Tips on Playing your Amplifier – Getting a Clean Sound

[Part 1 of 3]

After 26 years of playing electric guitar, I have developed a strong belief that the amp and guitar are ‘one’ instrument. As musicians, we need to know not only how our amps work but how they can work for us. This week we’re going to work on our tube amp etiquette, or basically how to play your tube amp. Over the next few weeks we will take a break from the details of tubes, and get to know more about putting them to work. The outlook will be as follows:

  • Getting a clean sound
  • Getting an overdriven sound and amplifier placement
  • Trusting your tone

1. Getting a Clean sound

Pick a Channel

Before fussing with the control knobs, let’s pick a channel. If your amp only has one channel, then it’s a pretty easy choice, but if your amp has more than one channel you’ll need to pick the quietest one (with the lowest gain). Start turning the amp up until it distorts and then back off until it cleans up nicely.

It’s Not About Making it Loud

Now that you’ve selected the channel that’s going to give you the cleanest sound, we can fiddle with the knobs. Gain (overdrive) is dependent on tone controls also. Most amps have controls that subtract, so when you turn the treble down and the treble goes lower. You can achieve a cleaner sound by scooping mids as well as turning your guitar volume down and the amp up, especially when you have hi gain pick-ups.

Thanks for joining us. Next week we’ll look at overdrive and amplifier placement. As always questions can be sent to myself at, on twitter @parlourpawn or by filling out the comments section below and of course if you need help finding a perfect amp guitar combo come on in to Parlour Pawn and we’ll get you hooked up.