how to use a guitar amp

How to Use a Guitar Amp With an Electric Guitar

So, you just purchased your first electric guitar and now it’s time to get an accompanying guitar amplifier to blast your style of music as far as possible. 

However, if you’re worried about how to use a guitar amp, look no further as we share all you need to know.

All You Need To Know About Guitar Amps

Guitar amplifiers are electronic devices that are built to increase the feeble electrical signal that is picked up from a bass or electric guitar, allowing it to produce sound through one or several loudspeakers.

Guitar amps come in different shapes and sizes. They also contain equalizer controls to modify the guitar’s overdriven tone by de-emphasizing and emphasizing certain frequencies. 

When it comes to picking out the best guitar amplifier, there are 3 important factors you should consider. They are the amplifier type, amplifier format, and power.

how to use a guitar amp

The Different Components of A Guitar Amp

The major components of guitar amps are the amplifier and the speaker, which are contained in two separate boxes. 

One box contains both the power amp and the preamplifier (or amplifier head) and the other contains the speakers (or speaker cabinet). 

The Amplifier Head

The power amp is the electronic component that increases the electrical signal produced by the guitar’s pickups, while the preamplifier takes the guitar sound, shapes it, and delivers it to the power amp in an optimal format.

A preamplifier picks up the low-level frequencies that an amp would otherwise miss, Most of the controls on the amp head are used to control the circuitry within the preamplifier. For example, bass, treble, mid, volume).

The Speaker

Speakers are fitted within enclosures called a cabinet. This changes the amplified signal from the amplifier into a loud noise. It is an electronic transducer converting a signal into sound. 

The size of the speaker is mostly dependent on its primary purpose. There are also open back and closed back speakers:

  • An open-back speaker prevents the speaker from overheating, they also contribute other audio features to the amplifier.
  • The closed-back speaker uses the direction of the sound to generate bass. It means sound loss may occur based on movement.

The Major Types of Guitar Amps

Guitar amps are divided into two major types, depending on how the speaker cabinet and amp head are arranged. These are the stack amp and combo amp:

Stack Amp

This is a class of guitar amps that works by allowing you to attach different types of cabinets to the amplifier to change the final sound. 

The amplifier head and a speaker cabinet are connected by a cable. This way you can separate a large amplifier from a cabinet or cabinets.

Combo Amp

A combo guitar amp format houses both the speaker cabinet and the amplifier head in a single unit making it portable for use. Some even permit a separate speaker cabinet for more volume.

Most guitar amps on the market are combo amps. This type of guitar amp is commonly the most preferred due to its portability and smaller size. It is also perfect for beginners.

How to Use a Guitar Amp

Using your guitar amplifier might seem complicated at first, due to the presence of several switches and buttons. However, we will walk you through easy steps on using your guitar amp seamlessly.

The first step should be getting all you need ready, from your guitar amp to your electric guitar and your guitar lead. The guitar lead is important for connecting your guitar to an amplifier.

For stack guitar amps make sure you have them connected with the appropriate cables. Then follow the following steps:

Checking Your Amplifier

Before putting your amplifier to use, check to make sure that all controls are in place and active. These controls include:

  • Power switch: This is the switch that controls the amplifier. It turns it on and off. Some tube amplifiers also come with a standby button that warms up the valve.
  • Gain control/gain knob: This controls the input level of your guitar signal from the amplifier.
  • Volume: This controls the level of sound released from the amplifier.
  • EQ control: These controls permit you to control the frequency ranges of the guitar sound produced. The options include low, low-mid, high, and mid-range frequencies amongst others.
  • Tuner: These controls allow you to amplify the strength of the signal that enters the amp.
  • FX: These are built-in digital effects with buttons or dials for levels and effects.
  • Input: This is where you plug your guitar into.
  • Mains input: Mostly found behind the amplifier, this houses the amplifier’s power cable.
  • Footswitch: This is for plugging the foot pedal, this is a guitar pedal to change between distorted and clean sounds.
  • Line out: This is to transmit the sound from the amplifier to an external audio device.
  • Reverb: This is a common built-in effect with amplifiers. It is to add an increased level of ambiance. It is found within the amplifier and can either be mechanical or digital.
  • Bright switch: This switch is to enable a brighter tone at a low level by switching a capacitor in and out of the circuit.
  • Bias: This is more of internal control that allows an amplifier technician to control the efficiency of the devices within the amplifier. It is generally non adjustable by an amplifier user.

Using The Amplifier

Once you have confirmed that all buttons and switches on the amplifier are in working condition and you are good to go, follow the following steps for first-time use:

  • Plug your guitar into the amplifier
  • Set your guitar controls to full and settle for a pickup of your choice
  • Set up your amp controls
  • Turn on the amp
  • Test that the sound produced is clean (by using a clean channel if your amp comes with one) by turning the volume up to the maximum comfortable level
  • Test the gain, distortion, overdrive, and crunch sound with the gain knob (if your amp has one)
  • Turn down the volume to the lowest, increase the gain halfway, and keep increasing the volume until you get to a comfortable level (it’s okay to experiment with the gain to know your amp better)
  • Experiment with the rest of the controls to see how well you know your amp, but don’t forget to follow the user’s manual

How to Set Up Your Amp Controls

Follow these processes to set the controls on your amplifier and avoid the loud distorted sound that comes with the startup when you plug your guitar into your amplifier:

  • Turn the volume and gain all the way down
  • Max up your guitar’s tone and volume all the way up
  • Tune your controls till you have a 12 o clock or 50% on the dial. For amplifiers with graphic equalizers, there should be a flat line in the middle
  • Drop your reverb and FX all the way down
  • Turn on your amplifier
  • Use your amplifier’s clean channel to test the sound or max up the main volume control
  • Test the amplifiers gain with the gain channel

Once this process is followed, then you have a neutral sound and your amplifier is ready to be used. You can read the amplifiers manual carefully for more instructions on the uses of the other buttons. 

How to Choose The Best Guitar Amp to Buy

Size and Portability

The size of the amplifier you want is an important choice. This is also dependent on where and how you intend to use the amplifier as there is a wide range based on the guitar’s format.

Combo-based amplifiers are generally portable and easier to carry than stack-based amplifiers that come with a different speaker cabinet and amplifier head.

Speaker Type and Configuration

There are different speaker types for different uses. Choose a speaker that fits your amplifier the most. The guitar’s amplifier generates the sound and is an important step in getting the guitar’s tone. 

Small speakers are mostly within the “4-8” diameter and the diameters within the “12” range are for large speakers.

The speaker design also contributes to its performance. Speakers with a larger cabinet allow for a higher internal volume while small speaker cabinets generate a full-bodied sound.


A common mistake when choosing the wattage is the belief the loudness doubles when you double the wattage. That’s incorrect and the wattage level should be decided based on where you intend to use the amplifier. 

Amplifiers are only as powerful as the power output produced by the speaker. However, the level of sound produced by an amplifier should not be determined by the wattage.

The sound produced is rather dependent on the guitar amp type rather than the wattage as different amplifiers process power differently. A simple guide might be a pre-listening session based on the primary need for the amplifier.


Hopefully, we have successfully explained all you need to know about how to use a guitar amp. The journey of the signal from the guitar’s pick-up to the amplifier is then processed by the amplifier to create a higher signal that is then transmitted into sound by the speaker output.

It’s not as complex as the many buttons would initially make it seem. All you need is to follow this simple guide and try as much as possible to experiment with and familiarize yourself with the buttons. 

If you enjoyed this read, then make sure to check out our list of the best amplifier for your needs.

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