How to Tune a Guitar Amp Head

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Guitar amp heads need to be tuned in order to have the guitar play notes properly. Retune and configure your amp with help from a professional musician in this free video.

Part of the Video Series: Applications for the Guitar
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Video Transcript

Hi, my name is Kirk Wilson, and I'm an area musician in Burbank, Hollywood, and the surrounding areas of Los Angeles, California. I also teach at Orchepia School of Music in Irvine. And today, we going to talk about how to tune a guitar amp.The significant thing you want to do as far as a guitar amp, is get the tone and the sound that you desire out of your amp. First thing, you got to know what you're looking for. The important thing is the style of music in relation to the type of guitar you playing in relation to the type of amp. So, to keep it really simple and basic for you, I've decided to use my most simple and basic amplifier. It's a Crate GX-15, and this amp has all of the basic tone controls of any amplifier. The first of the basic tone controls that I want to talk about is the low, mid, and high. Many amplifiers have these three, with an additional presence, and the presence is basically higher than the high. It is the extreme treble. With this amp, the low, mid, and high, I'm going to demonstrate for you how can achieve a certain tone for a particular style. So, if we are playing, like, if we turn the lows down, and we turn the mid down, and we turn the treble up, and on my pickup selector on my guitar I use the bridge, use the bridge pickup, I can get a tone perfect for playing a style as such. So, if you're playing that style of music, you want treble, hardly any lows, and little bit more of mids. If you're playing a bluesy style, then you want more lows, and a lot of mids, and less amount of treble. If you're playing a jazz sound, or jazz song, you want less treble, more mids, and you'll want a little bit more bass. And of course, your guitar, you're going to select your neck pickup, and then you have a jazz tone. And, you can even get one better if you play with even less mid and more bass, you can get an even warmer tone. Now, the other significant thing about tuning an amp, or getting the proper tone from your amp, is using your technique, and using overdrive to achieve a distortion. There are two ways. Some amps use a circuit to get distortion. In this particular amp, there's this switch, and it's called "overdrive". Now, when you use overdrive, you have a level, a separate level, it's like a one volume level here, if you have level, and then you have gain. The gain sends more signal into the amp, but the level determines the overall volume of the amp, and this overall level of the master of the amp. So, when you turn this level, the amp gets louder, or lower. But, if you turn the gain, if you turn the gain up extremely high, then you get more tone in terms of distortion, because then the pre-amp of the amp is sending too much signal, and it causes the tubes in the amp, or the circuitry, to distort. And then, you can adjust this level separately. So, if I turn that circuit off, then I have back a clean sound. So, just by using this circuit, I'm able to not use this level. This level will adjust the clean sound. This level adjusts the distortion. And, my name is Kirk Wilson, and that is how you tune a guitar amp.

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