How to Capture the Magical Tone of Mike McCready | Pearl Jam

Mike McCready of Pearl Jam...his tone is absolutely mesmerizing. From songs like Yellow Ledbetter to Superblood Wolfmoon, how can you not love it?

Now, I'll be honest that even though I grew up in the 90s, I typically gravitated towards grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Soundgarden. I liked Pearl Jam but I didn't love them like I do now.

Fast forward a few decades and they are truly my favorite from that era. I guess my tastes have evolved. Whatever is, I love their music and more specifically I love the work of Mike McCready. Not only do I appreciate his contributions to Pearl Jam, but I love his tone from his work with Mad Season and Temple of the Dog. It's all fantastic.

So enough chit chat, let's jump into his gear and tone.  


At the core of Mike's tone are three main amp heads. The first one is his Satellite Atom 36-Watt Head which was built by a company based in Seattle, Washington.

The next one is is his Fender Bassman AB165 Amp head which provides his clean tone. The perfect example of this clean tone would be a song like Yellow Ledbetter.

And his third man amp head is his Marshall JCM 800 which he used quite a bit throughout the 90s.

These amp heads then connect generally to either his Marshall 1960A 4x12 cabinet.

So, we have talked about his main amp heads and cabinets. Let's go ahead and unpack his guitars. Now, 1959 is the key word for this next section since three of Mike's main guitars were made during this year. Mike loves this year so much that he actually has a 1959 tattoo.


Up first is 1959 Fender Stratocaster. Mike has said his love for 59 Strats actually stems from his love of Stevie Ray Vaughn who also loved 59s. One thing to note about this guitar, the Fender Custom Shop recently dissected this guitar to make a signature model and discovered it was actually made in 1960. This guitar features a rosewood fretboard and can be heard on some of Pearl Jam's most iconic strat songs like Yellow Ledbetter, Even Flow, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Next is his 1959 Gibson Les Paul. You'll often see him playing this alongside with his bandmate Stone Gossard for the heavier songs like Alive.

And finally, we have his 1959 Les Paul Jr. which was given to him from his wife Ashley on his 40th birthday. It features a P-90 pickups and gets a lot of play time as well.

There are obviously other guitars from his collection we haven't discussed such as his SG and telecaster along with a few others. However, these 1959 models we covered are definitely the most popular with him and fans.

Let's talk about his pedals.


The first one on the list is his Ibanez TS10 Tube Screamer. This pedal is truly a staple on his board and Mike loves the fuzz he can get from it.

Next up is Dunlop GCB95 Cry Baby which can be heard on various Pearl Jam songs. Just think about his solo work during the song Black and you'll hear it a ton.

And, we have Mike's two Line 6 stomp boxes. The first is his Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler which has been another staple on his board for quite some time.

He also has the Line 6 MM$ Modulation pedal to get most of his modulated effects.

And speaking of modulation, another interesting choice on his board is his Electro-Harmonix POG2 which he is supposedly a huge fan of for awhile.

And finally, for compression, Mike's uses the Diamond CPR1 Compressor.

So there you have it. That's how you capture the the magical tone of Mike McCready from Pearl Jam. At it's most basic level...get yourself a vintage Strat with a tube screamer and a Marshall amp and you'll get close to achieving the same magic.

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