Get a Better Sound From You Small Amps

You have spent a lot of time researching which electric guitar is right for you. You have informed yourself about all the different models and makes of guitars, and all the sounds these guitars can create. You are buying an electric guitar right? Hang on, the guitar will need an amplifier to make all those happening sounds heard. An electric guitar on it’s own without an amp is like a fish on dry land. You will need the Right Amp to make that guitar speak. How do you go about this? Where to start from? Today’s blog is all about why using Small Amps can be quite useful. If you are a beginner this can be the place to inform yourself about which amp is right for you. If you are an experienced player you may be in for a pleasant surprise as small amps are really worthwhile investing in.

When it comes to buying a guitaramp most people tend to think: “It needs to be big and fairly loud” This is not necessarily true: Powerful amps [stageamps I will call them from now onwards] may be great when you are planning on performing music with a band in front of an audience. When it comes to playing at home on your own it may be easier to use a fairly small amp. Why? For the simple reason that small amps are easier to control volumewise and are easier to manipulate with pedals. Pedals? Yes you will need effect pedals to make those small amps come alive. More about this later!
Stageamps, compared to smaller amps, do have large speakers. The larger the speaker, the more volume you will need to make the cone of the speaker move. The cone needs to be moved in order to get a good sound. Playing at louder volumes at your house may not be very practical for the rest of your family and your neighbours. Small amps may be the solution here: They do not take up too much space in your house and they can sound, with the right approach, almost as good as a stageamp at higher volume.

                               —How to Make Your Small Amps Sound Great—

Anyone who has ever plugged his/her guitar straight into a small amp will have experienced that the sound coming from this set-up may not be very pleasing. The secret lies in how to treat that small amp:

                                 —Using Two Small Amps At a Time—

Combine two small amps, push on one amp the bass, while you boost the treble on the other amp. You will have now a bass- and treble amp which you will be using at the same time. Remember that stereospeaker with its woofer and little tweater? This is what you have now created for your guitar. What is good for music in your house and car is also good for your guitar: Seperate the different frequencies of your guitar through different speakers! Sounds logical and simple, and it really is, but it does work.

                                   —Equaliser and Treble Booster—

Now we have our two amps set up for different sounds we can start playing, but hang, sounds like there is still something missing. The sound may be different, but is still fairly weak. Okay, here is how we can treat that problem: Use an equalizer, and boost the bass bands of the equalizer. This will give both amps more bottom end, in some cases it may even create a bit of distortion. Make sure at this stage that you keep the volume on your amps fairly low. Now that we have more body in our sound we will add a bit of brightness: You can do this by using a distortion- or overdrive pedal where you boost the treble and volume while keeping the gain all the way down. The added treble will increase the volume and create a slight bit of distortion to your overal sound. 

                                   —Distortion and Compression—

Now that you have your basic clean sound, although it is somewhat distorted through the equalizer and treblebooster, you may want to add one of your favourite distortions to create a more agressive tone. Which distortion you use is up to you, your taste and what you like. Keep the gain fairly low, just put the volume slightly higher than the volume on the amps and the treble-booster, and you should get a good sound.
Adding compression will give you more control over the overal tone and sound, it will increase the treble a bit and the compressor will also function as a mastercontrol: You can play at ANY volume, while the QUALITY of your sound will not change! Great!

                                    —Adding More Effects—

Finally you may want to add a bit of reverb to create some ambience to your sound. You may even want to add a lot more effects, pedals like Chorus, Flange, Phase ect. All depending on your taste and the sounds you like. Remember that most of these effects will only add colour and ambience to your sound. The basic overal sound is shaped by the two amps, both their speakers, the equalizer, the teble booster and the distortion.

                                 —Applications For Small Amps—

A set-up as described above may be very satisfying for recording or rehearsals with other musicians at low volumelevels. When it comes to performing in front of an audience you may need bigger amps. When using bigger amps you may find they you need less effect pedals as most stage-amps do tend to sound good on their own.

Using a few small amps combined with some effectpedals you may want to watch out the volumelevels on the different devices and your amps. The overal volume needs to be equal otherwise you may be just pushing the sound of one pedal too much with the result that that particular pedal is the most audible one.   

I hope to create some videos in future where I will demonstrate what I described above, as hearing some of this is one of the best ways to explain and inspire people.

Hope I have given you an incentive to start experimenting with your sound and the tone of your electric guitar in general.
See you next time,