Table of Contents
The heavy British machine known as Iron Maiden is as iconic as it comes. Three guitarists performing together will produce nothing less than a massive sound.
But how can you reproduce that sound when Iron Maiden amp settings are hard to come by?
In this Killer Rig guide, we are going to look at a few different ways you can grab that tone with your amp. Also, learn how to work out a few issues along the way.
What Is Iron Maiden’s Sound?
Iron Maiden is known for their classic, loud, and heavy sound. They use a lot of distortion and power chords to create a thick, full tone. If you’re looking to recreate this sound, you’ll need to start with the right amp and settings.
Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers have more of a heavy British tone that is quite thick in the mid-range. To obtain this sound, the amplifier would normally be cranked wide open or boosted to get the roar of the tubes.
Their sound has slightly changed over the years. But a great place to start with amp settings would be something like this:
- Gain: 7-8
- Treble: 6
- Mids: 8
- Bass: 4
- Presence: 5
An amplifier that is less scooped sounding would benefit from this setting the most. However, with a high mid-range setting, most amps can make this work. From here, adjust it based on the guitar and amp that you are using until it sounds the way you like.
Iron Maiden Amp Settings
Now that we have touched briefly on their sound, how do you go about creating your own Iron Maiden amp settings?
There are a few things you need to consider when trying to create the perfect settings to get this type of sound.
- Think about the amplifier you’re using. Does it have enough gain to provide the amount of distortion you want? If not, you may need to look at another amplifier or overdrive pedal.
- Consider the guitar you’re using. Is it a model that can provide the right output level and a sound thick enough? If not, then the Iron Maiden tone may be hard to capture.
Then, you need to know how the controls on your amp work. Knowing what they do and how they adjust your sound is crucial to getting this right.
The gain knob is the most important control on your amp when it comes to Iron Maiden’s heavy sound. This is because it needs to be up fairly high to produce the right amount of saturation and distortion.
But that means other frequencies will also be higher as a result. The bass frequencies are normally larger in intensity when the gain control is turned up. This is just the way the circuit responds in a high-gain amplifier.
If you are not careful, the sound could lose clarity and become muddy quickly. So when adjusting this control, make sure to keep this in mind as the EQ will also need to be dialed in accordingly.
When setting up your amp for any music style, you should always begin with your EQ controls at the halfway point. This will give you a good place to start that is not overwhelming with any frequency.
From here, you will want to use your EQ to shape your tone.
- Use your treble knob to adjust how much brightness you want in your tone. For iron Maiden sounds, this setting was slightly over the halfway mark between 6 and 7. This setting is a good place to start with most high-gain amps.
- Your middle control will determine how much thickness is applied to your tone. Too low, and it will sound scooped, which is not the Iron Maiden tone. If you are going for Adrian Smith’s sound, set the mid-knob higher to around 8.
- The bass control is used to adjust your lower frequencies and is to be set at a point that is not muddy but clear. This was the aim of the Iron Maiden sound, aggressive but not at the expense of clarity. A bass knob setting of 4-5 should do the trick.
Check out our Metallica amp settings guide once you have Maiden down!
Popular Iron Maiden Songs and Their Settings
We can get pretty close with some general settings. The truth is, Iron Maiden has a large discography that spans many years. With that time frame, they have changed their sounds and equipment from time to time.
And so it’s best to look at amp settings for popular songs to try out. Then recreate the sounds they were able to get from their gear.
The trooper is a popular song and one that many guitarists like to learn to play. Perhaps you are in a cover band, and you need to nail the tone. The good news is, it’s very possible! If you have a Marshall JCM 800 and a TS9, you are all the way there.
For this song, the settings would start with:
- Gain: 9
- treble: 7
- Mids: 8
- Bass: 7
- Presence: 6
Now, if you don’t have a JCM800, that’s ok, just back the gain down to 7, the bass to 5, and you should be in the ballpark.
Run To The Hills
Another popular Iron Maiden song is run to the hills from the number of the beast album. This one is similar in settings, as the band has used Marshall amps for a good number of years.
I was able to recreate this tone well with a Revv Generator on the purple channel. My settings were as follows:
- Gain: 6
- Treble: 6
- Mids: 8
- Bass: 5
- Presence: 5
- Depth: 6
Do you have a high-gain amp with a decent amount of mid-range and good top-end bite? Then these settings should get you close.
2 Minutes To Midnight
Another high-gain song with a good warm midrange tone is 2 minutes to midnight. It’s fun to play and sounds great. So to capture the tone, again a Marshall amp is suggested.
Use settings like this as a starting point:
- Gain: 7.5
- Treble: 7
- Mids: 8
- Bass: 5.5
- Presence: 4.5
If you have a tube screamer, turn the gain down a tad and push the amp harder to open it up with the boost.
Tony Iommi had some cool settings, check them out!
Using Effects Pedals
Iron Maiden’s guitarists use a variety of pedals to achieve their signature sound. While the use of pedals is minimal, they are still an important part of their sound.
Iron Maiden uses Tube Screamers as a lead boost and delay for solos, and sometimes wah.
A Guitar Player interview from 1983 stated that Dave Murray was using an MXR Distortion+ and Adrian Smith was using a Tube Screamer.
If you want to incorporate effects into your rig, here are some ways to use them:
- Reverb: This effect is particularly useful for clean sections to prevent the tone from sounding dull and dry.
- Wah: This effect is useful when playing most of Dave Murray’s solos.
- Distortion: Iron Maiden uses a lot of distortion and power chords to create a thick, full tone. A pedal can also be used instead of an amp to get this type of sound.
If you find that you have tried these settings, and it isn’t coming together, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- The right guitar is important for this sound. You need humbuckers that are high output. Make sure to use the bridge pickup if you want that same rhythm tone.
- Add effects like delay or reverb to round out the sound. If you find it’s too bright, this can be an easy way to bring it all together.
- The gain is quite high with Iron Maiden’s tone. Make sure to keep your bass and depth controls set lower to maintain clarity.
- If it sounds too thin, increase the mids before the bass. You can get thickness this way without getting muddy. Take advantage of your tone control on the guitar as well.
- If it’s just too distorted, turn the gain down and adjust your EQ. Yes, it’s possible to have too much gain with certain setups. These settings are starting points, but not every rig is the same.
- If your amp is just not up to the task, get yourself a good distortion pedal. Not everyone has a high-gain amp. There are plenty of pedals that can get this tone.
Check out our guide on metal amp settings for more!
There you have it! These are some ideas to help you get that Iron Maiden sound. Try these settings and see how they work for you. With a little time and patience, you should be able to get close.
Add effects in the mix to keep building upon these settings. The band used many effect pedals as well, but this is better for you to experiment with once you have the sound down. And who knows, maybe you’ll find something even better!
What amps does Iron Maiden use?
Iron Maiden has used many amplifiers over the years. They have mostly stuck with Marshall amps. But they have also used Mesa Boogie, Gallien Krueger, and Blackstar.
What kind of guitars does Iron Maiden use?
Iron Maiden has used Gibson, Jackson, and Ibanez guitars for a long time. But modified Fender Stratocasters with Dimarzio super distortion pickups have also been used.