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                   The amplifier as an integral part of the electric guitar idea



The electric guitar is a recent instrument whose conception and design cannot be understood without integrating the amplification system. Indeed, the electric guitar is a system that consists of at least two parts, these parts are the sound generator and the amplifier. 


The sound generator is the guitar itself, which is built with a solid or semi-acoustic body in order to avoid or minimize feedback between the loudspeaker and a non-linear electromagnetic pickup system (pickups).


In this way, the electric guitar, unlike the acoustic guitar, as a result of his design and his non-linear pickup system, is unable to generate enough harmonic texture to be a viable musical sound. at this point the amplification will take care of shaping and restoring this lack, and it does so, not only quantitatively,  producing levels of dynamics and increased projection and loudness, but also - and more importantly - qualitatively by re-establishing the harmonic voice  balance  necessary for a musically functional sound.


In other words, the sound source to be amplified - the solid or semi-solid guitar - is incomplete and musically unfeasible, therefore it is not valid to apply linearity criteria to the amplification,  because we would be magnifying a  non-musical sound, consequently, techniques in the field of fidelity that serve to amplify complete sources,  such as those of live performances or already recorded music, are not entirely useful in the amplification of electric guitar. Contrary to high fidelity, whose objective is within a delimited and specific horizon : to reproduce the music faithfully to the original signal), in musical instrument amplification, the source (the guitar and the pickup) is not a "finished" sound. », but a sound in «construction» whose horizon of reference is  an internal subjective idea,  consequence of the aesthetic and cultural criteria of the system designer, which leads to an evident personal hallmark in the final product


This subjectivity in the conception of sound,  turns the design and construction of amplifiers into a process of pure sound generation, that is: into a musical instrument by itself,  so the global concept, is in the antipodes of the idea of an industrial guitar accessory. Summarizing, the amplifier, and we can state this emphatically and unequivocally, is an integral and supportive part in the conception of the electric guitar idea,  and it is so at least 50% – if not more –


Therefore, the methodological approach requires a previous aesthetic vision,  and not only a strictly theoretical execution of an electronic circuit,  which would leads us to the  frequent and unfortunate "tunnel vision". In this respect, therefore, the use of non-canonical techniques, some on the verge of "error" such as the search for harmonic and bandwidth distortion, signal asymmetry, impedance mismatches, etc... are not only perfectly acceptable, but also they are consciously sought after in an effort to achieve this elusive musically stimulating sound. As long as the circuitry is stable, reliable, and reasonably quiet, any extravagance that would be unacceptable in a more stringent environment such as hi-fi, in a musical instrument can make the difference between an exciting, musical sound and a sterile, hollow one. . Therefore, once the necessary criteria of reliability, stability and robustness have been verified, the evaluation of the product can only be finally quantified by the musician through what is clearly obvious : the simple act of testing the amplifier and deciding if the resulting sound meets your expectations of usefulness to your aesthetic idea, any other technical or commercial consideration should not have, from my point of view, any use 


Joan Payàs 


Vic 07/10/2022

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