How to balance/EQ two rock guitars live

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by herrschmuck, Jan 12, 2019.

  1. herrschmuck

    herrschmuck Member

    Jan 11, 2019
    One thing we've been having trouble with as a fairly new band in our scene is getting a good balance between the lead guitar (me) and the rhythm guitar (handled by our lead vocalist). A common problem that I hear from people is that I tend to turn down way too much and my solos don't get heard.
    Currently, both of us play guitars equipped with humbuckers (Epiphone SG for me, fake Dean for our vocalist), but our vocalist will be getting a Mustang in a few weeks.
    Traditional, before-the-show soundchecks are rare in our scene; we're expected to do that within the time frame of our set, and some venues (smaller ones) have only the vocals going into the P.A. so the amps and drums are not mic'ed up.
    How do you guys (particularly bands who self-soundcheck) go about setting levels and dialing amps for two distorted guitars and what are the good EQ profiles for each?
  2. Giga

    Giga Member

    Nov 7, 2005
    * Dial in much more highend/cut than you would playing by yourself
    * Use much less lows than you would playing by yourself
    * Use less distortion than you would playing by yourself
    * Let someone in the audience that you trust give you thumbs up and/or thumbsdown to adjust volume
    * Make sure your bandmates (bass, drums, keys ?) don’t overpower
    * Play as much live as you can and use your ears
    * When playing with the amp going through the PA point the amps not facing the crowd
    * When playing without the amp going through the PA point them at the crowd

    Good luck !

    PBGas, NamaEnsou, MoarGear and 2 others like this.
  3. DunedinDragon

    DunedinDragon Member

    Mar 23, 2016
    It's really just a garbage in/garbage out situation. If you don't sound balanced on stage, you probably won't sound balanced out front. Every bit of what you're asking can and should be worked out in rehearsal. Each person in the band should be able to hear all the other instruments and vocals in the band and adjust accordingly so the stage mix is balanced.

    For example, I play in an 8 piece band with two guitarists, bass, drums, harmonica, congas/percussion and multiple singers including two dedicated vocalists. Although we almost always send all instruments and vocals through the FOH PA, the only thing we hear from our monitors are the vocals, the congas, and the harmonicas unless it's a very large venue. So it's entirely up to us to manage the stage mix. That means each person has to be disciplined enough to know where they need to sit volume-wise within that mix and to do that they must to be able to hear everyone else and manage themselves within that mix.

    For multiple guitar bands the missing link between an amateur and professional sound is almost always whether the two guitars (or any other instruments on the stage) play complementary parts or competing parts. In essence, there's little reason for both guitars to be playing the exact same thing most of the time. As the lead guitar player it's most often up to me to find the part that complements the standard strumming being done by the rhythm guitar player and that's generally done by technique more than anything else. And it's up to me to manage the variation in tone and in volume that allows my lead playing and between passage comping fills to cut through the mix. And it's up to everyone to manage their dynamics in such a way that they are softer behind vocal passages and bigger on intros, endings, and instrumental breaks and are backing off enough to allow the instrumentalist to stand out in the stage mix on their instrumental breaks.

    Those are the things that differentiate a band from just a bunch of people playing music together.
    MoarGear and Vcaster like this.
  4. Vcaster

    Vcaster Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2017
    @herrschmuck, good question. Thanks for asking. I’m learning about live/rehearsal/studio sound too.

    @Giga and @DunedinDragon, great responses. Different perspectives and formats; both helpful and practical.
  5. aleclee

    aleclee TGP Tech Wrangler Staff Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    5868 ft above sea level
    I’d point out that this goes for timbre in addition to arrangement. If your guitar tones are similar and you’re playing notes in the same range, it’s much harder for the listener to pick out the lead part. There’s a reason why so many two-guitar bands had one guy playing a Strat and the other a LP.
    MoarGear likes this.
  6. alex mansman

    alex mansman Member

    Jan 22, 2016
    This might be too simplistic but one place to start experimenting might be to scoop the mids of the rhythm guitar a tiny bit and boost the mids and treble in the lead A LOT.

