Can You Play An Electric Guitar Without An Amp?

They make electric guitars to be played with an amp. However, does that mean there is no hope of it being played without one? Amplifiers pave the way toward a great-sounding electric guitar. So, can you play an electric guitar without an amp?

An amp is not required when playing the electric guitar. Amps are optional for personal use. However, during live performances or recordings, an amp is necessary. If an amp isn’t available, electric guitar sounds can be produced through alternative equipment, such as a software-based amplifier.

Given amps are so expensive. There are some creative ways around this issue. Below, we will give you more information on what you need to know about electric guitars, amps, and apps that try to replace them. 

When is an Amp Not Required To Play The Guitar?

An amp isn’t required for personal use. An amp is only needed to make the music you are playing louder. You can hear the music you are playing when you play an electric guitar without an amp. It is much quieter, but the metal strings will make enough noise to help you find the right chord.

The one problem: you won’t get that sweet electric sound. You won’t get some of the deep music you can expect from acoustic guitars. Instead, it will be pretty weak and not impressive.

When is an Amp Required To Play The Guitar?

Amps are required during any situation that requires noise or specific sounds. Typically, this is in two situations: live music and recording studios.

A Live Performance Without an Amp

Imagine trying to play sick riffs on your electric guitar without an amp. Short answer: it isn’t happening. In this situation, it won’t take long before you get booed off the stage.

You can even get an amplifier for some acoustic guitars. Output jacks plugged into acoustic systems or microphones close enough can catch them. But, electric guitar players can’t position a mic close enough, because the solid body of electric guitars won’t cause the strings to ring loud enough to be picked up by a microphone.

Electric guitars are also used in bands with drums, a bass guitar, and a keyboard. If these instruments have amplifiers, you need an amplifier as well. Anything else will end up laughed off the stage.

Amps in Recording Studios

When recording music, amps give you a perspective on what your guitar sounds like through an amplifier. Without the amp, you might not find an audio imperfection.

While in recording studios, an amp is necessary because it allows the music to be heard and easily modified during the editing process. Amps allow you, the studio manager, and the recording equipment to hear the full sound that the electric guitar can produce.

It will help ease the editing process and minimize the need for sound editing to improve your performance. It will also make giving audiences what they want during live and recorded performances easier.

The “amps” in recording studios are likelier to be studio monitors. These are specialized music-listening devices that don’t add any optional effects.

You can also expect a guitar with headphones, as the close-and-personal relationship of headphones lets you hear audio details. Guitar headphones need to run through some sort of audio system in most cases. We will revisit this later.

Why Should I Not Play With An Amp?

  • Amplifiers are loud. Although you can adjust the volume, that sound, and vibrations can still radiate and disturb those around you (family, neighbors, etc.).
  • You don’t have the money. Amps are expensive and can range from $100 to $300 for one of good quality.
  • Your practice space isn’t ideal. Electric guitar requires practice, and you can play that instrument in the early morning and late at night. Because of this, it is not the best decision to have that sound blaring out.
  • They are big. Many amps are too big to fit in a space. Of course, you can check out some of the best mini guitar amps to solve this problem. 

Three Ways To Play an Electric Guitar as an Amp

1. Use a Regular Speaker System (or PA System)

Amplifiers amplify sound, much like speakers. This means you can use any normal amplification system to do it. But, if you want that sound system to make cool sounds, you’ll need a direct input box or preamp.

This is a great option for those who want to save money on purchasing an amp when they already have a suitable sound system. The only downside to this is that any old sound system won’t have the features of a true amp.

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2. Use a Software Amp for your Mobile Device

Another way to play your electric guitar without an amp is to use an amp simulator. An amp simulator is a computer-based program that simulates an amp. It can change the sound of your guitar, but you still need a way to connect it.

To connect it to your mobile device, you need an adaptor that connects your headphone jack to your phone to your guitar. You can also get a Bluetooth adapter that connects your electric guitar to your phone.

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3. Use a Computer Audio interface

An audio interface is the third way to transform almost anything into an amp. An interface converts your audio to digital data. You can edit your audio by using a digital audio workstation (DAW).

Interfaces have the added advantage of allowing you to edit aspects of your sound. Some have bass and treble settings, while others have input and output settings to control distortion and sound. But since they are used to produce music, they can be just as expensive as amplifiers.

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Three Ways To Keep Your Amp Quiet

Quietening Your Amplifier/Respecting Others
  1. Use headphones: Many amps come with headphone slots, and some have Bluetooth capabilities. Check your amp to see your options, and go out to get yourself some headphones.
  2. Control the volume: Reduce it to see if it meets your neighbor’s needs. It might not work, but it’s worth a try!
  3. Soundproof your room using acoustic foam: Soundproofing foam is expensive but great if you want to experience your sound. It might not limit the noise completely, but it will help.

You can also check with your neighbors to ask if there’s a time to play that won’t disturb them. Some people will be inflexible when you ask this.

That would be best if you can practice elsewhere (like a sound studio). But, most people don’t have access to a studio.

Here’s some more tips:

What Volume Levels Can an Amp Do?

The volume levels of an electric guitar amp will depend on the quality of the amp, such as brand, model, wattage, and type (solid state and valve or low- and high-powered). The noise level will also change depending on the crowd and room size if you are performing live.

Solid-state amps are the most common type of amp, followed by valve amps. Low- and high-powered amps are used equally.

Here are some amp wattage recommendations for different scenarios.

  • For practice only: 10W (valve) or 20W (solid state)
  • Live performances without a drummer with less than 100 people: 20W (valve) or 40W (solid-state)
  • Smaller performances with a drummer: 100W (valve)
  • Performances for 100-1000 people: 200W (solid-state)
  • Any performances for over 1,000 people: 100W (valve) or 200W (solid-state) with a microphone
  • Recording purposes: 10-20W (valve) or 20-40W (solid-state).

You should purchase an amp that fits your needs and what you will use it for most consistently.

Final Thoughts

There are a variety of reasons a person would want to play their electric guitar without an amp. It could be due to expense, a better way to practice, or an amp’s noise. 

Electric guitars are great to play and much loved, but they are loud, and with this loudness comes complaints. It is important to prepare before buying the guitar. Consider practice times, purchase headphones, even go as far as soundproofing a room.

You can play electric guitars with and without an amp and although the sound may differ, it is important to play so you will enjoy.

Eli Smith

I'm the managing editor for this website. I like being a dad, writing, and listening to angry music. Thanks for visiting.

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