Randy Rhoads Guitar Setup | A Deep Dive Into His Sound

Aspiring guitarists and rock music enthusiasts alike have marveled at Randy Rhoads’ guitar setup. The magical tonality and sonic prowess of his work, despite a career tragically cut short, continues to be a source of inspiration for countless guitarists.

His setup, a delicate concoction of guitars, amplifiers, effects, and accessories, served as a crucial component in crafting his unmistakable sound.

Randy Rhoads Guitar

Through careful examination of Rhoads’ guitar setup, we gain insight into the mind of a virtuoso always seeking to push boundaries and redefine the rock music landscape. Let’s embark on a comprehensive exploration of the pieces that brought Rhoads’ electrifying sound to life.

Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Models

Throughout his career, Randy Rhoads employed a number of distinct guitar models that contributed to his unique sound. He is perhaps best known for using the Jackson Rhoads, a guitar specifically designed and built for him by Jackson Guitars.

This guitar, with its unique asymmetrical V-shaped body, quickly became Rhoads’ trademark. Prior to the Jackson Rhoads, he often played a modified Gibson Les Paul Custom in an alpine white finish, which he used extensively on Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz album.

Additionally, Rhoads sometimes used an off-the-shelf Karl Sandoval Polka Dot Flying V, renowned for its sleek design and vibrant tone. Each of these models added different textures and tones to Rhoads’ musical arsenal, playing a crucial role in shaping his legendary sound.

The Early Years: Rhoads’ Acoustic Beginnings

Rhoads began his exploration into the world of music at a young age, primarily using an acoustic guitar.

Under the guidance of his mother, a music teacher, Rhoads honed his skills and laid the groundwork for the legendary guitarist he would become.

Signature Jackson ‘Rhoads’ Guitars

When Rhoads approached Jackson Guitars, he wanted to develop a guitar that would enhance his innovative style. This collaboration resulted in the asymmetrical ‘Rhoads’ V model, a reflection of his bold and forward-thinking musical vision.

Visit the Jackson Guitars website to delve deeper into the history of this landmark collaboration.

Rhoads’ signature model was designed with specific features to optimize his performance. Its neck-through-body construction ensured superior sustain and stability. It was equipped with dual humbucking pickups, offering tonal versatility, while its lightweight alder body allowed Rhoads to maintain his dynamic stage presence.

The Gibson Les Paul Custom

Rhoads had an affinity for the Gibson Les Paul Custom, renowned for its elegant design and versatile sound. It played an essential role in his sound and was especially prominent in his work with Ozzy Osbourne.

The warm and thick sound produced by the guitar’s humbucking pickups was a cornerstone of Rhoads’ distinctive tone.

Rhoads’ Other Guitars: Exploring Lesser-Known Models

Rhoads’ taste in guitars extended beyond his signature Jackson model and the Gibson Les Paul Custom. He experimented with a range of other models, each bringing a unique flavor to his sound.

For example, his usage of a custom-built Karl Sandoval polka-dot flying V, equipped with a strat-style tremolo system, broadened his ability to create dive-bomb effects.

Amplifiers and Speaker Cabinets

Randy Rhoads was known for his discerning ear when it came to amplifiers and speaker cabinets, with his selections playing a significant role in shaping his characteristic sound.

He primarily used Marshall Super Lead 1959 model amplifiers, which he often paired with Marshall 4×12 speaker cabinets loaded with 25-watt Celestion Greenback speakers.

The combination of these amps and cabinets allowed him to achieve his desired crunch and sustain, defining his high-gain tone. In addition, Rhoads was fond of the Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus amplifier, utilizing its clean tone and built-in chorus effect for cleaner passages in his music.

Together, these amplifiers and speaker cabinets provided the powerful, well-rounded tonal foundation Rhoads needed to express his musical vision

The Marshall Amps: The Backbone of Rhoads’ Sound

Marshall amplifiers were a key component of Rhoads’ guitar rig. He primarily relied on the Marshall Super Lead 1959 model, prized for its raw, powerful sound. By finessing the amplifier settings, Rhoads was able to carve out a tone that was undeniably his own.

Rhoads pushed his Marshall amps to their limits, achieving a natural overdrive that contributed to his iconic crunch tone. The vibrant warmth of these amplifiers was a defining factor in shaping his unique sound.

Rhoads’ Experimentation with Other Amplifiers

Beyond Marshall, Rhoads explored a variety of amplifiers, continuously refining his sound and sound and discovering new tonal possibilities.

The Roland JC-120 is an example of an amp that piqued his interest due to its clean tones and built-in chorus effect, adding an extra layer of complexity to his sonic palette.

Rhoads’ Pedalboard

Rhoads’ pedalboard, although straightforward, was a testament to his understanding of tone and how to achieve the sounds he envisioned. Each pedal was carefully chosen and played a significant role in shaping his sound.


With the MXR Distortion+, MXR 10-Band EQ, and the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah at his disposal, Rhoads had all the tools necessary to sculpt his legendary guitar tone.

Pedal Choices

Rhoads’ choice of pedals was integral in crafting his distinct sound. The MXR Distortion+, for example, was a key ingredient in his searing, high-gain tone.

This pedal allowed Rhoads to drive his amps to their limits, thereby achieving his iconic crunch sound. You can learn more about the MXR Distortion+ on the MXR website.

