Show your guitar amplifier your love and it will sing its heart out for you.
Once upon a time there was an man from California who said “Until it’s recognized that the amplifier is AT LEAST 50% of the sound of the electric guitar, its full potential cannot be realized”… that man was one of the most influential people ever on electric guitar amplifiers, Leo Fender.
With that being said, here are seven ways to show your guitar amplifier your love and it will give you all it has to give.
Of course, this goes with the assumption that you are happy with your guitar and it’s in its prime. If you want a refresher on the importance of your guitar strings and tweaking your guitar to its peak, see my earlier articles “Did You See That Girl’s String Bling?” and “I Now Pronounce You Player and Guitar.”
Seven ways to show your guitar amplifier your love:
1. Use a Quality Guitar Cable
Cables from long standing, reputable brands like Fender, DiMarzio and Whirlwind, to name a few, should be fine. If you’re serious about cables, I recommend Mogami Audio Cables as they’re true professional grade. Also, it’s best to keep them 15’ and shorter as long cables have more loss of high frequencies.
2. True bypass pedals
If you use guitar effects pedals (ex. Ibanez Tube Screamer), it helps if its “on/off” switch is what’s known as True Bypass so your guitar’s signal is as pure as possible. Briefly, with a True Bypass switch when the effect is off, the input jack is hardwired to the output jack so it does not load down or color your signal in any way. Check your pedal’s specifications to see if it has one, but know that most pedals are not true bypass but can usually be modified. Another solution is to use a True Bypass Pedal (aka true bypass looper) which is a pedal unto itself that you use with your existing pedals.
3. Make sure all screws, nuts and bolts are tight
Over time your amplifier can vibrate itself loose and then parts can start to rattle so make sure all its screws, nuts and bolts are snug. One important point to make it to not over tighten the bolts holding the speaker to the cabinet as it could bend the speaker frame and cause bad speaker issues. Just make sure they are tightly snug.
4. Turn your tone controls all the way up and turn down what you want less of (i.e. Treble, Mid, Bass).
For most amps, this gives your amp the most signal to work with. When you turn your tone controls all the way up, it’s common to turn the Treble down a little as it can be a little too bright. If you want more of a Fender like sound, leave the Bass and Treble turned up and turn down the Mid. For more of a Marshall like sound, turn the Mid all the way up and turn down the Bass and Treble. Adjust to your personal preference but starting with the maximum amount of signal is a recommended starting point.
5. Get your amp off the floor
There are various reasons for doing this but the main one is so you can hear more clearly what’s coming out of it. When it’s on the floor, the sound is hitting your knees and you’ll hear it differently than what the audience does. With it on the floor, the tendency is to boost the treble resulting in a too trebly sounding amp for those out front. Simple solutions are some amps come equipped with tilt back legs (ex. Fender Twin Reverb), which allow you to tilt back your amp so your amp angles up at you, or to put it on a chair or a furniture dolly. You can also bolt casters on its bottom, which helps with its mobility. Also, there are commercially available amp stands which raise your amp off the floor and angle it as well. With different options available, find the one that is right for you but the important thing is to get it off the floor.
6. With the amp off, one at a time turn each of the controls to its full range 7-10 times
Doing this helps keep your controls clear and free of debris. Build-up of dust or other tiny debris can cause your amp’s controls to not work properly and can reduce or disconnect your guitar’s signal. I recommend doing this monthly or when you start to suspect that your amp is starting to act squirrely.
7. Try Effects Through The Effects Loop
Effects pedals are commonly put before your amp, but if your amp has an Effects Loop, then try them out through the loop to see if you like the way it sounds. An Effects Loop is usually identified on an amplifier if it has input jacks labeled “Send” and “Return” or” Preamp Out” and “Power Amp In.” The great thing about an Effects Loop is that it allows you to plug in effects in between your amp’s preamp and power amp. The general consensus is that delay and reverb pedals sound best when run through one. So try out all your pedals before the amp and through the Effects Loop and decide which you like best.
Doing these seven things with your amp will show it your love and it will sing sweetly for you.
If you have any questions on these tips or any other amp issues, please feel free to contact me.
Keep on shining and being all of yourself.
~ Steve McKinley