    Often this approach eliminates the need for greater volumes from one or the other
  7. rhythmark

    rhythmark Member

    Nov 23, 2018
    Racine WI
    Get a boost pedal.
  8. kiki_90291

    kiki_90291 Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Portland, OR
    This may seem trite, but it's a really good suggestion. The previous lead guitarist in my band would never turn up for solos and he would just get buried (he would also use way too much distortion, so he compressed himself out of the mix). My experience is that the level of boost required to get a solo to stand out the way it should sounds WAY too loud when you're playing alone. You really need to spend some time at rehearsal working out the right volumes at gig levels, including stepping out in front of the band to hear the mix (when you stand near your amp, your knees get a great mix, but you don't :) ).
  9. rhythmark

    rhythmark Member

    Nov 23, 2018
    Racine WI
    Also what i do on occasion is if you have a sound check is walk out front and in the room.
    While the band is playing to hear the mix.
    But you definitely need a boost or if your amp has an eq bypass use that. Or use an od as a boost for solos.
    Last but not least is turn your amp up and use your guitars volume control to balance between the two:)
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 16, 2006
    then maybe don't do that :)

    like folks are saying, set up a solo boost that's a lot louder than your rhythm parts so you can "mix" yourself while you play. you want your rhythm parts to be down below the vocals but your solos to be up where the vocals are.

    also, if singing rhythm guitar guy is still bashing away at his same level and fullness while you're trying to cram a solo over top of it then you have a recipe for a loud wall of mess. he should know how to ease up to leave you room.

    so much of this is about arrangement, about building your parts and tones to stay out of each other's way.
    9fingers, B Money and MoarGear like this.
  11. MoarGear

    MoarGear Member

    Dec 6, 2018
    Arrangement arrangement arrangement.

    Rehearse rehearse rehearse.

    Listen. Communicate.

    Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
    9fingers, Endr_rpm and walterw like this.
  12. Endr_rpm

    Endr_rpm Member

    Oct 30, 2009
    St. Louis, MO
    This. Record your band from the room, and listen to it critically. Who is too soft/loud? whose tone sucks? that is, doesn't fit together witht he other sounds to make a cohesive whole. Then look at stage volume levels.

    - Kick drum sets base line
    - bass guitar about equal to kick
    - vocals as loud as snare (monitors AND FOH)
    - lead instrument as loud as snare during featured passages
    - other instruments and non-featured leads instruments should be well under the snare
    - if you are loud enough to comfortably hear every note you play and all your glorious tone tweaking paying off? you're probably drowning out the rest of the band.
    - To avoid that, make sure to aim your speaker AT YOUR EARS. "its too trebly!!" yeah, the rest of us already know ya jagoff!!! Thats the sound the first few rows hears, and the sound the mic for FOH hears. Elevate or tilt your speakers, and adjust EQ accordingly. Your calves can't hear!

    None of this costs any money, BTW, just attention. Then you can get into the arcane world of different pickups for each player, different amps (marshall/Fender, marshall/mesa, etc), and cabinet configurations.
    aleclee, MoarGear and 9fingers like this.
  13. 9fingers

    9fingers Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2005
    Hills of WV
    Arrangement + 3. it is not just about loudness or tone or EQ. It is also about how much everyone plays. If everyone is bashing away full tilt all the time it is a muddy mess. Play fewer strings per chord, try fewer strums, and, horror of horrors for guitar players, try each person NOT playing some of the time! It is incredibly difficult for some reason to take one's hands OFF of one's guitar occasionally.
    MoarGear likes this.
  14. mattball826

    mattball826 Member

    Oct 23, 2009
    Chances are the singer rhythm player is in front of the drums, has the amp pointed at the back of his calves, and has to turn up to hear himself. Other instances can be the rhythm player moves in a way when you solo that now his amp is beaming and not blocked by his body when singing.

    You can get a boost pedal, or eq pedal with extra gain, take down the amp gain (too much dist sounds thin and won't travel as far sonic wise). Leave yourself room on the guitar vol knob to boost if needed.

    OTOH be certain the problem is not relative to this person being opposite of where you are on stage. More than often with 2 guitarists, the people on one side may not hear the guitarist as well on the other.

    Get a decent camcorder and mic and record the show from center. Then you will know what to fix
  15. louderock

    louderock Member

    Jun 12, 2007
    Los Angeles
    Dynamics?? But I'm playing as LOUD as I can!!!

    Good advice already and +100 on getting a volume boost setup for leads. I play in a Skynyrd tribute with 3 guitars and each of us having a boost is critical.

    The other thing is overall band dynamic. The first step to this is the drummer. Are they pulling back when needed? Also, are you guys using the volume knob on your guitar so you can sit back sometimes?
  16. PBGas

    PBGas Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2009
    Ontario, Canada
    Some excellent suggestions by everyone!
    My Rhythm guitars/Singer has a very different tone then I have. He plays much cleaner. What I tend to do with us when balancing it live or for recording is give him a touch more top end so the clean sparkle comes through more. I more of the bottom on my signal but have a bit more mids for leads. We generally don't have a lot of issues because both of us run direct when playing live and recording. I run through a UA OX or my AxeIII and my bud runs through his Torpedo Captor.

    It balances very well live because we are distinctly different in how we both play and it works.

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