How make your guitar sound great live.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs' started by rickenbackerkid, Jul 16, 2008.

  1. rickenbackerkid

    rickenbackerkid Member

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    My tips are:

    1. Shorten your dynamic range.

    Use compression, and keep your clean and overdrive/lead sounds as close as possible in volume.
    This keeps the sound tech happy as he doesn't have to ride the faders constantly. Techs don't like having to be always watching you, knowing that at some point you will step on that boost pedal, add 10 dB of boost and send his desk into clipping.
    Which is why you should use compression. If you don't, he probably will.
    I find a decent compressor in the effects loop works well to provide consistancy without squashing the life out of the tone.(for me anyway)

    2. Shorten your frequency range.

    The electric guitar has a lovely wide frequency range, which is great but also terrible. Because the electric guitar is not a solo instrument - 80% of the time it is found in the company of vocals, drums, and bass.

    In a band situation, you can split the sound into 3 parts.

    Low End - Kick, Floor Tom, Bass

    Mids - Snare, Rack Toms, Your Guitar, Other Guitars, Keyboards, lower parts of Tenor and Alto voices, Ride Cymbal, high Bass notes.

    High End - Cymbals, 'Crack' of Snare, highest notes from Tenor and Alto voices, all of Soprano voices and all of the clarity and defintion of any singer.

    The electric guitar has occasionally forays in to the High and Low Ends, but usually it is mainly a middy instrument.
    And take a look at the mid range. There is a lot of sounds in that list, and they are all fighting for the same space. If you take up too much space, you will be turned down, or off.
    Two good ways to do this are: A - use less distortion and B - turn down the bass and treble some.
    If a you are in a band with another guitar player, don't use a similar sounding guitar.

    3. Get on with the sound guy.

    Every single gig, introduce yourself. Buy him a beer/coffee/coke. Have a short chat, if you have time. During soundcheck, do what he says and don't play while other band members are soundchecking.

    This will make the sound man your friend.

    He will then do his best to make you sound fantastic. He will listen when you say, 'hey I play a guitar solo during the third song, can you crank me up then?' or ' hey dude i'm having trouble hearing my guitar amp, can I turn up a bit?'
    After the gig, thank him, tell him it was great working with him, and buy him another beer/coffee/coke.

    You will later find out from the audience that you sounded great, and the club will hire you to play again.

    Hope this helps someone!
     
  2. cat

    cat Member

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    Simple effective tips in plain English. Thanks man :AOK

    Cat
     
  3. robelinda2

    robelinda2 Member

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  4. markom89

    markom89 Senior Member

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    I've got a question... It's about something I like to do at gigs, but most are probably gonna' think I'm nuts...

    First what I do:
    When I have a gig and I'm going to get mic'd up I like to keep my amp very low in volume, as I find it's most compressed at low volumes. I really dig these compressed clean tones so I keep it around there and just ask him to bring me way up. I then use pedals to get those great dirty sounds live. To me, everything seems to sound better when either: a)low volume or b)very high volumes. Nothing in between sounds good to me :messedup

    Anyways, I'm just wondering if anyone else likes to do it like me and keep the amp very low in volume for that great (slightly) compressed clean tone and then use pedals for dirt? I prefer the sound of the clean and the pedals at these lower volumes and can still sound huge as all he has to do is bring me up :)
     
  5. tele_jas

    tele_jas Member

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    There are two schools of thought that can happen when using a sound-man... The first one is basically as you listed above, and I do everything I can to make it sound the best out front.

    1) Take your sound-man's advice, he has probably ran sound for SEVERAL bands and knows what sounds good in the mix. The usually hate lots of low end and top end, but don't sacrafice "your" sound completely just to make him happy, there's always a happy meeting ground in the middle some where. Plus, if you become friends with him, he'll end up spending a little extra time on your tone.

    2) My last band had a guitar player that said "He works for US, we shouldn't have to change a thing.... he should be able to work with what we give him"

    Yeah, number 2 is *in a way* right....... but, number 1 is the better solution all around and in the end, my sound has improved drastically since I started listening to him.