The Role of Effects

While distortion was a cornerstone of Rhoads’ sound, he also made extensive use of other effects to enhance his guitar tone. Rhoads frequently used the Roland JC-120’s built-in chorus to add depth to his clean tones.

Additionally, he used echo and delay effects to amplify the expansiveness of his solos, with the EchoPlex being one of his favored tools for this purpose.

Strings, Picks, and Accessories

Beyond the electric components of Rhoads’ guitar setup, his choice of strings, picks, and other accessories also played a significant role in his unique sound.

Rhoads had a particular preference for light gauge strings, specifically .008s, due to their flexibility and ease of use. These lighter strings facilitated his rapid, effortless playing style, which was a significant aspect of his sound. He favored strings from the brand S.I.T., a detail well-documented and elaborated in this Guitar World article.

The type of pick a guitarist uses can have a profound impact on their sound, and Rhoads was no exception. He leaned towards using heavier picks, which allowed him to execute a more aggressive attack and maintain control during swift passages. This added yet another dynamic quality to his already vibrant and energetic playing style.

Rhoads wasn’t limited to just guitars, amps, and pedals when it came to his sound. He frequently used a variety of accessories to expand his tonal palette.

Items such as capos, which allowed him to change the pitch of his guitar without retuning, and slides, which added a unique, gliding tone to his playing, were all part of Rhoads’ sound. His creative use of these accessories was another testament to his innovative approach to guitar playing.

Rhoads’ Unique Playing Techniques

Rhoads’ guitar setup was undoubtedly impressive, but the heart of his sound came from his playing techniques. His ability to seamlessly blend elements of classical music with hard rock was what set him apart from his peers.

Techniques such as tapping, pinch harmonics, and dive bombs became trademarks of his playing style, serving as the perfect complement to his distinctive guitar setup.

The aforementioned techniques were not just gimmicks in Rhoads’ playing. He used them judiciously to enhance his music, always serving the song rather than showcasing his skill. His understanding of when to utilize these techniques, coupled with his unique setup, enabled him to create a sound that was undeniably his own.

Rhoads’ innovative approach to music extended to his tuning methods as well. He would occasionally drop his low E string down to a D, allowing him to delve into heavier and darker tonal realms. At the time, this technique, now widely known as ‘drop D tuning,’ was relatively unusual, but it has since become a standard tuning in heavy metal.

Achieving Rhoads’ Sound: A Practical Guide

If you’re looking to replicate Rhoads’ iconic sound, understanding his setup and techniques is crucial. However, it’s equally important to consider the practical aspects of achieving that sound. Here are some pointers on how to emulate Rhoads’ sound and approach to playing, based on his EQ settings, techniques, and even cost-effective gear options.

Rhoads had a keen understanding of EQ settings, which played a significant role in sculpting his unique guitar tone. He often boosted the mid-range frequencies while taming the highs and lows to carve out a tone that was unmistakably his own. This Ultimate Guitar forum post provides a more detailed breakdown of Rhoads’ EQ settings.

Mastering Rhoads’ techniques, from his swift and articulate solos to his creative use of effects, is an integral part of sounding like him. Using light gauge strings, emulating his use of pinch harmonics, and trying to get your hands on a Marshall Amp, or a similar model, will also bring you closer to achieving his tone.

Cost-Effective Ways to Achieve the Rhoads Sound

Replicating Rhoads’ sound doesn’t necessarily mean you have to splurge on high-end gear. There are several affordable alternatives on the market that can still help you get close to his legendary tone:

  • Budget Amplifiers: Look for budget-friendly amps that have a reputation for producing a sound similar to Marshall amps. Brands such as Blackstar and Bugera offer some great models.
  • Affordable Pedals: Rather than investing in vintage MXR pedals, consider more affordable but similar alternatives. Companies like Joyo and Behringer produce quality pedals that can emulate the tones of classic MXR effects.
  • Lesser-Known Guitar Brands: While a Gibson Les Paul or a Jackson Rhoads might be out of your budget, there are other brands like Epiphone and Jackson’s JS series that offer models with similar specs at a fraction of the cost.

Remember, it’s not just about the gear. Rhoads’ tone also came from his fingers and his playing style. Work on your technique and understanding of music theory as much as you do on acquiring and learning to use your gear.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will be delving into some of the most common inquiries and curiosities that surround our topic


Randy Rhoads is best known for using his signature Jackson Rhoads V and the Gibson Les Paul Custom. Both guitars contributed significantly to his signature sound.


Rhoads primarily used the Marshall Super Lead 1959 model. He loved pushing the amp to its limits, achieving a natural overdrive that was crucial to his iconic crunch tone.


Rhoads frequently used the MXR Distortion+ to drive his guitar sound. This pedal played a pivotal role in shaping his searing, high-gain tone.


Rhoads preferred using light gauge strings, specifically .008s. These strings were pivotal to his swift, effortless playing style.

Conclusion: Randy Rhoads Guitar Setup

Randy Rhoads’ guitar setup remains a fascinating subject of study for guitarists worldwide, not only for its components but also for the innovative mind that pieced it all together.

Through a blend of top-tier gear, unique tunings, and distinctive playing techniques, Rhoads crafted a sound that was unmistakably his own.

While we can try to emulate his setup and sound, let’s also remember that it was Rhoads’ fearlessness, creativity, and devotion to his craft that truly made him a legend. It’s this spirit that we should strive to embody in our own musical journeys. Happy shredding!

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