Newbie to electrics really struggling

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Hi guys, I have been playing acoustic for around 4 months (also had a brief time with guitars around 10 years ago) I am at a stage where my fingers no longer hurt and I know most of my basic chords and have no real trouble switching between them. I decided I would like to try out electric so I bought an amp used (Carlsbro stingray super) I have always been happy with my acoustics sounds, I have a Cort ad 810 ns Dreadnought and a Crafter fsg-250e electro acoustic but I hate the sound I get from plugging in the Crafter, I am struggling after many hours to find a sound I like. I have also been through a few electric guitars with the same problem, a Squier Bullet, an old Columbus LP, A Squire strat all of which are gone now and I currently have a Stagg LP and a Samick Avion Av1. 
I think it's time I gave up changing gear to get a sound I like and accept its myself that is the weakest link here. I don't want to go spending more on gear with the same result so was wondering what steps I should take from here? Any advise appreciated as I don't want to just give up. Thanks for reading
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    1. How do you go about setting your amp?
    2. What pickup do you favour on you guitar? 
    3. What sound (or influences) are you going for
    My muse is not a horse and art is not a race.
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  • I have always started from everything on 5 and tweaked from there, I don't play with the volume on too high as I am a bit embarrassed for the neighbours to hear me as I am not very good. I don't really have any preference on neck vs bridge, I don't think I know enough to discern which is the right sound for what I am playing. I like a lot of music, to name a few,  Led zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Eric Clapton, The Eagles to more modern stuff like the Killers and Snow Patrol so quite varied. I have also been Playing (quite Badly) 12 Bar Blues lately which I really enjoy.
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  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2421
    edited September 2015
    I would suggest one further outlay. Get yourself a Chorus pedal - Boss Chorus pedals show up regularly on eBay. I had a very similar experience to yours. I'd mastered the usual cowboy chords, amazed myself with my daring use of C#m etc. but every time I touched the electric it sounded hideous*. The Chorus pedal makes everything a little sweeter, allowing you to plug away until the 'Aha' moment where you begin to understand how the strings should be struck and get a feel for the guitar. Electric is a very different instrument to acoustic and it takes time to get to grips with, esp. when every mistake is amplified. The chorus helps get over that initial period. my 0.02p

    ps. Thinking on this, it doesn't have to be a Chorus (although that serves very well for the purpose), phase or flange will do the job, they are all sonic sweetners. I would stay away from distortion or OD though, while they sound great, they can hide your mistakes and faults go undiscovered.

    * Still does, truth be told.
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  • Clean vs distorted - I'm sure you know the difference, try starting with clean and adding more grit until it does what you want. For some tunes you'll want clean, for others you'll want lots of dirt, and for some you'll want it to sound clean until you thump more than one string at a time and dig in a bit. Those are the hardest sounds to achieve, where the amp is just on the edge of breakup.

    Tone quality - again you will want things to be different depending on what you are playing, but ask yourself - is this 'tinny' (if so, turn the treble down a bit), is this 'muffled' (turn the treble up a bit), is this 'boomy' (turn the bass down a bit) - etc. If you experiment with the controls in an attempt to sort out a problem that your ears perceive with the sound, you will begin to associate certain control settings with a sound that's useable for certain applications. You might find that for chord work (strumming or picking) a 'scooped' sound (ie plenty of bass & treble but not much middle) is good, but for solos, a middly sound is better (not too much bass & treble but plenty of middle).

    Your guitar also will have its own sound: s/c pickups tend to be trebly and lightweight in sound whereas humbuckers are fatter. usually the pickup nearest the bridge produces a brighter sound than the one near the neck.
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  • Thanks Guys, I think I am just frustrated as I felt I was getting somewhere with the acoustic and now when playing electric it feels like I am stepping backwards. I have looked at lots of pedals but wasn't entirely sure what they offered over just the amp. The amp has a few effects like suzz, reverb and tremelo but while some have a nice effect I just struggle to see where they should be set.I am also struggling to find instructions for the amp as its so old, it has 4 inputs on the front and they all seem to sound different...I don't even know which one I should be using!
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  • koss59koss59 Frets: 543
    Have you got a good teacher? They should help your playing and how to get a good sound.
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  • You're not stepping backwards. You're just playing a different instrument. Just because the notes are in the same place doesn't mean the instrument behaves the same. There are a lot of piano players that think they can play an organ, but it's a whole other technique, and it's the same between acoustic and electric guitars.

    Where the FX controls (and the tone, gain, etc) on your amplifier or even guitar "should" be set is determined by what you want for the music you are playing. Even though you admit to little experience, you yourself know that max distortion and max reverb isn't going to suit a fingerpicked version of Greensleeves!
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
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  • when I first saw your post I thought Hey Up! Skodster is back :-O
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 15023
    I'd focus on the amp.

