Can You Play an Electric Guitar Without an Amp and What Are Your Other Options?

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If you’ve recently bought an electric guitar, you may wonder and ask, “Can you play an electric guitar without an amp?

Well, traditionally, an amplifier is a must-have accessory for an electric guitar since it helps boost your guitar’s signals.

Thus, if you want to perform in front of an audience, you may require an amp to produce a louder sound.

However, if you want to practice at your home in the middle of the night, you may think about playing it without an amp.

Well, here’s the good news: you can play an electric guitar without an amp.

To help you do so successfully, we’ve compiled eight ways to play an electric guitar without an amp.

Electric Guitar vs. Acoustic Guitar

First, let’s define what an electric guitar is and how it differs from an acoustic guitar.

We’re pretty sure you already know that you do not need an amplifier for an acoustic guitar, but an amp sounds like a necessity for an electric guitar.

Acoustic Guitars

Acoustic guitars are budget-friendly. Besides, you do not need many accessories when buying them.

You may only require:

  • A guitar pick
  • Guitar case
  • Spare strings

Also, the price range for beginner acoustic guitars lies somewhere between $100 and $150.

If you skip buying the accessories, you may get an affordable acoustic guitar.

However, as a professional, you should opt for a good-quality acoustic guitar that might cost you a bit more.

Electric Guitars

The first significant difference between an electric guitar and an acoustic is the price.

Unfortunately, electric guitars can be pretty expensive.

You will also need more accessories, such as:

  • An amplifier
  • Picks
  • Tuner
  • Effects pedals
  • Audio cable

Nevertheless, electric guitars offer the best sound when it comes to versatility.

If you get an external amp, there is an excellent chance for sound expansion.

Besides, you do not need to pull those strings too hard to get the guitar working.

Why You May Want To Play an Electric Guitar Without an Amp

There could be several reasons you’d want to play an electric guitar without an amp, and the most common ones are:

  • You do not want to annoy your neighbors with loud sounds.
  • You’re a newbie and want to practice without letting others know.
  • Despite having purchased an electric guitar, you can’t afford an amp at the moment.
  • You live with your family, and you don’t want to disturb them.
  • You do not have enough space to create the setup.

Can You Play an Electric Guitar Without an Amp?

Short answer: yes. In contrast, you may not enjoy the essence of an electric guitar without an amp.

That said, if you’re bound by the reasons discussed above, you may want to opt for this option.

What Can I Use If I Don’t Have an Amp?

Here are eight recommended ways to play an electric guitar without an amp:

1. Go Unplugged 

Before you try other alternatives, first go with this one.

Just play the electric guitar by itself. While it may not sound loud and you may not be able to alter the tone, it will still produce sound.

Want to know how an electric guitar sounds unplugged? Very much like an acoustic guitar!

The electric guitar will still produce sound waves when its vibrating strings are resonating against its wood material.

We all know that acoustic guitars have a wooden box that acts as a resonating chamber, which is missing in an electric guitar.

So, your electric guitar may sound closer to an acoustic guitar, but the sound expansion will be minimal.

2. Your Smartphone 

Whether you are an iOS or an Android user, we have a way for you to play your electric guitar without an amplifier.

Luckily, several handy apps are available that are excellent for practicing and recording your music simultaneously.

Below are the steps on how you can get them working.

  • For iOS Users

AmpliTube, BIAS FX, and Amplitude are some great apps in the business.

If you’re an iOS user, you’d need a bass interface.

With the help of an input device, you’ll be able to get the most out of your electric guitar without an amp.

Here are what you need to do:

  1. Plug your electric guitar wire into the input device
  2. Use a USB cable to plug the other end of the input device into your iPhone
  3. Plug your headphones into your iOS device

That’s it! Now play your heart out without worrying about anyone hearing you.

  • For Android Users

Tonebridge, BIAS FX, and Deplike Guitar FX are some of the best alternatives for Android users.

The steps of connection are similar to that of an iOS device.

You would also need an input device to connect to your electric guitar.

Then, plug a USB connector into the input device and the other end into your smartphone.

You’re all set! With this method, you can play your guitar on the go.

can you play an electric guitar without an amp

3. Your Mac or PC 

Besides your cellphone, you can also connect your electric guitar to your PC.

For this, you’d need an audio interface to play your guitar without an amp.

After all, specific software lets you record as you play. 

So, if your phone is running out of battery or you’re comfortable using your PC, here’s what you can do.

  1. If you’re a Mac user, you can install software like AmpliTube or Guitar Rig, but BIAS FX and Deplike will suit you best.
  2. Plug your guitar into your PC and open the software you’re willing to use.
  3. After that, you should be able to access effects and amps.

If you want to work in silence, you can plug in your headphones and listen as you play.

4. A Multi-Effects Processor

A multi-effects processor allows you to experiment with various sound effects.

