How To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals? 5-Minute Read
I have always considered myself a guitar player who can sing too. As a teenager, I and my pals used to gather and jam at a friend’s garage but without decent speakers. We had a guitar, a guitar amp, and two microphones and we often wondered how our vocals will sound if we plug one of the mics into the guitar amp, and one day, we did find out.
So, can you use a guitar amp for vocals?
A guitar amp can be used for vocals but it will not sound good. The range of human voice exceeds that of the guitar to the lower and the higher frequencies. A guitar amp is not designed to emphasize the lower bass frequencies, so it doesn’t produce a full rich tone of the vocals.
Although you can plug your microphone into a guitar amp to be heard, it is not the ideal option for vocals.
In this article, I will show you how to maximize what you have for the best audio possible.
Table of Contents
- How To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
- When To Use a Guitar Amp For Vocals
- What Will Your Vocals Sound Like on a Guitar Amp
- How To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
- Step-By-Step Guide To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
- Can Vocals Damage A Guitar Amp
- How To Avoid Feedback When Using a Guitar Amp For Vocals
- PA System – Best Alternative To Using Guitar Amp For Vocals
- Audio Interfaces For Recording Vocals
How To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
If you must project sound through a microphone to be heard, something must be on the other end of the chord to offer that support. A guitar amp is an affordable way to accomplish this goal without the need for additional equipment.
But before we talk about the best way to connect a microphone to a guitar amp, let’s discuss why we may need to do this and what would your vocals sound like coming from a guitar amp.
When To Use a Guitar Amp For Vocals
Some situations may call for plugging your microphone into a guitar amplifier. You could be in a jam space without a PA system or be looking to add crunchy distortion (and other effects) to your vocals.
Or you could be like me and my friends jamming in my friend’s garage as teenagers on a shoestring budget.
The most common reason to plug a microphone into a guitar amp and use it to amplify vocals is that there is no real singing equipment available.
If you are just starting out in a band and you already own a guitar amp then it is a quick way of being able to amplify your vocals.
You already have the equipment available and you don’t have to go and spend lots more money on specialist equipment such as a soundboard, wireless transmission, and more to create a meaningful audio experience, which would surely come at a price that’s out of reach for many.
Moreover, it’s an affordable way to amplify your vocals so that they’re heard over the other instruments.
Also, if you’re in a situation where you’re expected to play at an outside venue where an independent speaker system isn’t available, plugging your mic into your guitar amp can help you amplify your vocals so you don’t have to sing your lungs out.
What Will Your Vocals Sound Like on a Guitar Amp
Although you can use guitar amps to amplify your vocals, keep in mind that guitar amps are specifically designed to amplify electric guitars.
Guitar amps are designed to amplify the mid-range frequencies of an electric guitar and not the fuller range of the human voice. Vocals often sound harsh and lack definition when amplified using a guitar amp.
When you use a guitar amp for your vocals, it’s a lot like using a megaphone for your voice. It gets louder to help your voice rise above the background noise, but this benefit comes at the cost of distortion of sound.
Depending on the quality of the amplifier you’re using, vocals may not even be understandable when using a microphone along with a guitar amp this way.
Moreover, this problem of bad quality and distortion will only increase as the volume is increased.
The problem with performance is due to the frequency range support provided by an amplifier.
Human voice exceeds the sounds that a guitar can generate. There are harmonic overtones to our voice and generally a larger frequency register.
If you use a guitar amp to amplify vocals, the full harmonic range of human voice doesn’t receive support.
Most guitar amps are mean to emphasize the mid-range and treble, losing the lower bass frequencies along the way.
How To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
Now you know that you can use a guitar amp to amplify your vocals, and how your vocals might turn out to be, what’s left is to teach you the best way to connect a microphone to a guitar amp to amplify vocals.
1. Pick Your Microphone.
Although I am assuming that you already have a microphone, but when you want to use a microphone with your guitar amp, the best options are dynamic mics.
