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Prince Rig Rundown: Guitars, Amps & Pedals

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Step into the musical wardrobe of Prince, the icon who painted the world in purple with his unique blend of rock, funk, pop, and R&B.

This guitar rig rundown reveals the instruments and gear that helped Prince carve his awesome mark on the music landscape.

Here are some of his most frequently used axes, amps and pedals.

Guitars Used By Prince

prince guitars

Prince’s guitar collection was more than just tools of the trade; they were extensions of his artistic soul, each with its own chapter in the story of a legend.

  • Hohner Madcat: This Telecaster-style guitar became synonymous with Prince after its prominent use in the “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” tribute. Its distinctive leopard print pickguard and natural finish made it visually unique, while its versatile tone made it a mainstay in Prince’s arsenal for both live performances and studio recordings.
  • Jerry Auerswald Custom-Made Symbol Guitar: A testament to Prince’s love for custom and visually striking instruments, this guitar featured his unpronounceable symbol. Crafted by luthier Jerry Auerswald, it was not just a guitar but a piece of art, embodying Prince’s flamboyant style and musical innovation.
  • Custom Purple Taylor 612 CE: During the Musicology tour, Prince showcased his softer side with this acoustic beauty. Its rich, warm tones complemented his acoustic sets, and its custom purple finish was as unique as the artist himself.
  • Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop: Prince’s relationship with Fender yielded several custom Stratocasters, including a unique model with no middle pickup and locking tuners. These guitars, known for their exceptional craftsmanship, were tailored to Prince’s exact specifications, proving his attention to detail and quest for the perfect sound.
  • Fender Telecaster: Early in his career, Prince wielded a modified Fender Telecaster, showcasing his ability to coax funk-laden rhythms and searing leads from the same instrument. This guitar, used by Dez Dickerson in the “Dirty Mind” video, signifies Prince’s roots in raw, unfiltered rock and roll.
  • Epiphone Crestwood Custom: For a special performance of “Bambi” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, Prince borrowed Captain Kirk Douglas of The Roots’ Epiphone Crestwood Custom, highlighting his ability to make any guitar sing, no matter its history or origin.
  • Gibson L6S: Known as Prince’s early “go-to” axe, he later customized this guitar with LED lights and faux leopard print fur, showcasing his flair for the dramatic and his willingness to push the boundaries of traditional guitar design.
  • David Rusan’s The Cloud Guitar: Perhaps one of the most iconic guitars associated with Prince, the Cloud Guitar was designed by luthier David Rusan. Its ethereal design and association with the film Purple Rain have made it a symbol of Prince’s legacy, embodying his creativity and his mystique.
  • Fender Stratocaster Purple – Hybrid: Prince’s quest for the ultimate sound led him to modify several Fender Stratocasters from Japan, outfitting them with EMG pickups, an Original Floyd Rose, and a locking nut. These modifications illustrate Prince’s relentless pursuit of innovation and his ability to blend different musical elements into a cohesive, unmistakable sound.

Prince’s guitars were not merely instruments; they were partners in his musical journey. Each one, from the Madcat to the Cloud Guitar, played a role in crafting the soundtrack of an era.

With custom modifications, unique designs, and an unyielding dedication to his craft, Prince’s guitars are a testament to his genius, forever echoing his indelible mark on the world of music.

Looking for more rigs? Check out the gear used by Kirk Hammett, James Hetflied and Alex Turner.

Amps

amps used by prince

Prince’s approach to amplification was as unique and eclectic as his guitar choices, blending classic tones with custom configurations to achieve his distinctive sound. Here’s a deep dive into the amps that powered the legend’s unforgettable performances and recordings.

