Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know?

Discussion about guitar playing from a diverse group of people with different tastes and levels of experience.
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Jackistan
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Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know?

Post by Jackistan » March 8th, 2010, 11:13 pm

I'm hardly a musical beginner - I've been playing guitar since I was fifteen and I've been playing saxophone and keyboards since I was ten(I'm twenty-one now). But for most of that time, I've played acoustic and I'm getting ready to move towards electric for playing live. The problem is, I don't know much of anything about electrics. I've owned a few cheap electrics and a couple small amplifiers, and I've written a whole bunch of songs for electric guitar, but I don't really have any idea where to start in terms of what sort of guitar I should get, what kind of amplifier would work best, or how to set it all up.

I've started out looking at what my favorite guitarists play, and I think I'm leaning towards a semi-hollow. Ted Leo, one of my favorite guitarists and songwriters, plays a Gibson 335 and I love the tone and how versatile it seems to be. I'm considering an Epiphone Dot and changing out the electronics, putting in Seymour Duncan '59 pickups and giving it new machine heads. From what I've read, once you change out a few things it's a great guitar. Plus, I have two roommates and they'd probably appreciate me having something I can play acoustically at night.

When it comes to amps, though, I'm completely clueless. What does "40 watt 1x12 Tube Amp" mean in practical terms? What are the benefits of getting a head and a cabinet versus a combo amp? How big an amp should I get if I'm looking to play bars and small venues?

All this is even tougher because I'm left handed - I can't just experiment with my friends setups or walk into the store and play around with guitar and amp combinations until I find something I like, unless I like Squires in black. Like I said, I'm not a beginner to playing, I just don't really know where to get started playing electrics seriously. I've got about 2000 dollars total to pour into this, and I'm committed to playing at least semi-professionally. Where do I get started making the transition, and learning about the differences in playing an electric vs an acoustic?

(Before anyone says anything, I'm not switching from acoustic to electric because I think that's what you need to do to get people to listen to your music - I've written many songs specifically for electric guitar, with something of a punk/disco edge to them, and I want to start a band focusing on that sort of music. I've just never had the money to seriously invest in quality electronic gear until now.)

boynamedsuse
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by boynamedsuse » March 9th, 2010, 7:10 am

Jackistan wrote:When it comes to amps, though, I'm completely clueless. What does "40 watt 1x12 Tube Amp" mean in practical terms? What are the benefits of getting a head and a cabinet versus a combo amp? How big an amp should I get if I'm looking to play bars and small venues?
The 1x12 means there is one 12-inch speaker, so you can get good tone at high volume, but perhaps not as "full" as with 2 12" speakers. As a rule of thumb, the wattage from a tube amp can get about twice the volume of a solid state amp. My guess is that the tube amps distort in a more pleasing way when overdriven, so you can drive them harder while they still sound "musical." (Of course, the "musical-ness" of distortion is relative. I am guessing that by considering a hollow body electric, your music is closer to blues rock than metal rock.) I suspect that a 40W 1x12 tube amp would be large enough for small venues.

Crow
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by Crow » March 9th, 2010, 8:17 am

Couple of thoughts:

- Watch out for wattage ratings. They can be deceptive. If you're comparing wattages, make sure you're looking at "RMS" or "Music Power" ratings. "Peak" ratings apparently have nothing to do with playing levels -- they refer I think to how much power the amp will put out right before it explodes. :)

- Consider a mid-sized modeling amplifier as a first amp. A digital front end with a variety of choices of Fender, Marshall, Mesa et cetera will help you sort out pretty quickly what turns you on -- and the amp won't be a waste of money; it will still be a great practice amp should you retire it from the stage.
"You can't write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say sometimes, so you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream." - Frank Zappa

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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by TRGuitar » March 9th, 2010, 3:49 pm