With a dynamic mic, you can either connect it to the guitar amp or place it in front of the amplifier to add more character to your instruments.
Below is a list of excellent dynamic microphones that are pocket-friendly but more importantly have amazing reviews on Amazon.
2. Choose Your XLR Connector.
The output from most microphones is ‘XLR’ whereas there is no XLR input on a guitar amp ever. A guitar amp will almost definitely have a 1/4 inch instrument input.
Therefore, to connect a microphone to a guitar amplifier, we must have an adapter cable to connect the microphone to the guitar amp.
This adapter requires a female XLR at one end and a 1/4″ TS (or, alternatively, a TRS) at the other end. There are two main adapter styles for this:
a) XLRF to TS cable: This is a cable of any length that has an XLRF at one end and 1/4″ TS plug at the other.
You’d plug one end into your microphone, while the other connects to the guitar amp.
The TISINO Female XLR to ¼” Microphone Cable Mic Cord is a sensible choice to connect your microphones to a wide variety of applications such as a mixer or guitar amplifier, power amplifier, stereo system, wireless microphone receiver, etc.
XLRF to TS adapter: This is a simple adapter that can connect to the end of a regular XLR cable (at the XLRM end) and adapts the XLR connector to a 1/4″ TS plug.
This option is suitable for those who like to wander the stage because it offers a firm connection without interfering with cable placement.
The TISINO XLR to ¼” Adapter works with a cable of any length. You’d plug the end of the cord into the adapter, which then works with the amplifier input.
With either of these adapters, we can easily connect a microphone to a guitar or bass amplifier.
You could even use an XLRF-to-1/4-inch TRS (Tip/Ring/Sleeve) to get the connection you need, even though the amplifier plug is designed for Tip-Sleeve.
3. Provide Power to the Microphone.
Once you have connected the microphone to your guitar amp, you need the signal to transfer from the mic to the amp.
With passive microphones (moving-coil dynamics and most ribbon dynamics), the signal is transferred without any need for external power.
Active microphones (all condensers and some ribbon mics), on the other hand, do require external power.
This power is typically provided by:
- DC bias voltage
- Phantom power, or
- External power supply
Keep in mind that none of these power sources are provided by a guitar amplifier.
So how do we power active microphones that are connected to a guitar amplifier? We must provide the necessary power by other means.
for phantom-powered or DC-biased microphones, we must find alternative ways to supply the power needed. External power sources are simple ways to apply the necessary voltage to these microphones.
For phantom-powered microphones, you may use Neewer 1-Channel 48V Phantom Power Supply.
Step-By-Step Guide To Use A Guitar Amp For Vocals
Here’s a brief guide to connect your mic to your guitar amp and use it to amplify your vocals.
- Turn the guitar amp’s volume and gain knobs to zero.
- Turn off any distortion by using the amp’s clean channel or setting distortion knobs to zero.
- Plug the XLR end of a microphone cable into your microphone. The XLR connector is circular and has three pinholes.
- Plug the TRS 1/4-inch connector into your guitar amp’s input. Connect it to the same input you use when plugging in an electric guitar.
- Increase the amp’s volume using the volume knob. Turn up the volume slowly and talk or sing into the microphone as you test the vocal level.
- Improve the sound quality of your vocals by adjusting the amp’s bass, mid, and high-frequency knobs.
- Experiment with EQ and volume to find a setting that suits your particular amp model and microphone.
If your amplifier has a “Gain” control and a “Volume” control or a “Volume” and a “Master” control make sure you keep the gain to the lowest and use only the volume knob (master in some) to increase the volume.
I would strongly advise you to get someone else to turn the amp on and adjust the levels so you can stand away from the amplifier with the microphone.
If you stand right in front of the amp with the microphone then you are likely to get some pretty nasty feedback and could end up damaging the guitar amp.
Can Vocals Damage A Guitar Amp
A microphone will not damage a guitar amp if you make sure that you don’t plug in or unplug the microphone when it is turned on and don’t turn the volume too loud.
