Tom Morello's Pedalboard: The Guitar Effects Pedals Behind His Sound

The world of guitar has seen many players stepping up the game and bringing the instrument to a whole new level. As the 1980s came to an end, people were looking for something else in guitar players other than the mindless shredding for the sake of shredding. One of the innovators of the early '90s was Tom Morello, with his playing style setting some standards even to this day.

But aside from his songwriting and his unique technique, he's been known for his great tone and the clever and innovative use of effects pedals. His playing style and his use of pedals both serve the purpose of his artistic expression, ultimately being the hard punch behind the political commentary of Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage songs. In both of these bands, we've heard him do some mind-blowing leads and really tight rhythms, all supported by his great tone. With this in mind, we're going to get into some details and find out more about the pedals behind Tom Morello's tone.

But before we start, we just need to point out the importance of his unusual custom guitar, the one with "Arm the homeless" written on it. This instrument has been a core of his tone and was just enhanced by the pedals that he's using. The guitar has been heavily modified since its creation and is still used to deliver his strong punch.

Tom Morello's pedals

Tom Morello has, overall, a pretty straightforward and simple approach when it comes to effects pedals. But let's start with the obvious one – the DigiTech WH1 Whammy. Essentially a pitch shifter pedal with controllable shifter, he used this throughout his career, but the best-known example is the solo for "Killing in the Name." He usually used it for shifting one octave higher compared to the original shift.

When it comes to the distortion pedals, he's known for using the good old MXR M104 Distortion Plus. This is a pretty straightforward piece, with only volume and distortion knobs on it. However, despite being pretty much one of the simplest distortion pedals of all time, it's known for its peculiar tone and will sometimes require some time to dial in a great tone.

There is one really interesting and rare pedal in his arsenal. Tom is very picky when it comes to flangers and he's really into the Ibanez DFL, the one that was made back in the 1980s. These are not exactly easy to find, but they have been praised for their unique tone.

Of course, there is an unavoidable wah pedal, something that every lead guitar player is into. The one he uses is the Dunlop's Cry Baby, the GCB95F model in particular. This piece is known as sort of a resurrection of those old 1960s wah tones. However, in Tom Morello's signal chain, it gets somewhat of a different vibe to it. That has to do with the way he uses it and the combination of all the other pedals on his pedalboard.

Another essential pedal for lead players is a delay and he has used a few different pieces over the years. These include Boss DD-2, Boss DD-3, and the Ibanez AD9 analog delay. The DD-2 and the AD9 are older pedals, something you won't find that often out there.

Another important effect for Tom's preferences is the phaser. For this purpose, he uses the very well-known, old, and reliable MXR M101 Phase 90. This one is even simpler than the MXR Distortion Plus, featuring only one control knob for the effect speed. And that's basically it – all the other tone dimensions are left for the pedal to deal with, not the player.

Last, but not least, he's really into the tremolo effect. The model that you'll find in his signal chain is the Boss TR-2, which is another simple yet really effective pedal.


Looking at these effects pedals, it's pretty obvious that Tom Morello doesn't like to make things complicated. Maybe there are a few other pieces here and there, depending on his needs, but this is pretty much the core that stays the same.

However, it's not only the structure of the signal chain that's simple. Going through these pedals, we can clearly see that most, if not all, of these pedals, are really simple when it comes to controls. Only two or three knobs here and there just to adjust the basic parameters.

But despite the simplicity, it seems that Morello really knows how to work his way with them and dial in some of the best tones in rock and metal music. Who knows, maybe it's his minimalistic approach that allows him to sound the way he does. Either way, these pedals, or any other copies of these pedals, will definitely help you achieve some of Tom Morello's easily recognizable tones.
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