Legendary Grammy Award-winning guitarist Tom Morello has been pushing the boundaries of what's possible with a guitar since the emergence of Rage Against The Machine in the early 90s. Renowned for his unconventional playing techniques and inventive use of guitar effects, Morello has a truly unique sound that is instantly recognizable.
Remarkably, Morello's signature sounds, which often don’t even sound like a guitar at all, are crafted using a surprisingly simple and straightforward guitar rig. In fact, he has relied on pretty much the same rig for over three decades, with only minor variations made to it over the years.
In this article, we will go over the components of Tom Morello’s live guitar rig and give a detailed breakdown of his pedalboard.
Tom Morello’s pedalboard
Morello’s pedalboard consists of the following pedals:
Although Morello has made minor changes to his setup over the years, the majority of these pedals have been on his board since the early days of Rage Against The Machine.
All of his pedals are connected to the effects loop of his JCM800 head.
Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 Plus
Powering Morello’s pedalboard is the Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus. Power supplies may not be the most glamorous piece of gear in a pedalboard, but obviously they are essential.
The Pedal Power 2 Plus is one of the most trusted and widely used power supplies for battery-operated pedals. In addition to its sturdy design and high-quality components that can stand up to the rigors of touring, it features eight isolated outputs that deliver clean and consistent power.
MXR Phase 90
The MXR Phase 90 is a classic phaser pedal. Since its release in 1974, it has been used by countless musicians including Jimmy Paige, Van Halen, and Zakk Wylde. It features a single "Speed" knob that controls the rate of the phasing effect.
The swirling sound in the intro of Rage Against The Machine hit “Killing in the Name'' was actually originally recorded using an Ibanez DLF Flanger. However, Morello eventually replaced the DLF Flanger with the MXR Phase 90, which is what he uses to play the intro live until this day.
The phaser pedal in Archetype: Tom Morello sounds almost identical to an MXR Phase 90. Additionally, the plugin features a dedicated “Killing in the Name” preset made by Morello himself to get the iconic tone with a click of a button.
The DOD FX40B is a seven-band equalizer pedal with frequency bands ranging from 100Hz to 6.4kHz. You can boost or cut each band by up to 18dB using the sliders. The pedal also has a level slider for adjusting the overall output level.
While EQs are typically used for tone shaping, Morello uses this pedal as a volume boost for standout sections such as guitar solos. Morello sets the EQ flat, meaning no bands are boosted or cut, while slightly raising the level slider to boost the overall volume of his signal.
Archetype: Tom Morello features both a seven-band equalizer similar to the DOD FX40B, as well as a 9-band equalizer giving you total control over your frequency response.
Morello sets his EQ flat while raising the level slider slightly to use the pedal for a volume boost
Two Boss DD-3s
The Boss DD-3 delay pedal is another iconic piece of gear that has been a staple in the world of guitar effects for decades. The delay time can be set anywhere from 12.5 ms to 800 ms, allowing it to be dialed in for anything from tight slapback echoes to long spacious repeats.
Morello has two DD-3 pedals in his pedalboard, each with different settings dialed in. The first one is set for a long delay, which he often uses in lead sections like the solo of “Calm Like a Bomb” for example. The second one is dialed for either a ping-pong delay, creating a bouncing effect, or a short slapback echo.
Archetype: Tom Morello has both a simple delay similar to a DD-3 as well as a stereo delay which you can use to get amazing sounding ping pong effects.
Tom Morello's Boss DD-3 settings
DigiTech Whammy WH-1
The DigiTech Whammy WH-1 is one of the essential ingredients of Morello's sound. It's a pitch-shifting pedal that can raise or lower the pitch of the guitar by up to 12 semitones (two octaves). The expression pedal is used to control the pitch-shifting effect.
The WH-1 also has a harmony mode that blends the guitar signal with harmonically related notes like the octave or fifth.
The iconic pitch shifting sound of the WH-1 can be heard in the solos of “Killing in the Name” and Audioslave hit “Like a Stone”. The WH-1 can also be heard in the intro of "Know Your Enemy", where it is set to harmonize at a fifth.
