The Guitar Gear of Pearl Jam

August 2, 2013


The Guitars of Pearl Jam: McCready & Gossard

by PGS Fitz

Despite having seen (and loved) the documentary PJ20, I still can’t believe that Pearl Jam’s Ten is over twenty-years old. When CDs still came in long boxes, I’d save the long box and put them up on my wall. I still remember the deep magenta of the cover of Ten up on my wall (probably in between Nevermind  and Blood Sugar Sex Magik), the five guys in the band on the cover high-fiving one another in rock solidarity. If CDs had grooves, I’d have worn mine out. Ten was a life-changer for me and honestly it re-ignited my guitar playing after a couple years of laziness. I sat for hours with my Japanese Squier strat trying (and sometimes even succeeding!) to pick out parts and learn the album start to finish. Trying to cop McCready’s solo in “Alive” was a tall order, but I tried:





Twenty some odd years later, Pearl Jam is still making music and at the top of their game. It was just announced that PJ’s new album Lightning Bolt comes out in October—so we thought we’d do some digging and try to see what guitarists Stone Gossard and Mike McCready were up to in the last few years, gearwise, as we look ahead to another round of PJ-world-domination. Both Gossard and McCready are known to change up their gear on a regular basis, so this is by no means a currently-accurate account, nor is it comprehensive—it never could be. The great thing about players like this is that you can never fully know exactly what they’re up to—keeps things exciting for the rest of us, right?! Let’s dig in.





In the Ten era, McCready was seen primarily with Strats and the occasional Tele while Gossard rocked a Les Paul most of the time. In the years since, both guitarists have added considerably to their arsenals and tend to switch instruments at the drop of a hat. McCready has more Strats and Les Pauls than I could shake a stick at-- nor could I hope to ID all of them, but a ’59 sunburst Strat is one that he often seen tearing up with his bluesy leads. Some of McCready’s other notable guitars include a pair of early 50s Telecasters (’52 & ’53, respectively), a Gibson Les Paul Junior DC, ’68 Gibson Hummingbird, Gibson EDS 1275 double-neck, and a 90s Gretsch Silver Jet RI.

Gossard, meanwhile, began his Pearl Jam career playing a ton of Les Pauls and famously owns a bunch of goldtops ( ’54, ’69, ‘73) and several bursts—an ideal guitar for Pearl Jam’s rock tone. As late, funny enough, he’s been bringing a slew of Strats along with him for shows—including a well-worn ’59 Strat in red and a super beat-up 2 tone sunburst strat of unknown age (anyone got the 411 on this axe?!). Some of Stone’s other, less obvious instruments include a salmon pink ’59 Strat, Hamer Duo-Tone, and a James Trussart Telecaster that gets brought out onstage from time to time.





Both Gossard and McCready have gone through a zillion iterations of their rigs, typically both favoring a simple pedalboard set up with no fancy rack effects. The most recent confirmed McCready pedalboard (from his Tumblr page!) shows a tidy little setup including:

·         Custom Audio Electronics Wah

·         Lovepedal Amp 50

·         Xotic AC Booster

·         Custom Audio Electronics Boost

·         Way Huge Green Rhino (replacing a trusty Tubescreamer!)

·         EHX Micro Pog

·         Line 6 DL4

·         Line 6 MM4

·         Diamond Compressor

·         What might be a Rockbox Boiling Point?!!

We’ll see what he takes out on the road with him when PJ hits the road this fall. The important part of McCready’s tone is a nice, smooth overdrive to slam into his amps for that scorching lead tone.

 Gossard also switches things up all the time, but most recently has been seen rocking:

·         Ernie Ball 6166 Volume pedal

·         Lehle Dual SGOS amp switcher (clean/dirty)

·         Dunlop Wah

·         Klon Centaur

·         Keeley Compressor (2 knob)

·         Ibanez FL305 Flanger

·         Line 6 DL4                             

This is all subject to change at a moment’s notice, of course—as both of these guys have changed pedals non-stop since the beginning, all the while sounding completely like themselves, proving that tone is in the tips of your fingers!





