To sound as good as Joe Satriani, you’re going to need a lot more than just the right amp settings. However, the right three-band EQ is a good place to start. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at his amp settings and a few of his favored effects pedals.
Satriani primarily uses Marshall JVM410 amp heads and Marshall cabinets. As a side note, his JVMs have reverb removed and noise gates installed into each channel.
This has actually become a Joe Satriani signature JVM410 since the Rig Dundown video referenced below came out.
Joe has several other amp models he has used over the years but, we’ll stick with a basic Marshall setup for our amp settings mimic, since those are his most current and common amp of choice.
Gear Joe Satriani Uses
Joe Satriani Amp Settings: The Clean and Dirty Channels
If you watch Premier Guitar’s Rig Rundown interview with Satriani, you can get a really close look at his JVM410 amp head.
It’s clear enough that you can see the EQ he has set on the clean and dirty channels:
Here are the settings for the clean channel on Satriani's Marshall:
Clean Channel Settings
Volume: 6 / Bass: 3-4 / Mids: 2-3 / Treble: 3-4 / Gain: 9
Dirty CHANNEL SETTINGS
Volume: 7 / Bass: 3-4 / Mids: 3-4 / Treble: 3-4 / Gain: 9
In some cases Satriani will use his Vox signature distortion or overdrive pedal to handle gain levels, so the more relevant numbers are what you see coming from the three-band EQ. Note that for all of the channels on Satriani's Marshall, the gain knobs are set to around 8-10.
If you have a Marshall with a gain option, setting the gain at 8 would be a safe bet.
The same strategy with a distortion pedal, like the DS-1 (which Satriani has used), applies.
Joe Satriani’s Pedalboard
In the Premier Guitar interview you’ll hear Satriani mention that aside from his delay pedals (the two Vox Time Machines) and wah, most of his pedalboard is used sparingly. His albums and live performances seem to confirm this.
You get lots of delay, distortion and wah without much else.
Via the Premier Guitar interview, we get a close up shot of Satriani’s pedal real-estate:
Despite having two distortions and two delays, his use of distortion and delay is not overtly heavy or saturating.
His delay times and repeats are low, while his distortion, though thick, isn’t heavy enough to cover up his amp’s clean tone or detract from the melodic nature of his playing.
If you’ve got to take some guesses with gain levels on your pedal or amp and it sounds messier than Satriani's tone, back your gain level down from 8 to 5 or 6.
The same tactic applies with whatever delay source you’re using.
What makes Satriani so good is the melodic quality of his playing.
When trying to narrow down the optimal Joe Satriani amp settings, make sure your amp’s clean tone is bright enough to push through whatever distortion you’re using and make the melody really clear.
This will help you avoid covering up melody with heavy effects.
If that’s happening, you’ve missed Satriani’s sound entirely.
Questions about the settings?
Have questions about the settings I've used here or other aspects of Satriani's tone?
Leave it in the comments section and we'll talk.