Electric guitar question about volume and 'learning' sound

Hello everybody,

I’m just playing for a month and following Justin course and having fun.

I also bought an electric guitar with an Boss MKII 50 amp

I’m having a little trouble to understand what i should do with the volume knobs cause there’s 1 on the guitar and two on the amp. What i seem to understand till now is that the volume on the guitar should be in the high end, Master volume on amp in the high end and then use the other volume on the amp to adjust the volume i want to hear. Is this correct?

What is a good tone to use when practice strumming (cause that is what i mainly do in the course atm. Can someone maybe provide a .tsl file with i think kinda clean sound that works with chord practice but also on the songs in the app?

I hope that some of you can help me with these questions. Thanks in advance.

Kind Regards,


The thing with the volume knobs on the guitar is you can change them whilst playing.

So its possible to play at 5-6 for a slightly driven sound for playing the chords/melody, then wind it up to 10 for more drive/distortion etc for a solo, then dial it down.

This way you can control aspects of the guitars tone along side the volume, right at your hands.

You can also do fades/swells etc with the volume knob on the guitar (this is more advanced stuff) , but turn it to 0 , play a chord, then turn it up and down , gives you a nice effect.

The amp side volumes you have the right idea (with digitial amps like the katana)

If you are learning then I suggest a relatively balanced clean sound with a touch of reverb, you want to be able to hear what you are doing and fix mistakes rather than mask them with effects or distortion etc.


btw is that a pic of your guitar? what model, looks nice

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It’s a Michael Kelly 1953 Caramel Burst


That’s been really insightful @RobDickinson , nice one for asking the question @Coffee119 Alex!!

Lovely looking guitar, wish you much fun :+1:

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oh looks nice and has some funky modes with the pickups, not too spendy too!

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As a beginner leave your guitar volume knob at max. On your amp you’ll have a number of standard amp ( knob is labelled amp type) select clean. Turn you gain between lowest setting and midway, turn your volume up to full and adjust the overall volume using the master volume. That should get you going.

You can then experiment turning up gain/reducing volume ( the amp will become more distorted) and between the different amp types.


I see Rob got all the good stuff said :slight_smile:

I find that the volume varies based on guitar and amp. for me I use 6-8 for most stuff related to basics practice. Here are some guides:

  • you want your guitar signal to be fairly high, but leave room to increase it with the volume knob when you want/need (as Rob said). Doing this will make you lower the amp volume and the noise you naturally get from an amp will be a lot lower than your guitar sound.
  • the GAIN on the amp controls the input to the early stage of your amp. The amp has several gain stages. Use this mostly to control how distorted you want the sound to be.
  • the VOLUME on the amp controls the input to the final stage of the amp. This can give you distortion on the final stage if you want, but for home it is useful to just keep the sound level low enough to stand next to.

Using a clean sound will help you hear mistakes. For strumming, distortion will sound very noisy and not so pleasant. Generally, the more notes you use in a chord, the less distortion you want so it sounds nice. When you get to power chords, you’ll see what I mean.

That IS a really pretty guitar!

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To some extent, it depends what you’re playing. For anything by Motorhead, you want everything louder than everything else.

This for sure. A ‘whole chord’ aka 6 notes will sound a muddy mess with much distortion.

(this is because a single note on guitar is actually a lot of frequencies and harmonics, blend several together and then throw in distortion and you just get white noise)

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This is interesting. Just checked what I normally play with using clean and it’s clean volume about 5, master volume about 3 and the guitar volume about 3-5. Anything else is way too loud as I generally play in the evening and thinking of the neighbours and my missus. If no one is in then it may be a bit louder.

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If your guitar volume is too low you really are limiting the signal that goes through to the amp and therefore (imho) killing your tone. I would generally keep my guitar volume at max and only lower to clean up a distorted tone.

In terms of amp I have a katana 100. If I’m playing clean then gain will be set quite low, volume near max and then master to suit. If I need it - relatively - quiet then I’ll use the attenuator on 5w and simply use the master volume. The master volume will not “colour” your tone but the normal “channel” volume will.


Out of interest what do you mean by this Rossco? I too find myself dabbling with the Master and other volume knob on my Katana 50.

@Coffee119 the other thing is that inside the house I would assume the advice given here is based on the 0.25w setting on the Katana50, I know mine is most of the time. I only venture to the 25w and 50w settings to “see what it can do” :face_with_open_eyes_and_hand_over_mouth: :hear_no_evil: I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

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Unless you push it so high there is some natural amp distortion all the master volume should do is make the already shaped sound louder - it shouldnt change it at all

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Edit tl;dr:

  • Guitar volume: leave on full
  • Gain control: control amount of overdrive/distortion
  • Channel volume: adjust patch volume level
  • Master volume: adjust overall sound level

Referring back to the original question, as well as trying to encompass some of the other questions on this thread…

It may be good to step back and try to understand what is happening when you use an electric guitar and an amp.

