If you play the guitar, you might be wondering can you use a microphone with a guitar amp with a jam or just listening to it.
Many home musicians start out playing the electric guitar, so they probably already own a guitar amp.
But with the name “guitar amp”, does that mean it can’t be used for anything other than a guitar? Could we maybe use a mic through a guitar amp?
In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about playing music through a guitar amp and important details to do it right.
Table of Contents
Can You Use a Microphone with a Guitar Amp?
The short answer to this question is yes, you can use a mic with a guitar amp, but the quality will not be ideal.
There are a few reasons why using an amp designed for guitar isn’t ideal for a microphone and vocals and in this article, I’ll explain why along with some other related FAQs.
Why would you want to use a mic with a guitar amp?
If you’re just starting out in a band and already own guitar amps, then it’s a quick way to be able to amplify a mic.
You already have the equipment available and you don’t have to go and spend a lot more money on specialized equipment when maybe all you want to do is jam or practice together.
When I started in a band, we did exactly this. We use a small guitar amp to amplify the voices of our lead singers, just so we can hear it over the other instruments.
We knew that when we were going to play a concert, the bar or venue would have its own speaker system. You are almost always expected to provide your own guitar amps and even a drum kit.
But you’re almost never asked to provide a speaker system for vocals, so investing in your own system to just practice at home may not be so smart if you can use a replacement guitar amp.
Can a microphone damage a guitar amp?
There is always the possibility that using two pieces of equipment that are not designed to go together could cause some damage.
If you get too close to the amplifier it can cause some pretty bad feedback, which in rare circumstances could cause damage or even blow up a speaker.
However, this is unlikely to happen. A guitar amp is designed to play loud and should be fine.
Just be careful to treat the amplifier well and do not plug or unplug the microphone when it is turned on and do not turn the volume up too much and it should not cause any damage to the amplifier.
How will it sound?
The clue is in the name that “guitar” amps are not designed to be used with a vocal mic.
For this reason, the preamps inside the amp are made to make a guitar sound good, and therefore the voice is likely to sound slightly distorted and generally a bit garbage.
This poor quality and distortion problem will only increase as the volume increases.
Another reason it won’t sound as good as the amplifier’s frequency range. With the human voice, when you sing, you don’t sing a single frequency, the note will be filled with a range of harmonics ranging from fairly low bass frequencies to much higher frequencies.
A guitar amp isn’t designed to emphasize those lower bass frequencies, so you won’t get all of the rich tones from the vocals through the guitar amp.
How to connect a microphone to an amplifier
Now that you know it can be done, how do we do it? Well, for this you will need to buy a specialized cable. The reason for this is that the output of most microphones is “XLR”, whereas you will never see an XLR input on a guitar amp.
Once you have the correct cable, connect the XLR end to the microphone and then, with the amplifier off, connect the 1/4-inch connector to the input of the amplifier.
Then turn the amplifier on at a low volume and gradually increase to the desired level. You may want to adjust the EQ (bass, mid, and treble) on the amp if you have those settings.
I recommend that if you are not alone, have someone else turn on the amplifier and adjust the levels so that you can move away from the amplifier with the microphone.
If you stand in front of the amp with the mic, you’re likely to get a pretty nasty response and you could end up damaging the amp … or at least giving yourself a headache!
So what kind of amp do I need for a microphone?
This depends on what you need it for. If you are simply using it to practice with the band and sound quality is not a priority, then there is no reason why you cannot use a cheap guitar amp.
In fact, I would say that if you have the choice, a bass amp may give you slightly better results depending on the tone and range of the singer, as it will capture more of the lower frequencies.
Guitar amps are not designed to replicate input exactly and that is mainly what makes them so good for guitar.
The specialized speakers used for vocals have two parts, a tweeter, and a woofer.
A woofer has a much larger diameter than a tweeter and is therefore used to create low-frequency sounds.
Therefore, the combination of these two different sized speakers means that it has a wide range of frequencies covered and is, therefore, ideal to use with a microphone.
To Record: An Audio Interface
Almost everything I have mentioned in this article is only really relevant to playing live.
