this page was updated on 2014.08.14 @ 23:52:03 CDT

The "Dave" Sound

guitar pick For those curious on what makes the "Dave" sound, perhaps the information collected here and on the site in general will be of help. Dave is not one to get hung up on technical matters and this site doesn't either, but there are those who are interested in such details. Contributions and insights are always welcome. Let's start off this section with a quote from Dave and then go into what he used for each band he has been in. Or you can view all the instruments at once by maker.
"When I was growing up, it was all about Jimi Hendrix because of his ability to perform on the neck, and all about Jimmy Page because of his studio work, his layering and texturing. When I got a little older it was all about Daniel Ash and Robert Smith, who were really effected, minimal players. What happens now is a combination of all those influences. I try to focus on a little bit of the technical, a little bit of the studio, and a little bit of the ethereal."
- Guitar Player, August 1996

The Panic Channel

guitar pick Dave is using his favorite white Paul Reed Smith (4 copies). When playing "Outsider" live, Dave borrows one of Steve Isaacs's Fender Telecasters. For recording the debut album, he has also used a Gibson ES 135.

Jane's Addiction 2000s

Dave used a Van Halen lookalike guitar during the 2003 Lollapalooza shows along with his white Paul Reed Smith. He was also spotted using a red PRS and a Takamine(?) 12 string acoustic.


Dave used his favorite white Paul Reed Smith, black PRS, some Danelectro guitars (one in the "Rexall" video and recorded with a baritone on Trust No One), and a gold Fernandes Ravelle ("Hungry" video).

Jane's Addiction Relapse

guitar pick Dave used on stage: white Paul Reed Smith, black PRS, translucent blue PRS, Ovation 12 string, Takamine 12 string acoustic.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Dave's main guitar during his last 2 years with the Peppers was a Modulus Graphite Strat with 3 single coil pickups. He liked that it sounded like a strat but had a thin neck. His main guitars before acquiring the Modulus were Fender Custom Shop Strats. His main strat during Woodstock 1994 and the One Hot Minute European tour in 1995 shattered into 3 pieces when Dave dropped it--Dave mentioned in an interview that he probably tossed it to a roadie and it hit the floor.) He then made his #2 strat his main guitar.

Other guitars he relied on were more Fender custom strat, the black Paul Reed Smith he used in Jane's, and on at least on one occasion the black Gibson Les Paul from his days with Jane's. During live shows, he has also been spotted using a Fender Telecaster, which was actually Anthony's guitar for playing "Give it Away".

guitar pick

On One Hot Minute, you can hear Dave play some melodies on an acoustic guitar. To mimic the sound of an acoustic on stage, Dave used a blue Parker Fly Deluxe. For some of the tracks, Dave used a Silvertone amp. For the solo on "Walkabout", he used a Fernandes ZO-3 (practice guitar with built-in amp). Though it has a built-in amp and runs on a battery, it can also be plugged in. The story goes that Dave had left the guitar turned on for an hour, and then recorded the solo while the guitar didn't have much power, to give the solo some crunch. It was recorded with the mic placed right up to the guitar's speaker and volume all the way up.

"These days I use mostly new Fender Custom Shop Strats. I never liked Strats before, but when I started learning the old Chili Peppers stuff, my other guitars didn't sound right, so I used a Strat for those songs, figuring that I'd just go to a Paul Reed Smith or something for new stuff, but I just got used to the Strats. I'm definitely not doing the type of playing I would on a Paul Reed Smith or an Ibanez. To me, those guitars are a lot more lead-oriented, great for ripping solos, which I don't do too much anymore. I use three Strats with the Peppers live. I think they have a Stevie Ray Vaughan pickup configuration. I like the one with the tortoise-shell pickguard best for some reason, so I use it till it needs to be switched."
- Guitar Player, April 1995


guitar pick Dave is known to have used a telecaster, white Paul Reed Smith, and a Fender Jazzmaster through a Bogner Ecstasy amp.

