Find out how to sound like Richie Sambora without breaking the bank in our Bon Jovi guitar gear guide
A true 80s guitar hero, Richie Sambora has blessed the world of rock’n’roll with some of the most iconic riffs in history.
Despite using a selection of awesome rare and vintage gear, you can get pretty close to his huge sound with alternatives straight off the shelf at your local PMT store.
Expect soaring leads and lush chorus tones as we dig a little deeper into the guitars, amps and pedals of Bon Jovi’s original riffmaster and build our own Richie Sambora guitar rig.
What Guitar Does Richie Sambora Play?
He is also known for using the iconic Kramer Jersey Star, as well as releasing a signature Richie Sambora Fender Stratocaster model in 1993 that continued production until 1999.
But these vintage models are highly-sought after and can be difficult to locate, especially on a reasonable budget - so take a look at our favourite options for achieving the Bon Jovi sound with guitars you can buy right now from PMT..
Kramer Jersey Star
Originally an homage to the Sambora signature model from Kramer, the Jersey Star has since taken on a life of its own and is now a celebrity in its own right.
The classic Superstrat silhouette is built from Alder and teamed with a sleek Maple neck that is capped with a Maple fingerboard. Here, the 22 Medium-Jumbo frets feature ultra-cool Star inlays, whilst the Floyd Rose 1000 series tremolo, bridge, and nut combine to offer complete tuning stability even when performing the most outrageous of divebombs.
A classic Kramer "Hockey-Stick"-style headstock completes the look, and a configuration of three fantastic Seymour Duncan humbucker pickups grants players a wide range of hard rock tones.
Check out this video to learn a little more about it:
Fender Player Stratocaster FR HSS
This Player Series Stratocaster is an awesome option for 80s-inspired guitarists, coming fully-equipped with a Floyd Rose and a humbucker to make it the perfect axe for those building out a Richie Sambora rig.
Versatile and highly-playable, this guitar comes with a modern C-shape Maple neck, premium hardware, and a 12" radius Maple fretboard that is supremely comfortable and reliable time after time.
Featuring two Tone controls - one for the humbucker in the bridge, and one for the neck and middle pickups - the Player Stratocaster FR HSS also boasts 5 separate pickup options:
Position 1. Bridge Humbucking Pickup
Position 2. Middle Pickup and Inner Coil of Humbucker
Position 3. Middle Pickup
Position 4. Neck and Middle Pickup
Position 5. Neck Pickup
If you’re looking for a guitar that can do Sambora and more, a Strat is a superb option - take a look at the entire range here:
Fender American Professional II Telecaster
If you prefer the Telecaster to the Stratocaster then you can still achieve a solid Bon Jovi sound.
This American Professional II model features a Roasted Pine body with a Deep C-style neck and “Super-Natural” satin finish for exceptional playability.
The newly-sculpted neck heel means you’ll have no problem getting to the higher parts of the fretboard, whilst the rolled edges further enhance your playing experience.
Check out the rest of our Telecaster range here:
Nowadays, Sambora uses Taylor guitars when he needs to pick up an acoustic - and you can shop a full range of them below. The most noteworthy piece of acoustic playing from Sambora, though, comes in the form of the excellent riff from ”Wanted Dead or Alive”, which is played on a 12-string instrument. You can check out our complete collection of 12-string guitars here:
We’ve also picked out one of our favourite 12-strings that you can get your hands on from Tanglewood..
Tanglewood TW12 CE 12-String
A fantastic choice for using live or in the studio, this TW12 CE 12-string model from Tanglewood offers a beautiful, ethereal tone thanks to its combination of Spruce and Mahogany tonewoods.
The smooth neck ensures that it’s not lacking in terms of playability, and the inclusion of an undersaddle pickup and preamp means you’re granted an Orchestra-style acoustic guitar that is ready to go no matter the scenario.
What Amplifiers Does Richie Sambora Use?
Around the time of the ‘Fahrenheit’ album by Bon Jovi, Sambora was known to use modified plexi amps.
In the time since then he has also used a range of Blackstar amps, Marshall JCM800s, JCM2000s, DSL100s, Fender Tonemasters, Diezel amps, and Friedmann amps.
For a close approximation of some Sambora tones we’ve picked a combo, amp head and cabinet so that no matter your current rig you can incorporate the bits that you need and try out some of your favourite Bon Jovi riffs.
Marshall SC20C Studio Classic JCM800 Combo
For a rehearsal-friendly option that still contains bucketloads of tone, we’ve picked the Marshall SC20C Studio Classic JCM800 Combo.
This switchable 5w/20w tube amp draws inspiration from one of their most famous amplifier designs ever - the Marshall JCM800 2203.
With a whole host of modern upgrades including a dual-input channel, power output switch, 3-band EQ, DI and several speaker load outputs, this amp is perfectly suited to the modern musician who needs to record, rehearse, and perform with the same amplifier.
The tube configuration here consists of 2xECC83, 1xECC83 (phase splitter) and 2xEL34 Valves, and as a result you’re granted access to the entire palette of classic JCM tones from rich cleans through to aggressive drives.
It also takes pedals particularly well, so you’ll be able to load up on some of Sambora’s favourite tone-bending machines and nail the perfect sound for your set.
Blackstar HT Stage 100 MkII Head
If you’re looking to add some Sambora-flavour to your existing set-up then the Blackstar HT Stage 100 MkII Head will give you a superb array of tones.
