An unplugged electric guitar does not make much noise. It’s definitely not loud enough for your neighbor or even housemates to hear from a different room.
This means an unplugged electric guitar can be a great way to practice without making too much noise! Given that you are not very picky of the sound that’s created, of course.
I personally have practiced with an unplugged electric guitar many many times. Same as you, I was quite worried that my practice would disturb the neighbors or family members. But it turned out, none of them could even hear me!
I don’t consider myself an expert in many things. But I am definitely no stranger in practicing with an unplugged guitar.
In this article, I am going to share with you my experience on practicing with an unplugged electric guitar. And also offer you my thoughts on whether or not this is the best way to practice quietly.
I actually have many more things to cover, so let’s dive.
Do Electric Guitars Sound Good Unplugged?
Electric guitars don’t sound that good when unplugged. They can still make a clean sound like an acoustic guitar – but way softer (even you can’t hear it much unless you pluck the strings hard).
You shouldn’t be looking to play or jam with an unplugged electric guitar. The sound is too soft and won’t be satisfying.
However, if you just want to practice chords, notes or any guitar techniques, then practicing with an unplugged electric guitar is definitely possible. Let’s talk about this next.
Can You Practice With Unplugged Electric Guitar?
You can definitely practice your guitar skills using an unplugged electric guitar. It’s quite soft, but you can definitely hear the sound when plucking strings – good enough for practicing acoustic songs.
If you pluck the strings hard enough, you can even practice techniques like slides and pull offs on an unplugged electric guitar.
However, practicing techniques like hammer ons is difficult on an unplugged electric guitar. You will need to pluck the string extremely hard to perform hammer ons – which I don’t recommend at all.
Needless to say, you cannot practice with any distortion or overdrive with an unplugged electric guitar. It’s impossible – you really need an amplifier for this.
Point is, if you want to practice acoustic songs using basic techniques like strumming, finger picking and even slides – an unplugged electric guitar can be a great tool.
If you need to practice with effects like distortion or techniques like hammer ons, then using an unplugged electric guitar is challenging.
How To Play Electric Guitar Quietly
Aside from playing with an unplugged guitar, you can actually practice your guitar quietly in other ways like using a headphone amplifier or audio interface.
Here are 3 better ways to play electric guitar quietly (rather than playing with an unplugged guitar!)
1. Connect headphone to amp
You can connect your headphones directly into your amp output and have the sound played through your headphones instead of the amp speaker.
Most standard amps (even the cheap ones) should have this option. You probably need a 3.5mm to ¼ inch adapter for this though.
This method is the quickest way to play guitar quietly without unplugging it. However, you need to be with the amp everywhere you play.
If you want something more portable, you should look into getting a headphone amplifier (I will talk about this next)
2. Play using headphone amplifier
A headphone amplifier allows you to connect your guitar directly to a headphone. A headphone amplifier replaces your bulky amp – which means you can play anytime anywhere.
A headphone amplifier empowers the sound signal coming from your guitar into your headphones. Which means you can play your guitar quietly anytime you want.
A headphone amplifier is not as customizable as a regular amp – there’s limited adjustments to gain, tone and distortion. Which means you need to know your preferred playing style and get the correct one.
I personally own a headphone amplifier called the Vox Am Plug. It’s quite cheap at $50 and has been doing well for years now.
I recommend getting the Vox Am Plug AC30 because it’s quite versatile and can be played for rock and acoustic songs.
3. Play using audio interface
An audio interface is a device that converts analog sound signals coming from your guitar into digital signals into a computer or phone.
Audio interface is usually used to record sounds from your guitar into your PC. However, it can also be used to play quietly by helping you connect your guitar to phone and to headphones.
Earlier I said a guitar amp like Vox AmPlug has limited adjustments. With an audio interface, you can install apps like Deplike to add sound effects into the sound.
The connection when using an audio interface usually goes like this:
- Guitar connected to Audio Interface
- Audio interface connected to phone or PC
- You install apps like Deplike as virtual amp
- Phone is connected to headphones
If you choose to get a cheap audio interface like this Behringer Guitar Link ($35), then you can connect your guitar to headphones and still have effects like distortion. Quite cool eh?
You will be jamming hard in the headphones with crazy distortion and none of your families or neighbors can hear a thing.
Also, with a virtual amp, you can download as many effects as you need and can have many many distortion or whatever effects you need without needing to buy the actual amp.
The only downside is an audio interface is harder to set up. You need multiple connections and even adapters for the audio jacks – you need a ¼ inch male to 3.5mm female adapter and USB to USB C if connecting to phones.
At some point in your electric guitar life, I am sure you will own both the headphone amp and audio interface – It’s just a matter of when.
Can You Plug In Headphones Directly To Electric Guitar?
You cannot plug your headphones directly into your electric guitar. You always need an amp to convert the sound signal into something that you can hear.
This is a very common question among beginners but the answer is unfortunately not.
So don’t even bother trying to buy a 3.5mm to ¼ inch adapter and try to connect them directly. It won’t work.
The best solutions to connect headphones into electric guitar are what I described above:
- Regular armp’s output jack
- Headphone amplifier
- Audio interface
Playing Electric Guitar Quietly: My Recommendation
Playing an unplugged electric guitar just to be quiet is not the best approach. It’s definitely the easiest approach but you won’t get great sound and you won’t get any effects like distortion.
If you are a beginner and don’t want to spend additional money, just connect your headphones into your amp output using a 3.5mm to ¼ inch adapter and you can play quietly.
If you are willing to spend some money to play guitar quietly anywhere, then I suggest getting the headphone amplifier. It’s cheap, small and very easy to use – literally just plug and play (no adapters or other tools required).
Using an audio interface is a bit complicated but can be rewarding because you can start using hundreds of virtual amps immediately.
Your choice! But definitely not playing with an unplugged guitar. Unless you are just practicing, of course.