    That's my $.02 worth
     
  6. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    +1 on narrowing your frequency range and being cool to the soundman (and doing what he asks if possible) but i have to disagree about the dynamic range part. if you're the only guitar player and especially if you're the only melody instrument, then sure, you can stay at about the same volume and all will be well. even then, when you go from playing all six strings to playing one at a time for the lead, you need some sort of boost to keep from dropping out.

    but if you're competing with other instruments, especially other guitars, you need a way to make the leads appreciably louder than the rhythms. otherwise, your soundman will have to ride faders to put your leads up where they belong in the mix, which may not happen till halfway through the solo (if at all). hell, many players i hear and do sound for have the opposite problem, where their bright, dry clean sound barks through the mix and their sizzly, distorted lead sound actually drops in apparent volume.

    a good band mixes themselves onstage, with guitars that jump out for solos and then get back out of the way of the singer in time for the chorus.
     
  7. StompBoxBlues

    StompBoxBlues Member

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    I like your tips, but would disagree that the guitar is not a solo instrument...not sure what you mean by that, but it is a solo instrument, both in the sense of being able to play totally alone, or soloing over the band, etc. Maybe I misunderstand.

    Also, because it can be used (say in the middle of a song, the whole band stops, the guitar has some boogie or other beat going alone...) alone you have to be able to dial a great tone in, not necessarily dropping bass and treble in favor of mid.

    I think it's all good advice, except the subject is very much more complex. It is up to EVERYONE in the band to get their sound right, NOT just the guitarist to mid-up his guitar to avoid frequencies that others are on. It is up to the bass also to EQ so as not to stomp all over freqs, and other guitar and keyboards. I would even say first and foremost is sound level (volume). Changing EQ can be tricky.

    Sometimes you want more "wall of sound" and when I think of bands like Mountain "Mississippi Queen" for example. those frequencies sound pretty mashed together yet wonderful to me. The bass could have gone more trebly, and guitar been reigned in, but it wouldn't be THAT sound (going from memory, hope that I'm not completely off bass and that song actually does have lots of seperation).

    I know my Zendrive does SOME-thing...not sure which freq (and MID is a HUGE term that includes so many frequencies it is almost no help to just lump them all together as if they were one...there are good guitar mids, and bad guitar mids) in some mid (not treble, not bass) range, but it cuts through a band politely and always carves a space for the guitar somehow that is not overbearing but sounds seperate. It's pretty amazing.

    I'm not disagreeing, but pointing out, it is a holistic problem, the band shares it, not that a guitar has to crowd into that little freq.

    Some music needs dynamic as well. Compression is a good tool, but one can also ride a volume pedal after OD for example, and one can also set solo for slight boost (and when the soundman asks you for your loudest sounds....be honest and give it to him...in fact go a little over what you THINK it will be) let him set to it?
     
  8. ripoffriffs

    ripoffriffs Supporting Member

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    My own lessons from experience:

    1. The settings that sound great at home on neighbor friendly volumes does not necessarily translate to band situations. At home its likely set to hear a wide frequency range: bass, mid, treble. In a band, it better be mostly mids or you will not hear yourself.

    2. Hard rock/metal is unforgiving! You better have the right settings or you will not hear yourself and then the whole volume wars flame up with other band members.

    3. I found that power tube saturation/distortion sticks out more in the mix than preamp-based distortion. Got rid of Mesa-Boogies and went with non-master cranked marshalls w/ attenuator to control volume to get myself heard in the mix.
     
  9. tele_jas

    tele_jas Member

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    I agree that other instruments need to be aware of their sound with the band as well. Our bass player uses the V EQ shape running in to a 2x15 with 650wts and has enough low end to rattle the walls, but is hard to make out what notes he's playing sometimes.