  • Soldano SLO 100 100-Watt Tube Guitar Amplifier: Known for its smooth, singing overdrive and tight bottom end, the Soldano SLO 100 was a favorite of Prince during his “the artist” phase. Its presence on albums like “o(+>” underscores its role in shaping the crisp, articulate lead tones that Prince was known for in the 90s.
  • Mesa Boogie Mark IIB Coliseum: This powerhouse amp was integral to Prince’s sound in the early 80s, including the “1999” tour. With 180 watts of clean headroom, it provided a massive, loud stage sound that could fill any venue. Its unique tonal capabilities allowed Prince to achieve both sparkling cleans and thick, saturated overdrive, demonstrating his versatility as a musician.
  • Mesa Boogie Heartbreaker 100 watt Head: The Heartbreaker model added a different flavor to Prince’s amp collection. With its ability to switch between Class A and Class AB power, Prince utilized this amp for its rich harmonic content and dynamic response, evident in performances like the “Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful” on the Jay Leno show in 2009.
  • Orange AD140 HTC: This amp’s inclusion in Prince’s rig reflects his exploration into heavier and more aggressive guitar tones. The Orange AD140 HTC, known for its thick overdrive and punchy clean tones, was used by Prince earlier in his career, showcasing his ability to adapt and evolve his sound over the decades.
  • Peavey Classic Delta Blues 1×15 Combo: This amp was used during the recording of “Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic” for its rock-oriented distortion tones. The Peavey Delta Blues, with its warm tube sound and responsive dynamics, provided the gritty edge that Prince sought for the album’s guitar tracks.
  • Mesa/Boogie Lone Star 2×12 Combo Amp: Used with the 3rd Eye Girl project, this amp is renowned for its versatility and lush, expressive tones. The Lone Star’s ability to deliver both pristine cleans and overdriven warmth suited Prince’s genre-blending style, allowing him to navigate seamlessly between rock, funk, and blues.
  • Mesa Boogie Strategy 500 Poweramp: Paired with a Soldano/Caswell preamp, this power amp was part of Prince’s quest for the perfect tone. Its clean power and reliability made it a staple in his rig, capable of delivering the high-quality, dynamic sound that Prince’s performances demanded.
  • Marshall JCM 900 4500: Though less frequently mentioned, the Marshall JCM 900 contributed to Prince’s live sound, adding the classic Marshall crunch and bite. This amp’s inclusion underscores Prince’s love for rock and roll’s raw energy, complementing his more polished studio tones with a rougher live edge.
  • Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC+ Head: An absolute beast in terms of headroom and tonal variety, the Mark IIC+ was a key component in Prince’s arsenal during the “Purple Rain” era and beyond. Its lush reverb, detailed EQ section, and powerful output allowed Prince to sculpt sounds that were both intricate and impactful.
  • Genz Benz El Diablo 100: On the Musicology tour, Prince turned to the Genz Benz El Diablo for its high-gain capabilities and tonal flexibility. This amp, paired with a Genz-Benz 2×12 cabinet, helped Prince deliver the electrifying performances that defined this tour, showcasing his ability to meld rock’s aggression with funk’s groove.

Prince’s amplifiers reflect his broad musical palette, from the clean, articulate sounds of Mesa/Boogie to the raw power of Marshall and the nuanced overdrive of Soldano. Each amp choice was a deliberate step in crafting his signature sound, blending warmth, clarity, and punch to support his groundbreaking musical explorations.

Effects

guitar effects pedals used by prince

The landscape of Prince’s sound was not only shaped by his guitars and amps but also by an eclectic collection of effects pedals. These tools added layers, textures, and colors to his music, enabling a broad sonic palette from funk grooves to rock solos. Here’s an in-depth look at the effects that painted Prince’s sonic picture.

  • Boss BD-2 Blues Driver: This pedal found its way onto Prince’s board for its ability to add a creamy, yet crunchy overdrive that could push his clean tones into bluesy territories or elevate his leads into screaming heights. The Blues Driver’s presence underscores Prince’s nuanced approach to gain staging and dynamics.
  • Boss MT-2 Metal Zone: Known for its aggressive distortion, the Metal Zone was spotted in Prince’s gear during the mid-90s, particularly between the Diamonds and Pearls Tour and the Act I & II Tour. Its inclusion highlights Prince’s willingness to explore heavier tones, adding a hard-edged bite to his arsenal.
  • Boss DS-2 Turbo Distortion: Offering two modes of distortion, the DS-2 provided Prince with a versatile option for achieving everything from warm overdrives to searing leads. Its use in Prince’s rig reflects his adeptness at tailoring his distortion sounds to the mood and style of each song.
  • Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal: Utilized in the studio for its unique, full-bodied distortion character, the HM-2 contributed to the gritty, aggressive textures on some of Prince’s recordings. This pedal’s distinct sonic footprint speaks to Prince’s constant search for innovative sounds.
  • Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive: Captured on the “Manic Monday” music video and Prince’s pedalboard setup for the Sign ‘O’ The Times Tour, the SD-1 provided a smooth, natural overdrive that complemented Prince’s funk and rhythm playing by adding just the right amount of grit without sacrificing clarity.
  • MXR M133 Micro Amp: Serving as a clean boost, the Micro Amp was a tool for Prince to ensure his solos cut through the mix with added presence and volume. Its straightforward utility belies the critical role it played in live settings and studio sessions alike.
  • Boss BF-2 Flanger: Prince utilized the BF-2 to infuse his sound with the swirling, dramatic effect that flangers are known for. Whether for adding movement to clean rhythms or creating spacey textures in solos, the BF-2 was a key component in Prince’s effect-laden performances.
  • Danelectro DD-1 Fab Tone Distortion: This pedal provided Prince with a distinctive distortion tone that featured on bass tracks and possibly guitar tracks, adding a layer of fuzz and sustain that could make any line stand out with an assertive presence.
  • Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal: Integral to Prince’s expressive playing style, the Cry Baby wah allowed him to inject vocal-like qualities into his guitar work, especially during solos, enhancing the funk and soul elements deeply rooted in his music.
  • Line 6 MM4 Modulation Modeler: Offering a range of modulation effects, the MM4 was Prince’s go-to for adding texture and depth to his soundscapes. Its versatility supported Prince’s creative explorations across genres, from lush chorus sounds to psychedelic phase shifts.
  • Boss OC-2 Octaver: Employed for its ability to add a rich, sub-octave layer to Prince’s tone, the OC-2 was a favorite for fattening up riffs and solos, demonstrating Prince’s flair for sonic experimentation.
  • DigiTech Whammy Pitch-Shifting Pedal: This pedal’s pitch-shifting capabilities allowed Prince to execute dramatic sonic maneuvers, bending and twisting notes in ways that guitars alone could not achieve, showcasing his innovative spirit.
  • Boss DD-3 Digital Delay: For creating atmospheric repeats and echoes, the DD-3 was a staple in Prince’s setup, enabling him to layer his sound with rhythmic textures or expansive ambient washes.
  • Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler: Utilized for its advanced delay options and looping capabilities, the DL4 was a tool for Prince to craft complex, evolving soundscapes live and in the studio, pushing the boundaries of what a guitar could do.

