Should you be playing your Electric unplugged....?

Bristol Posse

Senior Member
Jul 26, 2010
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So to sum up

People who play electric guitars unplugged feel the unplugged tone is important

People who mostly play plugged in and never really hear the guitar unplugged feel the unplugged tone is not a big deal

Shocker :shock::shock:

I'd argue all the new age, hippy stuff about feel and resonance and and the magic of the guitar in your hands should be the same whether or not the guitar is plugged into an amp. The act of putting a cable into the jack shouldn't change any of that.

I know that I can't feel any physical difference between my LP, ES335 or the guitars I have made myself when they are plugged vs. when they are not.
The action, resonance (or not), weight (or not) and physical magic etc etc is there either way
Plugging in lets me hear how it sounds at the same time as how it feels. I don't really see the need for a two step process of passing the unplugged test before I go to the enormous effort of plugging it in :)

I also tend to feel that if you have to look hard for a quality by using the guitar in a non real world way (ie unplugging an electric instrument), and have special, golden ears to find it in that non real world use and that most normal people can't hear something, then it's not there.
But that's just me


Gold Supporting Member
Apr 30, 2008
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Hearing is indeed subjective. And whether we like what we hear is subjective too. I am just expressing what I hear and how I like it. Your hearing and likes may be different. (You may like the sound of basswood guitars, and if you do, there is no wrong or right.) If you are like me, if you don't like what you hear, you don't want to play -- and can't really play. But some of us do "hear" a difference in the tone of a guitar with a bad bridge, TP, and nut (for open strings) -- and can hear the difference between an all maple and an all mahogany guitar -- whether amped or not.

Perhaps our differences of opinion comes from the fact that I generally play with my amp set on a fairly clean setting, depending in part on high levels of lower mids to provide sustain. If you play at high gain settings (as I used to do) these things don't matter much.

And if another player does not think that the primary (unamped) tone affects amp tone to his ears, I understand. We all play different styles with different goals. And I certainly never said that I was an expert at anything. I just shared my experiences.

Dole, my comments were not directed at you in particular. The "test" I presented earlier in this thread has come up with some interesting results. Some folks could not even differentiate a single coil from a humbucker. But there are numerous people who claim they can tell everything about a guitar by just hearing it.

I use no gain when playing, I like hearing my guitar.


Senior Member
Dec 21, 2014
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FWIW, I need all my electric guitars to sound reasonable when unplugged because I tend to sit on the couch and play unplugged between commercials when vegging at home. It doesn't need to sound perfect, but it needs to be passable. Part of the reason why a hollow-body is in the arsenal. I have acoustic guitars, but I don't like playing them as much.

Playing unplugged, I find, can also tell you if something isn't right with the guitar like the nut being improperly cut or the saddles or bridge having an annoying buzz.



Gold Supporting Member
Jan 9, 2011
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Anyone who has heard my playing would prefer I play unplugged...

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