Stoner Rock is known for placing an emphasis on the riff. Sure, there’s room for Hard Rock-Pop sensibilities (like in Monster Magnet) and there’s also room for grandiose guitar solos (like in Greenleaf), but Stoner Rock’s signature has always been the warm, fuzzy, Earth-rattling guitar riff.
That’s the starting point. But Stoner Rock—and its sonic cousins (Doom Rock and Fuzz Rock)—rely heavily on a few different elements to craft the perfect song.
Today, we break it down.
We’ll show you what sort of equipment the best Stoner Rock bands use and we’ll take apart a few classic tracks to see how they’re put together.
Equipment Needed For Stoner Rock
Stoner Rock is based in Rock music, so you should (obviously) start off with the standard gear: At least one guitar, a bass, and a drum set.
Part of what makes Stoner Rock unique is the tones the instruments produce—a consequence of hefty distortion. Listen to early Queens of the Stone Age, for example, and you’ll immediately hear heavy layers of fuzzy distortion.
Popular Stoner Rock Pedals
There are plenty of distortion pedals you can choose from to capture that classic Stoner Rock tone. A few of the most popular include:
- Electro-Harmonix Big Muff – The Big Muff is a popular choice anywhere massive, fuzzy tones are needed—from Grunge to Stoner Rock. Bonus: The EHX Big Muff is relatively affordable compared to the other pedals on this list.
- Boss Hyper Fuzz – Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone helped place the Boss Hyper Fuzz on the map. Its big drawback: It really only does one or two things, making it an ideal choice only when you’re searching for an exact tone.
- Univox Super-Fuzz – The original Univox Super-Fuzz pedals are expensive ($500+), but they were popularized by Fu Manchu’s Scott Hill.
Popular Stoner Rock Amps
There are plenty of amp options for Stoner Rock musicians, but one of the most popular is Orange. Orange amps are known for their quality output and durability (we once watched a guitarist spend an entire set jumping on and off his Orange amp).
Other popular choices among Stoner Rock bands are:
Writing A Stoner Rock Song: Examining 3 Classic Tracks
For our analysis today, we’ll review music from three of Stoner Rock’s greatest bands: Kyuss, Truckfighters, and 1000mods.
Kyuss – ‘Green Machine’
Album: Blues for the Red Sun
Track Placement: 2
Year Released: 1992
‘Green Machine’ Breakdown
It’s hard to pinpoint Kyuss’s most popular track, but it’s much easier to identify their legacy: Blues for the Red Sun was a turning point for Metal (and its follow-up, Welcome to Sky Valley, wasn’t too shabby either). “Green Machine” embodies all of the billowing textures and riffs Blues for the Red Sun established. Here’s how “Green Machine” evolves each second:
00:00 – “Green Machine” opens with its iconic guitar riff marked by its thick, fuzzy distortion.
00:21 – The bass and drums arrive together, working at a ferocious gallop underneath the guitar riff.
00:33 – John Garcia starts the first verse. He puts a lot of his chest into his voice, offering mild distortion.
00:54 – We hear a new riff for the chorus.
1:15 – Return to the original riff
1:26 – John Garcia carries us into the second verse.
1:48 – We reach the chorus once again, but there’s a difference this time: John Garcia sings harmonies with himself.
2:09 – We return to the original riff. What’s really interesting about the album version of “Green Machine” is we can hear a cough and sniff as a sort of punctuation in this section.
2:14 – After a brief bridge, we get a guitar solo.
2:25 – The guitar solo leads into a rare bass solo.
2:35 – We return to the original riff.
2:40 – Third verse!
3:02 – We hear the final chorus. Like the previous chorus, we have layered vocal tracks.
3:22 – We return to original riff. As after the second chorus, we hear another cough.