    As for the mid thing in guitars, I agree 100%. The other guitar player in our band has a 100wt amp, his tone is really scooped (mids on zero)......I have a 30wt amp, mine is mid based (AC30 ish) and I love the tubescreamer tone for leads. My amp is heard clearer in the mix than his, even though his stage volume can be much louder than mine.

    Frequency's are weird how they interact with other instruments.
     
  10. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    Great Advice....I work with a lot of different sound guys in a lot of different situations. I always make a point to introduce myself & be as courteous as possible.

    Another "trick" or thing I make a point to do is not face my amp directly at him\her. We all know how directional cabs are.....so if you have yours pointed at the soundman's face, he is likely to keep you very low in the mix, thinking you are plenty loud....In return, people of axis & to the sides can't hear you at all because you are so low in the mix.
     
  11. SgtThump

    SgtThump Member

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    I've found that the "pro" sound guys that run house sound in clubs that have national acts or guys that tour with national acts are almost always very professional and friendly with the band. But most other sound guys (local guys) are jerks that think they know everything, when in fact it's clear they don't. Just my two cents.
     
  12. mitch236

    mitch236 Member

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    While there are professionals and not so professionals in every field, when you show up to play, it makes sense to make the soundman feel comfortable. If that means letting the "jerk" think he knows everything, then so be it. Better to sound fairly good than to risk having a soundman be intent on showing the audience how bad you guys are!

    As an aside, I remember complaining to our soundman once about adding too much reverb and delay to a particular solo (we employed a full-time soundman), to which he replied, "I know what you are trying to play, trust me, it sounds better with a little cover-up!!". I left him alone after that!
     
  13. Zexcoil

    Zexcoil Vendor

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    Also, assuming you trust your sound guy to do a good mix, keep your stage volume as low as you can to give him control.

    If you have trouble hearing yourself, ask for some guitar in your monitor.

    If you don't trust him, crank it up!!!
     
  14. klaetos

    klaetos Member

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    Great post bbrunskil. Lot's of good practical stuff. I have worked with a number of worship bands and hosted numerous battle of the bands and a common thing that I found is the more inexperienced the more people overplay. Even those that can play their instrument really well they have a tendency to overplay it. It's like they want to do everything they can to jam in every possible riff or beat or solo that can fit in the space of one song. Instead of letting the song be about the song it becomes about each individual musician. Then of course the room fills up with this noise and then the sound guy get's blamed for not making it sound good. It hard for people to admit that maybe the mix sounds bad because it is bad.

    Look at some of the greatest songs/bands out there, sometimes playing less is better for the song.
     
  15. dave s

    dave s Member

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    To the original poster: Thank you. Good stuff. Live shows is the extent of my playing anymore so your info is helpful. Printed for reference.

    My favorite 'make your live tone better' recipe is simple: Turn DOWN the gain, turn UP the volume!

    dave
     
  16. Echoes

    Echoes Senior Member

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    if the sound guy is a pro? I say "mic and set the level for rhythm.... then.... I'll adjust my 'solo' volume on stage, set fader and forget it"

    If NOT a pro? I set-up the mic and have my wife set the board level in the house and monitor(s) then she puts a piece of tape over the channel fader.
     
  17. mitch236

    mitch236 Member

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    Not to stir up any pots here but if the soundman is a pro, let him do his job. Your stage volume should remain constant.
     
  18. Andre357

    Andre357 Member

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    Yeah right ......:stir

    :D

    I think guitar solos, horn solos, any solos, should be authoratative and soar above the band a bit. Soundmen dont alway get that....
     
  19. stratzrus

    stratzrus Philadelphia Jazz, Funk, and R&B Supporting Member

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    I prefer to run an amp just at the point of breakup and to use pedals to take it from there.

    During soundcheck after I dial it in myself, I let someone else play my guitar while I listen with the soundman. I try to neciociate a mutual understanding of what works for both of us and work within those parameters during the set.
     
  20. dave s

    dave s Member

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    Your wife is a professional sound engineer? If not, I'd politely ask her to stay away from other people's gear!

    dave
     

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