Basically, you have a signal chain going from your guitar, to the amp, through the amp circuits, to the speaker. Along that chain you have a number of controls which alter that signal. Because it’s a chain, then each control only alters what came before it.

So, the basics of any electric guitar and amp are:

The “volume” (it really should be called “level”) control on the guitar sets the output level from the guitar pickups to the amp

The Pre-amp stage of the amp receives that signal and amplifies it. The gain control on the amp controls how much it amplifies the input signal by.

If you turn the gain up, it will start to cause the pre-amp circuit to exceed it’s maximum capability, which will distort the sound. On a hifi amp, this is a bad thing. On a guitar amp, this can be a good thing, and is known as “overdrive”. Different types of pre-amp will overdrive at different levels. This equates to the “amp type” control on the Katana.

So, for instance, if you set the guitar output to halfway, and then set the Katana to Crunch and set the gain so that the sound is quite “clean”, then if you turn the guitar volume up to full, it will be driving more signal into the pre-amp, which will cause it to overdrive. A lot of guitar players use this to easily switch between a clean and overdriven sound.

So the interaction between the “volume” control and your guitar and the input gain on your amplifier gives you control over the level of overdrive.

Of course, it also impacts the sound level, but controlling the sound level from your amp using these controls is not the right thing to do in general.

Most amps have some sort of volume control on them, and some amps (like the Katana) have two. These control the sound level output of the amp and it is these controls you should generally be using to control how loud the amp is. These controls should not “colour” (change) the tone in any way, but should just impact the sound level output from the amp speakers).

In other words you should NOT (generally) be using the “volume” control on your guitar to control how loud your amp is. This knob is (generally) most useful for creative use, but I would suggest that beginners should not worry abut that whilst they are learning everything else.

Which is why this is the best advice:

Otherwise, as a beginner, you are juggling too many controls, which will get in the way of your learning.

If your amp is too loud, turn down one of the amp volume controls. In general, start with the master volume.

On a Katana (and some other amps) there are two volume controls: “channel volume” and “master volume”.

Master volume is used to set the final, overall, sound level output from the power amplifier section of the amp through the speaker. If the amp is too loud, start by lowering this.

Channel volume (which, on the Katana, is in the “Amplifier” section on the left of the panel), controls the level of the output from the pre-amp to the power amp.

Because, again, it’s a signal chain, increasing the channel volume will push more signal into the power amp and make it louder, which means you may have to turn down the master volume.

Basically, for amplifier sound level, you need to use the channel volume and master volume to control this NOT the gain or the guitar “volume” knob:

  • Leave the guitar “volume” on full (just use it to mute the guitar by turning it fully off)
  • Use gain to set the level of “crunch”, “overdrve”, or “distortion” you want
  • Balance the channel volume and master volume to get the sound level you want

As to why there are two volume controls (channel volume and master volume), the main reason on an amp like the Katana is that you can use this to offset the changes in volume caused by adjusting the gain control.

The idea is that, once you have adjusted the master volume to get a general sound level you like, if you change the gain and this causes the sound level to increase, offset this using the channel volume.

On an amp like the Katana with patch memories, this is specifically useful as the channel volume is stored with the patch: the idea here is to set each patch volume so that, when you switch between patches, you don’t get a massive increase in sound output level.

In this way, you can then use the master volume to control how loud the amp sounds in general, and not have to mess around with any of the other controls.

Getting to that point will require a bit of experimentation though.

For reference, I attach a picture of the Katana top-panel controls.




Here you go Alex.

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Great and clear write up Keith!

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Keith @Majik gives a truly comprehensive response.

Your bottom line is - just one month in - do not spend your time learning about amp settings and effects and controls yet. Your amp has much potential but all you need it to do for you for some months is amplify your sound.
You want and need a simple, clean amplified sound. A small amount of reverb is about the only effect you should be thinking about having on.


Thanks, gonna try it out later today

Yeah that’s what i wanted todo,

Haha, yeah the wife and neighbours indeed and not always like to play with a headset on.

@Majik Thanks for the in depth write up and explanations! I will try this out, but i think i get the general idea from your post. I bookmarked it for reference.

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Alternately, you could just turn everything up to 11.