Tips on Playing your Amplifier – Overdrive and Amp Placement

[Part 2 of 3]

Other Parts:

This Week: Overdrive and Amp Placement

We’ve been talking about how to get the most out of your guitar/amp combo and more specifically how to get that clean sound. Last week I even went so far as to say that I prefer to see them as one instrument. This week we’re going to dirty things up a bit and get the right overdrive tone.

First, you’ll want to find the higher gain channel on your amp. If you only have one channel, you can crank that sucker up to your desired sweet spot. This can be done by playing with the gain or overdrive to find what you like.

The degree of overdrive you have is a personal preference more than anything. Turning up the mids helps the amp to overdrive any brittleness that maybe caused by turning the amp up, while cranking the mids can be smoothed out by rolling off some hi’s on the guitars controls. Remember, we are using the guitar and amp as one unit. It takes teamwork!

Bass controls on amps are used to compensate for when an amp is turned down. When cranking an amp, turn the bass down or your tone will mush out. Adjust treble control to taste. Now that you’ve got a clean sound with a bit of overdrive, we can move on to amp placement.

Getting the Amp Placement Just Right

If you’re playing at a big show or festival and your amp is mic’ed over a large P.A., chances are your amp won’t be heard by the crowd except through the P.A. Angle the amp back so it faces toward you. It works even better if you prefer small amps like I do. This method however is not so good if you’re playing through a stack. For the uninitiated or those who haven’t been around to remember stacks, a stack would probably blow you off the stage like Marty McFly in Back to the Future if you pointed it at yourself.

Think Mcfly! Don't over do it!

Angling it back behind you also works great in a small to medium size club. The audience won’t get clobbered with hi-end from your amp.

It’s good to keep your amp from being pointed straight at the audience or the sound guy. Aim it at you and all is well. Watch the volume though. Hearing loss SUCKS!

As always, questions can be sent to me 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.