I have a keyboard and a Tagima Dallas guitar. I want to buy an amplifier, but just one. I have been advised that an amplifier for a guitar is not good for a keyboard, and the same about a keyboard one for a guitar.

My question is why. I know amplifiers have a lot of resources, but I'm not a professional and amplifiers aren't cheap. Do I really need to buy two of them?

  • What style of music? – Dave May 12 '15 at 16:14
  • Keyboard amps sometimes have piezoelectric horns, you will blow these out with heavy guitar distortion if that's an issue. – Jay Skyler May 13 '15 at 6:00
  • Rock, Pop and romantic songs – danypr23 May 13 '15 at 12:27

For Acoustic Guitar

You probably can do a reasonable job using a keyboard amp with an acoustic guitar. You may need a pre-amp pedal (or similar) to boost the signal from your guitar in order to use it with a keyboard amp, and you may want to adjust the equalization when switching between guitar and keys, but other than that, acoustic guitars often sound good through keyboard amps.

Going the other way, some dedicated acoustic amps will have a less flat response, and thus might affect how the extremes of the keys sound. In addition, there is some risk that lower bass sounds may overextend the speaker, damaging the amplifier. For this reason, I'd avoid using a guitar amp for keys (or bass guitar for that matter), unless you can confirm that a given guitar amp will be robust against bass notes from your keys.

For Electric Guitar

Optimally, yes, you want separate amp setups for the keys and guitars. user20352's answer correctly indicates that guitar amps (for electric guitars) typically significantly color (modify) the guitar's sound. Without this coloration, electric guitars sound thin. Since keyboard amps don't provide this functionality, you need to add external effects into the signal chain to provide the color, prior to (effectively uncolored) amplification by a keyboard amp.

One option where you would not need to by two separate amps is to get a full-range high fidelity keyboard amp, and use an external effect that includes amp simulation in the input chain for the electric guitar sound. Thus you'll still need extra equipment in order to get full guitar tones.

Many multi-effects units, Line-6 pods, Vox tone lab, Axe-FX etc. have these kinds of amp simulation capabilities, and can be used only with a power amp (which is what most keyboard amps behave like). In addition there is at least one manufacturer of dedicated pedals for this purpose, Tech21 (Sansamp and related pedals). Finally, one may find that an appropriate combination of guitar pedals, possibly including overdrives/distortion, may provide the sounds you want, even without any any additional coloration from the amp itself.

All in all though, this is a compromise solution, and with it, you may not be able to achieve your desired guitar tones, esp. if amplifier distortion is an essential ingredient.

Running keys through electric guitar amp

I'm pretty sure that going the other way, running keys through a guitar amp, has been done -- mostly back in the 60s, but the coloration imposed by the guitar amp limits how well you can use the full range of the keys. This might be a feasible approach if you were only going for a limited range of vintage sounds with your synthesizer. Again, running keys through a guitar amp, esp. loud bass notes, can overdrive the speaker and cause permanent damage.

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  • Jon Lord of Deep Purple was one of those who ran his Hammond organ through a Marshall guitar amp - specifically because he wanted a distorted sound that the Hammond did not provide. Modern keyboards may have such sounds built in. – Level River St May 12 '15 at 22:22

Basically, yes.

An amp is an essential part of a guitar's sound, tends to be overdriven somewhat (or has circuitry simulating the kind of overdrive a tube amp would show), has a single speaker with rather stiff fastenings and specific sound color covering a range up to something like 8kHz, no tweeters which would give overdrive a rather unpleasant color as long as they survive.

A keyboard amp, in contrast, is comparatively faithful in its reproduction, offers a larger frequency range (something like 25-18kHz or more) and will consequently be similar to a PA: it is not supposed to make significant changes to its input signal unless we are talking about a Leslie-like rotating speaker. You can also feed a keyboard straight into a PA without much of a problem, so player/singers will more likely get away with a single amp when playing keyboard rather than guitar.

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Guitar amplifiers reproduce sound very well in the range of notes (frequencies) that a guitar plays, but the sound quality is relatively poor outside that range. A keyboard can play a much wider range of notes, so a keyboard amplifier needs to be good at producing a wider range of frequencies.

What this means is that a good keyboard amplifier will work well for a guitar, but an amplifier designed for guitar will sound poorly with a keyboard. So your best bet is buying a keyboard amp, and using it for both instruments.

EDIT: This is more true for an acoustic than an electric. user20352's answer addresses a little of what happens to produce the traditional electric guitar sound through a guitar amp. The keyboard amp will give a more lifelike acoustic sound.

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