Potent Pairings: How to Sound Like The Mars Volta On Guitar

Disclaimer: Our Potent Pairing series aims to get you in the ballpark of the sounds on your favorite recordings using affordable, accessible pedals. The pedals featured are not the exact pieces of gear used on the recordings.

Pedals Used in this Video

Vox V847A Wah

MXR Prime Distortion

Boss DD-3 Digital Delay

Electro-Harmonix POG 2 Octave Generator

Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

Electro-Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb

Xotic Robotalk RI

MXR Carbon Copy

Boss CE-5 Chorus Ensemble

Way Huge Swollen Pickle MK II

Boss PS-2 Digital Pitch Shifter Delay

Vox DelayLab

The Mars Volta had an explosive but somewhat brief career from 2001 to 2012. Formed in the wake of At the Drive-In's breakup under the direction of guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López, the band produced six albums rich with conceptual depth and experimental soundscaping. They also put on some of the most high-energy, visually awesome live shows this side of the 1980s.

After being crowned "Best Prog-Rock Band" by Rolling Stone in 2008 and winning a Grammy in 2009 for their song "Wax Simulacra," the group put out one more album, Noctourniquet, in 2012 before all moving on to other projects.

What remains is a canon of challenging, inventive music that will probably be revisited by the hipsters of the 2040s and lionized after the fact. We decided not to wait.

Below is a track-by-track breakdown of the settings used on the pedals in the video above.

"Eriatarka" from Deloused in the Comatorium

"Intertiatic Esp" from Deloused in the Comatorium

"Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt" from Deloused in the Comatorium


"Vicarious Atonement" from Amputechture

"Tetragrammaton" from Amputechture

"Aberinkula" from The Bedlam in Goliath

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