How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp

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Who else wants to find out how to setup your electric guitar amp?

It’s no secret that learning how to setup your electric guitar amp can be a tricky process.

The different knobs and settings on your amp can be confusing.

A lot of the time the different settings can be counterintuitive.

It can be hard to know where to start.

That’s why today we’re covering the very basics.

We’ll look at getting a clean tone and creating a distorted tone as well as touch on adding effects.

Check it out!

Controls of an elecric guitar amp

Let’s look at the controls you’ll find on an amp.

The most basic controls are usually volume and gain.

If your amp has multiple channels you could have multiple volume and gain knobs.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp
Image by Nick Stafford from Pixabay

Often there are bass, mid and treble kobs which allow you to adjust…the bass, mids, and treble of your tone.

Nowadays a lot of amps will come with onboard effects like reverb or delay.

Some portable practice amps often have an overdrive button that lets you add distortion to your tone.

Lastly, practice amps often have a headphone jack and a line-in jack in addition to the guitar’s input jack.

A headphone jack means you can plug headphones or earbuds into your amp.

This will bypass the amp’s speaker and lets you play without disturbing your neighbors.

With a line-in jack, you’re able to do things like plug in your phone and play mp3s.

This means you can jam along with them since the output of your guitar and phone will both come through the speaker.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp: Connecting Your Electric Guitar to Your Amp

  1. First, plug your guitar cable into the output jack of your guitar.
  2. Next, turn the volume knob on your guitar all the way down.
  3. Next, turn the volume knob on your amp all the way down.
  4. Lastly, plug the other end of your guitar cable into the jack marked “Input” on your amp.

You can distinguish the guitar input jack from the other jacks because it’s probably the largest one on your amp.

Image by Nick Stafford from Pixabay

Why are we doing things this way?

If you turn on your amp and the volume is up, you’re gonna get a lot of loud noises as you plug in your guitar.

None of this is dangerous or anything, it’s just a good precaution to protect your ears.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp: Dialing in Your Tone

So we have successfully connected your guitar to your amp.

If your amp has any kind of special effects, you should disable them before we continue.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp
Image by Nick Stafford from Pixabay

Same thing with EQ settings, or Bass and Treble Settings.

Either disable them or turn them down.

We’re going to focus on dialing in a clean tone so it’s easiest if we don’t have anything interfering with the most basic settings.

If your amp only lets you choose from a variety of voices, choose a clean setting.

Dialing in a Clean Tone

The idea is to only have the most basic settings active so you can experience the most basic “no-frills” tone your amp has.

Here’s how we’re going to get a clean tone:

  1. Turn your gain knob all the way down.
  2. Set the volume knob on your amp about half of the way to maximum.
  3. Set the volume knob on your guitar all the way up.
  4. Play some notes or a chord on your guitar and let them ring out.
  5. Start to raise the gain knob until you have a nice clean tone.

Try playing your guitar for a bit without making any other changes.

This will give you a sense of what these settings sound like.

If you have EQ settings, (like Bass or Treble knobs) you can try adjusting them to see how they change your tone.

How does your tone sound with the bass all the way up?

How does your tone change with the treble all the way up?

This will help later on when you’re working to dial in a specific sound.

Overdriven Tones

Okay, so if you’re tired of playing a clean tone, you can now try turning up the gain knob on your amp.

As your gain increases, you’ll notice that the distortion increases.

You might need to turn the volume down on your amp, and/or on your guitar as you turn up the gain.

As you turn the gain up, you’ll get close to a death metal distorted tone.

Dialing down the gain gives you a softer distorted tone.

You can try changing the EQ settings and see how that changes your tone.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp: Experimenting With Effects

If your amp includes some effects you can experiment with them in the same way as you did with distorting your tone.

As an example, let’s say your amp has a reverb setting.

  1. Start with a clean tone that you enjoy.
  2. Turn the reverb setting all the way down
  3. Enable reverb and slowly start adding it to the mix
  4. Experiment and see how it changes your tone.

We start with a clean tone since it’s easiest to hear the differences, but you can also do this with overdriven tones.

How to Setup Your Electric Guitar Amp: Finding Your Optimal Sounds

Experimenting with the settings on your amp is a fun way to become familiar with it.

It’s a good idea to write down the settings for tones you especially enjoy.

As time goes on, you’ll probably find you enjoy playing certain tones more than others.

It can be frustrating to be searching for a certain “sound” and not be able to reproduce it with your amp.

Sometimes it’s simply due to not having the right effects like compression.

If you spend some time getting familiar with the settings on your amp and learn how changing your settings affects your tone, you’ll more easily be able to “dial-in” your preferred tone.

Eventually, you might get to the point where you can hear the differences in other guitar player’s tones.


  • What are the controls on a guitar amp?
    • The most basic controls on a guitar amp are the volume and gain controls. Often there will also be EQ controls marked bass or treble which allow you to fine tune your tone.
  • How do you set up an electric guitar for the first time?
    • Please see this post on how to setup an electric guitar for beginners.
  • How do you hook up an electric guitar amp?
    • Plug the amp in, plug the guitar cable into your guitar, plug the cable into your amp, turn your amp on.
  • Does it matter what amp I get for my guitar?
    • As long as it’s a decent quality electric guitar amp you should be fine.