After all, many multi-effect pedals have options for you to recreate the sound of famous amplifiers without buying them.

Also, most multi-effect pedals on the market have an interface to plug in your headphones or earphones. 

Therefore, if your neighbors are sick of hearing raucous sounds coming out of your electric guitar, you’re on the safe side with this processor.

Below are the steps on how you can get it working.

  1. Connect your electric guitar to a multi-effects processor
  2. Plug your earphones into the interface of the pedal
  3. For a louder sound, you can plug your speakers as well

Note that you may need to purchase a headphone port adapter if your processor only supports a 1/4″ headphone jack.

Additionally, while multi-effects processors are excellent at producing a range of sound effects, they may be as pricey as an actual amplifier.

5. A Home Stereo or a Boom Box

This alternative could again be one of the simplest ways to get your electric guitar working without an amp.

It is relatively affordable as most of us already have a boom box or stereo in our homes.

You might need a connector that will not cost more than $5 or $6, especially since you’ll easily find it at a nearby electronics store.

You need to consider two things while buying a connector, though, namely:

  • The connector should have a 0.25 inches female jack at one end and a male RCA on the other end.
  • Make sure the female jack is mono because you’ll be connecting this side to your electric guitar.

Once you’ve accomplished those, you need to pay attention to the volume in the next step.

Before you set up your guitar with the stereo, turn the volume down at a minimum.

This practice will ensure that none of your tools gets damaged.

Once you’ve set up your guitar, you can increase the volume gradually.

After you’ve played the strings for a couple of minutes, you can further adjust the tone per your preferences.

You can follow similar steps if you’re using a boombox. You just need a cable connector with a ⅛” male jack. 

6. Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

If you want your vocals to sound professional in a recording, a digital audio workstation (DAW) is all you need.

That said, to set up the device, you would need a few top-quality and flexible components.

As such, it may cost you a bit more than the other alternatives above.

You would need:

  • An audio interface or sound card
  • Digital Audio Editing Software (You can install it easily)
  • XLR input (microphone)

Once you’ve created a setup, you can record and edit your instrument sound and vocals.

Besides, a few digital audio ports allow you to connect multiple devices.

Hence, you can record using multiple instruments, such as drums, piano, and ukulele, simultaneously.

7. An Affordable Micro Amp

A micro AMP is another alternative if you want to play your guitar without an amplifier.

You can get a good quality AMP for as low as $50. 

It consists of a small amplifier that works with a battery and can only produce sound to a certain extent.

Additionally, you can plug in your headphones if you want to enjoy your guitar in peace.

Since it’s a micro amp, you can carry it around with you wherever you go.

In addition, it will provide you with the good quality sound of your electric guitar.

The best part? You don’t need extra cables or a technical setup to get your guitar working.

You should keep in mind, though, that this device is delicate and made out of plastic.

So, if you accidentally step on the headphones and the wire gets pulled out with force, you may end up damaging the device.

Lastly, remember that the power supply may be a bit of an issue with micro amplifiers.

If the device runs low on battery, it won’t work. As such, you may require a new battery.

You can also find micro amplifiers that you can charge with a USB cable.

8. A PA System

If you’re a music enthusiast, you may already know that amplifiers began as PA systems in the clubs. 

Since acoustic instruments weren’t loud enough to be heard in a crowd, clubs considered PA systems.

Still, early systems weren’t as good as the sound we hear today. The sound quality was harsh and broken on several levels.

With that in mind, if you have access to a PA system, you may want to consider this to bang your guitar.

To get started, you just need to plug your electric guitar into a mixer, and you’re good to go.

Just be careful while you plug in your guitar. Make sure you slow down the volume of your speakers.

Otherwise, you may end up blowing your speakers since they may not be able to withstand the loud sound of your electric guitar in the first go.

Once you’ve played your guitar for a few minutes, you can increase the volume gradually. But it’s best to keep the volume low.

Using a PA system may be the last option you’d go with as you may not want to lug around a bulky, heavy PA system.

After all, you already have other handy options available.

Is an Amp Necessary for an Electric Guitar? 

A guitar amplifier is similar to a Doritos sauce on tortilla chips. You may eat them separately but won’t enjoy their real goodness.

An amplifier is just like an essential accessory that comes along with an electric guitar.

If you skip buying an amp, you’re probably not getting the max out of your electric guitar.

If you’re a newbie, you can consider practicing without an amp, but as a professional artist, an amp is a must-have.

If affordability is an issue, you can buy a cheap multi-effect pedal or use your headphones.

Conclusion

So, if you’ve recently bought an electric guitar and are wondering: “Can you play an electric guitar without an amp?

The answer is you most definitely can with the help of other useful devices.

A micro amp and multi-effect pedal are the best options, but you can also hear yourself rock n roll by connecting it to your computer or smartphone by installing specific software.

All in all, the next time you wonder if you can play an electric guitar without an amp, have a look at our guide.