At one point or another, many guitarists find themselves in a position where they have a guitar but no guitar amp. They face the temptation to use a bass amp instead; however, they hesitate to plug it in for fear of damaging the amp.
Plugging in an electric guitar will not damage a bass amplifier. However, using a bass amp will often affect the tone and pitch of an electric guitar.
This article will discuss in detail whether it is a good idea to use a bass amplifier with your electric guitar. Read on to learn how using a bass amp will affect your playing.
Can an Electric Guitar Damage a Bass Amp?
If you’re concerned about damaging your bass amp by plugging in your electric guitar, rest easy. Using a bass amp with your electric guitar will not cause any damage to the amp. Conversely, using a bass amp will not damage your guitar either.
How Does an Amp Work?
An amp’s purpose is to amplify the sound of a guitar—most guitarists are familiar with this concept. However, many novice players have no idea how an amp actually works!
As you might expect, guitar amps need a power source to function.
The pickup is the part of your guitar that releases a signal to the amp to be amplified. The two essential components of pickups are magnets and copper wire. The magnet within the pickup creates a magnetic field. When you play a string on the guitar, this magnetic field is disturbed and creates a current that travels on the copper wire. Eventually, this current will undergo transmission to the guitar amp.
The purpose of the guitar amp is to take the signal from the guitar’s pickup and make it sound much louder. In fact, a guitar’s signal can be amplified up to fifty times by the amp’s circuit!
Parts of a Guitar Amp
There are three essential components to a typical guitar amp: the preamp, the power amp, and the speaker. All three of these components work together inside the familiar wooden box that we call an amplifier.
When a signal enters an amp, it first goes through the preamp. As the first stop on the signal’s journey through the amp, the preamp shapes the sound and prepares it for delivery to the primary power amp.
The Power Amp
After being shaped in the preamp, the signal travels to the power amp. As the signal travels through the power amp, it is amplified and output as a much larger signal than it was upon leaving the preamp. Very little tone-shaping happens in the power amp; most of the shaping occurs in the preamp.
Once the signal has been amplified by the power amp, it still needs to be transformed into an audible sound. Otherwise, we won’t be able to hear it! The speaker portion of the amp takes the electrical signal from the power amp and converts it into a sound that people like you and I can hear.
Types of Guitar Amps
Overall, there are four different types of guitar amplifiers. Each type of amp pertains to the inner workings of the amplifier:
- Tube amps. These amps use vacuum tubes as the amplifying component.
- Solid-state amps. On the other hand, solid-state amps use transistors to amplify sound and are known for producing clean tones.
- Modeling amps. These amps are largely digitized and use more recent digital processing technology to recognize signals and amplify sound.
- Hybrid amps. As you might expect, hybrid amps combine technologies. Guitarists often see them as a “happy medium” between tube and solid-state amps.
Whichever amp you choose depends on your budget and your individual sound needs. It’s a good idea to try out each type of amp before committing to purchasing one of your own.
What’s the Difference Between Bass and Guitar Amps?
There are three main differences between guitar and bass amps: speaker size, power, and frequency response.
Bass amps are significantly more powerful than guitar amps; after all, they need to produce extremely low frequencies while still being audible to the human ear. Due to their waveform, low frequencies require a lot more power than high frequencies to be transmitted with a clear sound. As a result, bass amps must be capable of more power than standard guitar amps.
Due to their different power outputs, bass and guitar amps require different wattages. A bass amp usually needs between 150 and 500 watts to work correctly. This power requirement is much higher than a guitar amp, which requires anywhere from 15 to 100 watts. A bass amp might need even more than 500 watts in some cases, though this is not common.
Because bass amps require more power than guitar amps, they typically have a larger speaker cabinet. Some basses contain as many as four ten-inch (25.4-centimeter) speakers within the speaker cabinet. Including more speakers within the speaker cabinet often results in an even larger construction of the bass amp.
Frequency Response and EQ
It’s important to understand that different knobs control different regions of sound being output by an amp. When it comes to guitar amps, EQ controls the balance of tone that is output. If you adjust the bass knob on an amp, you’re changing the intensity of the low-frequency tones present in your sound. The same is true for the mid and high knobs.
If you’re adjusting the bass knob on a bass amp, you’re changing the frequency region from 80-100Hz. However, the same isn’t true for a guitar amp; when you change the bass knob of a guitar amp, you’re adjusting the frequencies in the 200Hz region. This difference is necessary to take into account when you’re using your guitar with a bass amp.
What Will Happen if I Plug My Guitar Into a Bass Amp?
The most significant difference you’ll notice when you plug your guitar into a bass amp is a change in sound. Bass amps tend to lack many of the creative effects that guitar amps typically provide.
Using a bass amp will also likely change the tone of your guitar, making it sound less complicated and plain. It will sound plain because bass amps tend to lack the overdrive and distortion effects that are so common in guitar amps. However, other than a change in sound, you will not notice much of a difference in your guitar or the amp.
Why Would I Use a Bass Amp With My Guitar?
Now, you might be asking: Why would I ever choose to use a bass amp with my guitar? Well, there are a few scenarios in which you might decide to use a bass amp instead of the standard guitar amp you might typically choose to use.
As a Quick Fix
If you’re playing gigs on the road, there might come a time in which you have access to a guitar but no guitar amp. Maybe your band didn’t have the space for an extra amp. Or perhaps you simply forgot to bring it. Using a bass amp is a great way to amplify your guitar when you’re in a pinch like this.
Learning a New Instrument
Using a bass amp for your guitar is a simple solution for anyone who can’t afford a guitar amp or is just looking for a temporary practice tool.
If you’re a bass guitarist curious about dabbling in electric guitar, you may not be ready to take the big step of buying a whole new amp. This hesitancy is often the case when people choose to use a guitar with a bass amp. They either haven’t had time to buy an amp explicitly made for guitar or aren’t ready to commit to the purchase. Either way, using a bass amp is an excellent way to give your new electric guitar a trial run.
Looking for a New Sound
Some guitarists love the unique tone that using a bass amp gives their playing! Using a bass amp with a standard electric guitar most often creates a full, clean sound. Some guitarists find this tone too clean for their style, while others prefer it to the tone they can get with a standard guitar amp.
Can I Plug a Bass Into an Electric Guitar Amp?
Using a bass with a guitar amp, on the other hand, is a little riskier. It’s certainly possible to use a standard guitar amp for your bass, but you should exercise caution while doing so. To be safe, keep your volume to a minimum because it’s possible to blow out the speakers of a guitar amp when using it with a bass.
There are many things to consider when deciding which amp to use with your guitar. But suppose you’re ever in a pinch (or aren’t ready to spend the money on a standard amp). In that case, it’s perfectly safe to use a bass amplifier with your electric guitar. Doing so won’t cause damage to your guitar, but it will likely cause some changes in frequency response and the tone of your guitar.