Reggae Guitar Lessons: Four Great Amps for Reggae Guitar

by Gabe Bendana
Posted Dec 10, 2012 at 7:27am

When shopping around for a reggae guitar amp, the factors you are most likely going to consider are:

• Tube amp vs. solid state
• Wattage output
• New or used?
• Good clean channel
• Budget ($$$)

With all that in mind, check out these four reggae amp choices — and some thoughts on settings:

Roland JC-120
NEW : $1,200 | USED: $400 to $800

This amp is a favorite among reggae guitar players because of the crystal-clear response you can hear while using the clean channel. It was used by reggae jazz guitarist Ernest Ranglin and Junior Marvin when he played with Bob Marley & The Wailers.

It's a solid-state, combo amp and features two 60-watt speakers that sounds good in live-music venues and recording studios.

The main disadvantage of this amp is the weak distortion channel, so if you are going to play some reggae rock solos, you'll definitely need some effect pedals. On the other hand, this amp is very versatile because it can also be used for acoustic guitar, keyboards and vocals.

Fender Twin Reverb
NEW: $1,450 | USED: $900-plus

This is the guitar amp that was used by Bob Marley and his lead guitarist in the Wailers, Al Anderson. The main appeal of this amp is the classic, vintage sound you get when the tubes are warmed up. Also, by using the vibrato channel, you can get a natural distortion and reverb effect from the amp that will sound much better than any guitar pedals.

This amp is 85 watts and is suitable for any live music setting. If you need something smaller, check out the Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, which is a 40-watt combo amp for half the price.

Vox AC30
NEW: $1,000 | USED: $600 to 800

Vox amps were made popular by the British rock bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and Queen. In addition to the authentic, vintage-sounding rock and roll tone, it also sounds great when playing reggae. It features 30 watts of tube power and two Celestion "blue" speakers.

The older, original AC30 amps where known to have wiring problems, which have since been fixed with the reissues. There are several variations of this amp available, including the valve reactor, custom and handwired. This is a high-quality, boutique amp that has awesome clean and dirty tones.

Peavey Classic 30
NEW: $650 | USED: $300-450

This a solid-sounding tube amp for the price. It features a good-sounding clean channel for reggae rhythm guitar and warm, crunchy tones for lead playing in the drive channel. The amp features 30 watts of sound with a built in reverb effect. It's good for live music in bars and small clubs. I own one of these amps and can vouch for them. Also check out a Peavey Classic 50 if you need more sound.

Amp Settings

Reggae guitar tone is subjective, and I encourage you to experiment with different settings. Below I've laid out some amp settings to help you find a classic reggae guitar tone.

Clean & Rhythm Guitar

The clean channel is best used for reggae rhythm guitar and can be heard in classic Bob Marley songs including "Stir it Up" and "Is this love":

Using the clean channel of your amp, try adjusting to the amp setting's below.

Volume: 6
Treble: 5
Middle: 5
Bass: 5
Reverb: 3
Presence: 5
Drive and Lead Guitar

For a crunchy lead guitar tone, switch to your drive channel of the guitar amp. This works best if you have two guitar players in the band. One can use a clean tone for rhythm and the other has an overdriven tone for lead. If you are the only guitar player in the band, I suggest using the clean channel for rhythm parts and using a pedal for lead guitar solos. Check out "Concrete Jungle":

Plug into the drive channel of your amp and adjust to these settings for a lead guitar tone:

Pre: 7
Post: 7
Treble: 5
Middle: 5
Bass: 5
Reverb: 3

Gabe Bendana is a New York City-based guitarist and professional music teacher. For more reggae guitar lessons, visit reggaeguitarlessons.com.

Guitar World's informative 'How to Play Reggae & Funk' DVD, part of the 'In Deep with Andy Aledort' series, is available now, only at the Guitar World Online Store. Click here for more info!