In The Style of Tom Morello

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

We have read so much over the years about the evolution of the electric guitarist and specifically about whether the evolution of this specimen has long since reached its splendor and now we all are just satisfied sounding more or less the same as our favourite legends...well, the case of Mr. Tom Morello makes it clear that there is light  at the end of the tunnel. He is a guy, who apart from, on the one hand his well-deserved praise for his compositions, and on the other  for his technique on the 6-string, he must redeem himself, and that's what we want to do here, as an authentic innovator and revolutionary in the electric guitar world. Thanks to him new winds came to blow away the stagnant stink of the rock world and especially its guitarists. And it might seem sacrilegious for many to see him giving those new winds to the guitar by studying DJs rather than other guitarists but, as B.B. King did in his day, by trying to imitate trumpets while playing the blues with his guitar, it is exactly this which takes our favourite instrument to new heights and new levels. Perhaps he’s not your favourite guitar player, and neither is B.B., but thanks to them the fronteers of the electric guitar are much wider nowadays.

Having said that, we'll just mention his guitars in passing, as it seems like he doesn’t even like them. According to Morello himself his main customised guitar at the end of the 80s ‘Arm the Homelesswasn’t even capable to please his sonic demands, so it was he who eventually had to mold himself to the guitar’s sound, which basically gave birth to the main riffs of Rage Against the Machine. We can list among others his Fender Telecaster Standard, his Fender Aerodyne Stratocaster ‘Soul Power’, the axe he used in his transition between RATM and Audioslave, or his Gibson J-45. which he used in his folk project The Nightwatchman together with his beloved Ibanez GA60SCE.

But let’s get to the source of his most characteristic sound. First we’ll tell you the most remarkable story about his gear: Tom Morello doesn’t use distortion pedals or overdrive. At least not regularly. This brings us to mention his amplifier that’s been with him for decades: a Marshall JCM 800 2205 head with a Peavey 4x12 cabinet and 4 Celestion G12K-85 speakers, where he gets most of his saturated sounds.

And speaking of a guy who’s used the widest range of pedals the most often on his riffs, solos, and power chords in history, we are going to talk about some that make up his usual pedal board.

Let’s begin with the Digitech Whammy, we wouldn’t exaggerate to say he is the reason this pedal is an authentic bestseller. He has used many of its distinct versions throughout the years, as well as his Boss delay, starting with a DD-2, and ending up with the DD-3. Another effect he uses is the wah, and despite having access to the most expensive boutique wahs in the world, or the most vintage, he has used the same old Jim Dunlop Cry Baby all his life. Curiously enough, he uses a Dod FX40B equaliser not as an equaliser itself, but as a kind of booster for sounds in his solos. To conclude, let’s add that he uses an Ibanez DFL Flanger and a MXR M101 as a phaser.

So as you can see, he doesn’t have an arsenal of pedals nor amps at his disposal, but actually, as we often bring up in this section, his genius comes from his imagination and his way of combining these few elements. Less is more, once again, and with just these few effects, he gives us the feeling he is one who could base his sound in a pedalboard of more than 20 effects. That’s what you get when you’re just that great, everything seems extra when what he puts on the table are some of the best guitar riffs in the last 40 years. Morello has conquered us with the force of a hammer and the imagination of the great composer that he is.  

Find you own way to the tone of Tom Morello