The blues tone is a classic sound that has been gracing stages and speakers for decades and is used in many of the most popular songs of all time. To create that iconic sound, there are a few key elements that need to be mastered.
First, you will need to understand the importance of having the right amplifier settings. For a great blues tone, it’s essential to have low gain levels and plenty of reverb, as these two factors can help bring out those soulful notes.
Quick blues amp settings that can be used to start, look like this:
- Gain: 3-4
- Treble: 6
- Mids: 5
- Bass: 6
- Reverb: 4
The guide will teach you what each setting does and how to use them for a great blues tone. We’ll also explore some popular songs with these amp settings, so read on!
What Is Blues Tone?
The blues tone is a sound that has been used in countless songs throughout the decades, from artists like B.B. King and Eric Clapton, to modern-day hits by bands like The Black Keys and Jack White.
But what gives this sound its signature quality? Several factors come into play when creating this iconic tone, but the two most important elements are low gain levels and the proper EQ settings.
If you want to create that classic blues sound, then you must master these components. Then, all the rest needs to happen on your guitar. That’s right, your pickup selector switch, tone, and volume controls need to contribute heavily.
Let’s take a closer look at each one and how they work together to produce this timeless tone.
How Amp Settings Help To Get a Good Blues Tone
When it comes to achieving that perfect blues sound, your amp settings are key. By tweaking the gain and EQ levels, you can create a tone that is just right for you.
Let’s look at how each control will work to adjust your sound. These are the main controls worth mentioning, as most amps will have them.
Gain or Drive
Your gain knob is what sets the amount of crunch or distortion in your tone. It can be used to create a very clean sound or increase the gain until it reaches full distortion.
A low setting works well for blues, as you want your notes to have plenty of sustain and clarity, without being completely distorted. It is typically suggested that you set this control to 5 or lower.
Some players set their gain knob at the highest point that they are comfortable with and then use the guitar’s volume control to adjust it as they play. This is a technique that is at the heart of blues and should be used whenever possible.
It is also important to keep in mind that the gain control is also called “drive” on some amplifiers. The function is the same, it’s only the name that is different.
The treble setting is what determines how much of the high frequencies you hear.
When playing blues, it is important to have some amount of high frequency in your tone. This helps add clarity to each note and makes them stand out more.
Many guitar players use this control to “roll off” the gain in their sound. Instead of having a complete distortion, they just have a bit and some higher frequencies to help shape it.
For blues, you can set the treble anywhere from 6-9, based on your personal preference. If you want a more raw and gritty sound, then you can go with a higher setting. If you want a cleaner tone, then you can back it off a bit.
The middle control is great at adding thickness and cut. The guitar’s primary frequencies lie in the middle band, and so these are very important, especially with the blues tones.
This is a frequency that can help your notes pop and give them some extra sustain. It is typically suggested that you set the mids to 5 or higher when playing blues.
The bass setting helps to add some low end to your tone and makes it sound fuller.
While the bass frequencies are not as important in the blues as they are in other genres, such as metal or rock, they can still help to shape your sound.
A good setting for the bass control is 3-5. This will give you a nice full sound without muddying up your tone. But because the gain control also provides a thicker response with higher settings, sometimes the bass might need to be lower.
How to Set Your Amp for Blues
Now that you know how the controls work, here are a few steps to help you adjust your amp settings for blues.
- Start by putting your gain and EQ controls to halfway or 5. This will provide a relatively flat response.
- Make sure that your amplifier is also somewhat clean. You may want a bit of breakup, but we are looking for a low gain tone.
- Set your volume to a level that you are comfortable with. While most amps are better at higher volumes, this might be uncomfortable for you if it’s a high-powered model.
- Set your guitar’s volume control to 5 or 6. This will allow you to have the range to push your amplifier harder or soften it up right from your guitar. This is a great blues technique.
- Now, adjust your amplifier to the tone you are looking for. This might mean a slightly broken-up or perhaps a thicker midrange tone.
- Play some chords and licks and adjust the amp settings as you go. Don’t be afraid to use your settings. If this means the mids are set to 10, that’s fine and suggested.
- Once you have your amplifier set the way you are happy, add some effects into the mix. Blues is great with some reverb or tremolo. Experiment with what sounds good to you.
