Yes, you can play an electric or bass guitar without an amplifier. But, the question is, do you really want to? Whether you prefer an acoustic or an electric guitar, an amp becomes an essential part of your setup for projecting your tone, no matter if you practice at home and want to hear yourself better or you regularly perform live.
Added to this, guitar amplifiers become part of your instrument's sound. As such, the amp's quality is nearly as important as your instrument. Otherwise, as a student or professional, you're selling yourself short.
About Guitar Amplifiers
By itself, a guitar creates a warm, pleasant tone. When playing with other instruments, however, that sound gets lost. As big band music picked up in the first few decades of the 20th century, guitar players sought to not just project their sound but to also sustain pitches like a brass or wind instrument. In turn, magnetic pickups became a part of acoustic guitars.
Pickups - still in use today for jazz playing - became the precursor to the guitar amplifier's functionality. Pickups transform the metal string's magnetic energy into an electrical current or voltage. Today, a guitar amplifier better facilitates that path while creating a louder, sustained tone.
How Does a Guitar Amplifier Work?
Not to get too technical, but a guitar amp consists of three basic components, the preamp, the power amp, and the speaker. All of these are housed in the speaker cabinet.
Within this setup:
- The preamp includes the circuitry, like a vacuum tube and transistor, and all controls for the amplifier, including the bass, treble, and volume. From the guitar's pickup, the preamp prevents the signal from degrading and, instead, amplifies it through two gain stages to eventually generate a tone.
- The power amp takes the signal from the preamp and then amplifies it even further, creating enough voltage to power the speaker. The waveform, between these two functions, remains unchanged and, in fact, becomes stronger and more usable. Like the preamp, the power amp uses vacuum tubes or transistors.
- The speaker is the final step in this path, functioning as an electronic transducer to transform the electrical signal into audible sound.
For guitars, a combo amplifier includes all three components in a single cabinet. Because of the convenience and portability for gigs, they remain the standard.
Within this arrangement, small guitar amplifiers for practicing will have a speaker often no more than eight inches in diameter. Professional amplifiers, designed for playing live, will include a 12-inch diameter or larger speaker. A larger cabinet, too, provides the room for lower-range frequencies; in turn, a bass guitar amp will be larger than one for a standard electric guitar.
Complement Your Guitar with an Amp from Alamo Music Center
As you shop for an electric or acoustic guitar, make sure your sound is fully realized with a high-quality amp. Browse electric, acoustic and bass guitar amps from Fender, Yamaha, Boss and more top-tier brands. We offer multiple financing and layaway options, including 12- to 48-month, no-interest options at times, plus an extended warranty.