Tom Morello’s guitar rig is surprisingly simple, considering all the bizarre sounds he creates with it. As a result, the optimal Tom Morello amp settings aren’t terribly difficult to come by.
In his own words:
“My setup is very simple, but I use everything to its fullest potential.” - Tom Morello
He uses only a Marshall head hooked up to a speaker cabinet, that of which the brand is unidentifiable.
The amp provides his distortion, so we can try and get close to the “Morello sound” by adjusting our settings with a focus on Marshall amplifiers. As far as the rest of this gear and what you might be able to use to imitate it, we'll cover a list of what I used to dial in the tone highlighted below and what Morello uses, so you can compare.
Gear Tom Morello Uses
If you want to explore more tone recommendations, checkout our full list of guitar amp settings.
For those interested, we've also written a review of Tom Morello's Masterclass course.
What Tom Morello Uses
- Fender Custom Stratocaster
- Gibson Les Paul Custom
- The “Arm the Homeless” Guitar
- Marshall JCM800
Gear list based on this guitar.com rig diagram.
The Marshall sound has a unique brightness but, if don’t own one you can still get close to that same tone. I’m using the PositiveGrid JamUp app on an iPad to display the settings.
Morello’s distortion comes from the gain setting or “dirty channel” in the JCM800, whereas I substituted my Boss DS-1 distortion since both sounds have a similar grittiness.
For the EQ, bass and mids are both set at four while treble goes all the way up to embellish the Marshall “chime” and add a little bit of scratchy grunge to the output. Throughout his career with both Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave, Morello has often employed an EQ that leaned towards the higher end, perhaps to balance out Tim Commerford’s low, rumbling bass riffs.
In the process of tinkering around with this sound and a few Audioslave covers, I came up with a couple more settings that I’ve cataloged with screenshots of the JamUp app:
Tom Morello Amp Settings: The High EQ
This look is similar to what we have with the GarageBand screenshot, though I’ve dialed the treble back just a bit and moved the gain up to about seven. If this sounds too high pitched, try the following option:
Tom Morello Amp Settings: The Low EQ
This time treble gets pulled back while bass and mids get a boost. Depending on your amp, this might sound a bit too low to really capture Morello’s tone but, it’s a place to start experimenting and should get you close.
Morello makes a lot of different noises with his rig but, as Morello made clear, it has remained simple and straightforward over the years. Perhaps the most relevant piece of gear is the DOD equalizer which, According to Aaron Mathias of GuitarGearFinder.com, Morello simply uses as a booster for solos.
“Not many guitarists use equalizer pedals and it’s surprising to see it on Tom’s pedalboard. In fact, he didn’t even use this as a proper EQ pedal. He sets the EQ flat then raises the Level slider to give his sound a boost. So Tom really uses this pedal as a booster for solos. Tom continued to use the DOD FX40B throughout his Audioslave career in the same way. - Aaron Mathias, guitargearfinder.com
The rest of Morello’s pedals are used at intervals throughout RATM and Audioslave records without a lot of consistency and thereby aren’t tremendously crucial to capturing his tone. If you’re lucky enough to own one of the DigiTech Whammy pedals, you’ll have an easier time capturing the “Like a Stone” solo.
If your amp doesn’t have a gain option or a dirty channel, or if you feel like the distortion just isn’t intense enough, you can add a distortion pedal of your choosing. Otherwise here are the exact amp numbers on a scale of one to ten.
Gain: 7 / Treble: 10 / Mid: 4 / Bass: 4 / Reverb: 0
Use these settings as a starting point and then do some tweaking.
The great thing about Tom Morello’s amp settings is that they’re somewhat garden variety, therefore easy to capture. Get a clean tone you’re happy with first then add the distortion and be careful to avoid over-saturating the tone.
Morello is not what you would consider a “metal” guitarist, so you’ll want to keep things reasonably tame.
Thoughts, Additions or Corrections
If you have some feedback or insight into Tom Morello’s amp settings, get in touch with me via email or the comments section below.