I've seen a lot online about using the different knobs but i have an amp with only 3 of them: Treble, Volume and Gain. There's also a boost button but I haven't seen much about that.

On the guitar itself, there's two tone and another volume knob. I don't understand much about guitars (except for how to play simple songs) and i wanted to try and see if it was possible to do so as i feel like it'd be cool.

i got my guitar from argos yesterday as a present so I'm not really sure if i have the right kind of amp for it.

  • Pictures or an Argos link might help.
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 15, 2022 at 17:00
  • You most likely want to buy a distortion pedal.
    – N. Virgo
    Apr 16, 2022 at 1:50

4 Answers 4


Kind of a big question without more details, but I'll try to assist. If your guitar is an acoustic, then it will not most likely sound as good when "distorted", if that is what you are after. If electric, you know a solid body or semi-hollow body, it will sound better. If your amp has a gain knob, the more you turn it UP, should give a more distorted, or metal/rock sound. Increasing gain, and turning DOWN the volume should yeild a sound you are hoping for. But, the kind of amp you have, soilid state, or tube, its output power, etc., all add to, or detract from the sound you are wanting to chieve. Try the Gain, and Volume experiment, and let us know how it worked out.


Very much a generalisation, but on any amp with both Volume and Gain, then Gain will change the tone from clean to dirty & distorted, and Volume will control how loud the actual output is.

You'll probably find that as you turn Gain up, you'll have to turn Volume down to compensate. Gain is a volume control in itself, but one that will specifically start to overdrive the amp to distortion. Volume should be 'just' a louder or quieter control which doesn't significantly affect the overall sound.
[This isn't strictly true, it will have some effect as it drives some parts of the amp harder, as well as the speakers, but if you need to keep the noise down, this approximates to 'true'.]

Any button marked 'Boost' will probably affect the amount of signal going into Gain, thereby making it distort more/harder. You'll have to experiment with this too, as too much gain/boost will turn an aggressive distortion sound into a smooth one. More isn't always better.


By your description, you seen to have a simple master volume amp and a Stratocaster-style guitar. I will proceed with these assumptions.

There are likely three pickups and a five-position switch, as well as the volume and two tones. The two tones are for the neck and middle pickups, and for now, you can dial them to maximum and leave them there. I will return to the volume knob later.

The idea of a master volume amp is that the Gain controls the amount of distortion you have and the Volume cuts down the volume to acceptable levels. A very clean tone might be Gain at 2 and Volume at 9, while Gain at 9 and Volume at 2 might give a wildly distorted sound at a similar level. I suggest ignoring the amp's Treble knob as well.

There is a "sweet spot" called "edge of breakup", where, when the guitar's volume knob is maxed and you play aggressively, the and sounds distorted, but when you play more lightly and/or turn down the guitar's volume, you play clean. The exact spot where you turn your amp's Gain knob is different on each amp, but it's useful for less aggressive rock playing. Maybe start looking at about 3-5 and move up from there.

For more metal tones, you want more than "edge" but it is likely that you won't find maxed Gain tones useful. The "secret" is that distorted metal tones aren't as distorted as you think they are. Distortion acts as compression, which makes the quiet sounds louder but the loud sounds quieter, so that it sounds about the same when you lightly strum and really dig in. AC/DC tone is lightly distorted but really loud and punchy, for example. Start a little more than halfway on the Gain knob, turning it up (and correspondingly turning the Volume down to keep your friends and neighbors happy) to find the sound you want.

When you get to the ballpark of metal tone, muting the strings you aren't playing becomes a crucial skill, and the guitar's Volume knob will basically be used as an off switch, keeping undesired noises from being amplified.

Best of luck!


Good advice, Bill Welch. I would add:

Start out with the Guitar Volume at 7, and both Tone knobs at 7.

As Bill intimated, turn the amp's Gain all the way up to 10. Amp Treble at 7. Start with the amp Volume at 4.

Okay now, play a simple A chord, and see how that sounds. (Assuming of course you have the guitar in tune.) Then, slowly turn up the guitar Volume up higher and higher as you occasionally hit at A chord.

Does it sound like hard rock? That's good. Now, slowly turn the amp Volume up from 4 to 6. Hit the A chord. Turn the amp Volume up from 6 to 8. It should distort, and start to really sound like crisp distorted metal. Finally crank it all the way up to 10, if your neighbors can stand the racket.

If, in the end, you don't have anything resembling rock or metal sounds, then it's time to evaluate either upgrading your guitar or amp, or getting a Distortion Pedal.

  • 4
    -1 from me. Without knowing more about the guitar and amp, it's not possible to say even approximately what settings of the pots are promising. For most of your numbers, your advice is no better than saying “start somewhere in the middle”. OTOH, setting the gain straight to 10 is probably an outright bad idea – sure, it will guarantee the most distorted sound the amp is capable of by itself, but that is not necessarily the heaviest sound. Many amps just produce undynamic twitchy noise when cranked too much. Apr 15, 2022 at 22:31
  • To be clear, my response was based upon almost certain knowledge that the OP was playing a rig like one of these. argos.co.uk/browse/sports-and-leisure/musical-instruments/… Go back and look. "i got my guitar from argos yesterday as a present so I'm not really sure if i have the right kind of amp for it." Starter guitar, played thru that small starter amp. My advice was the best I could give him, given that bit of information. Apr 16, 2022 at 13:56
  • Fair enough, but then you should make that asumption explicit in the answer, so people in the future searching for how to get a metal sound with completely different setup won't be misguided by it. Apr 16, 2022 at 14:36
  • I acknowledge your advice, and I will heed it in the future. The next time a young fellow endeavors to make a 100 quid rig sound like Kirk Hammett, and he asks for my guidance, I'll remember this conversation. Apr 16, 2022 at 23:49

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