Amplification is important for all electric guitar players to get right. Finding the right sound can be like searching for the holy grail. Whether you already use built-in effects or prefer external pedals, amps are becoming so good these days that they might seem to make pedals obsolete. However many friends of mine (myself included) would be hard pressed to give up their trusty pedals and rely solely on what an amp offers.
That said, I love the distortion from a Marshall amp when coupled with a Gibson guitar: it creates a good, solid, universal tone. But Marshalls aren’t cheap. The Marshall MG series seem like good value, though finding one in stock to play in a guitar shop in Raleigh is like trying to find rocking horse poo! Most guitar shops sell various brands, and some specialise in used amps. From experience I can also recommend the Roland cube- they are cheaper than Marshalls.
Whatever amp you are considering, or even if you’re wanting a head and speaker setup, my only advice is that you MUST check out the sound with your guitar in person before buying. It’s also a perfect opportunity to feel the weight and size of your amp (generally the larger the speaker the heavier the amp)- is it portable, will you be able to take it to gigs or open mic nights with ease? Do not just order online, you are chancing disappointment and a lot of wasted money.
By Tim Griffiths
Have you ever looked at an electric guitar and wondered how it produced those mysterious sounds? When people first take up guitar the anatomy of the instrument can be confusing. It is important to understand the parts of a guitar and how they produce the sounds we hear to learn, play or build a guitar.
The strings of a guitar stretch up from their lower fixing on the bridge and bend up over a raised piece called a saddle. From here the strings are suspended along the neck, which is divided into frets designated by glued metal lines perpendicular to the strings. At the top of the neck the strings are wound by pegs on the guitar head. Strings vibrate once they are plucked or strummed. The note that is produced depends on the length, tension, weight, and springiness of the string.
On an acoustic guitar these vibrations cause changes in surrounding air pressure (soundwaves). The front section is called the soundboard and has a distinctive hole in (the soundhole). The shape of the guitar’s body affects its tone (the frequency of the soundwaves). Soundwaves are amplified at the back of the guitar’s body (the soundboard), and emerge from the sound hole and through the air as audible sound.
For electric guitars there is no hole and the body of the guitar is solid. String vibrations are detected by an electromagnetic pickups (bar magnets over a wire coil), sending a signal down a wire that is made audible by an electronic amplifier. (The same principle is applied by electric pickups used to amplify sound from acoustic guitars.)
There are also completely electric midi guitars like the You Rock Guitar. I’ve watched various Youtube videos of these, and I was not impressed. Acoustic and electric guitars are handcrafted wooden instruments. No synthesised alternative has come close. Perhaps I’ll continue this rant in a future post…for now enjoy the sounds made by your acoustic and electric guitars y’all!
By Tim Griffiths
Where to buy useful stuff besides guitars
Most guitar shops stock many of the accessories you will need, but it can be nice to seek out a specialist store. They stock a wider range of products in their niche. They offer an excellent opportunity for you to geek out, find new brands and models, and get an expert opinion.
For electronic equipment including an extensive range of cables, try TigerDirect on Capital Blvd (they also sell online).
Need some beats, crashes, and tinkles to accompany your riffs? 2112 Percussion is a local percussion store.
Another drum shop, The Music Emplorium in Durham, stocks a range of international instruments.
For a unique sound you can order custom compressors from Regular John Recording.
For amplifiers, including repairs ETEK Electronics, Holly Springs.
You might also like this post dedicated to local audiovisual equipment rentals.
By Tim Griffiths