Looking for primer/tutorial on the basics of using an amp

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by alanwaston, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. alanwaston

    alanwaston New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2017
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Everyone,

    I'm a beginner, been practicing on my own for 7-8 months and just started taking lessons. I only have 1 Acoustic guitar, but when I've been going to lessons my teacher has been using an electric guitar, and one of the things he's been doing is repeating sections with a looper pedal. I am fairly intrigued by this and was thinking of trying to get setup at home so I could use this kind of thing for a learning tool. I have a Tascam recorder, an iPad, etc.. but all of this stuff seems really clumsy compared to a looper pedal + amp. Lots of fiddling, lots of time with my hands off the guitar, not loud enough to hear/terrible quality, etc.. (The tascam records nicely but doesn't have much of a speaker at all, the iPad has louder speakers but records pretty poorly.)

    I have an Alvarez with an LR Baggs Element VTC that came from the factory.

    Last weekend I went and looked at a used Amp that I found on Craigslist nearby, very inexpensive. However I was worried it wasn't working correctly and passed on it. It wasn't working without it's overdrive switch turned on and the gain turned up which didn't seem normal from what I had seen looking at the instructions and reviews online. Lots of hissing and popping, etc.. too. (It was a fender Frontman 10g.) Some feedback as well.

    I then went over to a guitar center and asked for help. They let me try a Fender Mustang I, which seems to be another cheap amp that people say can be OK for an acoustic electric with lower expectations. They didn't really have anything tailored for an acoustic that was in a reasonable price range or power range for me to use for practicing at home. (Everything in the acoustic range was $300+ and at least 60w.)

    Anyway we did get my guitar working with the Fender Mustang but there was a ton of feedback. They tried to say my guitar was the problem and to make an appointment to have it serviced. I ended up not doing that because my guitar is working great acoustically and I didn't want to leave it there and not be able to play.

    When I got home and did some google searches it seems the person who helped me didn't know what they were doing with Acoustic guitars.. they had me turn the gain on preamp on my guitar all the way up, and they had me sitting with the sound hole facing the amp. From what I read that alone can be enough to cause an acoustic guitar with pickups to feed back. It was also Saturday and there were about 20 people going crazy with electric guitars in the room at that point.

    Is there any good documentation for beginners on how to get started? I am going to ask my teacher to look over my guitar with me next time I see him and see if I can get past the feedback issue there but I'm tempted to just order a practice amp online. I kind of get the impression if I was given time to read the instructions for the amp at GC and orient the guitar correctly, etc.. I would have gotten it working and there is nothing wrong with my guitar.

    I am looking for something that is:
    - Not that loud (home use)
    - Can possibly be used with an electric guitar later too
    - Pretty reasonably priced.
    - Headphone and aux jack, I like to plug a phone/ipad in as I'm starting to try and play along with recordings, and I mostly practice at night so the headphones may be important at times.

    Stuff I've been intrigued by would include things like the Fender Acoustasonic 15, Fender Mustang I V2, The Yamaha THR models (a little pricey), etc..

    It is not real helpful that there doesn't seem to be any user manual at all from LR Baggs on how to use the knobs on the VTC on my guitar, the two knobs are not even labeled anywhere in the instructions. (Instructions are just for installation anyway)
     
    #1 alanwaston, Jan 18, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  2. goat-n-gitter

    goat-n-gitter Dismembered

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2014
    Messages:
    716
    Likes Received:
    374
    I just picked up a Yamaha THR5 - you'd probably be better served by the THR10, as it has an preset for acoustic/electric. They are pricey compared to some of the others, but they will double as a USB computer recording interface, they are stereo and actually make for a pretty good boom box to play music from your phone/ipad, and the sounds are pretty decent and have dynamic response similar to a real amp. They are also small, light, battery powered and portable enough to take anywhere, and they sound good at volumes that won't shake the house. They won't, however play loud enough to keep up with a drummer unless you run them through a PA system.
     
  3. AP515

    AP515 Mostly Normal

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    2,372
    Likes Received:
    1,097
    No suggestions for an amp, but just the observation that you are going to be fine. You are thinking things through and making really good decisions. If you practice like you look for amps, you'll be playing well in no time.
     
