How To Make An Electric-Guitar Sound Electric

If you’re new to the guitar and started with an electric, it can be hard to make it sound the way you want. Many people pick up the guitar to learn songs or get a certain tone. But how do you make an electric-guitar sound electric?

The electric guitar sound is a product of what is called distortion. Most music styles use it to some degree, and it’s what many people describe as the electric guitar sound.

In this Killer Rig article, we will look at what you need to make your guitar sound electric. We will also help you understand what this means so that you can start getting the tone you want quickly.

How to make an electric-guitar sound electric

What is the Electric Guitar Sound?

Distortion is when the waveform of a signal is changed. Usually by overloading the circuits in your guitar amp or pedal. This can create a range of sounds. You can expect light overdrive to full-on fuzz from some pedals.

Are you playing your guitar through an amp, but it doesn’t sound the way you anticipated? Then it’s probably because there isn’t any distortion. Some players also refer to this as gain or crunch.

The first thing to confirm is that your guitar and amp are connected correctly. If you can hear it through your amp, then most likely it’s too clean and not distorted or electric sounding.

If you do not hear your guitar through your amplifier, then you need to check your connections. Check things like:

  • Is the guitar plugged into the amp with the right cable?
  • Is the amp plugged into power?
  • The amplifier is turned on?
  • The volume control on your guitar is turned up?

How to Make an Electric-Guitar Sound Electric

Now that we know what distortion is, how do you create it? This can be done in several ways, but the most common is by using an overdrive pedal or the right amp.

Overdrive Pedal

An overdrive pedal will take your guitar signal and make it louder and more distorted. They are easy to use and usually have just a few controls. The idea behind this type of pedal is that it creates the distortion that makes a guitar sound electric.

The pedal goes in between your guitar and amplifier to create the sound it’s designed to. Then it sends this sound to your amplifier. So just keep in mind that you will also need 2 cables:

  • One from guitar to pedal
  • The other from pedal to amplifier

Distortion Pedal

The next step up from an overdrive is a distortion pedal. These are more aggressive and will give you a heavier electric guitar sound.

They often have more controls than overdrives, so you can tailor the sound to your liking.

A distortion pedal will make a sound anywhere from light to heavy and everything in between. So if this is the type of sound you are looking for, then you may want to consider a distortion pedal.

Revv G3 Distortion Pedal

Amplifier Distortion

Want to go straight to an amp? Then you need to make sure it’s designed to produce the distortion you are looking for. Chances are, your current amp is only designed to make clean sounds.

It’s best to first figure out the type of music you want to play. Then research some amplifiers that can make those electric guitar sounds. Some have a clean and distorted channel, so you have many options.

The clean will be great for playing certain songs. But when you want to go electric, you will need to switch to the distorted channel.

Most amps will also have a gain knob, which will let you control how much distortion there is. This is an important feature to have because you don’t want your sound to be too distorted.

Tips For Improving Your Electric Guitar Sound

Now that you know how to create the electric guitar sound, here are some tips on how to make it even better.

Experiment With Effects

There are many types of effects pedals out there. So if you want to add more to your sound, then consider experimenting with some of them. Reverb and delay are two common effects that can improve your sound.

Fuzz pedals are also popular for those who want to create a vintage sound. There are many options out there, so take your time and find the ones that you like the most.

Use Different Pickups

Your guitar pickups play a big role in the overall sound. If you want to change things up, then consider swapping out your pickups. Or, buy a guitar with the right ones for your style.

There are many types of pickups, so do some research and find the ones that will work best for the sound you are going for. Just keep in mind that the one near the bridge will normally be better for distorted sounds.

Adjust Your Settings

The settings on your amp or pedal can also make a big difference in your sound. So, if you are not happy with the way your guitar sounds, then consider adjusting the settings.

Because most guitars sound different. It can take some time to acquire a tone you like with your current gear. This can take time as you adjust your settings to get closer to what you like.

Every guitar player is different and so the sound is very subjective. It’s always best to dial in a sound that you like before going after what someone else is doing.


There is a lot that goes into making a guitar sound electric. So take your time and experiment with different techniques. At least until you find the ones that work best for you.

With a little practice, you should be able to make your guitar sound electric and exactly what you had hoped for.

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Author: Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!