Do electric guitars need amps?

Do electric guitars need amps? You can play an electric guitar without an amplifier. However, the sound would be extremely quiet, even quieter than an acoustic guitar. If you really want to maximize your electric guitar’s potential and bring out its oomph factor, plugging it into an amplifier is essential.

The electric guitar is one of the best instruments you can learn to expand your musical skills. However, it requires quite a few additional pieces of equipment and accessories to play and enjoy.

One question beginners often ask is whether or not electric guitars actually need an amplifier. Well, we’re here to answer that, along with some other questions that might be bugging you. Should you get an amplifier? Can you play your instrument without one? How does an amplifier affect your experience of the electric guitar?

Allow us to tell you the most important things about electric guitar amps in this article.

How an Electric Guitar Works

An acoustic guitar creates sounds by resonating the vibrations from the strings through its hollow body. However, if you look at an electric guitar, the body is completely solid. So, how is it supposed to make sounds?

Technically, the strings would still make a sound because they will vibrate when you pluck them. The problem is, the sound is extremely quiet for other people to even hear. To solve that, you will see one or more pickups on the electric guitar’s body.

When you pluck or strum the strings, the pickups pick up the vibrations, hence the name. They would then convert these vibrations into an electric signal, which is why it’s called the electric guitar.

The electric signal would then travel from the pickups to the output jack of the guitar, where a shielded cable is plugged in. This shielded cable delivers these signals to the amplifier.

The Role of Amplifiers

So, what does the amplifier do to the electric signal from the pickups? Well, there are a lot of things that come into play when talking about an amplifier’s role in all of this. However, all these inner workings can be simplified into three parts; the preamp, power amp, and speaker.

The Preamp

The preamp is the first “gate” that the signals pass through. Preamps often have four knobs. One is for the volume, and the other three are for the equalizer, which are treble, mid, and bass. The primary function of the preamp is to shape and modify the signal that comes from the guitar.

For instance, you can enhance the lower frequencies by increasing the bass through the equalizer. Basically, the preamp screens the signals and delivers them to the power amp in its optimal form.

The Power Amp

The signals that come from the guitar and through the preamp are not yet strong enough at this point. This is where the power amp comes into play. The power amp uses the electricity from an electrical outlet and magnifies the charge or voltage of the signal before sending it to the speaker.

The Speaker

Once the signal has enough voltage, the speaker begins to do its work. The speaker inside an amplifier is an entire system that converts the electrical energy into sound. To do this, the electrical energy should be strong enough to drive the speaker, which is why we need the power amp.

The electrical energy is converted to mechanical energy that causes the voice coil inside the speaker to pulsate or to move back and forth. This movement creates pressure waves, which are basically what sound is.

Can You Use an Electric Guitar Without an Amplifier?

Using an amplifier is the most common and most efficient way to use your electric guitar. If you want to use it without an amplifier or any other equipment, you might as well just use an acoustic guitar.

Thankfully, there are other ways to use your electric guitar without an amplifier. Here are some of them.

Headphones and Effects Pedal

Unfortunately, you can’t just plug your headphones into the electric guitar’s output jack to hear it play. First of all, the input jack of a traditional headphone and the output jack of the electric guitar are of different sizes. Furthermore, even if you use adapters or converters to make them compatible, you still have no power source to amplify the signals from the pickups.

What you need is an effects pedal. This is a piece of equipment that you can connect to your guitar to adjust the shape of the sounds. It’s kind of like a preamp but with more versatile effects modification. Most effects pedals have a headphone output, so all you have to do is plug the effects pedal into an electrical outlet, connect it to your guitar, and plug the headphones into the corresponding socket.

This is also one of the best methods to play your electric guitar quietly.

Computer and Audio Interface

If you like to travel a lot, using a computer or a laptop is a great option for you to play your electric guitar. After all, amplifiers can sometimes be too big for traveling. Additionally, a lot of us already have computers at home, so this method is also very common and convenient.

Just like with headphones, you can’t directly plug your electric guitar into your computer. The problem with that is the signal from the guitar isn’t immediately readable for a computer. What you can do is use an audio interface.

Basically, an audio interface converts electric signals from the guitar to digital signals so that your computer can interpret them. The best part about this method is that you can further modify and enhance the sounds from your electric guitar by using DAW.

DAWs, which is the abbreviation for digital audio workstation, are software programs you can install on your computer. They are capable of receiving the digital signals from the audio interface and input them into the program.

Through DAWs, you can record, edit, and produce music all on your own!


If you ask any musician out there whether or not you can use an electric guitar without an amplifier, the quick answer would be no. It’s simply just the traditional and most common way to play the instrument.

However, if you dig deeper, you can use other pieces of equipment to have fun with your electric guitar. Headphones, effects pedals, audio interfaces, and DAWs are just some of them.