Context Is Everything (well.... mostly everything)

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by gtrfinder, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    Had an opportunity to jam in a group setting for the first time in a long time last night, and was reminded about how mercurial the sound of an amp can be. It is absolutely influenced and almost completely at the mercy of the "room", or "band", or context of the place it is in. In this case, it was a large-ish space with a semi-hollow stage and wood floor. Pretty decent natural reverb and a good amount of reflection. The most compelling things I noticed were:
    • Trying to guess what "total" volume would be needed is basically a useless endeavor in a jam that is just thrown together. I've been in situations where it seemed like I had way too much headroom....until the drums came in. Fortunately last night I had plenty of headroom and an amp with a good master volume.
    • Subtle effects or changes in the sound are pretty much worthless without proper monitoring; and even then, the subtleties you hear dialing these things in by yourself will likely be negated once you get more than two other musicians joining in.
    • The overall EQ you're going to want to hear is sometimes dramatically different than in the "sterile" environment of playing at low volume at home. Midrange is the key to the whole thing, it seems to me. The mids that sound kind of nasal or are more abrasive at low volumes, or at home, are the key to the whole electric guitar sound in a band context. Also, a clean sound doesn't necessarily translate so well in a larger mix. Last night I noticed my clean had an amount of breakup that I would have tried to dial out if playing alone; but (again), with a band that extra midrange and a little bit of grind really helped glue the sound together. And...it sounded plenty clean in the mix.
    Of those three things, I think the most influential was the EQ-curve thing with the mids.
    Anyways, I know you guys know this stuff already; and there was a time that I played out more and I guess inherently knew this stuff too, but had just forgotten it. This behavior is true for all sound of course (not just sounds made by guitar amps), but it was REALLY apparent to me last night. A good reminder for me not to be too hyper-critical of the little stuff I hear that might otherwise bother me while playing guitar alone.
    Take care, and have a great day guys
     
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  2. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    Oh...and the amp in question was a BOSS Katana. Actually, a very good little amp for the money
     
  3. De Batz

    De Batz Member

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    Yup, this is right on the money.

    A lot of folk on here listen to their stuff in a fixed environment with very carefully controlled parameters (including things like the power and so on). So we get into minutiae, and we get stuck on them.

    The live environment is so unpredictable that a lot of factors you can't control need to be accounted for in the moment, and things like reliability and flexibility really come into their own.
     
  4. changeling

    changeling Member

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    ...where the strings come in.
    Application is just about everything,really.
    Which is something to consider,especially before spending money.
     
  5. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    For sure. I've spent plenty on amps in the past that aren't even half as practical or useful as the Katana is. I may eventually get a tube amp just to have one, but for the types of gigs I'm likely to play, this thing does just fine, and is cheaper than most overdrive pedals seem to be these days!
     
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  6. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    A couple of other thoughts that I've had on this.
    There is a difference in sound and feel with the Katana compared to a tube amp, of course. However, that difference also largely goes away when playing in a group context; and there are even more diminishing returns the more voices or instruments you add to the mix. So lets assign that differential a percentage for both the player and a bandmate/listener. Say there is 50% of a noticeable difference to the player (not perceived by anybody else) between a quality tube amp and something like the Katana when playing alone. A casual listener to your isolated playing may only notice a 25% difference, if any, between the two. I'd argue that this differential drops to about a 10-20% noticeable difference to the player when playing with other musicians in anything other than a highly controlled environment. For a bandmate or casual listener (audience member) I'd say the difference is less than 5%, or even nothing at this point. You could assign different percentages to each of these, but I think the same methodology applies.
    Just some random thoughts about this, but keeping my mindset on this is kind of liberating, and allows me to focus on just playing the guitar.
     

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