    BMiller likes this.
  4. toothace

    toothace At least I'm good at dentistry

    Joined:
    May 30, 2013
    Messages:
    3,942
    Likes Received:
    1,911
    ^This!
     
  5. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2015
    Messages:
    9,976
    Likes Received:
    8,660
    This x2
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    You learned how to play the guitar. Great!

    Now, when you learned how to drive, and got your driver's license, did you say, "Maybe I'll get myself a nice little pedal car or golf cart to ride around in until I get really good at this driving thing?" Hell no!

    You said, "I'm going to go out and buy myself the baddest-ass car I can get my hands on, and not only that, I'm going to burn rubber at every stoplight." Right?

    So when it comes to a guitar amp, don't screw around with little toy practice amps, and other doohickeys of non-doom. Man up and get yourself a real amp!

    It doesn't matter that you're just a beginner any more than it mattered that you were a new driver - you still got to drive a real car.

    Now get out there and buy yourself a stack of 4x12 cabinets and a 100 watt tube amp, and go knock over some buildings with it! And quit pussyfooting around with "oh, I'm new, I need someone to tell me how to do this..."

    Because you don't. You know how to do this. You take a wad of as much cash and plastic as you've got, and you buy the biggest, baddest amp on the market. And unlike with a car, you make a mistake with a guitar, and no one gets killed.

    Now go get 'em, Tiger! ;)
     
    #6 LSchefman, Jan 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2017
    kes7u and Ovibos like this.
  7. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    1,115
    Likes Received:
    1,008
    The really cool thing about acoustic guitar is that it is designed to drive a HiFi amp. I have gotten fantastic results using an inexpensive powered speaker made for near-field monitoring, and also through powered PA speakers. These will let you put a looper pedal (and reverb, delay, or whatever else) in series as well. They often have rudimentary EQ, but you can also add an EQ in line.

    Another advantage is that you can use them as monitors for your recording equipment (if you get a pair).

    I have been very disappointed with any of the amps I have tried that are designed for acoustic guitar.

    Try one of these:

    https://www.google.com/shopping/pro...Q0Z3YDw&lsft=gclid:COzi-Z230dECFQuifgodZK0M2w

    or this

    https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/VS1220F

    You can likely get either one used for very cheap.
     
  8. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    Do remember that the solid body electric guitar was invented precisely because a hollow body guitar with a pickup is prone to feedback.

    Also, the reason amps made for acoustic guitars have higher wattage is very simple: to have enough headroom for the amp to produce sound cleanly without distortion. It's pretty much the opposite of what folks want with an electric guitar amp. It doesn't have to be played loudly to have good tone; in fact, in the case of an amp made for acoustic guitar, it's better to play it moderately so it has good headroom left over.

    Just because an acoustic or electric guitar amp can get loud doesn't mean you have to crank it up, despite my humorous comments above.

    On the other hand...

     
  9. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk alberngruppenf├╝hrer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2014
    Messages:
    4,306
    Likes Received:
    1,844
    Alright, well what about the very basics? (I've been playing acoustic lately, so I don't even remember.) Which button do you fiip first -- power or standby?
     
  10. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    The point of a standby switch Is to allow the tube heaters to warm up the tubes (on a transistor amp, of course, there aren't standby switches because there aren't tubes). Standby in this way gradually heats the tubes, bringing them to operating temperature before playing, which lengthens tube life. Tubes (especially NOS) are expensive!

    Turning amp on: Power first, tubes warm up, go from standby to on.

    Turning amp off: Standby first, then power off.

    Power comes first -- UNLESS you've accidentally forgotten to put the amp in standby when you turned off the amp. The amp should always power up in standby mode.

    You want the switch to already be in standby when the amp is off. Then, when you turn the amp's power switch on, it's in standby mode. After a minute or two, the tubes have warmed up, and you flip the standby switch from "standby" to "on."

    When you power down, put the amp in standby and next switch the amp off with the power switch. That way, it's in the correct mode when you are ready to use the amp again.

    Some players power off switching both at the same time. I prefer powering down with standby mode first.

    Some lower powered tube amps (mostly low power EL84) don't have standby switches, because they aren't considered necessary by the builder.

    During set breaks, keep the amp power on, but switch the amp to standby so you're ready to go when you re-take the stage. This is also a good practice between studio takes, because the inrush of electrical power stresses tubes and electronic components and sometimes causes failures. So if you want the least risk of blowing a tube between sets or takes, leave the amps on and in standby.

