Fed up doing gigs or rehearsals with a muddy guitarsound? Not getting enough volume from your amps for your guitarsolos? Blame your bandmembers, or the songs or your own gear for having such a weak and thin guitarsound.
How much thought do you give yourself when it comes to your overal guitar set-up? Are you aware of the various options which lay open for you as a guitarplayer to get a better and solid guitartone?
For this article I will examine the ins- and outs about using more than one amp. You do not need to be famous or super rich to get a much better guitartone than what you have at the moment. Anyone in the world can achieve a big guitartone such as some of the more well-known guitarplayers use (and who we all seem to admire).
I will not detail the various technical options as in how to connect your gear, am more interested in the thinking behind the whole process why you could use several amps at once, and what the consequences will be for your tone and playing as such. My thought is: Once you know why guitarplayers go into this kind of set-up, it may be possible for yourself to figure out what it is you need to do to give yourself a much better tone.
One Amp is enough or………………..??
Why on earth would someone like to use more than one amp you may wonder? Two comboamps will give you two speakers (or may be even more). The sound travels nor through one but two soundsources, making your sound fuller and more detailed. Sure this must be better or………….?
Well, no single set-up is perfect, anything you use does have its own effect on the endresult. Logical? There are not many guitarplayers around who do have one set-up which will cater for a Jazzgig, a metalgig, a folkgig ect. all at the SAME time. You need to look into what you need, what you like and how you can get there with the gear you have.
Using two amps will give you a particular sound which is different from just using one amp. The detail of each amp is lost, you will get just one guitarsound instead. This one guitarsound should be dealt with accordingly: You will need to look at the overal sound and adjust each individual amp to get the sound you are looking for. The sound of each amp is there to help the overal sound, not just that one amp.
If you are new to playing through two amps you may feel that your settings of the past from your favourite amp may no longer work. The amp does now need to work in tandum with the other amp to create one sound. It should not take you too long to get used to. Overal you may want to keep the volume down as you are now using two amps. Keeping the volume at a reasonable level will help you to obtain a balance between the sound of the two amps. Mind you: I am talking tonesettings here not just volume, but keeping volumelevels down will help you to achieve a better mix between the tones of both amps.
When Do You Need Two (or more) Amps?
When you are using guitartones which mix various sounds you may want to use various amps. The one, well-known example is delay: Use one amp and your delayed tone is mixed with the dry sound of your guitar. When you seperate each signal to its own individual amp the result is a much clearer ( and bigger, spacious ) guitartone.
When you use loops where you use various instruments (think Bass, Keyboards ect.) which are all part of the same sound you may want to seperate each instrument into a different amp. It will give you a much clearer and less cluttered sound.
In a nutshell: One amp will not give you the seperation of sound which two amps will give you. On the other hand your sound gets dilluted between two amps and there may be occassions where you do not want that at all.
Personally I would prefer one simple, amp set-up if I was to a do a straight forward blues gig. That one amp would be enough. I would enhance the amp with only a handful of well-chosen pedals. Too many amps can make the set-up complex and you need to think carefully about what goes on soundwise.
Speakers and tone variation
Okay, you have come to the conclusion that you want to use two amps. Should you choose medium range combo amps, stacks or maybe halfstacks?
Going back to what I mentioned before about volume think about this: Four 15 watt combos would give you a similar powerrating as one 50-60 watt half stack. In other words: You could similate the sound of a stack by using various smaller combos. If you are using amps which all have different speakers your tone will have a lot more variation than those four similar speakers from your stack.
Using amps of a different kind can be useful: Different speakers, different sound coming from each amp. It may also make it harder to get the right balance. Again, you could try and see what works. You may want to choose your amps on the basis of sound they can give: treble or bass or maybe even amps which do not have a specific tone at all.
Gigs and Seize of Your Amps
When you are gigging a lot with other musicians around you, you do need a cetain amount of power just to be heard and to feel comfortable. If your band is not too loud a few combos may give you just enough power on stage. Make sure your combos do contain a line-out (or headphone socket) which can be taken to the PA to get your amps heard in the venue.
If your onstage sound does not have to be too loud, a handful of small combos may just do the trick. It makes transporting your gear also a lot easier instead of using that bulk stack.
Details of Sound Each Individual Amp
For most of the time you may wnat to play through a set of four amps, but there may be moments when you just want to use the tone of one particular amp. You could use A/B boxes to select that one amp for a particular moment while cutting out the sound of the other three amps. In this way you do not need to compromise on any of your favourite guitaramp sounds.
Does it Ever Stop?
When it comes to sound and your particular guitar set-up you need to ask yourself questions? What do I really need for the kind of playing I do? Am I the person who is interested in experimenting hours and hours just to find some other guitarsounds? ( and other ways of making music! ) Am I getting the best out of my gear? Some people think it is about money and brands. It is more important to be aware of the sounds which are out there and to have a vision for yourself what you want to achieve soundwise.
Over time you will develop you own approach to sound.
In the beginning, when people start to get into effects and amps, it is quite common to get impressed with the sounds you can get from a few simple effects such as delay, reverb, chorus and flange. It is after some time, when you come to realise that all these effects will make you sound like anyone else, that you start to break things down and look into the details of how you can get these effects (and amps) to work for your own, unique style of guitarplaying.
There are these moments when you have groundbreaking results for yourself, these moments can be quite pleasing. It is from these experiences that you grow as an individual and develop your own take on sound and guitartone in particular.
happy tonehunting and hope