Popular Blues Songs and Their Settings
Now that you know how to adjust your guitar amp for blues, here are some popular songs and their settings.
“The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King
This song by B.B. King is bright, clear, and has great sustain. His guitars range from hollow bodies to Gibson Les Paul’s. To get this tone, a Fender Blues Junior or Twin Reverb would be a great fit. But even a good digital modeling amp would work too.
Use amp settings like:
- Gain: 4
- Treble: 7
- Mids: 6
- Bass: 5
- Reverb: 3
“Texas Flood” by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Texas Flood, by Stevie Ray Vaughan, who is a very popular blues guitarist. His tone is thick, sustaining, and has a great amount of distortion. To get this, a tube amplifier like a Fender Bassman paired with a Stratocaster would be perfect.
Set your amplifier like this:
- Gain: 4-5
- Treble: 7
- Mids: 7
- Bass: 6
- Reverb: 3
“Have You Ever Loved a Woman” by Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton is one of the most well-known blues guitarists, and this song is a great example of his clean and smooth style. He uses a Fender Stratocaster to get this tone. A Marshall Bluesbreaker combo amplifier is also a great option for this song.
To recreate it, your amp settings should start here:
- Gain: 6-7
- Treble: 6
- Mids: 8
- Bass: 6
- Reverb: 3
Trouble Shooting Blues Amp Settings
If you have tried a few settings but are struggling to get it right, here are a few things to consider.
- When you are looking for a twangy, bright, tone, make sure to use single-coil pickups. Humbuckers are generally warmer sounding.
- Make sure your amplifier is a lower gain model. You want a cleaner, brighter sound that is not too distorted and has the right feel.
- When things are too bright or harsh, turn down the treble control and add more mids. You can also use your guitar’s tone control to warm it up.
- If it’s too warm, reduce the mids and add treble.
- Experiment with different pickup positions. The bridge position will be a lot brighter than the neck position. Using both positions for different sounds is necessary for blues tones.
- If your amplifier is too clean, try using overdrive or fuzz pedals to get some slight breakup.
- Try different settings and use them for a while to get an idea of what they can do to benefit you. Experiment with different rhythm parts and riffs to see how the current presets work for you.
Using Effects For Blues
While many great blues sounds don’t use effects, a good majority do. Some amplifiers will come equipped with effects like reverb or tremolo, which is perfect. But there are a lot of other effects that can help you find your unique tone.
Overdrives and Distortion
Overdrives and distortion pedals are the perfect way to get some grit and attitude in your tone. These can be used to boost your amplifier into slight breakup or full-on distortion. They are also perfect for solos.
Some of the most popular overdrives and distortion pedals include the:
- Ibanez Tube Screamer
- Boss Blues Driver
For a unique tone, try adding some fuzz pedals to your signal chain. Fuzz is great for adding texture and sustaining notes, which can be perfect when you’re playing lead guitar or want to get creative with your solos.
A great pedal is the Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face Distortion.
Reverb is an effect that can help fill out your sound. It creates a sense of space and can make your guitar seem larger than life.
For blues, a moderate amount of reverb is perfect. You don’t want it to be too overwhelming or sound like you’re playing in a cave.
A Popular reverb pedal today is the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Neo.
Tremolo is another great effect that can add some movement to your sound. It’s perfect for creating a “swampy” or “muddy” tone.
Consider these popular tremolo pedals:
- Fender Tre-verb
- Strymon Flint Tremolo
As you can see, there are a lot of great effects that can help you find your unique blues tone. Experiment with some pedals to find what works best for you.
Whether you’re just starting or have been playing for years, blues guitar is a fun and rewarding style to play.
And with the right settings for your amp, effects pedals, and pickups, you can find your perfect tone and let loose on stage or in the studio.
It isn’t something that can be rushed, so take your time and enjoy the journey!
How do you get the blues sound?
Getting a good blues sound generally involves using lower gain, clean amplifiers with a lot of mids and treble.
Then add some effects that include overdrive and distortion pedals, reverb, and tremolo. You may also experiment with various pickup positions to achieve different tones.
What amp do blues players use?
There is no one right amp for blues players, as there are many types and models that can be used. Some popular choices include Fender, Vox, and Marshall amplifiers. Many modern players also use pedals to achieve various tones.