    I know lots of studios whose techs insist on leaving the gear powered up 24/7, even when not in use, but I don't go that far.
     
    #10 LSchefman, Jan 22, 2017
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2017
    Dusty Chalk likes this.
  11. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    1,115
    Likes Received:
    1,008
    +1

    To add a bit more color to Les's info, leave the amp powered on with standby off for 60 seconds before flipping the standby to on. This will significantly increase tube life.

    The high field (high plate voltage) rips electrons off the surface of the plate and shoots them at the cathode. When hot, this does less damage to the plate surface than when cold.
     
    Dusty Chalk likes this.
  12. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk alberngruppenf├╝hrer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2014
    Messages:
    4,306
    Likes Received:
    1,844
    Thanks! I'm going to read that a couple times, hopefully the explanation will help it sink in and make it easier to remember.
     
  13. Huggy B

    Huggy B New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2015
    Messages:
    1,528
    Likes Received:
    988
    OP, I think you should step back and ponder where you are going with this whole thing. You just started playing, you're putting a ton of thought into amplifying an acoustic and haven't put a lot of consideration to going electric, when the fact of it is amping acoustics have always been a dicey proposal. If you play only folk & country maybe you can get away with only being an acoustic player but if you want to cover more ground in the near future I suggest you put some thought to looking at electric guitars...............the reason they made amps in the first place.


    .........I MEAN IT'S THE FUTURE MAN!!!!


    [​IMG]
     
    Dusty Chalk likes this.
  14. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    Dude, the FUTURE is the electric accordion!
     
  15. Huggy B

    Huggy B New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2015
    Messages:
    1,528
    Likes Received:
    988
    [​IMG]
    Now don't get me started Les..............................the electric accordion IS CALLED A KEYTAR!!!
     
    DreamTheaterRules likes this.
  16. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    Huggy, as awesome in the future as the keytar may be -- and yes, it sure is trippy-- it has the inexplicable drawback of taking an instrument whose main advantage is that it can be played with two hands, and turns it into a semi-useless one handed, no-talent device. The talented keyboard player works for a long time to develop coordination between two hands on the keys.

    But the accordion - now, there's an instrument! With keys or buttons for right hand, and buttons for left hand, it's a real player's instrument, and instead of pitch and mod wheels, the modulation comes from its bellows blowing on its internal reeds. Genius! And it takes years to master. Moreover, to keep the plebeians away, it's expensive. A good one costs Private Stock money.

    So I see a better future for the accordion, and I intend to put all of my retirement money into accordion investments.

    Imagine a gleaming wall with beautiful accordions hanging from their straps on special display hooks! Man, that's something special!
     
  17. Dusty Chalk

    Dusty Chalk alberngruppenf├╝hrer

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2014
    Messages:
    4,306
    Likes Received:
    1,844
    I know you know this, so what you wrote was semi-sardonic, but I will respond in kind.

    Modern synthesizer players do use two hands, but they use the right hand for playing, and the left hand to flip, flit, push, pull, prod, poke, press, turn, and otherwise exert pressure on various controllers, and the keytar handles that quite well. In fact, it gets the housewife out from behind her ironing board, so it should have been a boon to keyboardists everywhere. Unfortunately, only Jan Hammer really got any notoriety with it, and he spent most of his time emulating guitar.
    Unrelated: early keytar prototype early in this video:
     
  18. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2016
    Messages:
    1,115
    Likes Received:
    1,008
    I believe that Jan Hammer was largely responsible for killing the popularity of the Keytar.
     
  19. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    Fixed it for ya.
     
    Dusty Chalk likes this.
  20. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    18,860
    Likes Received:
    6,698
    Yeah, Dusty, being a modern synthesizer player since the 80s, I'm very cognizant of the techniques involved, and use them daily. My post was 100% an attempt at humor.

    Though I will also mention that I often make use of expression pedals with my synths, so that I can play with both hands when desired, and assign both the expression pedals and aftertouch to the parameters I'd otherwise control with mod and pitch wheels or sliders.

    You can hear how I use modulation in my electronic media work.
     
    Dusty Chalk likes this.

Share This Page