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Electric Guitars/Playing the electric unplugged


Hello Mr.Gardiner,

I have a strange and silly question about playing the electric guitar unplugged. As we all know that you have to connect an amp head to a cabinet, otherwise the amp will blow up due to build-up of electricity or power. What about playing the electric guitar unplugged? I am aware that every time we play the electric, we are generating some electricity, but if it is not connected to anything, the electricity will build up and perhaps affect the magnetic characteristics of pickups due to some capacitance??? It just occurred to me the other day. It is no big deal, but I am curious about it. Thank you in advance.


Hahaha - Reminds me on when I was very little and electric guitars appeared first in stores like
FW Woolworths - would have been the first time I ever saw one. I would ask my Dad how they worked and where the electric plug was and did you plug them into a wall socket? !!

First the Amp: Is OK to leave an Amp switched on without anything connected to the input but better to switch to standby if it has one though or if not, then  an additional safety/good practice measure is to turn DOWN to zero any VOLUME knobs.

There is a massive risk to the Transformer if you have the Amp turned on but do not have the SPEAKERS connected! Solid state amps are far more forgiving than valve (tube) amps in this scenario though.

Secondly: The Guitar only produces millivolts by virtue of the strings breaking the magnetic field around the copper-wound magnets in the pickups. It is this signal that the amp magnifies. So playing unplugged is fine!

Actually playing unplugged is a great way to refine your playing. We hear how 'tone is in the fingers', well never moreso if playing unplugged. You have to adjust your technique so that you physically induce harmonics rather than relying on the electrics (pickup type & capacitor variances/amp/Fx/pedals etc).

Hope this clarifies  

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Mark Gardiner


Guitars, Guitar Amps, Guitar FX, Playing Guitar, Guitar based Music


Musician for 40 years

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Making Music Sound on Sound Music Week Computer Music Music Industry News Guitarist

Worked for Peter Gabriel in late 80s

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