Sound Like John Petrucci: Amp Settings and Gear Guide

John Petrucci is a guitar hero with a unique tone. His sound and style have inspired countless players for years. And if you are one of his fans, you know that he has used a wide variety of guitars and Mesa amps to create his tone.

But just having the gear alone is not the same without good amp settings.

In this Killer Rig guide, I’ll show you how to recreate his tone using a variety of John Petrucci amp settings.

What Is The John Petrucci Sound?

The John Petrucci sound is characterized by a clear and bright tone with lots of gain. It also has excellent articulation, so you can hear each note in the chord clearly when playing at a high volume.

And one of the biggest factors for having this kind of tone is proper amp settings.

Here are some quick John Petrucci amp settings that you can use to get his tone:

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 6
  • Bass: 3
  • Middle: 4
  • Presence: 6

This is a good starting point. Especially with amps like the Mesa Boogie JP-2C! Which is John Petrucci’s signature model. Because he used Mesa Boogie amps for a long time with Dream Theater, you just need one that is similar.

Not sure what amp settings actually do? Check out my guide to amp controls and settings to get up to speed!

John Petrucci Amp Settings

Once the gear has been obtained, then it’s time to learn how to use it all. Knowing how the amp settings interact is important.

john petrucci amp setting infographic

Gain Control

The gain control is the first place to start when it comes to John Petrucci amp settings. John likes a lot of gain, and he uses it for quite a few different tones that he gets.

In general, you should be using a setting that’s between 6 and 8 on most amps. More than this will get too muddy and start to sound less articulate. Because the gain settings are already somewhat high, this also helps add thickness.

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Equalization Settings

Part of the trick to John’s sound is his equalization setting. This will require experimentation with your amp and guitar.

  1. Treble settings are quite high with his tone. This is because he is focusing on articulation and clarity. Your treble control will add these characteristics. But try and prevent your sound from becoming harsh with higher settings.
  2. Bass settings are kept quite low. John listens for flubby tones and tries to find the right balance. Too much bass and you will have a muddy sound with a loss of clarity.
  3. Your mid-control adds a lot of character to your tone. Thickness and body come from higher settings. But John scoops his tone, which helps accentuate the treble.

Popular Dream Theater Songs And Their Settings

Now that you know some basics behind John Petrucci’s tone. Let’s look at some popular songs and their settings.

Metropolis Part 1

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 6
  • Bass: 3
  • Middle: 4
  • Presence: 6

This is one of the best songs for figuring out John’s tone. It’s high gain, has lots of articulation, and it also uses a lot of effects like delay and reverb. You can use this song as a starting point for shaping your own tone.

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A Change of Seasons

  • Gain: 7
  • Treble: 5
  • Bass: 5
  • Middle: 4
  • Presence: 6

A Change of Seasons focuses more on clean tones at first, which means that your settings won’t need to be as high. With lower gain settings and a less distorted sound. You’ll get a really clear tone with good articulation.

As the song progresses, things change and the tone gets aggressive and thick.


  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Middle: 4
  • Presence: 6

Home is another one of John’s aggressive-sounding songs. The tone is slightly different from Metropolis Part 1, but it’s still quite high in gain. You’ll want to focus on getting a good amount of sustain and thickness with your tone.

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Pull Me Under

  • Gain: 8
  • Treble: 7
  • Bass: 5
  • Middle: 6
  • Presence: 6

This is one of the most popular Dream Theater songs, and it’s also known for being quite a difficult one to play. This means that your tone will need to be articulate! But you’ll also want something that is tight and focused.

Gear Needed For A John Petrucci Sound

To get the John Petrucci sound, you need a few things. Here’s a quick list of suggested equipment:

  1. A guitar with high-output pickups. This is important because it will help push your amp harder. All while giving you more sustain and thickness.
  2. An amp with lots of gain. The Mesa Boogie JP-2C is a great choice because it’s capable of going from clean sounds to insane high gain. His settings are lower in the bass, so some amps may need a higher level. Solid-state and digital modeling will also work.
  3. Drive, distortion, and boost pedals can also be very handy when recreating John’s tone.

Trouble Shooting Tone Issues

As you experiment with your settings, there are a few common problems that you may encounter. Here’s how to troubleshoot them:

  • Too much bass: This will lead to a flubby and excessive low-end tone. Try lowering the bass or increasing the treble. Your sound needs to be tight.
  • Muddy tone: A combination of high gain and bass settings can do this. It’s best to turn down your bass control until it cleans up.
  • Harsh sound: This is usually caused by too much treble. Try lowering the treble or increasing the bass. Consider using your tone control on the guitar as well.
  • Loss of clarity: articulation is important for John’s tone. If you’re losing it, try increasing the treble or mids. If you have a presence control, this is also very helpful.
  • Thin sounding: This is usually caused by a lack of gain or bass. Try adjusting these settings to find the right balance. You might also try a different pickup position on your guitar.
John Petrucci amp setting tips


John Petrucci is one of the most iconic guitar players of our generation. His tone is unique and instantly recognizable.

While it may seem daunting to try and recreate his sound, it’s quite simple once you understand the basics.

With a little patience and experimentation. You’ll be able to get close to that signature Dream Theater sound.


What amps does John Petrucci use?

John Petrucci relies on Mesa Boogie amplifiers for his sound. Models like the JP-2C and Mark 4 are his go-to amps.

What guitars does John Petrucci use?

John Petrucci is most commonly associated with Music Man and Ibanez guitars. He has a signature model, the Ernie Ball JPXI-6, which is based on the Music Man Axis.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!