The benefits of playing unplugged

Windup 43

Silver Supporting Member
Gain doesn't cover bad technique. It amplifies it. You should always practice how you will perform, be it clean, or with gain, or whatever.
Completely agree, although I noodle around way too much unplugged...bad habit, although it’s not always convenient to plug in 100% of the time.


Yep, playing unplugged does not help you when playing with gain. If your sound is with gain, practice that way. If your style is mainly clean, practice that way. if you want to be good at both: Play both clean and distorted.

Personally, I play plugged in but vary the volume on my guitar so I can go from very low gain to high gain whilst practicing the same thing.
I've never, ever thought it a bad habit to play unplugged. I'm somewhat doubtful whether all the benefits purported are really there, but it's certainly not harmful.

It's pretty similar to playing with a clean sound. If I practice (I don't, anymore), it's generally with a clean sound or unplugged. It helps me control dynamics, especially with things like hammer ons and pulloffs.

An electric guitar is just an acoustic guitar that's not as loud.


Silver Supporting Member
Unplugged is fine for finger exercise and learning/working on parts but does not replace plugged in, clean and loud, to work on your dynamics and clean up your touch. (see Tomo)
Then go loud and dirty to tidy muting and tricks with harmonics and such.
Too much unplugged will not get your touch up to performance standard.

Creating polarization where there should be none is a talk radio trick.

Vaibhav Joshi

Nope, I would have to disagree.

I have experienced this first hand and realised it was a mistake.

For 10 out of 12 years that I've been playing, I did so unplugged.
Played everything from Metal to Blues on an acoustic and then played the electric unplugged.
Was actually proud of it.. :facepalm

2 years back when I got my first pedal(s), I was so happy and sad at the same time. I had deprived myself of this fun for so long and when it mattered the most.

As for technique, starting on an acoustic makes sense in order to build finger strength and establish an intimate connect with the sound of an acoustic instrument.
My friend who started on an electric lacked finger strength.

But at some point you should move ahead and play electric if the music you play demands it.
That's the mistake I made.

Playing through an amp helps with muting, controlling dynamics, managing noise, tone..
Your picking and legato works with the sustain in your tone..

Every technique has a point of diminishing returns.

If you focus too much on the tone and gear, playing unplugged helps you focus on music.
For me it didn't matter..

The gear is supposed to facilitate your creativity and not get in it's way.

Building an ABY box from a lunchbox and playing my cheap SS amps in wet/dry has been the best experience ever; second only to falling in love.


Silver Supporting Member
If you play enough, it's neither better or worse. When I was traveling and playing full time I never practiced plugged in, but got to play on stage every night at volume. Where playing unplugged would be a bad thing is if you never plugged in. Get a good balance of both and you'll be good to go.

P.s. I'm guessing the OP never saw Yngwie's picking technique. Done of the lightest picking ever.


I probably play unplugged about 75-80% of the time due to living circumstances not allowing too much volume, but if I could I would always play amped.

None of your points make any sense aside from the last one saying that it is more convenient to practice unplugged.

Chicago Slim

When I was a working musician, I never power cycled my tube amps unless I was getting payed. But I did own SS amps and played 4 to 8 hours a day. So, I was playing plugged in, all the time.


Gold Supporting Member
I'll practice fingerings unplugged, but playing electric guitar means playing an amp (and possibly pedals) as well. I mostly play plugged in.


I definitely wouldn't agree that it's somehow better to play unplugged. But the idea that playing unplugged is a bad thing just seems crazy to me. Just sitting down, noodling, figuring songs out by ear etc... If I had to plug the guitar in every time then I just wouldn't bother playing it at all during those times. I probably would have completely given up playing by now.


Fowleri, you are an idiot.

There, I said it.

Playing plugged in and at volume with gain is very different than playing unplugged.

More control is needed. If you use the same level of control unplugged, you'll mute everything too much and sound like crap.

Playing exclusively unplugged means your plugged in control will suffer.

Ask me how I know. ( My loud amp skills have suffered since I quit playing out).
I often play unplugged while watching TV or just killing a few mins . I think it's better though when I plug in and turn on the amp . Things sound the way they're suppose to ....though my 330 sound dam good as a acoustic on those moments


There's a time and a place for everything. If I'm practicing something benign like scales, or learning a new song, there"s no need to plug in. At that point it's just massive repetition until I learn the notes & associated fingering. Until I've got it somewhat fluent, there's nothing to be gained from plugging in except making the bad playing louder. Once I'm playing along with the song, then plugging in and adjusting my playing to impact the sound is beneficial.

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