Sound Like Foo Fighters By Busting The Bank!

The guys attempt to sound like one of the biggest bands in the world: American outfit Foo Fighters. And they have an unlimited budget to spend on their full bore, slamming tone.

Cian Hodge

Cian Hodge

Foo Fighters: Rock Superstars

Dave Grohl is the face of popular rock. People who don’t even listen to the Foo Fighters will recognise the singer/songwriter/guitarist/drummer/producer from one of his projects, his time in Nirvana or simply through general popularity.

He’s never claimed to be the best guitarist ever, but he does write some kick-ass riffs and has a tone to die for. Band member Chris Shiflett takes on most of the fiery lead duties, while it’s down to Dave to hold up the rhythm spot.

With a band of Foo Fighters’ size, a big budget is the ideal way to go if you’re after truly replica tones – especially considering the Foos have an unlimited budget themselves! However, it’s certainly possible to get close when scaling back to the very basics of rock tone.

Get a taste for the Foo Fighters pure rock ‘n’ roll guitar medley below…

Listen To The Original


Let’s start off with the guitars. Chris Shiflett wields a signature Fender Telecaster equipped with his own custom thick-sounding humbucker pickups. This gives him the grunt needed to fill out the full tonal spectrum and hands him more control over higher gain tones. Occasionally he’ll also play a Gibson Les Paul, which covers very similar punchy frequencies thanks to the P.A.F style pickups. If you’re looking to carve out your own look, a Fender American Professional Tele or Gibson Les Paul Standard or Classic will do the trick. Working on a budget, you may want to opt for a Squier Classic Vibe or Epiphone Les Paul Classic. These all provide you with a similar  sound and feel, with classically low-to-mid output pickups, 9.5-inch radius fretboards and “C” shape necks.

Gear Used

Dave Grohl has used a lot of guitars over his three decades of guitar playing, but he’s most famous for his limited run ES-335 in Pelham Blue. You won’t be able to pick up this custom shop Gibson, so the standard ES-335 will have to fill its place. As it’s a semi-hollow guitar, it produces a lot of natural resonance and a big harmonic sound. But that doesn’t mean it’s not got a crunch tone in it – the ES-335 uses Gibson Burstbucker pickups, best used when paired with thick overdrive or sweet edge-of-breakup bite. You should check out Epiphone for lower priced options, who make some of their own unique guitars such as the Casino, Kat and Sheraton, which you won’t find in the Gibson line-up.

Gear Used


Mesa Boogie is the only way to go in order to recreate Dave’s tone as precisely as possible. The Mark V is a boutique choice, packed with extensive EQ options and is famed for its astounding versatility. Foo Fighters have used Mesa Boogie since their mid ’90s beginnings. Simply put, the Mark V possesses one of the most expressive tones of any amp in the world. This beast spits out sparkling cleans, heavy metal distortion and everything in between in equally great measure. Ideal for Foo Fighters, who like to mix up the tone from album to album.

Gear Used

The Tone King Sky King combo is a great alternate high-end pick. These amps, like Mesa, are handwired for the best tone possible. This will get you closer to Shiflett’s roaring classic tone and keeps the Foos close to their rock ‘n’ roll roots. It has two channels like the Mesa, but with a much-simplified EQ layout. You can add bite to the lead channel, or add some softer characteristics using the built-in spring reverb with control over the depth, rate and potency of the effect.

At the other end of the price spectrum, the Fender Bassbreaker range can get you close to the American style gain of the Mesa or Tone King. Plus. the Bassbreaker is a real tube amp, allowing it to gloriously saturate when pushed harder on the volume. A great solid state alternative is the all-encompassing Boss Katana, allowing you to dial in a number of Foo Fighters tone with excellent accuracy.


Foo Fighters aren’t afraid to delve into the world of pedals to spice up their guitar sound. They’ve used stompbox effects in very particular parts to add a touch of brilliance to their songs before. For example, a delay and a comrpessor for the intros to Rope and The Pretender, respectively. Boss certainly aren’t as well known for their reverb effects as they are for drives and modulation, but the RV6 does a great job of providing an extensive choice of reverb types like spring, plate, room and hall variants, with added shimmer and delay settings. A great all round pick.

If you’re going for precision, the Cali76 is a no-brainer. Regarded as one of the best compressors ever created, the Cali76 gets you incredibly close to The Pretenders squashed intro. This levels out your guitar signal, and you have a load of parameters at your disposal to shape it how you please.

Gear Used

The band also use a combination of the T-Rex Mudhoney, Wampler Thirty Something and J Rockett Archer Ikon overdrives to obtain their classic gain tones. All of these pedals sound great on their own, but together with a bit of tweaking, they open up a massive range of drive layering possibilities.

Other pedals any players could buy that feature in the Foo Fighters sound are the classic MXR Phase 90 and Boss Waza Craft DM-2W delay – a reissue of the original ‘80s stompbox. Both pedals are super simple to operate for a unique spin on proceedings. You know you’re getting proven, great effects used by the biggest names in music.

If you enjoyed this read, check out more of our Sound Like articles!

Cian Hodge
Cian Hodge
Cian is a writer for the Andertons team. He shares his birthday with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy and believes he will one day reach the same level of stardom. Cian is a big metal fan so naturally loves Bare Knuckle pickups and pointy guitars.

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