Jane's Addiction

In the early days he went through many guitars that were often pawned but ones that he stuck with were a Gibson Les Paul, then shifted towards Ibanez (RG 500 series models that had the sharp ends sanded down because Dave thought the guitars were too "metal" looking). Ibanez guitars: yellow one with peace symbol sticker (as can be seen in the "Mountain Song" video), blue one (as can be seen in the "Stop" video), a custom gold one with batman sticker (used during the Ritual de lo Habitual tour), and one with Nothing's Shocking artwork. During the Lollapalooza 1991 tour, he would use a black Paul Reed Smith. If memory serves correctly, it was during Lollapalooza that Dave was introduced to Paul Reed Smith guitars by fellow tourmates the Butthole Surfers.
"I used Gibson Les Pauls for most of Nothing's Shocking, plus a Kramer. But I don't remember everything because I was in a drug haze at the time. I've pawned and rented so many guitars that I never really paid attention to that stuff. Tonight I'm going to play, 'Jane Says' on an acoustic. It's blue with a pickup, EQ, and cutaway, but I have no idea what make it is--I've never looked. My two current main guitars were custom built by Ibanez, and I used them for most of Ritual. Most of their guitars are real metal-looking, so I had them round off the pointy edges. They're painted with the Nothing's Shocking album cover. One has a strat body and a Les Paul pickup configuration, because I like having the rhythm/treble toggle switch at the top. I also like having two volume knobs so I can set different levels--I'd rather do it from the guitar than a footswitch. The second guitar has a body with the top half modeled after a Telecaster but the bottom like a Les Paul cutaway. It has a hum/sing/hum pickup configuration and a 5-way switch. The pickups are ultrasonics. My amps are the New Marshall 900's. The gain sensitivity on one channel goes all the way to 20, and that's great because I love saturation and sustain. I play through two Marshall 4x12 cabinets. My strings are light--I don't know the brand--and my picks are Fender mediums. I play through a [Dunlop] Cry-Baby wah-wah, and Boss pedals, a DS-1 distortion, a chorus, and a pitch shifter/delay."
- Guitar Player, March 1991

Other Guitars

Other guitars known to be in Dave's possession at one time or another include a Martin & Co. 6 string acoustic (I believe this is the acoustic that was a gift from Rick Rubin) and a Sigma 12 string acoustic. Dave also has two signature model guitars. His electric signature model is made by Paul Reed Smith Guitars and closely resembles his favorite white PRS model he always uses. His acoustic signature model is the LL6DN made by Yamaha Guitars and it is based on the LLX6 and has the Spread logo on the headstock.


guitar amps Dave has been known to record with Overbuilt amps and Bogner heads, but he always uses his beloved Marshall amps for playing live. Since his time with Jane's Addiction, he has been using JCM900 4100, 100 watt, high gain dual reverb heads with two 4x12 cabients. There are two channels (A/clean, B/dirty) which can be switched through a foot pedal. The top cabinets are the clean channel and the bottom cabinets are the dirty channel. If Dave wants a clean sound, he tends to use vintage Marshall amps. For dirtier/crunchier sounds, he tends to use the lead channel on the new Marshalls. During his time with the Peppers, these amps had a little customization, with "Tanjerine" and "Peach" put on the slants and "Master" and "Slave" put on the heads. It seems that while the words were simply removed from the heads, Dave has entirely new cabinets. While recording Strays, it was noted that Dave also used a Marshall MF350 head with a 1960BV cabient.


guitar effects Studio time is when all sorts of experimentations occur with guitars, effects, and amps. Many times Dave will use equipment provided by the studio and technicians. He will also spend as much time as it takes to get the perfect sound. Often he will record several tracks of guitar and then lower them in the final mix so that they are subtle and create an eerie tone. As he puts it, it's better to have too many than not enough as you can always take away some of the tracks.

[The photo of the effects and most of the information were obtained during the Red Hot Chili Peppers tour of the USA in 1996 as printed in Guitar Player. Dave's pedals have not changed much throughout the years but we will try to verify his current live preference for effects once The Panic Channel tours.]

For his personal effects, Dave sticks with Boss pedals and his main love seems to be digital delay. His pedals are velcroed to a carpet-covered board. He goes through his amp's dirty channel rather than use a distortion pedal. He also uses a Jim Dunlop CryBaby Hendrix wah, Boss pedals (super phaser PH-2, octave OC-2, super chorus CH-1, 2 digital delays DD-3, noise suppressor NS-2), and an A/B box to the tuner (Boss TU-12H), which are connected to a PSM-5 power supply. Dave has 2 digital delays because he likes to have one set at a specific delay for certain songs, and then another one that is set at a time that can work for a variety of songs. Some effects that he used to fiddle around with include a Boss turbo distortion DS-2, pitch shifter, Roger Mayer octavia, EBow (electric bowing device that is powered by one 9-volt battery; it "bows" one string while resting on the neighboring two) which was used on "One Big Mob" and the bridge for "Falling Into Grace", and also a vibrator (a DIY EBow, if you will) during his time with Jane's Addiction during the song "Ted, Just Admit It". On the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "My Friends", Dave used a Boss tremelo pedal to emulate the sound of the band Bread. On "Falling Into Grace", Dave used a Heil Talk Box.

"I bought a vibrator for my girlfriend in a sex shop in New Orleans on the way to a sound check. I was showing it to somebody--'Look what I bought!'--and I turned it on about a foot away from the pickup. It went 'Neeeowrr!' It was the coolest thing I ever heard. I Velcro it to the side of my amp and use it for 'Ted, Just Admit It' waving it all over the pickups with the echo and wah going. Electric shavers, eggbeaters, and shears also come off really cool.
- Guitar Player, March 1991


While he was in the Peppers he used Dean Markley 9s--but only because he would get them for free. Otherwise, he uses whatever the guitar tech puts on the guitars as he doesn't really care about the name of the brand he is using, he cares about the sounds he creates overall.


