Billie Joe Armstrong’s rig is primarily Marshall amps and Gibson guitars. However, the ideal Green Day guitar sound is largely a conventional punk rock tone that’s surprisingly easy to duplicate, even without expensive gear.
To do so, we’ll examine Armstrong’s rig and get to see the actual amp settings he uses at Green Day’s live shows.
Let’s first take a look at Armstrong’s gear and then compare it to what I used when writing this article.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Guitar Gear
I also used the Amplitube 4 software to create an easy graphical reference for Green Day amp settings.
Note that your success will depend only somewhat on what kind of amp and guitar you have. Fender and Marshall products will help matters but, it can be done with other gear.
For now, let’s focus on the EQ.
Green Day Amp Settings and EQ
If you watch the Premier Guitar rig rundown of Armstrong’s gear, Green Day’s guitar tech (Hans) gives away all the info we need on the Marshall heads.
The setup is pretty simple.
Hans runs two Marshall heads, one with what he calls the “Bradshaw gain mod” which sits on top (the pink one in the picture) and the other that he calls the “SE lead mod” with an extra tube added for “even more gain.”
In short, you’ve got distortion and more distortion.
In the video you can hear Hans explain how they run both heads and where the EQ, gain and volume are all set:
This is it. All the knobs pretty much straight up (12 o’clock) and the master and gain at like, 10 o’clock. Turn it up any louder or any more gain and it doesn’t really sound that great. - Hans, Billy’s guitar tech
So in this case you don’t need to rip the knob off your amp’s gain dial to get a decent replica of Armstrong’s tone.
You can see the dials pretty well in the following shot:
This is what I mean when I say Armstrong uses what many would consider a conventional punk rock distortion.
Thus, the reduced gain makes sense, which Hans mentions specifically.
Billy’s tone isn’t about tons of gain. It’s actually a lot cleaner then you might think it is. - Hans
This gives us a pretty straightforward game plan:
- Keep the gain low.
- Set all the EQ knobs to 12 o’clock.
Use these settings as a starting point.
If needed, do a little tweaking as you go.
Note that if you are using a distortion pedal make sure to back off the gain on your amplifier as you won’t need them both at once.
If it sounds bad, there are a couple things you can try:
- Cut back the treble and boost your bass about 20%.
- Set mids and treble at six and seven respectively.
There’s some trial and error involved here, which will depend on your own ear and the equipment you’re using.
But, this is where you’d want to begin.
Here are the numbers via Amplitube 4 app.
Gain: 4 / Bass: 5 / Mids: 5 / Treble: 5
We used the JCM Slash model in Amplitube 4, but the general Marshall tone is what we're after.
Everything is at 12 o'clock to start, except for the GAIN which I've dialed back to about 40 percent. Since Armstrong's tone isn't particularly heavy, we don't need to push the volume at the preamp level up too high.
In fact, if you start with a more "clean" base tone, you'd be better off making tweaks from there, depending on how your own gear responds.
Your Thoughts and Questions
Have questions about the information here or how I came up with the dials?
Drop it in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer. Deciphering amp settings is a bit of a subjective exercise, which means readers can benefit from the experience of other readers, who are probably using a different array of gear.
Share your experience so others can benefit, at get closer to a true Green Day tone, even if they don't own a Marshall JCM.