So now you’ve bought an electric guitar and now you need an amp. There are basically 2 possible directions that I recommend for new guitar students.
The first possibility is to buy a small practice amp. This is the most practical decision for most new guitar students. When you’re first getting started, you usually have limited funds. (You’re not a rock star yet!) You probably won’t be performing with a band in the immediate future, so a small guitar amplifier will probably work fine for quite awhile. In addition, even when you move up to your gigantic Marshal Stack, and you’re playing stadiums for all your rabid fans, you’ll probably still want to have a small practice amp that’s portable so you can take in anywhere. After you play your sold out show, you’ll sometimes want to go back to your hotel room while you’re feeling so inspired, and write a song about your amazing experiences. You’ll need to have that small practice amp close at hand before you lose the inspiration.
My practice amp is a 15 watt Fender Squire Champ. It came as part of a guitar starter pack. Teaching lots of guitar lessons gave me the opportunity to hear practice amps by other manufacturers as well. I found that my Fender amp simply sounded better than all those other brands that I heard. There are other brands and amps that will work of course, but when you’re first starting to play, you usually don’t have any idea what a good sounding guitar amplifier is supposed to sound like. I have found that all the fenders sound great. You may pay a bit more for the brand, but you’ll probably be much happier in the long run with the sound. This will make you feel more inspired to play and practice the guitar. There are lots of used fender amps in local pawn shops if you don’t have a lot of cash to invest.
I recommend that you buy a 15 watt amp rather than a smaller model. Again, you will simply be happier with the sound of the amp several months or years down the road.
I also recommend that if at all possible, buy an amp that has a head phone jack. This is useful for late night playing and practicing. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but it’s a nice feature to have.
The second direction you can go when buying your first guitar amp is buying a really nice combo amp. The advantage to buying this type of amp first is that you won’t necessarily ever need to buy another one. You can use this one for practicing, as well as performing in just about any type of band.
I recommend that you buy a 100 watt model. This is usually big enough to handle most situations, but it’s still portable enough that you can still lift it, and move it from your practice space to your first awesome gig. Notice I said you can still lift it, I didn’t say it will be light, because it won’t be. I know this is a generalization, but female guitarists may have to have some help moving an amp this size. These amps are usually pretty heavy, and that’s why it really makes sense to have a small practice amp as well that you can leave in your basement or bedroom, so you don’t have to move your 100 watt combo amp all the time.
You’ll find that combo amps come in several different types, including all tube, and transtube models. I recommend a transtube model for your first combo amp. These are very versatile amps. They can be turned down really low, or they will absolutely part your hair if you really crank them up. All-tube amps sound amazing when they’re really cranked up, but you won’t want that when you’re playing in your bedroom or rehearsing with your band in your basement. Believe me, a 100 watt all-tube amp will be way too loud in those type of situations.
I personally have 2 combo amps. The first is a Peavey Transtube 212EFX. This is a 100 watt amp, and came with lots of really cool built-in effects. This is the guitar amp that I use when I perform live. It’s very durable. I’ve been playing gigs with it for over 6 years and have had absolutely no problems with it.
My second amp is an all-tube 30 watt, Crate Vintage Club. I bought this strictly for recording. I got pretty good results recording the Peavy amp, but I had gotten to the point where I really wanted the warm distortion sound of an all-tube amp when I record. I don’t feel that these are very practical though when you’re first getting started. Again, I’d recommend a transtube model instead.
As far as brands, most of the big manufacturers make well-built models of transtube combo guitars. Check them out for yourself and decide who offers the best features for the money. Some of the most popular brands include Marshall, Fender, Peavey, and Line 6.