One of the main reasons why Foo Fighters are so popular is because of their distinctive sound.
You won’t find too much distortion, at least not the kind you would otherwise expect to see from a rock band of such caliber. If there’s one thing Dave Grohl is adamant about, it’s the sound of his guitars.
How does Grohl Do it?
If you ask anyone close to Grohl, including his go-to technicians and sound guys, they will tell you that he likes to avoid using too many distortion pedals, and focuses mainly on getting the sound he likes from his amps and his guitars. Over the years Grohl had become a master at doing so.
Foo Fighters don’t rely on one single type of amp, or cabinet for their tours. They bring a whole array of equipment that includes amp heads of completely different style and tone.
His main rigs rely heavily on the Messa Boogie Dual Rectifier and Road King for harder and heavier sound, while Vox AC-30 is what he uses to achieve that rich clean tone.
When it comes to his guitars, they are many and mostly revolve around Gibson’s signature models such as the Les Paul, Firebird, Explorer on one hand, and Fender telecaster series.
Now combine these along with couple of Fender Tone Master Heads and two of his own custom made amp heads, and you realize that Grohl utilizes a whole array of tools from his toolbox.
Does he even use Pedals?
Yes, no matter how much he dislikes using distortion and effects pedals, Dave does have a pretty simple pedal board in front of him when he is on stage. Boss DD-3 Delay is what he mainly uses these days, while DM-2 was also seen in his collection.
Boss DD-3 is pretty old school delay pedal, which can give a whole range of sound but needs to be dialed meticulously depending on what gear you’re running. Dave has his setup in a way that compliments his amp+guitar combo, and doesn’t really push it too far to the foreground.
Another effect you will find on Dave Grohl pedalboard is the MXR Phase 90. This old phaser pedal is a must for just about any serious performer. It’s simple, durable, and a generally no-nonsense effect pedal that is considered to be the best of its kind on the market.
Other than that, he has two Boss TU-2 tuners, one for his electric and one for his acoustic guitars. These tuners are pretty self explanatory.
One Distortion of Choice
As he is adamant about achieving his sound by using only the combination of amps and his guitars, there’s one distortion pedal Grohl sometimes uses. It’s the ProCo Turbo Rat distortion pedal.
This pedal offers a very basic but raw experience. It features that roaring overdrive, but can also be setup to give the guitar just a slight buzzing tone. That is probably why he likes it. It is somewhat natural, and goes in line with his sound ideology.
In an interview with one of his guitar techs, it was revealed that Grohl actually put controls for three or four amps on his pedal board. This way he has absolute control over his gear, and combined with the pedals we’ve already mentioned, he has a very well rounded setup that is responsible for the awesome sound we are so much used to.
On the whole
Overall, Dave Grohl has one of the most organic sounds you can hear today. His mastery of amps and guitars is just incredible considering that most of today’s artists heavily rely on effects and pedals to achieve a similar result.
One of the best things about his setup, at least for us as bystanders and fans, is the fact that you can more easily reproduce his sound if you have half decent gear. Once you figure out how to pump that overdrive through the roof by using just your amp and guitar settings, you are almost all the way there.
Dave Grohl is one of the most talented musicians today, but for us his main mastery lies in the way he sets up his gear and the sound he is able to create from it.