Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guitar Lessons - Amplifier Buyer's Guide

By: Pete Williamson


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

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

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!

About the author:
Pete Williamson is a professional guitarist for 2 x times number
one artist Pete Murray and hard rock band Mammal. Pete no longer
gives private lessons, but you can check out his 200+ guitar
lesson online course at Guitar
, where you can also sign up for a free guitar
lessons eNews.

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