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Playing electric guitars unplugged is necessary


You can tell a lot about an electric guitar by not plugging it in.

While true the whole point of an electric guitar is to have its sound amplified, it's actually a very good idea to play these things unplugged first for two main reasons:

1. It's much easier to hear weird sounds (if any).

2. It's much easier to know if the guitar feels right or not.

"Weird sounds" defined

Buzzing, rattling, creaking, squeaking, unintended ringing and so on. Anything non-musical, as in non-musical noises.

A few examples:

If you bend a string and hear a creaking noise, that's not good. You'd most likely never hear that when plugged in, but it really sticks out when unplugged.

If you play a hard chord, stop it with your picking hand and hear ringing, where's that coming from? Is that string ring after the nut in the headstock area? Under the pick guard (if the guitar has one)? Behind the bridge if there is string travel there? If the guitar makes noises like this, you'll hear them when playing unplugged.

The electric sound works against you when testing for feel

I've said this before and will say it again - what makes or breaks a guitar is the neck, and that has everything to do with your fret hand and not your ears. If you have an amplified sound blaring out while testing out a guitar, that's a distraction. You should play unplugged first, and if you don't hear weird noises and the feel agrees with you, then plug in afterward.

Some guitars I tried out recently

Below is a video of me playing 100% unplugged.

The guitars seen in the video are the following:

  1. Squier Sonic Telecaster (new)
  2. Squier Affinity Telecaster (new)
  3. Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic (new)
  4. Squier Sonic Stratocaster HT (new)
  5. Squier Affinity Telecaster (used)
  6. Squier Affinity Stratocaster (used)

Because some guys are interested in this info, which of these guitars had the best vibration and projection? The Sonic Strat HT. For some reason, that guitar really rings out in the right ways. And it's fortunately dirt cheap.

Published 2023 Nov 14

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