Truckfighters – ‘Desert Cruiser’
Album: Gravity X
Track Placement: 1
Year Released: 2005
‘Desert Cruiser’ Breakdown
The opening track of their debut album, “Desert Cruiser” has remained one of Truckfighters’ most enduring songs, remaining a staple in their concert rotation and a fan-favorite in the encore. Here’s how “Desert Cruiser” evolves each second:
00:00 – The song’s iconic guitar riff begins immediately. One note: The riff comes through mono first, then switches to stereo.
0:06 – The drums come in.
0:16 – The full band comes in.
0:31 – We hear a new riff that will lead us to the first verse.
0:45 – We return to the original riff for the first verse. The vocals come in almost immediately after.
1:03 – We reach the chorus, which is marked by a new riff.
1:20 – As the chorus ends, we hear that same riff from the 0:31 mark before returning to the intro riff.
1:38 – The second verse, which relies on the intro riff.
1:54 – We’ve reached the chorus again. It repeats for nearly 50 seconds.
2:29 – After the band fades out, it comes roaring back. We enter a heavy bass line that seems like a solo first, but we’ll soon see it’s a lick.
2:43 – We enter the guitar solo. Pay close attention because there’s a lot going on. We’ll eventually hear two guitars jamming at once, one in each speaker.
4:15 – As the guitar solo ends, we return to the chorus riff.
4:24 – We reach the chorus again, but it’s slightly modified this time. The pacing and riffing is different this time, giving a deeper, more emotional impact.
4:57 – We return to the intro riff. The bass has a little more punch.
5:30 – We’re still on that primary riff, but the textures are slightly different. Vocals croon in the background and the drums offer a few different accents.
6:23 – We’re still on the primary riff, but the delivery is different—there’s no spacing. A new guitar enters and plays the same riff through a different effects pedal.
6:41 – We have a new vocal overlay.
1000mods – ‘Vidage’
Album: Super Van Vacation
Track Placement: 5
Year Released: 2011
“Vidage” is by far the most popular song from Greek band 1000mods. From their debut album Super Van Vacation, the record is loved for its thick, chunky riffs and Desert Rock sensibility. Here’s how “Vidage” evolves each second:
00:00 – “Vidage” opens with drums. Instead of a fancy drum solo, the drums hear are strictly to help set the tone for the rest of the song.
00:18 – Here comes the bass. Like the drums, there’s nothing especially fancy here. While there is some light distortion, the bass mainly helps to solidify the mood and begins the build for the rest of the song.
00:33 – Just after the half-minute mark, we hear the first instance of our central riff. This riff will carry us through the song, so expect to hear it frequently. Note: The guitar at this point is relatively clean, a diversion from what we typically expect in Stoner Rock.
1:05 – Another bass comes in. Instead of marching along with the drums, this bass brings out the lower ends of our central guitar riff. Unlike our first bass, this one comes through clean.
1:38 – Here marks the beginning of the first verse. Lead singer Dani G. croons right over that central riff, which is played all the way through the verse.
2:09 – The first verse ends, but the riff continues. The drums and basses play along.
2:27 – The second verse begins. The music in the background doesn’t change.
2:58 – The second verse ends.
3:12 – This is our first major deviation from the central riff. The drums pound to a crescendo, leading us to the chorus.
3:15 – We’ve reached the chorus. The rest of the band drops out to leave a single guitar playing a new riff. Now, instead of playing clean, the guitar is thick with distortion.
3:49 – The band returns to the central riff, but the sound is fuller this time. The new, distorted guitar sticks with the band.
4:23 – We’re repeating the chorus again, but this time the entire band plays through. Listen closely, and you’ll notice a second set of vocals. Instead of singing, this vocal track seems to speak the lyrics.
4:53 – We return to the central riff played by the entire band, but there’s a little extra flair at the end of the riff this time.
5:26 – We encounter a new riff. Instead of playing the individual notes in the central riff, now we stick to chords.
6:13 – We return to the central riff, much like it sounded at 3:49.
6:28 – Bass solo!
6:44 – Guitar solo!
7:20 – Dual guitars duel it out.