Potent Pairings: How to Sound like the Smashing Pumpkins

Photo by Jonathan Wood / Getty Images

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.

Next week brings the launch of the Official Billy Corgan Shop on Reverb. Stocked with key instruments and gear from the full span of Corgan's career, the announcement and preview of the shop we put out a few weeks ago sparked a wave of Pumpkins zeitgeist in the Reverb community, both inside and out of our offices.

Since there's still a week of anticipation ahead of us before the shop's full launch, we thought we'd take some time to add another notch to the belt of our ongoing Potent Pairings series with an entry on the guitar tones of the Smashing Pumpkins.

As you can see in the video above, the core element of much of the Pumpkins' guitar tone comes from a crushing combination of multiple guitar parts with multiple drive elements all stacked together. "Cherub Rock" may be the crucial example of this, where it seems like layering as many guitar tracks as possible is the key to achieving that famously enveloping fuzz tone.

It's not all about the fuzz and overdrive combinations, though. As Joe demonstrates above, something as elegant as the clean tone from "1979" can be achieved with a simple compression pedal, or even just a Strat plugged straight into an amp.

And that really is the legacy of the Pumpkins' and Corgan and James Iha's guitar architecture. For as distinct and decade–defining as their recordings and tones were, at the root of it was the songs and riffs that gave the band staying power.

Their songs are fun to play with an acoustic guitar or with a dozen pedals stacked together. We hope this little video treatment inspires you to try some of these combinations out, and maybe, just maybe, make today the greatest day you've ever know.

Click on any of the pedal graphics below to be taken to more info on each of the pedals we used. Got requests for future Potent Pairings videos? Let us know in the comments.


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"Cherub Rock"

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"Bullet With Butterfly Wings"

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"Heavy Metal Machine"

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