Fender sells a lot of guitars.
But Fender Amps are popular in their own right and widely used.
Thus a discussion about settings and tone, in the context of Fender amplifiers, would be appropriate and helpful.
Gear I Used in this Article
Most (not all) Fender guitar amps offer a warm, smooth tone and give you a nice low end crunch. Contrast that with Marshall amps, which deliver a brighter, more bell-like sound.
They’re both great amplifiers (two of the best, in fact) but they do sound different.
That means a uniform approach to amp settings isn’t going to work.
A shot of the Fender ’68 Vibrolux amplifier. Flickr Image via BrownGuacamole
We need to get “brand-specific.”
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good suggestions and established conventions for Fender amp owners.
We’ll try and cover some of those suggestions here in order to offer as much information as possible about the ideal Fender amp settings.
This article is going to focus on a few mainstays of the Fender lineup.
If you own one of their amps, chances are good that you have something from one of the following series:
These amps are some of the more popular and longstanding choices available from the company and are largely responsible for crafting the “Fender sound.”
Thus, it’s fair to say that if you don’t at least own a Fender amp - better yet, one of the four just mentioned - this article doesn’t apply to you. Some small all tube amps can still mimic the original tone, but the sound is still really specific to the Fender design.
I’m not trying to say, “this is how you get the Fender sound out of any amp.”
Rather I’m talking about the optimal configurations for actual Fender guitar amps, assuming you already own one.
Now that we’re all clear on expectations, lets talk a little bit about the magic six.
The Magic Six: Fender Amp Settings for Blues
The magic six is fairly simple to apply.
To be quite honest, I don’t know for sure if that’s true.
Then again, it might not matter.
I do know that the magic six works great for Fender amps for the following reasons:
Cuts the bass: Fender amps (which are usually tube amps) are smooth but, often push a lot of low end. Cutting the bass can help even things out.
Cuts the mids: It’s complex but cutting the mid-range down (particularly with distorted sounds) will help to balance out volume and intensity between higher and lower strings.
Balancing treble: Having treble a bit higher than mid and bass gives your Fender amp that bright appeal that Marshall’s are so popular for. It balances out the smoothness of the tubes and adds some bite on the high end.
Ok -- so what are the magic six settings?
Here are the numbers:
Volume: 6 / Treble: 6 / Mids: 3 / Bass: 2
Mids x bass = six.
If you read what the guy had to say from the single coil website (link posted above) it’s a lot of math and technical jargon that I don’t think is necessary to understand.
Some guy on a forum said it was like having Spock dial in the perfect tone, and I would agree.
But all you need to know is that it works.
I also think that having the bass and mid a bit lower can really help on Fender amplifiers, even though I’m typically a fan of more bass in a guitar tone.
So for what it’s worth, I’ve used this setting frequently, since I used to own the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. It worked great, especially for lead guitar segments and heavy power iffs.
It’s not the only setting for Fender amps. Though it’s certainly a popular and accommodating option, that has drawn wide notoriety.
Let’s look at some other things to consider.
Any write-up on Fender amps and tone wouldn’t be complete without at least a mention about reverb.
Fender amps just do reverb really well.
How you incorporate it into your tone is up to you but I would contend that it works better on the lower bass settings, because you’ll get a brighter and more “wet” tone from your reverb.
Try going with a low bass, high treble setting (similar to the magic six) with the reverb knob on seven or eight.
Something like this:
Treble: 7 / Mids: 4 / Bass: 2 / Reverb: 8
Your higher notes will have a nice “chime” to them and your low-end notes should come out clean without becoming too muddled.
Low End Settings: Fender Amp Settings for Metal
As I’ve been saying, Fender amps are smooth and provide a lot of thickness to your tone, so it is possible to push the bass up and take advantage of that.
This makes heavy rock and even metal a particularly strong spot for Fender’s tone.
You’ll want to be careful not to muddy things up but an easy metal EQ is to push your mid-range and bass knobs a little higher.
Try the following configuration for a heavier tone:
Treble: 7 / Mids: 5 / Bass: 8 / Reverb: 0
With treble holding steady and your mids coming up a bit, that should be enough to meld with the higher bass and give you a nice driving tone.
It’s perfect for heavy overdrive or a saturating distortion pedal.
No Right Answer
With any talk about amp settings and tone there’s never a uniform right answer.
Fender amp settings are no different, even within the context of one brand.
However, I do believe that it helps people to have a concrete starting point, where someone says, “Here’s what actually worked for me.”
Because there’s plenty of material out there that says, “Hey, you should dial in a great tone.”
That’s great advice but, horribly mundane when article after article repeats that sentiment without ever telling you how to do it, or even offering helpful suggestions.
I won’t do that here.
Even if my specific instruction and application isn’t applicable everywhere, I still want to give you somewhere to start.
So think of these settings as a starting point, born out of a concrete experience that actually meant something to someone.
I hope it helps.
Questions or thoughts?
Got questions or thoughts about these Fender amp settings?
You can get in touch with us directly.
Hopefully we’ll see you there.
Could you use more gear help?
Producing “great tone” is a worthy pursuit, but not always an obvious one.
We all own a unique collection of gear that seems to sound different all the time. That’s normal, but still something we need to learn to deal with.
We need to learn our gear.
If you want to access some resources that will help dealing with a specific tonal pursuit, piece of gear or other questions related to your rig, I’d recommend giving Guitar Tricks 14-day free trial a test run - there’s no obligations and you’ve got nothing to lose - except two free weeks of one of the most comprehensive and thorough guitar education websites in existence.
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Flickr Commons Image Courtesy of Stray-Kat