Prince’s effects pedals were not just accessories; they were integral to his sound, each chosen for its ability to contribute something unique to his vast musical palette. From the creamy overdrive of the Blues Driver to the expressive wail of the Cry Baby Wah and the expansive delays of the DL4, these effects were the final brushstrokes on the masterpiece that was Prince’s sound.

How To Sound Like Prince?

how to sound like prince

Channeling the sonic genius of Prince isn’t just about gear; it’s about attitude, versatility, and a touch of audacity. Whether you’re aiming for the funk-laden rhythms of “Kiss” or the soul-stirring solos of “Purple Rain,” here’s how to sprinkle a bit of Prince’s magic into your sound. Get ready to paint with all the colors of the musical rainbow.

  • Start with Versatility in Mind: Grab a guitar that can do it all. Prince didn’t limit himself to just one type of guitar, so why should you? Whether it’s a Telecaster-style Hohner Madcat or a custom Symbol guitar, the key is flexibility.
  • Dial In Those Amps: Seek out an amp that can give you clean, punchy tones for rhythm and enough gain for those screaming leads. A Mesa Boogie or a Soldano can get you in the right ballpark. Remember, it’s all about control and clarity.
  • Effects Are Your Paintbrush: Prince’s pedalboard was like a painter’s palette. Want that creamy drive? Step on a Boss BD-2 Blues Driver. Looking for a little funk in your step? Engage the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah. And don’t forget the Boss DD-3 Digital Delay for those atmospheric echoes. Mix and match to find your unique sound.
  • Embrace the Eccentric: Prince was known for his fearless experimentation. Don’t shy away from adding unconventional sounds to your setup. A DigiTech Whammy for pitch-shifting theatrics or a Line 6 DL4 for looping layers can elevate your playing into the extraordinary.
  • Play with Heart and Soul: Above all, Prince played with emotion. Whether ripping through a solo or laying down a groove, he put his heart into every note. So let loose, express yourself, and maybe throw in a spin or two.

Crafting a sound like Prince’s is about embracing your inner musical genius and expressing it without boundaries. So grab your guitar, dial in those sounds, and let the music flow. Who knows? You might just find your own “Purple Rain.”

FAQ

  • Did Prince really play all the instruments on his recordings? Yes! Prince was a multi-instrumentalist who often played the majority of instruments on his recordings, showcasing his incredible musical talent and versatility.
  • What was Prince’s approach to songwriting? Prince’s songwriting process was as diverse as his music. He drew inspiration from a wide range of sources and was known to write, compose, and record songs incredibly quickly, sometimes completing an entire track in a single day.
  • How did Prince achieve his unique vocal style? Prince’s vocal style was as eclectic as his music, often using a combination of his natural baritone voice and his iconic falsetto. He explored and expressed a wide range of emotions and characters within his music, adding layers of complexity to his vocal performances.
  • Was Prince involved in the production of his music? Absolutely. Prince was deeply involved in the production of his music. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail, innovative production techniques, and a hands-on approach in the studio, often serving as his own producer.
  • How did Prince influence the music industry? Prince was a pioneer who pushed the boundaries of music, fashion, and identity. His blending of genres, innovative use of technology, and fearless expression influenced countless artists and changed the landscape of modern music.
final thoughts

Final Thoughts

Diving into the world of Prince’s musical genius reveals an artist who was not bound by conventions. His guitars sang with emotion, his amps roared with power, and his effects painted a sonic landscape that was all his own.

But beyond the gear, it was Prince’s boundless creativity, technical prowess, and fearless expression that truly defined his sound. Remember, sounding like Prince isn’t just about the notes you play; it’s about how you play them and the soul you pour into every performance.

So, take inspiration from the legend, but also find your own musical voice. After all, that’s what Prince would probably encourage you to do.