp and guitar you have, you may need to make some tweaks to get your tone just right. In this next section I’ve listed multiple issues you may be having when you’re trying to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughan. Each issue has a list of fixes you can try.

I recommend making each tweak individually in the order they are listed. It may be that you only need to make a single tweak to fix the issue. It’s always better to make small adjustments and then listen to the tone again so you can deal with the problem efficiently.

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

Thin Tone

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

Dry and Flat Tone

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

Muddy Tone

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

Check out this article with amp settings for over 40 popular rock songs if you are looking for more inspiration.

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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