Guitar Lessons

By: Pete Williamson

SELECTING THE BEST TYPE OF AMPLIFIER FOR YOU

So, you’ve got your eye on an electric guitar, or an acoustic with a pick-up. Then you’re going to need an amplifier! But there’s such a huge range, it can be daunting to even know where to start looking. Well, there’s some key questions that can help guide you…

How good does the sound of my amp need to be?

Well, are you aiming to form a band and play some gigs, or just be able to hear your electric guitar in your bedroom? If you’re a bedroom player, then any old amp will do to get you started. It’ll come down to your personal preference as to how much you invest. If you want to get out and play live, then you might need to think about a quality amp - like a Marshall, Fender or other top brand. In the Pro Guitar Tips course, we devote a whole chapter to ‘How to Get a Great Tone’, to help you decide between a solid state or valve amplifier. It could actually take over a whole blog, it's such a personal choice too. But as someone starting out, the next question you need to ask yourself is:

How loud do I need to play?

As loud as %&*^ing possible, I hear you say! Well, to simplify things a bit, amplifiers come in all different volume sizes. It’s fair to say the bigger the amp, the louder the sound. Amp power is rated by watts, with really loud amps ranging from 50-200 watts. If you’re just looking for a bedroom practice amp, then around 10 watts will do you nicely. If you want to be able play with a live drummer and still hear the sound of your guitar, then you’ll probably need 30+ watts of amp power.

How am I going to transport the amp?

I know a lot of guitarists who think they need the biggest amp. But I don’t know a lot of guitarists who do stadium sized shows! Bigger doesn’t necessarily make you play any better! Remember, the bigger your amp, the harder it’s going to be to transport to rehearsals and gigs – at least until you get your own road crew! You don’t want to put too much stress on your back just trying to lift the thing. Use common sense! Most gigs you'll play will use PA systems, where a microphone is placed in front of the amp, which is re-amplified to be mixed with rest of the band to heard by the audience.

How much money should I spend on an amp?

If you’ve got a limited budget, then I recommend spending the bulk of it on your guitar. A better guitar will be easier to play and will deliver rewards when it comes to sound quality. You can always upgrade your gear, but it’s great to start with something with longevity. Exactly how much to spend on an amp comes back to your intended use, and personal preference. As usual, the more you spend the better the amp will sound. (The next figures are a rough price range guide in US and Australian dollars.)

Beginner: US $100-200 AUD $150-300
Intermediate: US $250-500 AUD $300-700
Professional: US $500-3000+ AUD $700-4000+

The combination of equipment is really important to your overall sound. A great amp with an average sounding guitar (and/or guitar player!) is still going to sound average. Trust your ears to tell you what sounds good, and practice hard!

Check out more guitar lessons here.

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