Potent Pairings: How to Sound Like Queens of the Stone Age

Update: Troy Van Leeuwen critiqued our attempts at capturing his tone found in our video above. His TL;DR take? Pretty close. Once you're done with this Potent Pairings, check out Troy's video here.

Disclaimer: Our Potent Pairing series aims to get you in the ballpark of the sounds on your favorite recordings using pedals we had laying around at the time. The pedals featured are not the exact pieces of gear used on the recordings.

Queens of the Stone Age has spent the last 20 years as one of the heaviest rock bands around. Birthed from the high desert east of LA after guitarist, singer, and leader Josh Homme left Kyuss — another central band in the modern era stoner rock scene — the sound that they have managed cultivate and hone over the years is a unique thumbprint that is instantly recognizable and often imitated.

If the fuzzy sludge of Black Sabbath had a baby with ear-splitting primitive blues rock and was wrapped in a reverb-laden blanket of psychedelia, that’d be the sound of Queens.

Homme and guitarists Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita have pedalboards they use on tour, but the gear they use in the studio is varied—everything from vintage fuzzes and parametric filters to twangy 12-string guitars layering over gritty bass lines and blown-up drums. There’s no single pedal that’s going to achieve it all.

To start getting these tones on guitar, an axe with humbuckers isn’t a bad place to start. Troy’s signature Jazzmaster would be another starting point. Put some heavy strings (12s or 13s) on that guitar and tune it to C Standard so the strings are a little floppier, and you’re getting closer. From there, the exact formula for how to carve out that mid-range grit and focused fuzz can be harder to pin down.

Here are the guitars we picked to use in the video:

So in an effort to clear away the smoke, we recreated the tone from some of their signature songs to the best of our ability and put together graphic representations of the pedals with the knobs at the settings that we used to do.

Be sure to click on any of the pedal graphics below for more information about the pedal, pricing and live listings you can buy directly on Reverb.

"Little Sister"

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"Go with the Flow"

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"Sat by the Ocean"

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"Another Love Song"

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"Turnin on the Screw"

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"Burn the Witch"

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"No One Knows"

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