How to dial in a guitar amp

Laney Cub-Super12
(Image credit: Future)

You’ve got the gear you need, now here’s how to dial in a sound. Start with your guitar amp’s volume low, then raise the gain from zero until you like what you hear. 

More gain puts you in rock and metal territory; a low-gain ‘clean’ sound is better for funk, folk and softer music in general. 

Once you like the sound, turn the volume up and add reverb to taste. If you can’t hear anything, check your guitar’s volume is set to maximum.

1. Volume

Keep the volume low when you fire up your amp and while adjusting other controls. Guitar amps can be fiercely loud and the gain knob raises the level more.

2. Reverb effect

Reverb is an ambient echo, a bit like being in a big church hall. Many amps don’t have reverb; others include a raft of special sound effects for you to experiment with.

3. Bass/Middle/Treble

Marshall amp

(Image credit: Future)

Depending on size, your amp may have a single tone knob or bass/middle/treble EQ controls. Learn what they do by turning each from zero to maximum while you play.

4. Gain

This knob is sometimes labelled ‘drive’ (overdrive) or ‘dist’ (distortion), and there might be a ‘channel’ switch to activate it. More gain = more rawk, but also more volume.

6. Input

Plug your instrument cable in here and into your guitar’s output jack.

7. Rear panel

Laney Cub-Super12

(Image credit: Future / Neil Godwin)

Speaker output jacks and mains power will be here. Take extreme care to ensure you’re plugged into the guitar input, not an output

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.