+1 on the watts and type of amp. With $2,000.00 you certainly have enough cash to score exellent gear, but if you spend $1,000.00 on an amp you decide is the wrong sound for you it is money wasted. $300.00 will get you a gigable modeling amp that has many sounds and you will figure the ones you like. Then is the time to drop the big bucks on an amp. Oh .... and a bonus ..... there are all kinds of pedals for effects and processors and such that cost money and present thousands of choices. They are built into most of the modeling amps too so you can decide on the ones of those you like. As far as the Epiphone DOT goes I don't think you would be disapointed. As far as the pickups, I'd try the stock ones first and for the machine heads ..... the new Epiphones come with Grovers.
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Ming8
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by Ming8 » March 22nd, 2010, 8:27 pm

Cool man, it's always sweet to broaden your musical horizons. So for starters be sure to pay attention to your touch on the instrument. You will need to play an electric guitar "lighter" than you would an acoustic. As far as amps go for small venues I would definitely stick with a tube amp and not go above 40 watts. If you go higher than that the amp will not respond how you want it to dynamically. It will be a bit stiff unless you are at a least at 4 or so on the volume which for a more than 40 watt tube amp is way loud. I've been a pro club musician for the past 4 years and use a 15 watt blues jr. tweed by fender. Never needed anything more, plenty of head room to fill the place.

Cat
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by Cat » March 24th, 2010, 12:45 am

Try stringing your CURRENT acoustic with a set of electric .009's. If it STILL plays accurately...and with good action...everywhere on the fretboard...you've already "changed". THEN go out and spend some good money on something that ya'll plug in! I've got an old Epiphone acoustic that plays like the best fretboards on any other axe I've found. It sounds like fecal matter...and even tinny...but, sheesh...it plays exceptionally well.

Cat
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Hurricane_Ramon
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by Hurricane_Ramon » May 18th, 2010, 7:14 pm

excerpts :
Jackistan wrote:I'm hardly a musical beginner - I've been playing guitar since I was fifteen and I've been playing saxophone and keyboards since I was ten(I'm twenty-one now). But for most of that time, I've played acoustic and I'm getting ready to
move towards electric for playing live.........

_._

All this is even tougher because I'm left handed ..........

_._

(Before anyone says anything, I'm not switching from acoustic to electric because I think that's what you need to do to get people to listen to your music - I've written many songs specifically for electric guitar, with something of a punk/disco edge to them, and I want to start a band focusing on that sort of music. I've just never had the money to seriously invest in quality electronic gear until now.)
=============================================

Hello Jackistan :

Your over the hardest part believe me for a fellow who's capable playing several instruments The transition is a lot easier than you think ...........
_._

The issue of getting it right is the issue I see here with this one time amount of x$'s . From what I surmise is your not near a megalopolis and that's making this a tougher field to play on so ..........There's one company I know with lefty's up the wazuuuu with a return policy that is iron clad for you to return it and get your $ back or ship you another till your satisfied completely . I don't work or sell their stuff but I do own some . Carvin is the name give it a look . There will be individuals that will knock this company I'm sure but pro's on the west coast know about them and many pros use them . They make amps too .
_._

With what you have written it seems that your in league for more than just a guitar and amp . Some one mentioned a modeler and that's a really cool too , I'm down with that , but your into something even more deeper than that too .

You need a combination modeler and DAW workstation .

Why - - Thought you would never ask ...........

I play several instruments too - harmonica(s) - guitars - keyboards - drums -trumpet and I'm game to pick up the flute I just got if I get the time .

I have a combination :

[ Stomp Boxes (10)

[ FX ] ( all of em justabout )

[ 8 track stand alone w/usb digital recorder ]

[ Midi Drum machine ]

[ single XLR microphone w/ phantom power input]

[ 1/4" guitar input ]

[ 1/4" stereo line in ]

[ 1/4" high and XLR low hz outs ]

[ midi in and out ]

with this I can do what your wanting to accomplish simply put .

With your song writing skills this type of system was made for you , it is made for me and I love it .

With this system you can use the stomp boxes , FXs , the different types of guitar amps and cabinets available and record and then realize not only their particular sound but also as another mentioned here in this forum you will hear THE ONE you like best that emulates the things in a electric guitar and amp that turn you on and then ......... you get the ideal one you want .