Boasting four EL34 power valves that are capable of delivering 100 watts of power, this amp will be completely at ease even on the largest of stages. With 3 separate channels and 6 footswitchable voices, you can move between rich clean tones and uber-saturated leads with ease.
You also have access to Blackstar’s patented ISF (Infinite Shape Feature) technology, meaning that the possibilities are truly endless when exploring the range of breathtaking sounds from this amp.
Marshall 1960AV Cab
This cabinet is a staple for those chasing the most aggressive of tones, but you’re guaranteed a sound that is well-defined, tuneful, and smooth no matter how you choose to play.
Richie Sambora has regularly taken to the stage with Marshall cabinets, and this is a fine example of one that shares the same build-quality and design as more expensive vintage models.
Loaded with a set of Celestion G12 Vintage 70 Watt speakers that are known for their enhanced warmth, this cab will handle every single Bon Jovi riff that you send its way.
What Pedals Does Richie Sambora Use?
The Richie Sambora pedalboard consists of some hard-to-find and out-of-production units, but we’ve built a wonderful board of our own with some substitute pedals that allow you to get an accurate Sambora tone.
In no particular order..
BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor
Anybody interested in using tight, controlled hi-gain tones knows the benefits of having a noise suppressor or gate at some point along your chain - and in the BOSS NS-2 Noise Suppressor we have one of the finest examples available.
Utilising a unique noise detection circuit, unwanted buzz and feedback are completely eliminated whilst retaining the natural dynamic feel and response of your instrument.
Use the Threshold and Decay knobs to finetune exactly how streamlined you want your sound to be, and link it up with the Send and Return jacks in order to completely separate your guitar signal from the hum of your other effects.
MXR M305 Tremolo
For all of your tremolo needs, the MXR M305 is a go-to unit that offers 6 types of tremolo in one compact stompbox.
As with all MXR pedals you can expect a rugged and hard-wearing construction, but the range of features here is also second-to-none.
The envelope mode offers dynamic adjustments to the pedals Speed and Depth, each of which is determined by your input volume. You can also equip an expression pedal or tap tempo for even more control, or you can slot it into a stereo rig for further experimentation.
Check out more of what it can do here:
BOSS CE-2W Waza Craft Chorus
Every self-respecting 80s guitarist knows how important it is to have a good chorus tone at your disposal - and the BOSS CE-2W Waza Craft Chorus is one of the finest available.
Using all-analogue bucket-brigade circuitry and delivering a range of stereo chorus and vibrato sounds, this modulation unit will allow you to add anything from a subtle doubling to a lush ambient warble.
For riffs like that on ‘Bad Medicine’ you can use this pedal to really get to grips with the Bon Jovi guitar tone.
BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrive
Finding a rich, warm, and adaptable overdrive is paramount for any lead guitarist, and players around the world have chosen to make the BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrive their first-choice lead tone.
Stomp on this pedal as you hit a chorus or solo section and introduce a classic, natural growl that can be shaped to suit your rig.
Incorporating the same asymmetric overdrive circuitry as used in the original Boss OD-1 OverDrive pedal which Sambora favoured, you’ll retain your midrange whilst introducing an edge to your sound that allows you to cut through the mix expertly.
Electro-Harmonix Nano POG
If you want to get a little closer to the tone used on tracks such as ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, you’ll need to get your hands on some sort of harmonizer or octaver pedal.
The Electro-Harmonix Nano POG is a polyphonic effect which means it handles chords better than some other similar effects, and it also allows you to blend the octave effect both above and below the original note you play - extremely useful for dialling-in exactly how much of the harmonies you want to hear.
Take a closer look with Dagan here:
Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight
If you want to avoid using a talkbox but still want to emulate the tone that Sambora gets on songs such as ‘It’s My Life’ and ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ then the Electro-Harmonix Cock Fight is an exceptional choice.
Also featuring a fuzz tone and cocked wah setting, you can link up an expression pedal to experience the dazzling array of different sounds available when using this pedal.
Electro-Harmonix Nano Holy Grail Reverb
For a classic, easy-to-use reverb that saves on precious pedalboard real estate, look no further than the Electro-Harmonix Nano Holy Grail Reverb.
With classic Spring and Hall sounds that are easily controlled by a single Reverb control, you can also utilise the Flerb setting to add a flanging effect to your wet signal.
As a simple substitute to the rack-mounted and studio reverbs that have been favoured by Sambora, this pedal is an awesome addition to any board.
MXR M169 Carbon Copy Analog Delay
A fully-analog delay - especially one set-up in a properly optimised FX loop - can give an edge to your sound that is hard to replicate.
The MXR M169 Carbon Copy grants players an extra weapon in their sonic arsenal, with up to 600ms of delay time and modulation controls for emulating traditional tape echo sounds.
Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora loved a solo soaked in delay, and this pedal is an industry-standard with more features than you might first expect.
With the top-mounted switch and three-knob configuration you can edit Modulation, Delay, Mix, and Regen, but the internal trim-pots also allow you to alter the width and rate of the modulation for further control over your tone.
With true bypass switching and stage-ready blue LEDs, unleash your inner-Sambora with this epic delay unit.
Want to know more about Bon Jovi’s Kramer Guitars? Need some extra help with the Richie Sambora JCM tone? Call us on 0151 448 2089 or check out your local store to speak to one of our Experts about your needs.