THE GUITAR AMPLIFIER – INTRODUCTION
I've been asked countless times by beginner-intermediate guitarists about how to use the guitar amplifier and its numerous knobs, so I've decided to write this article and dedicate it to them and to anyone who's still somewhat not familiar with his amplifier, or is feeling a little bit overwhelmed by it, and want to learn more about it.
But FIRST – If you've missed around with the knobs on your amplifier and it started to sound awkward, and you don't know how to fix it or get it back to sound normal, then worry no more. First, locate the knobs under the labels: Low, Mid, and High. The thumb of rule for these knobs is the following: The “normal” state is exactly in the middle. Which means if your knobs have an arrow indicator, it should be pointing UP. Check to see if any of them is pointing too far to the left or to the right, and adjust them accordingly. We will elaborate more on these knobs below.
The guitar amplifier simply is a device, that its main purpose is to electronically “amplify” the signal coming from your “electric guitar”. Electric guitars, unlike classical and acoustic guitars, naturally have a very low voice because of how it's built and its thin steel strings, which makes a guitar amplifier mandatory in this situation. We can still use amplifiers with the classic and acoustic guitars to further amplify their voice, but that is only needed for live performances, or for playing in a big room or auditorium, and a simple microphone may be used instead as an alternative if an amplifier is not available.
You CAN'T use a microphone for electric guitars, though, you must use an amplifier.
In addition to the main function of the guitar amplifier, which is to amplify the volume of your guitar, it normally comes with additional functions and features. In this article, I'm going to focus on the most common and basic ones so you can immediately start using your guitar amplifier like a pro.
USING MY OWN AMPLIFIER AS AN EXAMPLE, THE PEAVEY VYPYR 30W
Clearly, looking at the interface, some might say this is not a beginner-friendly amplifier. At some degree, I agree with them, however, my point of view is this: you can learn to use only the basic knobs as a beginner, and when you become an advanced player you can expand your knowledge on the amp and start learning and experimenting with the other knobs as you like. This amplifier is qualified to accompany you from beginner to expert level easily, I've been using it for 10 years now and I'm very satisfied so far. The good news is, it's really inexpensive and is available on amazon!
EXPLAINING THE KNOBS (ALSO KNOWN AS ENCODERS) AND FEATURES
Anyways, let's get started exploring the amplifier!
- First off, download the instructions manual here, they explain everything regarding the amp and its features, and what each knob does: Peavey Vypyr Amp 30
- Input: insert you guitar cable here
- Stompbox Encoder: this one lets you select your pre-amplifier effects. Unlike other basic amplifiers, this one has multiple pre-selected, built-in guitar effects to choose from. It's similar to having different effects pedals connected to a basic amplifier.Pre-amplifier effects: this means, the effects applied to your tone before getting amplified. So basically, the effects are added to the sound right after the input stage.
Popular effects are: Wah-me, Chorus.
- Amp Encoder: here you can select the model of the amplifier. Just play around with this knob to explore the different sounds of each model, and pick one that you like.
- Effects Encoder: add rack effects to your guitar. These effects include (but not limited to): Tremolo, Phaser, Flanger and Chorus.
Click here for the wiki on guitar effects units, if this topic intrigues you.
- Pre-gain Encoder: this knob controls the gain level of your distortion. Basically, turning this knob up increases your distortion and vice versa.
- Low, Mid, and High Encoders:
- Low: affects the low range frequency level
- Mid: affects the medium range frequency level
- High: affects the high range frequency level
- Explanation: Each sound you create with your guitar, consists of a wide variety of frequencies – dare I say, unlimited? – with different amplitude levels, and these knobs control how high or how low you want to have for each range of frequencies.
Again, play around with these knobs and discover the different sounds yourself.
- Post-gain Encoder: controls the volume of a specific preset on your amplifier. Basically, this one increases or decreases the volume of your sound, after it got processed inside the amplifier.
- Master Encoder: this controls the overall output volume of your amplifier. Set this to 0 before you turn on the amp so you don't get surprised by the incredibly high volume if you can't tell the exact volume level from the encoder. Some amps have very high output volume capabilities and you don't want to hurt your ears or get surprised.
Some amplifiers might have these encoders instead:
- High and Low input jacks: some amps have these two inputs, the High, being the high signal input, and Low, the low signal input. See them as two ranges of volume, high and low.
- Overdrive or Boost Encoder: this is similar to the Pre-gain we explained above. It controls the amount of distortion you want to add to your tone. In simple words, this is your distortion level knob.
- Level Encoder (for the Overdrive): Increases the volume of your distortion.
- Reverb Encoder: allows you to add an “echo” effect to your guitar.
- More to come … if you need an explanation on any other encoders and features, request so in the comments section below.
So with this article, you've discovered a cool, advanced amplifier that you can buy either as a beginner, or as a more advanced player, and can also be used for live performances if you like. It is a great overall amplifier with many features and encoders, the Peavey Vypyr 30W (you can buy the 100W if you want more power out of it). I've personally been using it for many years now, and I can safely say that I'm fully satisfied with it. You've also learned about the different encoders used in this amplifier, and the more basic ones.
No matter what amplifier you're going to buy, you can: 1) get the manual guide, it includes all the information that you need about your amp and its encoders and features, and 2) get back to this article to understand what each encoder does, or to request more information on some other encoders and functions that I haven't talked about in this article, in the comments section below, and I will be more than happy to explain it to you.