So, you found your perfect electric guitar and you’re ready to rock it out, but first you need something to plug it in to. Just like buying a guitar, finding the right amp can be confusing for a beginner. Never fear… we’ve got your back. Here’s the lowdown on all the things you need to know to get to rocking.
First things first. Just like you need to do your research when buying your guitar, you need to make sure you know what you’re looking for before you go amp shopping. It might be a good idea to do this research at the same time that you’re looking into your guitar in order to make sure that you’re keeping your goals — and your budget — aligned.
There are a handful of things you want to keep in mind while you’re going through this process. Remember that this is your opportunity to set yourself up for success, so take your time and don’t let yourself get distracted or overwhelmed.
When you think about a beginner or a practice amp, you’re most likely thinking of a combo amp (short for combination), which is a guitar amp and speaker cabinet in one unit. Combo amps are ideal for beginners for a couple of reasons. First, it’s more compact, making it much easier to transport between practice or lessons. Also, you can guarantee that the amp and the speakers have been balanced to work well together, ensuring you’re going to get great sound (and the most bang for your buck).
Another great feature to look for when researching and shopping for an amp is built-in effects. Many amps on the market today have in-built reverb and overdrive, which can be operated by a foot switch (you’ll need to buy that separately). If you can find an amp with these two effects included, you’ll save yourself the expense of buying a pair of effect pedals.
There is a common misconception that the guitar amp with the highest wattage in going to be the loudest. This isn’t necessarily true. The power of an amp is only one factor that plays into the volume of the sound produced, so don’t be mislead by the simple numbers in this case. As a beginner, a 40-60 watt amp is a great choice. Not only will it give you sufficient volume to play at home, but it will even be sufficient for you to play in smaller venues, if you want to try playing for a crowd.
A great rule of thumb, especially when buying your guitar and amp at the same time, is that 60 percent of your budget should go toward your guitar, and 40 percent should go to your amp. Let’s be honest: If you spend a fortune on your guitar and then plug it in to a cheap amp, it’s going to sound like a cheap guitar. Do yourself a favor and give your amp the same consideration you do your guitar… you’ll be glad you did.
Tube Amps vs. Solid State Amps
When you’re doing your research, you’ll see that there are basically two types of amps: tube amps and solid state amps. Tube amps use vacuum tubes while solid state amps use semiconductor circuits to amplify sound. It used to be that there was a marked difference between the two, with tube amps offering superior sound, however modern solid state amps have caught up and sound equally as good. (In fact most people can’t tell the difference in the sound.) Solid state amps are also considerably less expensive. A tube amp will be an asset later on if you play with bands in large venues(they have warmer tone at higher volume levels) but, for beginners, they simply aren’t as practical.
Once you’ve identified the kind of amp you want, be sure to go to your local music store and try it out before you buy it (even if you find a sweet deal online). You’ll learn a lot about your options from online reviews, but you really won’t know if it’s the right amp for you — and your guitar — until you’ve taken the time to listen to it.
Remember to take your time and enjoy the process of getting hooked up with the perfect equipment for you. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your guitar — and your amp — so be sure to set yourself up for success from the start!