Updated: Nov 18, 2020
When you first get into playing the electric guitar, the number of components can be overwhelming. You have a guitar with multiple knobs and switches in addition to an amplifier also with multiple knobs and switches, and most likely you have no idea what any of them do.
In general amplifiers vary more than guitars in terms of parameters and options, the average guitar will have one or more pickups, a pickup selector, tone and volume controls, whereas components of amplifiers greatly vary depending on brand, model, size and price. As this article is primarily aimed at beginners I’m going to focus on simpler and cheaper amps that do not have many unique or unusual components.
The average electric guitar amplifier typically has a master volume knob, bass, middle and treble knobs, some type of overdrive/distortion/gain switch, and an overdrive/gain/distortion level knob. Starting with the most obvious knob; the master volume, this knob allows you to set the overall volume of the amp.
The bass, middle and treble knobs allow you to shape the tone of the amp.
The bass controls the low frequencies in the sound, too much and the guitar will sound boomy, too little and the guitar will sound thin.
The middle controls the mid frequencies, too much will sound muddy/honky and too little will sound hollow and undefined.
The treble controls the high frequencies, too much will sound harsh and too little will sound dull.
With this in mind, the best place to start with these controls is set at 5 out of 10. This should give an even tone to start with, then you can move each knob up or down to get the desired sound depending on the amplifier style, playing style and genre that you are playing.
Most amplifiers have a switch to change the sound from a clean one to a distorted one. They also usually have a separate knob to control the level of distortion, too little distortion can sound weak and too much can sound messy. Start with the level in the middle and bring it up or down depending on how much distortion is required.
I truly hope this helps you out for your next Guitar lessons.