A subject that comes up quite often is the use of amplifiers and amplification.  This is no doubt a very important part of your guitar tone, and one that can be overlooked quite often.  You can have the greatest top tier instrument money can buy, or an amazingly well-thought-out Frankensteined guitar in your possession, but it’s a waste if you’re simply pluging it into a starter-series amplifier, or directly into a computer DI with a ¼ inch to 1/8 inch cable.  Now before you go reaching for that 100 watt Blackstar, there’s a few things you need to consider.

How much power do you really need?

This is a huge factor into what you ultimately choose.  A beginner’s mistake is to reach for that 50 watt or 100 watt brand-name amp, and drive your band mates crazy.  Let’s be honest here.  The use of 100 watt amps started back in the 50s and 60s due to the stone-age era of P.A. systems.  Bands like The Beatles were among the first acts to play massive Baseball Stadium-sized crowds as opposed to large clubs, which was perfectly suited for the VOX AC30s they used, packing 30 watts of british tone.   In order to meet the sound demands of these 50,000+ crowd shows, their amps were modified to push at a peak 100 watt volume.   Nowadays, with the magic of modern P.A. systems, most amplifiers are miced directly, and fed through a separate sound source.  Keeping this in mind, how much power do you really need?  My personal opinion is that 30 watts is about all that you would need, and perfect for home and live use.  50 watts if you’re playing with a louder band.  

Don’t let your pedals be the end-all and be-all to your tone

Pedals are a great way to add certain contours and spices to your tone, but it’s very important to have an already-established killer tone through a great guitar-amp combination.  The best way to find your dream amp is to take your guitar down to the guitar shop, and physically try different amps with your guitar.   Amps I recommend starting with:

  • Blackstar Artisan 30
  • Fender Deluxe Reverb 
  • VOX AC30

Are Amp Simulators Evil?

There’s definitely a horrible stigma attached to amp simulators from its very primitive beginnings in the early 2000s.  However, amp simulators like Eleven Rack have become an industry standard for world-class studios around the world.  If you’re more of a studio-head, by all means enjoy the ease of working with software and plugins such as Amplitube and Eleven Rack, however when it comes to live playing, nothing beats a solid amplifier on stage with you.

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