I’m pretty sure that you were told that, an Amp is a must if you want to play an electric guitar. What if I told you that that is a myth and how you can amplify your guitar without an Amp?
Modern electronics and software have made it all possible to play or amplify your electric guitar signals and put it as audible output through various audio interfaces. And that interfaces can be alternatives to amps such as stereo speakers, headphones, computer audio systems, etc.
So, if you can amplify your guitar without using an amp, why buy an amp at a hefty price? Exactly, you don’t need to buy an amp if you are on a budget and looking for a high-quality guitar. But you must know how to make the best use of the “amp-alternatives”, and that’s where this article comes in.
What is an Amp and Why Do You Need It?
Amps are short for amplifiers, that usually amplify the signals that are captured by the electric guitar pickups. Since the electric guitar doesn’t have any sound-hole to provide the natural boost to the string’s resonance.
So, when you play the electric guitar, the low-volume signal is amplified using the external current and put through the speaker. A basic amp gives you the option to control volume, frequency equalizer (low, mid, high). Advance amplifiers have more options such as gain control, effects like reverb, delay, etc.
Usually, an amp is considered a necessity because it has the capability to bring out the best tone of the electric guitar. Also, it is a must to have good quality amplifiers for live performance gigs or Jamming /practicing with the band.
However, modern technology has provided us with numerous alternatives to amplify the electric guitar’s tone and make it as desirable as required. If you only play guitar indoors and practice it by yourself, having an amp is not a must for you.
So, what you need is the facilities to amplify your electric guitar; it could be done using an amp or some alternative systems such as a stereo speaker, computer’s audio system, headphones, etc. The thing is, an amp can be quite expensive, and we, the guitarists, are often on a budget.
And besides, it is possible that the alternate amplification systems that we talked about, might already be there in your home. Even if not, they are not as pricey. So, you can use save some money in that case or use the saved money to buy a better-quality electric guitar.
How to Amplify Guitar Without Using an Amp
You might already have a brief idea about what to use in order to amplify the guitar without using an amp. Now the question is how. We shall look into these systems and also go through what are the additional gears you might need in order to make them work perfectly.
Using the Home Stereo Soundsystem
It is possible that your home already has a home stereo sound system. So, you can just play your guitar by plugging it into the boom box or stereo system. A lot of modern stereo systems come with a 1/4” male jack port.
If the sound system has only a 1/8” auxiliary port, you can easily plug in your guitar using a 1/4” female – 1/8” male adapter. A lot of guitarists, including me have adopted this method as an alternate guitar amplification.
The important thing to consider is that you have to keep your guitar’s volume knob at a lower level. You can increase the volume of the sound system if you want to play it loud. Keeping your guitar’s volume knob at a lower level reduces the risk of frying the internal circuits of the sound system.
Also, if there are guitar pedals or multi-effect processors you want to plugin as well, it is better to connect them through a voltage stabilizer for the same safety reason. Point to note, you can slowly increase the volume knob of the guitar to a certain level, however, I’d suggest you not take the chances.
Connecting Directly to Headphones
This is one of the cheapest options you can use in order to amplify your guitar without using a guitar amp. Who doesn’t have headphones in their house.? If that is a good quality headphone, then, of course, it is a plus.
So, to use this option, you will need another type of adapter that is, a ¼” male to 1/8” female adapter. This is basically the opposite of the adapter that we discussed above in the previous option. And these sorts of adapters are quite available in the nearby electronics stores.
The instructions are almost similar to the ones before: keep the volume knob at a lower level initially, then slowly increase it till it becomes audible to your ears. The tone control knob could be used according to your preferences.
The pros of this method are that it is super cheap and you can play your guitar without bothering anyone else, even during the night. Also, it is portable, unlike other options discussed in this article. However, this same advantage can be a disadvantage sometimes, that is, it is not possible to have a jamming session with bandmates or play it for an audience.
Playing it Through the Computer Speakers
This is probably the best option you can avail yourself of without having to use a guitar amp. Computers, Laptops, Tabs, and cell phones are now available in households more than ever. And every computer, Laptop, and most Tablets and Cell phones have an auxiliary port. So, you can use the same ¼” female to 1/8” male adapter to connect your guitar and play.
There is even a better alternative, to use a ¼” male to USB cable to connect the guitar to the computer’s USB port. This will allow a better sound quality with reduced noise. Also, there would be no delay or interferences. This method is my personal favorite.
Also, if you want to connect the multi-effect processors in the line then you can definitely do it with appropriate cables. Usually, multi-effect processors use a “type-A to USB” cable, which is often provided along with the processors themselves.
If you are using the direct connection of the guitar and the auxiliary cable’s port, then you’d have to take the necessary precautions mentioned before. That is, keep the guitar volume knob at a low level, make it audible throughout the computer’s sound control or speaker’s volume knob.
If using the USB port to connect your guitar, then it is much safer, because the guitar’s signal would be somewhat subverted through USB. There is another option for
Recording Your Guitar Without an Amp
In modern days, most artists record their guitar pieces on their computers. Usually, they use computer software which is called DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) to record, edit and publish their guitar works.
In order to record your electric guitar, you’d have to spend some money for buying an audio interface. Audio interfaces convert the electric guitar’s signal into digital signals that can be later stored or saved. Some of the famous and affordable audio interfaces are Focusrite, Behringer, Decksaver, etc. Consider this as a long-term investment for your musical journey.
For the Digital Audio Workstations, there are plenty. Some of them are free but most of them are paid. Since we are talking about budget-friendliness, we can check out the DAWs. Among them, Audacity is the most popular and easy-to-use DAW.
In MAC or Ipad, there is an integrated DAW which is called the “GarageBand” and it works wonders. So, if you own a MAC or an IPAD, you make good use of it.
Getting an amp is not mandatory as you can see if you are a beginner or an intermediate. So, if there is budget constrain then you can put all your money to buy a quality guitar and then use the amplification methods without using a guitar amp.
Using the audio interface to play the electric guitar through a computer has become really popular nowadays. Most of the guitarist influencers on Instagram and Youtube use this method to play and record their guitar playing. So, maybe this could be a good option for you to start with as well.
How do I Plugin My Guitar into My Phone?
You can use the same 1/4” female – 1/8” male adapter for this purpose. Now, it also depends on the model of your phone. For example, iPhones have a different type of port than USB C or Auxiliary port, which is called the lightning port. In that case, you’d have to get an additional adapter called IRIG, which especially supports iPhone as well as other phones. There are different models of IRIG that offer different benefits, you can choose your pick.
Can I Record My Guitar on My Phone?
Sure, you can. But then again, that also depends on the phone’s models and the compatibility. Usually, iPhones are great for playing or recording electric guitars. For other phones, you’d need to check the compatibility and the appropriate DAW available for recording purposes. If the conditions are satisfied, surely you can play and record your guitar on your phone.
I hope this article has given you the insights to evaluate the situation and then make a decision whether to buy a guitar amp or not. As you can probably see, buying an amp is not mandatory unless there are some special purposes like live performances or Jam practice. So, go ahead, rock your guitar without an amp, and possibly create amazing guitar pieces to record for sharing with the world !!!