If all you’re concerned with is recording your voice and you don’t need to be heard through loud guitar and drum amps, you can simply connect it to your computer or laptop directly using an audio interface.
An audio interface is cheap these days with some great options under $100.
Most audio interfaces will have an XLR input that will allow you to simply connect your microphone directly.
The audio interface is then connected to your computer or laptop, usually through a USB connection. Then simply record your voice in your DAW software.
To Play Live: A Public Address (PA) System
To perform live at a concert or concert, the best option is to use a public address system. The PA here sounds for “public address” as it is a system that can be used to address large numbers of people.
It’s called a “system” because it doesn’t just consist of speakers, but also an amplifier, and usually some kind of mixer that allows you to adjust levels and EQ.
With any computer, the specifications vary a lot so it’s a matter of deciding your budget and requirements. Some of the specs you will likely see are:
- Wattage – This basically translates to how high your system can be. The higher the power value, the higher it should be before you start to get unwanted distortion.
- Size – Higher wattage generally means larger size and weight. A larger size also means that the speakers can accommodate a larger woofer and will therefore be better at producing lower frequencies. Think about how much space you have and how often you will need to move your equipment before deciding on the size.
- Active / Passive – Active speakers each have their own individual power supply, while passive speakers require power (usually from the amplifier). For speakers of this size, “active” is much more common.
You can get a pretty decent public address system suitable for home use or small gigs for under $300, which is pretty cool when you think it includes 2 speakers, speaker stands, an amplifier, and microphones.
Can You Use a Guitar Amp as a Speaker?
Yes, you can use a guitar amp as a speaker to play music or possibly to connect a microphone. While a guitar amp won’t sound as good as a proper sound system designed to play music, it can achieve decent results when done correctly.
Let’s see what you need to know to use your guitar amp as a speaker.
If you want to play music along with your guitar, you can also read this guide to headphones for guitar amp as it gives you some useful ways to play music on the guitar at the same time.
How to Play Music Through Your Guitar Amp
The most common way to use the guitar amp as a speaker is to play music through it.
You can use any guitar amp to play music, although some amps will be easier than others. Music will not sound very good through an electric guitar amp, but it is possible to use the guitar amp to play music.
Some guitarists like to play along with the backing tracks and being able to play those tracks through your amp can be useful if you don’t have any other speaker systems nearby.
With an auxiliary input, you can connect your smartphone, PC, tablet, or any other audio source that has a 3.5mm output.
Here are the recommended steps to play music safely through your guitar amp:
- Connect your audio player to the auxiliary input with a 3.5mm cable
- Lower the master volume on your guitar amp to a fairly low level
- Lower the volume of your audio player
- Press play on your audio player and gradually increase the volume of the audio player
- Raise the master volume on the guitar amp to reach the desired volume level
Following these steps will prevent your guitar amp from exploding by feeding it a high volume source while it is too loud.
Remember that most guitar amps are not designed to handle extremely high or low frequencies, so it is important to be careful whenever you connect something to the auxiliary input of your amplifier.
Now you can use your guitar amp as a speaker to listen to music or plug in your guitar and play along with the music.
Using a Guitar Amp to Play Bass
It is possible to play a bass through a guitar amp. It will sound bad and turning the volume up too high can damage your amp, but it is possible to play a bass through one.
Read this guide on how to play bass with a guitar amp to learn everything you need to know before connecting a bass guitar to your guitar amp.
The short answer is that a bass amp is designed to handle very low frequencies. A normal guitar amp isn’t designed to handle low frequencies, so if you plug the bass into your amp, expect to hear a muddy, uninspiring tone.
While you may be able to try to compensate for this by turning the amp’s bass equalizer knob, be careful not to overdo it. Pushing the guitar amp too hard in the lower frequencies could cause the speaker to explode.
If you play both guitar and bass, consider buying a dedicated bass amp or FRFR amp or a PA system with the proper pedals to handle both types of guitars.
Read this guide to learn more bass amp options.
A guitar amp has a very limited frequency range. The frequency range of a speaker system tells you what it can handle.
In this guide, everything you need to know about playing music through a guitar amp and important details to get it right was explained to me.
Hopefully, these beginner tips above will help you learn how to use a microphone with a guitar amp.