Also, make sure that you’re using appropriate adapters with your guitar amp. Keep in mind that most microphones will not cause any damage to the guitar amp if they are used in ways that the manufacturers recommend.
Even if you get too close to the amplifier with the mic, which may create feedback, the chances of damaging the guitar amp are minimal.
Most guitar amps nowadays are designed to handle power and audio surges. As long as you remember to connect your microphone while the equipment is off, your risk factors will be virtually non-existent.
How To Avoid Feedback When Using a Guitar Amp For Vocals
Like any loudspeaker, a guitar/bass amplifier/cabinet will be prone to microphone feedback (when a microphone is connected).
To avoid feedback, keep the amp gain below the gain-before-feedback threshold while trying to distance the mic from the cabinet and point the mic away from the cabinet.
PA System – Best Alternative To Using Guitar Amp For Vocals
As I said before, using a guitar amp for vocals will work but it will not produce the sound quality that will satisfy the artist in you.
As a performing musician, capturing, mixing, and amplifying your sound involves choosing a live sound system that’s well-matched to your music, budget, and the venues in which you play.
Whether you’re a singer-songwriter performing in a café, a band playing in a local bar or club, or a DJ playing at weddings, you’re going to need a PA system to be heard.
PA stands for public address, i.e projecting sound to a large group of people louder than you could by talking or playing an acoustic instrument.
There are loads of variables to determine the best use of a PA system. For example, a busker needs a speaker that’s light and portable, while a venue owner would need a lot more wattage.
But the speaker itself isn’t the only essential piece of gear. The sound you want people to hear has to be captured by a microphone before it’s processed by a mixer and then amplified.
Identify what you’re going to use the PA for, what venue you’ll be at, the size of the audience, and your price range.
All-in-one or portable speakers are best for those who don’t want to delve into the fine details of PA.
These contain a built-in EQ (cutting out the external mixer) and a power amp that boosts the voltage of the signal.
The benefit of having a portable speaker is that everything is contained in one unit. As the name suggests, it’s relatively small so you can chuck it in the back of the car and you’re good to go.
However, you’ll miss out on the larger range of sounds and setups you get with separate components. It simply won’t sound as good as other usually more expensive options.
A more refined rig would consist of a microphone, connected to a preamp to boost the line level, then into the mixer, then possibly into a power amp, and finally a speaker.
These are best for larger venues where you require a higher-definition sound. The downside is you (or some poor roadie) will have to transport all this heavy equipment to the venue and then set it up.
The Pyle PA Speaker System would be an amazing choice if you’re looking for a PA system for yourself as it comes with a dual loudspeaker sound package, 8” subwoofers, Bluetooth wireless streaming, includes 2 speaker stands, wired microphone, remote control, and 700 watt – dual 8-inch high-powered loudspeakers.
If you want a PA system that combines quality performance and convenient features, all in a highly portable package. Then Powerwerks PA System PW50 would be best for you.
Audio Interfaces For Recording Vocals
If recording your vocals is all you are concerned about and you don’t need to be heard over loud guitar amps and drums then you can simply plug into your computer or laptop directly using an audio interface.
An audio interface like the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 converts the sound signal from the microphone into a usable digital stream.
This data can be saved on any computer or storage system, allowing for compression, enhancement, and tonal changes that add depth and character to each recording.
Most audio interfaces have an XLR input that allows you to simply plug in your microphone directly.
Then the audio interface connects to your computer or laptop usually via a USB connection, which lets you record your vocals into your DAW software.
Given the option, you should always choose PA equipment to handle your vocals.
Plugging a microphone into a guitar amp has its applications, but it is not the best choice for most performances.
You can reduce issues by investing in premium microphones and amplifiers to project sound, but even the best systems won’t be as good as a full mixing board.
Remember that a good PA system or even a single active speaker can be a great investment and an awesome practice companion for a long time to come.
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