Try the Wham-1 pedal in Archetype: Tom Morello for a sound very similar to the DigiTech Whammy WH-1. The Wham-1 can be controlled using a MIDI expression pedal, letting you recreate the soaring octave jumps Morello is known for.
Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby
Another essential piece of Morello’s pedalboard is the Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby wah pedal. The Cry Baby is another iconic piece of gear and has been used by countless legends like Jimi Hendrix, Kirk Hammet, and Zakk Wylde.
Morello uses his wah pedal in very unique and interesting ways.
In the verse of "Guerilla Radio" and in the section after the intro of "Bulls on Parade", he uses his wah pedal to create the classic percussive "wacka-wacka" sound.
Morello also uses his wah when performing his signature DJ scratching technique, heard in the solo of “Bulls on Parade” for example. To simulate the sound of a DJ scratching turntables, he scratches his guitar strings with the palm of his fretting hand while simultaneously rocking his pickup switch back and forth with his picking hand. The volume of one pickup is turned off. When it’s selected, the guitar is muted creating a rhythmic effect. The wah pedal is pressed all the way down to the treble position to enhance the sound of the scratching.
In the solo of “Testify”, Morello unplugs his guitar and touches the end of his instrument cable on his pickguard while rocking the wah pedal back and forth. This creates a unique and rhythmic sound. During live performances, Morello often taps the end of his cable on his hand to create a similar sound.
DigiTech XP-300 Space Station
The XP-300, now discontinued, has become a cult classic because of the weird, spacey, alien-like sounds you can get out of it. It has 39 presets, each with unique and quirky sounding effects ranging from pitch-shifting delays to ones that resemble the sound of a synth.
One of the effects Morello uses from the XP-300 is the automated pitch shift (auto-whammy), which automatically triggers a pitch glide up or down whenever a note is played. The glide speed is controlled with the onboard expression pedal.
Archetype: Tom Morello features the “Dive Bomb” effect, which closely resembles the sounds of the auto-whammy presets on the XP-300. With the Dive Bomb effect, you can glide your signal from -12/+12 semitones to the note you’re playing. The speed of the effect is controlled with the effect’s expression pedal, which is also MIDI controllable.
The Boss TU-3 is an industry-standard guitar tuner. Its bright LED meter is designed to be easily visible whether you’re on a dark stage or under direct sunlight.
Tom Morello’s amp settings
Throughout Morello’s career, he has used a 50-watt Marshall JCM800 2205 head he bought in 1988 as his main amp. Although it has two channels, Morello only uses the boost channel. For cleaner tones, Morello rolls back the volume on his guitar.
In his main rig, he uses a 1987 Peavey 4x12 cabinet that has Celestion G12K-85 speakers. Interestingly, he bought this cabinet at the same time he bought the JCM800.
After buying the JCM800, Morello experimented with different amp settings and ultimately ended up with these ones (which he has used ever since):
Presence: 7, Volume: 0, Reverb: 7, Bass: 10, Middle: 10, Treble: 7, Volume: 6, Gain: 9
How to sound like Tom Morello?
Archetype: Tom Morello lets you load up Morello’s guitar rig on your computer. By meticulously modeling Morello’s main amp and cabinet, you can recreate his iconic sound with unprecedented accuracy. With Archetype: Tom Morello, you'll be playing through a digital simulation of the very gear Morello uses in real life.
The plugin also comes packed with lots of useful features like a tuner, the Doubler, which projects your signal to a simulated stereo field, and Transpose which you can use to easily change the tuning of your instrument digitally. Additionally, you'll find an extensive collection of presets created by top artists, including six personally crafted by Morello himself.
Archetype: Tom Morello is the most accessible and budget-friendly way to get Tom Morello’s iconic guitar tone.
Download a free 14-day trial of Archetype: Morello
All of our plugins are available with a 14-day free trial with no credit card required. Download a free trial of Archetype: Tom Morello today and experience Morello’s iconic tone for yourself.
If you are new to guitar plugins, our quick start guide will help you get everything set up.