    If it's what I think it is, I had a variant of it (2x12, 100w combo) back in the early '80s.  I was never that impressed with it back then, and (a) things have moved on a long long way since the early '80s and (b) the amp won't have improved any.

    Sure, you can buy pedals (there are many on here who can't *stop* buying pedals) to change the sound, but pedals can't hide a fundamental problem with the amp.

    So, I'd suggest either trying your guitars through a mate's amp, or one in a shop.  Doesn't have to be a *specific* amp (although an electro will probably sound better through an amp intended for electros), but see if you can get a sound you like.  If so, you know the source is OK, and you either need to continue twiddling the settings on your amp, or bin the amp.  Depending on what you need - if it's just for home practice - then a s/h THR or Roland Cube can be found for £not-a-lot.

    If you can't get a decent sound using your guitar through the mate's/shop's amp, try one of their guitars through their amp.  If that still doesn't work ... take up bass.

    ;) 
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  • HAL9000HAL9000 Frets: 3970
    +1 that an electric guitar is a different beast from an acoustic.

    Apart from the volume control, your amp should also have a gain or drive knob. This will control the amount of distortion in your sound. You will probably need less distortion than you might first think.

    As regards tone, you probably have three controls (bass, middle, and treble). A good starting point is to set all three at about the halfway mark and then to listen and tweak.

    If you're thinking of upgrading your gear then I'd suggest a fairly straightforward amp such as a Roland Cube which has just the one input and is very intuitive to use, but also has quite a variety of sounds in it.

    From your musical tastes it would appear that mostly you like fairly 'clean' tones with a hint of grit. I reckon something like a Squier CV Strat, or Fender MIM Strat would probably suit. Strats are very versatile instruments and do 'cleans' surprisingly well.
    It might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar.
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  • Re-reading the OP, I think most of us would have difficulty getting a half-decent sound out of a Carlsboro Stingray.

    Until they stopped making the Harley_Benton GA5 I used to tell people to get one, and enjoy a decent clean sound with no FX, then start adding FX pedals as & when they identified the need for them. Similar would apply for an Epiphone Valve Junior, but they are a bit pricer than the GA5 (but its the same circuit, just Badge Engineering).

    I would like to misquote @HAL9000: ES-335s are very versatile instruments and do 'cleans' surprisingly well. Similar can apply to their derivatives & copies.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32846
    edited September 2015
    Skodadad said:
    Carlsbro stingray
    This might be your problem.

    ;)

    (Ha, Phil beat me to it :).)

    I actually quite like the old Stingray, but it is very much an acquired taste, is not an easy amp to dial in and is not really suitable for an electro-acoustic at all, although could be made to work if you're really determined.

    I would get something much more modern, flexible, and more suited to your instruments - and smaller and lighter too!

    For your electro-acoustic, you want an acoustic amp not an electric guitar amp. They are actually quite different and it's never ideal to use one for the other purpose, although you can use an acoustic amp for very jazzy clean sounds.

    For your electric guitars, I would get a small modelling amp such as a Fender Mustang, Vox AD, Line 6 Spider, Roland Cube etc. These have a huge range of sounds and a good basic tone. Some of them also have clean enough settings that you can use them for an electro-acoustic too, or even a dedicated acoustic setting, which might be called something like 'tube preamp'.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • Brilliant advice thanks, I will look into a new amp and I think it's also maybe time I got some lessons as I feel like I have hit a brick wall with regards to progression too.
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  • On a side note the way to describe my problem with the amp is that any chords I play seem to blend together into a bit of a muddy mess. There is no real distinction between the notes played.
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  • dogloaddogload Frets: 1278
    I'll add a BIG +1 for the problem being your amp. 

    I've got one of these things, and I think it sounds fantastic, BUT I am running it quite loud (OK, very loud) which really gets the speakers working. Also I run my guitars through a load of pedals and run the signal into both channels of the amp.

    As ICBM says, it is not the easiest amp to get a good sound from, particularly at bedroom levels, and I remember my younger self trying to get a good sound from old solid state amps and always being disappointed by the results. For practicing, a more modern alternative is a good idea. When you get to the gigging stage, then you will see how much better your Carlsbro can sound!
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  • HAL9000HAL9000 Frets: 3970
    edited September 2015
    Skodadad;771858" said:
    On a side note the way to describe my problem with the amp is that any chords I play seem to blend together into a bit of a muddy mess. There is no real distinction between the notes played.
    Turn any gain or drive on the amp right down. Also, back off the volume a little on the guitar. If the mushiness persists then I'd agree that your amp is at least part of the problem. I'd also suggest the obvious of paying a visit to your local guitar and amp emporium and trying some other stuff out.
    It might look like I'm listening to you, but in my head I'm playing my guitar.
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  • dogloaddogload Frets: 1278
    There's a built-in distortion on the amp which is foot-switchable. If what HAL9000 says doesn't work, it could be that this (SUZZ) is switched on. I can't remember off the top of my head how it works, but there is a Gain control of some sort for the SUZZ effect,. If you don't have the footswitches for the amp you may not be able to switch it off, so roll back the gain.
    You can always try the other channel, although this doesn't have reverb.

