We’re looking for a broad 30,000 foot view of the optimal Brad Paisley amp settings.
Paisley actually uses a lot of different gear, particularly amps.
He primarily uses an amp that I’ve never heard of, a Z-Verb or “Dr. Z,” that is similar in sound to a Vox AC30 (which he also uses). For starters, let’s look at Paisley’s primary gear list and compare it to what I used when dialing in my own version of the Paisley twang.
What Paisley Uses
- Dr. Z Amplifiers
- Vox AC30 Combo Amp
- Fender Custom and American Telecasters
- Ibanez Tube Screamer (TS808)
What I Used
- Fender ’68 Vibrolux
- Fender American Telecaster Electric Guitar
- Ibanez TS9DX Tube Screamer
- PositiveGrid JamUp App
I found that the Fender tube amp warmth along with the Telecaster tone worked pretty well for dialing in serviceable Brad Paisley amp settings. What we’ll do is cover the approach in the following sections:
- The Guitar
- The Amp’s EQ
Let’s start with our guitar approach.
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Brad Paisley Guitar Settings
Paisley’s Telecasters are an integral part of his tone, and I found that before I could get around to my amp’s EQ, the guitar itself needed some work.
And this is not to say that you can’t make it work with other guitar brands and models but, I am going to base these conventions off the sounds I was able to get out of my own American Tele.
For starters, I kept the pickup selector in the middle position, with the tone knob cut down by about 20%.
At times, cutting the volume knob back a little bit seemed to help as well.
If you don’t have a Telecaster, some experimentation might be necessary but, try these settings first and then make adjustments as you see fit.
- Pickup Selector at Middle Position (both pickups)
- Tone Knob at 80%
- Volume Knob at 90%
Perhaps start here, then move onto the amp settings before coming back and re-adjusting your guitar.
Brad Paisley Amp Settings
For the EQ we’ll need to dial in some extra high tones to make sure we’re building a country-friendly tonal profile.
Here’s how we’ll start:
Gain: 3 / Bass: 5 / Mids: 9 / Treble: 7 / Reverb: 2
We keep the mids and trebles high to get that extra “twang” in our tone and also to balance out the use of the neck pickup on the guitar. If you don’t have a Fender Vibrolux, take these settings with a grain of salt and make sure to spend time adjusting them depending on how your own amplifier reacts. For example, if the tone is too high and “pitchy” try turning down the mid and treble dials to a more moderate level.
Gain: 2 / Bass: 5 / Mids: 6 / Treble: 5 / Reverb: 2
Additionally, look for single notes to pop and almost produce a “clicking” sound, particularly during solos. You might even try fingerpicking through some of Paisley’s melodies to see if you’re getting a nice twang in your output. Guitar World has a helpful article with a number of short country licks that you can use to try out your settings.
Once you find a clean tone that sounds close to Paisley’s, dial in your gain to whatever distortion level you’d like to maintain.
Paisley uses lighter distortions in most of his music, so you’ll want to avoid anything overtly heavy.
I used the Boss DS-1 on the following settings:
Tone: 5 / Level: 5 / Dist: 4
Whatever pedal you use (or if you use your amp), you’ll have a “Gain” or “Distortion” knob that will control the intensity or saturation levels of the effect.
For a more optimal Paisley tone, be conservative when you use that knob.
I’ve found this particular tone to be one of the more difficult I’ve pursued, partly because Paisley uses so many different guitar amps.
Thus, I’d advise that you prepare yourself for some trial and error.
I can leave you with some best practices and a summary of what we’ve covered. They include the following:
- Use a Fender or boutique-style tube amp.
- Use a Fender Telecaster or Stratocaster with the pickup selector in the middle position.
- Set gain and distortion levels low for a “mild” distortion.
- Use thinner strings for easier picking.
- Use heavier picks to get some extra “snap” out of melodic lines.
- Opt for a higher EQ to balance out the use of the neck pickup.
If you’re able to get close to this setup, you shouldn’t have any trouble dialing in decent Brad Paisley amp settings and country tones.
And if it still gives you some trouble, you can always give us a shout and ask questions in the comments section.
Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of GotCountryOnline