Basic Troubleshooting


Many times, the problem isn’t somewhere deep in your amp’s chassis; you might have just forgotten to plug it in, turn it on, turn it up, take it out of standby mode, or plug your guitar into it. Check simple causes before complex ones.

You’re at a gig. The gig is about to start. You need sound to come out of your amp. No sound is coming out of your amp. You start to sweat. There must be a complicated and expensive problem with your amp or with your instrument, because no sound is coming out.

Pause. Remain calm.

Ever hear an expression that goes something to the effect of, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses”? It means that the simplest explanation for something is usually the best one. That is, the hypothetical hoofbeats are far more likely to be created by a commonly encountered hoofed animal (say, a horse) than by a far less commonly encountered hoofed animal (say, a zebra). Actually, the phrase is apparently of medical origin, reminding doctors to seek likely expected diagnoses before more unlikely and exotic ones (zebra hence becoming medical slang for a surprising diagnosis).

So why are we talking about ungulates and medical terminology? Your gig is about to start and you’ve got nothing

Here’s why: You’ve got no sound happening, but nine times out of ten there probably isn’t a complicated and expensive problem with your amp or with your instrument. It’s far more likely that there’s a much simpler explanation for the problem—something a little basic troubleshooting can deal with quickly and easily. Which is good news for you, your act, your gear and your bank account.

When you’ve got no sound, think horses. Always troubleshoot a gear problem by checking the simplest causes first. Honestly, you’d really be surprised how often the culprits are simple and pretty obvious. Therefore, before you start freaking out and getting way too creative, make sure that:

  • The amp is in fact plugged in.
  • The amp is in fact turned on.
  • The amp is in fact not in standby mode.
  • The speaker mute switch is in fact not engaged.
  • The amp is in fact properly connected to the speakers/enclosure.
  • The amp volume is in fact sufficiently up.
  • The instrument is in fact properly plugged in at both ends.
  • The instrument volume is in fact sufficiently up.
  • The building does in fact have sufficiently working electricity.

If none of the above steps help, you may well need to go ahead and get creative. But first things first—doing a little basic troubleshooting before anything else can be most helpful.


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