    Or is it the reverb that is making everything blend together? If so, just turn it down a bit.
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  • RockerRocker Frets: 2744
    I had a Carlsboro Stingray. My cousin could get a decent sound from it. I found it difficult to use. Try another amp or two in a shop. As has already been said, an electric guitar is more than a louder version of an acoustic guitar. Both are fun. Stick with it and keep on experimenting with it. A good guitar teacher will help too.
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. [Albert Einstein]

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  • SkippedSkipped Frets: 2122
    edited September 2015
     My instinct from reading your post is that your ears are way ahead of your budget. (That is a compliment by the way).
    I would not even think about pedals yet.
    Focus on a really good guitar with good pickups + a small valve amp. When you have that...(and you practice hard) some of the classic guitars tones of the past 60 years will slowly emerge.....to your astonishment. Ok - not the high gain ones but I think that finding the organic ones is highly rewarding to anybody that loves music. And your question and your thread is about...... tone.

    What is the cheapest really great sounding guitar? That is controversial but here goes.
    Is a second hand SG Special out of the question? (£380 to £400)
    Small valve amp - dozens of options. Second hand Fender Champion 600 is one, But if you can't be with the one you Love - Love the one you're with.

    I am being ambitious (with someone elses money) because of your clear enthusiasm.
    Other people on this thread will tell you that the high quality guitar can be be done for much less money than I am suggesting and you should listen carefully to them because..... I am a Gibson Fan Boy.

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  • Thanks folks, such a friendly site! I was expecting to be told to go away and pay someone to help me out so its been a nice surprise! I do have both the pedals for the amp and both work OK, the amp was demo'd to me by the seller who had a gorgeous strat he had owned for around 40 years. He was an amazing player and I think I am disappointed I cant make it sound like he did, I know his skill was in no small part the reason for the sound it made. He also had a detached bungalow and wasn't scared to crank it up so again what you guys are saying does make a lot of sense. I am looking at smaller amps now, I have a 2 yr old and a six month old so the chance to play at anything approaching loud is fairly limited. I also can't help but worry what it sounds like to the neighbours. I have also seen these earphone type mini amps, does anyone know of a decent one that can replicate an amp to any degree of accuracy or would I be better just getting some quality earphones and an amp that has a socket for them?  I did initially have a Marshall MG 30 DFX which I didn't much care for either as I think it had some problems due to being overused with a constant crackling from the speaker and audio distortion. Thanks again for all your advise, I am taking it all on board
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  • stimpsonslostsonstimpsonslostson Frets: 3202
    edited September 2015
    Another comment... another opinion... ;)
    Half the battle for me was finding gear that made me WANT to play- a guitar & amp that sound and feel good to you.
    It sounds a bit like you're not convinced by what you have... Maybe take another guitar playing friend to your local Guitars'r'Us & spend a fun day trying things out- maybe you'll work out what fits you.
    My first amp was also a 100w jobbie that I was never sure about till I got the chance to play it LOUD! Buying a much smaller amp for practice really got me playing at home more often.
    If you're mainly playing at home & are worried about the neighbours I'd heartily recommend trying a Yamaha THR5 or THR10 amp.
    It's a great sounding small amp that does a good range of tones, has basic effects built in (looks good too if there's a Mrs Skodadad to appease- mine lives on a shelf in the living room & is our main stereo).
    There's a headphone socket & aux in too, meaning you can play along to mp3s etc.

    In terms of guitars, it sounds (as others have said) like you're leaning towards single coil tones- a nice strat or tele is immensely versatile & the Squier range- particularly the Classic Vibes represent awesome value for money. Several of my friends use them as their main gigging guitars.


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  • I'm very lucky in the other half dept, my partner loves the look of the guitars on their wall hangers and even talks about learning herself as I get better and start to play things she knows. She went to a theatre school and her dad is in a barbershop choir and plays ukele so she's always been around music. I LOVE the look of that Yamaha, if you tube is anything to go by it sounds exactly what I am looking for, unfortunately we just had our lounge plastered and new carpets coming this month so may be next month before I can stretch to it.
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  • Don't get caught in the gear trap! :)
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  • TTonyTTony Frets: 15023
    Skodadad said:
    I have also seen these earphone type mini amps, does anyone know of a decent one that can replicate an amp to any degree of accuracy or would I be better just getting some quality earphones and an amp that has a socket for them?
    I wouldn't seriously consider anything that restricted you to having to have earphones in whenever you wanted to play.

