Get Their Sound: John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Photo Credit: Veliremus
The gear of the legendary RHCP guitarist
John Frusciante is one of the most well-known and influential guitarists of the modern era. With a seemingly unending creative drive he found his fame with the Red Hot Chili Peppers but has worked with The Mars Volta, side project Ataxia, released a plethora of solo albums and even dipped into Acid House.
Despite leaving the Red Hot Chili Peppers Frusciante has released various solo albums, including ‘The Empyrean’ which has been met with great critical success and he continues to produce unusual and interesting music.
In this article, we’re going to look at the John Frusciante of ‘Stadium Arcadium’ era as this was RHCP at their peak and thus a good basis for his overall sound. Owing to his work rate Frusciante has utilised a metric tonne of guitars, effects and amps so we’ll focus on the most pertinent and for each one gives you an option to save money where vintage gear is used!
A Stratocaster is key to the Frusciante sound. Although he has a whole host of guitars in his arsenal the 1962 Fender Strat in Sunburst is his most used guitar and has appeared on most of the RHCP albums in some form or another. It’s well-known that Frusciante is extremely sentimental about his ’62 Strat and he’s been quoted as saying it was the “most important” guitar to him. The single-coil sound was key to his earlier-era funk-style playing and has been a mainstay as RHCP evolved into a straight-up rock act and you’ll hear it on most RHCP songs.
There has been a lot of variance tone-wise during the RHCP-era but the most famous of Frusciante sounds is the smooth and simple clean tone of the single-coil as found on songs like ‘Scar Tissue’ and ‘Can’t Stop’. Invariably Frusciante prefers vintage instruments, his Strats are pre-70s as is his Tele and Jaguars. He has also often been seen utilising the iconic Gretsch 1955 White Falcon, which he picked up during a ‘shopping spree’ and featured heavily on ‘Californication’. Although all of these guitars were part of his sound if you want Frusciante tone, you have to get a Strat!
Fender Vintera 60s Strat
You’d be forgiven for thinking Frusciante doesn’t use many pedals due to the prominent use of simple-sounding clean tones present on RHCP records but watch any pedalboard run down of Frusciante’s and you’ll see the ridiculous amount of effects he utilises. In the ‘Stadium Arcadium’ era, he was running an amazing 20 different pedals to get his live sound including a six (!) Moog Moogerfooger units alongside multiple delays, distortions, modulation, filters and wah. We’ve highlighted some of the most important pedals in his setup as to go through the entire catalogue would require an article all by itself!
With a pedalboard that definitely wouldn’t fit on the stage of your local venue, Frusciante starts everything off with the incredibly simple, yet powerful MXR Micro Amp, a nifty little pedal capable of boosting your main signal for solos or using as a buffer for different guitars. Then comes the classic BOSS DS-2 Turbo Distortion alongside the well-known EHX Big Muff Pi to generate his dirty tones, a classic combo found on many a pedalboard. Frusciante has used the DS-2 from the very start and it remained on his board all the way through his career with RHCP, becoming a core part of their sound.
Moving into modulation Frusciante is well known for his utilisation of the BOSS CE-1 Chorus Ensemble, which was one of the first pedals he had on his board alongside the DS-2 and remains on his board to this day. Regarded as one of the best Chorus pedals ever made, the CE-1 is renowned for its ability to retain the qualities of your original signal whilst filling the gaps effortlessly with an organic sound. The EHX Electric Mistress has been a stable of his board for many years as heard on ‘By The Way’ and is the classic analogue Flanger with its unique Filter Matrix mode that disengages the auto sweep and lets you position the filter manually. He also uses a Line 6 FM4 Filter Modeller that’s packed with programmable filters and monophonic synth sounds.
Lastly, we have the time-based effects of which there are several pretty typical picks from the main man. Frusciante has the EHX Holy Grail Reverb, the super simple yet extremely effective hallmark reverb from the US pedal legends. The classic green Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeller also features, well known for its raft of effect settings that are all tweakable, this unit has been found on pedalboards for 20 years! An unusual choice, Frusciante also uses two DigiTech PDS 1002’s to supplement the DL4, allowing him to be more sophisticated and intricate with his delays.
For amplifiers, Frusciante keeps things much simpler than what’s at his feet on stage. One of two main amplifiers that he uses is the Marshall Silver Jubilee. Produced for only one year this 100-watt amplifier head is rare and expensive, designed to recreate the sound of a 1962 Marshall Head presumably to match the 60s era guitars Frusciante uses. It’s a sought-after amplifier, known for its stable and balanced frequency response powered by EL34 Valves to give a bright and clear overall sound with a silky-smooth top end.
The Marshall Major is the second amp on stage, essentially a re-packaged JCM 800 with 200-watts of power. In the power amp stage, it has KT88 valves whilst the preamp contains two ECC83 and one ECC82 delivering the controlled distortion and creaminess this amplifier is well known for. Frusciante uses a blend of both these amps on stage adding the Major in when he needs a more driven sound. He also has two 4×12 Marshall cabs for each for his onstage sound, the classic rock combo.
Marshall MG15FX Combo
John Frusciante is one of the modern greats, a relatively unsung guitar hero who embodies creativity as evidenced by his wide-ranging use of pedals and distinctive sound. His success in both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and his solo work is a testament to his creative ethos and drive to make new sounds. Not content with conquering the guitar world he’s now moved on to making Acid House, showcasing a love of other gear including drum machines, synthesizers and sequencers.
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