Practice with amplifier or without
By Michael Korte
Often times, I hear guitar players that claim, they can only practice with an amplifier, because they hear themselves better, or they think it is boring to practice without any.
Other players though, cannot play with amplification at all, because they are living in a house, where they would disturb their neighbours. For those players: there are little headphone amps, that do not cost a lot and they are a pretty good investment, because they also sound quite good!
There is are several advantages to practicing with and without amplifier and here I will give you some insight about what to do in which situation.
Generally, whenever you practice something that requires more intellect, than technique, for example learning a new chord or a new scale or a new piece of music, you do not need any amplification of course.
The great thing about this is, that you can almost do it anywhere, where you can take your guitar with you.
Speaking more specifically though, where I recommend practicing without amplifier would be, if you are practicing techniques, where dynamics are of a lot of importance, for example hammer ons and pull offs, or if you want to hear what note you are stressing more, I would avoid playing that with an amplifier, that has a lot of distortion, because of the compression, that evens out the loud and the low noises, so that they sound more equally as loud.
A lot of dynamic playing gets lost, when you solely play with amplifier.
Why do you need dynamics then, when the amplifier has a compressor anyway?
Good question. Quick answer would be: what if you play with a clean sound?
But also training your scales with stressing certain notes, can help you synchronising your hands more and if you cannot hear what you are emphasising, your brain will not make as strong of a connection, between what you play and what you hear. And there is always SOME level of dynamic differences.
If you are preparing for a live situation you should practice with an amplifier of course, since you need to simulate a live situation with a live sound. If you want to make that even harder, try putting your amp into a new setting, that you are unfamiliar with, to simulate playing with an unexpected setting.
A situation where it is unavoidable to practice with amplification is, if you are trying to eliminate noises to get your playing sound cleaner. If you would approach that without amplifier, the notes would die out too soon and you would not be able to hear what produces string noise.
Most of the noise only ever occurs, while playing with amplifier, because even the slightest touch on your strings will produce a sound. So, be aware of this and use this advice wisely.
About the author:
Michael Korte is teaching guitar in Finland. In his guitar school, he teaches his students new approaches and concepts for their rhythm and solo playing and also shows them how to improve their practicing, so that they get better results faster. If you want to reach the next level in your playing and you are looking for kitaratunnit Tampere make sure to get in touch with him.