    The Yamaha THR10 is generally the recommended amp here, for the quality and range of sounds (which you can tweak when you link to the PC), it's flexibility (mp3 input and headphone socket) and being unobtrusive (it doesn't really look like an amp).  OK, so you're not going to gig with it, but for a home-based practice focused tool it's excellent.  

    It's sufficiently tweak-able to ensure you get a good sound (with presets to let you save and retrieve them).

    The aux-in means you can plug in any audio source to play along with backing tracks (etc), and the speakers are (I believe) "full range" so that the playback of audio sounds half-decent.  

    I bought one a couple of years ago, and wouldn't sell mine.  But they do appear in the Classifieds here from time to time, so check them out on YT and keep your eyes on the ads here.

    And get rid of the old Carlsbro.  

    (I used to lift mine in and out of the boot of a mk1 Escort, and then up/down three flights of stairs.  100w 2x12!  Ouch)
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 32846
    Skipped said:
    Small valve amp - dozens of options. Second hand Fender Champion 600 is one,
    I honestly wouldn't recommend getting a small valve amp like the Champion 600. Yes, they do a particular kind of bluesy overdrive sound well, and a tolerable clean sound, but that's it - almost no tone variation overdriven and not much clarity clean. I quite like them but I wouldn't want one as my only amp.

    I would avoid a valve amp until you can afford something much better.

    Skodadad said:
    I have also seen these earphone type mini amps, does anyone know of a decent one that can replicate an amp to any degree of accuracy or would I be better just getting some quality earphones and an amp that has a socket for them?
    A real amp - far more flexible. Almost all of the smaller modelling amps will have a headphone socket. It's very important that if you want to use headphones, the amp has a proper, speaker-emulated headphone out and not just what is effectively a very low-powered speaker output. All modelling amps and a *few* non-modellers have emulated outputs; most non-modellers, especially anything older, won't. It's important because without speaker emulation the headphone sound will be *dreadful*, enough to put you off playing! Why any company ever built amps like this I don't know, but they did…

    Skodadad said:
    I did initially have a Marshall MG 30 DFX which I didn't much care for either as I think it had some problems due to being overused with a constant crackling from the speaker and audio distortion.
    This is not a very good amp, so that wasn't surprising! If anything the little MG15 is possibly better, but I still probably wouldn't choose it unless you're definitely interested in distorted rock sounds rather than anything cleaner.


    Out of all the super-small amps, I actually really like the Vox Mini5 - it's got a huge range of features and sounds including a clean preamp setting (called Line) you could use with your acoustic, headphone socket, an Aux In so you can jam along to your iPod, effects, and a mic channel if you want to sing or mic up your acoustic… and a drum machine! Basic but quite usable for practicing. It runs on batteries or mains power and is so light you can easily take it anywhere. And all this for £120 new.

    (I don't work for Vox, but I do own one :).)
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • SassafrasSassafras Frets: 12390
    /\ Not a bad idea /\
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  • dogloaddogload Frets: 1278
    TTony said:

    And get rid of the old Carlsbro.  

    (I used to lift mine in and out of the boot of a mk1 Escort, and then up/down three flights of stairs.  100w 2x12!  Ouch)
    I heartily sympathise with this! It's what made me change over to using a valve head and 2x12 cab! Still got the Carlsbro though.
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  • Why not get a backstar ht-1 or one of their entry model amps with a headphone jack at least then you can listen to your sound privately, removes any embarrassment (don't understand why there would be any) and in terms of pedal what about a multi-fx unit and get a wide range of sounds from one device. 
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  • A5D5E5A5D5E5 Frets: 303
    Skodadad said:
    On a side note the way to describe my problem with the amp is that any chords I play seem to blend together into a bit of a muddy mess. There is no real distinction between the notes played.

    When people first learn to play the guitar the focus (naturally) is on what notes to play.  As you get better you learn what notes not to play - in other words, muting the strings either as part of a chord shape or between changes.  Amplification and sustain makes this far more important to maintain clarity of the notes and avoid the muddy mess. 

    Apologies if this is wrong and you have already got to this stage, but I found it a big problem moving from classical guitar (where maximising sustain and getting notes to ring over each other was often key) to electic.
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  • I think I have set my mind on the Yamaha, just got to raise the funds now. It seems to fit my needs very well and is a great size. I am quite hard on myself I'm told so I hate not understanding things. I tend to play at least 3 hours a day as I know I can get there. I watch a lot of tutorials on every aspect of guitar but as amps are rarely spoken of on terms of setting up I was starting to worry I was being a bit dim, presuming it was something simple I was missing.
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