Guitar Sound | Adjusting your amp

Hello fellow guitarists,

Recently I have been doing a lot of masterclasses for schools and I have come across a general weakness for beginning and intermediate level guitarists. Within literally one second I can tell how good someone is based on their sound. Every time a guitarist plugs in their instrument, they should adjust their sound. First I will present to you the problem I run into most often, and then I will give you three pieces of advice on adjusting your amp before you play. There will be multiple posts about adjusting your  guitar sound so I suggest you read those as well.

The Problem:

I walk into a band rehearsal and I hear the guitar sound tingy, unfull, not inspired, barely heard, and just a weak sound.

The Fix:

  1. Adjust all your EQ to 5, then adjust as needed. Once you plug in all your equipment, you should take a look at your guitar amp. Look for the knobs that say EQ or Equalization and turn then all to the half way point. This will probably not be the perfect mix, but it will give you a good place to start. From here you can adjust your EQ as needed to perfect your sound. It is way too common for guitarists to either neglect EQ, or to turn the highs up more than needed and the bass down more than needed.
  2. Pay Attention to gain levels and effects on your amp. A guitarist’s sound should be meaningful and intentional, however this is often neglected among newer musicians. While you do your sound check you should check your gain to make sure it is not overly distorted or overly clean depending on the situation you are playing in. A lot of guitar amps come with built in effects, DO NOT let this slip your attention. You don’t want to be in a situation where your guitar sounds all funky and you don’t know how to fix it. It is better to turn off all effects until you know exactly what you want and how much of it to use.
  3. Fix your volume. It is always better to be told to turn up than to turn down, but you shouldn’t want to be told either. Pay attention to your volume. Each situation you play in will require a different amount of volume from you, knowing how much will come with experience. However the rule of thumb is be heard, but not too loud. If you are playing with a band, you can try to blend in with them.

If you look at the picture above you will see someone playing a trumpet. We can learn about our sound by observing other instruments. Trumpet doesn’t have the ability to adjust EQ, It doesn’t have the ability to turn a knob and be softer. The musician that plays the trumpet has a fairly even EQ, and has to pay attention to how loud and soft he is. We should be like him. We should pay attention to having a balanced EQ and paying attention to our volume. A trumpet performer cannot ignore his sound, and we should not either.