During the Ten era, McCready was using Marshall heads of unknown exact make/model as well as a 4x10 Fender Bassman. The late 90s saw him running several amps concurrently including a ’59 Bassman, ’59 Tweed Twin, ’68 JMP Plexi, and a Matchless HC30 head—a combination that allowed for an endless variety of tone. During recent shows in advance of the new album, McCready has been seen playing through a 65 Amps head/cab (the Empire, perhaps, or the London?!) perched on top of a Savage combo along with a Union Jack Amps head going into a Marshall 4x12 cab. Gossard, meanwhile, has been known to play through a variety of amps himself, including the Savage Blitz, Trentinos, AC30s, Matchless HC-30s, and Fender Deluxes. As late, cameras seem to be favoring stage right, so we’re a little unclear on what Stone is actually running right now in the lead up to Lightning Bolt’s release—but whatever it is? It’s coming out of Marshall cabs, as rock music should.



Pretty hard to do comprehensive gear-gazing at these two perfectly matched musicians—their willingness to adapt and change has always been inspiring and will continue to be. Pearl Jam fans—any tips for copping a great McCready or Gossard tone?! ‘Cause I think I almost have that “Alive” solo nailed… finally.






  1. Danny says:

    The e-mail meant to link to this article links to the ‘true bypass’ one instead. Just a heads up!

    posted on August 2, 2013 at 6:54 am
  2. Fabiano Bittencourt says:

    Being a 10C member for quite a while and a PJ fan… I am totally biased when I say: “Best band on activity today”. Amazes me how people take they for granted. It’s the best ticket for a live performance today. You can catch them up 5 nights in a row and go home with 5 different vibes.
    On the Alive tone… I don’t believe there is a nail it tone directive. It will depend in which era you looking for… visit Given to Wail.
    Cheers from Brazil.

    posted on August 2, 2013 at 8:20 am
  3. Abbacus says:

    A real-world, working band. No rocket-science / high production, just some guys playing pretty simple stuff fairly well most of the time.

    posted on August 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm
  4. Fabiano Bittencourt says:

    Pretty Simple Stuff that will be remembered way past their life spam, that moves people around the Globe. Pretty simple stuff that in two minutes of music accomplish what many virtuosos don’t in years and years of music playing.

    posted on August 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm
  5. Ryan P says:

    A couple other notes that I’ve taken over the years to add…....

    - Shortly after “Vs” was released he was using a couple full stacks of Peavy Classics.  One easily available reference is their performance at the MTV VMA’s when they played a 3 song set of Jeremy/Animal/RITFW.  I don’t think this lasted long - when songs from what would be “Vitology” started working their way into the set list was about the time he scaled down to the Savage combo (and from my recollection he ran a very simple rig for the next decade before working Marshalls back in).  Somewhere in the ‘09-10 he seemed to expand from what had been a more vintage vibe in his tone,  adding some more aggressive overdriven sounds,  as the songs off their first 2 albums really lost something when played using only a mildly overdriven tone.

    - Much of his overdriven and lead tones from the “Ten” era came from an original SansAmp.
    - Likewise during this era a Dunlop Rotovibe was a staple of his pedalboard.
    - For a long time he was sporting an Orange 4x12

    posted on August 3, 2013 at 9:35 am
  6. Aaron says:

    If you look closely in the London video, Stone appears to be playing the early 60’s blonde Fender Showman that Mike was using on their tour in 2009 for Backspacer.

    posted on August 6, 2013 at 12:02 am
  7. Fabiano Bittencourt says:

    You can find more details on Pearl Jam gear on Given to Wail a tribute web page to Mike McCready. It’s a shame that with the confusion with the True Bypass a lot of comments are misplaced.


    posted on August 6, 2013 at 3:49 am
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  9. Tollbooth Willie says:

    Gossard’s wah looks like a Teese RMC3 (old style) or similar in that picture. You’re saying it’s a Dunlop Wah. Of course I could be wrong but maybe take a closer look?

    posted on October 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm
  10. vicc0 says:

    i saw an atom satellite in the stage side of stone gossard, but the color is weird, its like a black sparkle o silver sparkle… somebody saw it clearly?

    posted on December 19, 2013 at 2:23 pm
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  12. Juan Alberto says:

    I would like to know what pedal they use for Rockin’ in the Free World

    posted on January 23, 2014 at 1:39 am
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