Dave sticks with standard most of the time. Uses of alternate tunings include dropped D and high E to D# on the Peppers' "Power of Equality". For Trust No One and Kettle Whistle, he has used D flat and open D with a twist.

Other instruments

Dave can play multiple instruments and for a time he was bored with guitar and wanted to focus his energies elsewhere. He has played bass on the Joy Division tribute album A Means to an End and on Trust No One. He owned a Fender Precision bass and used Fender amps with it. Dave owned a black baby grand piano--he might still have it. He also had a very basic Pearl drum kit but I don't think he still has it. (Though it should be mentioned that his wife has a drum kit.) Dave also has a few presents from his celebrity friends such as one of Kurt Cobain's guitars (given by Courtney Love) and the bass used to record Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People" (given by Twiggy Ramirez).

Home Studio

Blue Light Studios As a bachelor, Dave had a small studio at home (Blue Light Studios) where he used to record songs he was working on, such as for Rhimorse and Trust No One. Since getting married in 2003, Dave has not had a studio at home. Around 1998-1999, Blue Light Studios was equiped with 2 ADATs by Alesis, then he switched to recording solely on his PowerMac 9600 (9G hard drive) using Pro Tools. Later he incorporated the ADATS in his setup with the computer, along with a DAT. He also had one Mac G3 for video editing. He had a Mackie mixing board of around 32 channels, along with a synthesizer. He later upgraded the Macs but I am not sure of the models he upgraded to.

Since Dave is a Mac fanatic, one might think that he would start to dabble with MIDI, drum machines, and so forth. However, since he really isn't fond of technology, (too complicated for him to learn as he has claimed), I doubt that he will ever dabble with it other than let others who have mastered it do their thing on songs he's written or performs on, as is the case with the programming for Trust No One.

"MIDI is shitty."
- Musician, September 1996

Instructional Video

instructional video If you're really interested in seeing great shots of Dave for tutelage, try to get your hands on his guitar instructional video from Star Licks. Dave personally doesn't like guitar instructional videos nor his in particular, (the interviewer did a horrible job which could have at least been salvaged during the editing process), so in interviews he will sometimes poke fun of such videos. In his own instructional video, he messes around with the interviewer, pretending to know quite little about the guitar. I think that Dave's point about not liking instructional videos is that though they may put you on the right track to learning a tune, nothing compares to constant practice and tuning your ear--in other words, videos and tab should never become a crutch. The video was made while Dave was in the Peppers so he doesn't go over any songs from Trust No One or Strays. The good thing about the Star Licks video is that one gets to see what Dave is doing on the songs close-up. If you've tried playing something as you hear it but always felt you were off, watching him go over the licks, shots of his foot on the wah-wah, and the little book that accompanies the video just might do the trick.

Additional Information

submitted by Neil:
Amp setup, this is a bit techy, but it should satisfy the guitar nuts who visit your page, like me:
Dave uses two Marshall JCM 4100s, which are 100 watt, dual channel heads. He uses a channel switching pedal to go between the two channels (which is shown in your picture of his pedal board setup). He uses four Marshall 1960 cabinets. The first JCM head is for high end frequencies which he puts through the top cabinets, the second JCM is for low end frequency which he puts through the bottom cabinets.
Delay Pedals: one for delays, one for infinite repeats.
On Summertime Rolls: uses an outboard studio effect called a Lexicon, set on the "swirling" feature.
On Mountain Song: during solo...vibrator taped to the amp.

submitted by Craig:
I got a good look at Dave's guitar setup for the Relapse tour (I've been to two shows so far). He's using Paul Reed Smith electric guitars, a 12-string Ovation acoustic, his standard Marshall JCM 900 amps, his pedal board has on it: a Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion, Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, 2 Boss DD-3 Digital Delays (one on a stand so he can reach the knobs during MTN Song & Ted Just Admit It, Boss PH-2 Super Phaser, and a Dunlop Jim Hendrix WahWah.

submitted by Polanco:
When I saw Dave touring with the Chili Peppers, I think I saw a Mesa Boogie head in his set up (though I could be mistaken; it could've been the guy's in Silverchair) When I saw him during the relapse tour on Halloween, he was using all Paul Reed Smith electrics (as a fellow Paul Reed Smith owner, I approve VERY highly!) One was translucent blue, the other, white. He didn't use an Ovation when I saw him, but a Takamine 12-string acoustic (again, I highly approve, for the same reason). He also used a vibrator with his guitar not his amp (maybe a flashier replacement of the EBow).

note from Webmaster:
I noticed at Enit that Dave's guitar tech David Lee was tuning up four different electric guitars. Of course his main white and black PRSs were among them, but I am not not sure exactly which ones the others were since it was a bit dark and I couldn't walk right up there and pick them up. Next to the delay pedal on the stand is an ashtray so that Dave can fulfill every nicotine craving on stage and not mess up his guitars too much.