Every musician’s life will come a time when they have to tune or din a guitar amp. Knowing how to do this properly will save you the frustration and hassle when it needs to be done quickly and adequately. Tuning a guitar amp is pretty straightforward. All you need is a good ear for music, a little bit of patience, and of course, an amp that needs tuning.
Why Use an Amp?
A guitar amp has many uses and can significantly enhance and intensify the sound produced by the pick-ups on your electric or acoustic-electric guitar. It acts as a loudspeaker and takes your performance from “yawn” to “wow” in seconds.
Why Do Amps Need to Be Dialed In?
Just as you would adjust the seating and steering options in a car for your comfort, tuning a guitar amp to suit a specific genre or style of music is a must. Tuning your amp has a few benefits:
- Correct tuning can improve the overall quality of the sound and tone of your guitar
- Tuning a guitar to match a specific genre or style can enhance the sound you wish to create
- Guitar amps act as loudspeakers and can amplify the sound of your electric guitar significantly
What are the Controls of a Guitar Amp?
The controls, or turning knobs, are located on the front of the amp. They all have a specific purpose and can be tuned to your liking. The knobs are:
The Gain knob on an amp controls the amount of distortion you would like when playing your guitar. While distortion might sound great on heavier songs in the metal or rock genres of music, you would need less distortion for a pop or punk song. The higher the number on the selected knob, the more distortion there will be, and vice versa.
Bass is the lowest frequency or tone that an instrument can play. It refers to the low notes in a song. The bass knob can be adjusted to include or exclude these notes and sounds and can significantly change the way a song sounds.
The middle is another knob that focuses on the tones of the amp. Mids are a range of tones that can add quality and variety to your music and be adjusted using the middle knob.
If you love harmonics in your music, the treble knob is your friend. Adjust the treble knob to increase or decrease the harmonics of your song, and change the sound to something completely different and unique.
This handy knob acts as a super treble tuning mechanism. Great for use in country songs, one can adjust the presence knob to add a certain twang to your music.
The Master Volume
Playing an electric guitar on an amp is pointless if you are not going to turn the volume up high. The master volume knob is responsible for controlling the overall volume of your amp and can be adjusted to suit any playing environment. Choose a lower volume for home practice, and crank it up high in the studio or on stage to experience all that an electric guitar offers.
How to Dial-In your Amp: A Step-By-Step Guide to the Best Sound
The time has come to dial-in your amp. Using our handy step-by-step guide, you too can dial-in or tune your amp like a pro.
- Put all the knobs at “12 o’clock.” This gives you an excellent even base to start with and allows you to tune the knobs one by one.
- Start with the first knob, the gain. Turn the knob one click at a time, and take the time to listen to the sound created by that setting. Continue with one knob at a time until you are satisfied with the sound and tone of your amp.
- Remember to go back and re-test all knobs and their tunings. Some knobs should be used more modestly than others.
- Consider the style or genre of music you will be playing. You might need to re-tune your amp when you change to a different genre. Also, take into account your location. Home practice sessions do not require the same volume or bass that you need in the studio or on stage. Tune your amp according to where you will be using it.
- Above all, trust yourself. As a musician and music creator, you know exactly what sound you want to achieve. So tune your amp to help you achieve that sound, and trust that you are selecting the correct tuning for each knob.
How to Dial-In Your Amp for the Stage
If you are playing on a stage for the first time, you need to ensure that your amp is correctly dialed in to suit stage performances. While home practice sessions do not require much volume, stage performances most definitely do. So turn up that volume and rock out! Other stage-ready dial-in tips are:
- Use the middle knob to bring bright, varied tones to your music.
- Less gain equals less distortion. Distortion does not fare well on the stage and needs to be turned down to create a pleasant sound.
- Change the angle of your amp. To play the best performance possible, you need to be able to hear yourself on the amp above the other instruments and musicians. Angle the amp towards you and slightly up. This allows you to hear your guitar and adjust the tone when performing.
A guitar amp can drastically alter the sound of your guitar performance. Tuning an amp is easy if you follow our step-by-step guide and take note of the function of each of the knobs on the amp. Remember, only you know what sound you would like to create, so trust your ear when tuning or dialing your amp for your practice session, in the recording studio, or even on the stage.