This system is available although it seems they are not as plentiful as when I got mine . Line6 makes one nice unit , mine is a Digitech GNX4 not made but there are a few on ebay that are new refurbished and with " like new warranty's as well as some online in the usual online biggies .

Good hunting man .

Hurricane Ramon
It started for me with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a Blues Harp and progressed , then life -some death-Evolving like a small rock in a stream rounding out as I went with the flow as I go through the white waters and waterfalls of life .

EMT
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by EMT » May 28th, 2010, 1:37 pm

I'm planning a move to electric as well.
Is there any brands and models I should avoid?
red meat doesn't kill you, fuzzy green meat does.

Blue Jay
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by Blue Jay » May 30th, 2010, 8:55 am

EMT wrote:I'm planning a move to electric as well.
Is there any brands and models I should avoid?
Maybe start a new thread to get noticed. Try several - there are many big stores all around you. Forget Sears, or any non-music store. Don't buy a new Silvertone? Good luck. :lol:
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TwistedFingers
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by TwistedFingers » May 30th, 2010, 7:02 pm

TRGuitar wrote: As far as the Epiphone DOT goes I don't think you would be disapointed. As far as the pickups, I'd try the stock ones first and for the machine heads ..... the new Epiphones come with Grovers.
I have to agree with TR. I have an Epi DOT Deluxe. Machineheads are Grover's. Stock pickups are Alnico II's and I'm very happy with the way they sound. It's a very versatile guitar for $400 or under..
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -- "WOW--What a Ride!"

darkhorse
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Re: Moving from acoustic to electric, what do I need to know

Post by darkhorse » June 11th, 2010, 3:29 am

Electric guitars:
Musician's Friend (website) has all manner of models and prices, ask for a free catalog or browse their website. You can find fairly nice guitars for a reasonable price. ESP, Epiphone, some Fenders, and many others for under $400. Most guitars these days are pretty good.

One issue you will have is learning to set the guitar up or take it into the music store for a tech to set it up, intonate it and adjust your bridge in. Seldom are guitars setup really good when new. I usually spend a day fine tuning my new ones getting the strings on I like, adjusting the neck bow properly and getting the bridge intonated as accurately as possible (requires a good tuner). That is one difference about an electric, it has to be set-up to play well, the first time, then as long as you use the same guage strings you never really have to do much to it. Once the guitar sets in the neck usually holds well, if you go in and out from cold to hot all the time expect problems. I do not think I have had to redo my neck bow for years.

The neck should have a very slight bow away from the strings for proper clearance (a playing card thickness under the 5th fret when holding the 6th string down on each end of the neck. Best to get an experienced tech to go through this for you, try and watch them to learn how.


Do not worry about playing a high dollar guitar. Most are just way over priced anyway.
For about 15 years now I have played nothing but custom Carvin's of all types. I just have no use for anything else. What they can make for $1000-1200 will rival anything you can find for 3x the money.Real quality workmanship and parts. I have had as many as 4 before, now I have 3 including one of their kit guitars I assembled myself.

Carvin's are exceptional, their standard feaures are way better than most stock models. Locking tuners, 24 frets, your pick of woods and finishes. AND your name on it, engraved into the neck rod cover. I have two strat models I had built one is an all mohogany neck and body with a maple top and maple fingerboard, 24 frets, locking tuners, Carvin's dual rail single coil humbucker pickups (8.3ohms) I also put in a Tone Styler tone control. A killer strat. The other strat is a kit I put together with 2 std single coils and a HB in the bridge. I think it was under $500 as I got some gold hardware. Some features I did myself and it has an EBONY fingerboard, a Strat w an EBONY neck, just too cool. My other one is older, a DC400 beauty w transparent black stain and gold hardware, dual HBs like a Les Paul. Great guitars, anyone who does not think so can bite me. I know better, I own them. Why should I fret about playing 3,4,5K for a name brand crap guitar, some more than that, which often do not have good machine heads, cheap bridges and you have to replace the pickups. You have to pay big bucks for a decent Fender custom to get away from those cheesy tuners and bridges,

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