"The audience can't tell the difference."

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by vintagefox, Sep 14, 2019.

  1. vintagefox

    vintagefox Member

    Jan 31, 2017
    I've read this, or something very similar to the thread title countless times from people. I never understood this logic when it comes to pedals or other gear.

    Seriously, who cares if the audience can't tell between Boss and Strymon. Can't YOU tell the difference between different pedals? Aren't you playing for YOUR enjoyment and satisfaction? I understand if you aren't picky, or simply don't want to spend a lot of cash on something, but using the audience's ear as a way to justify gear that might be questionable (or just plain suck) makes zero sense to me.

    Btw, I'm not saying one pedal is better than the other. We all hear things differently, so let's not turn this into a pedal VS pedal thread.

    I just want to hear from people who go by this logic, so that i can have a better understanding of the "I don't care if the audience doesn't care" motto.
    Tomo El Gato, McGTR, Leonc and 44 others like this.
  2. Sloppyslim

    Sloppyslim Member

    Sep 29, 2008
    sandy eggo
    VH1 ... the audience knew the difference

    is the thread about different flavors and diminishing returns or capabilities
    jimi's wah, fuzzface, octava, and univibe, pages echoplex, doobie brothers slap back, eddies phaser, the audience is gonna notice
    otoh, some people can make jaws drop playing eruption on an acoustic so it depends
    is it the difference between a dan electro chicken salad and a fulltone deja vibe or the difference between a digitech xp100 & xp300 (whammy/wah and a spacestation)
    what people notice and what people care about are two different things, and how many hooks have people been playing wrong for decades

    someone compared gear to cullinary tools, but I think it's a bit more, like ingredients... or paint.
    the audience sees the forms and shades, but the artist has to mix the colors.
    the audience won't know or care if the artist used cadmium red because they were out of alizarin crimson, they only see the painting.
    “I can paint you the skin of Venus with mud, provided you let me surround it as I will.” Eugene Delacroix
    and most of the audience is there trying to experience or re-experience the painting, knowing it's a reproduction.
    yes, there's always the olympic judge rating the 5th performance of an Ice skaters routine in the rolling stone...
    but I've never even been to a grammys [good call btw:rotflmao]
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2019
  3. soma

    soma Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2009
    London, UK
    If one of them inspires you to play differently the audience will hear that but they could not care less if you use a Klon or a DS1
    matt1969, dalezjc, Jeffj and 43 others like this.
  4. Shiny_Beast

    Shiny_Beast Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2009
    Ottawa Canada
    Most of my fav guitarists have one thing in common, they always sound great. IMO It's one of the many reasons why Neal is as popular as he is, his guitar tone always kills and the audience can tell.
    cam0122 and vintagefox like this.
  5. topperdoggle

    topperdoggle Member

    Oct 23, 2011
    I think the point is that these differences are:
    • Not as important as some people like to think.
    • Not always very audible in a live room, or in a mix.
    If we as musicians struggle to hear differences in practice, what chance does the audience have? It's less that they don't care, and more that they don't hear.

    There is a lesson here for us too, that we can opt not to let marginal tonal differences interfere with our performance, because that makes us sound much worse than the difference between a Soul Food and a Klon.

    Also, I am definitely playing as much for their enjoyment and satisfaction as I am mine, and a lot of my satisfaction is actually a function of theirs. It is a relationship. I get no satisfaction from having "amazing tone" and aimlessly wanking over chord progressions that only other musicians care about. But I really enjoy watching the crowd when we play a Play That Funky Music / Sex Machine medley and the groove kicks in.

    (Of course, it doesn't pay to sound terrible, I'm not justifying crap sound, that's no fun for anyone.)
  6. HiddenAgenda

    HiddenAgenda Member

    Sep 1, 2015
    San Francisco
    I was at Jason Becker's not dead yet show and the entire audience were guitar players.. so depends on the audience.
  7. soma

    soma Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2009
    London, UK
    I recall Satriani tell the story of Mick Jagger telling him to play less and dance more because nobody at the gigs could hear but they could see.
    C-4, metrokosmiko, scelerat and 28 others like this.
  8. andy474x

    andy474x Member

    Sep 6, 2012
    I think there’s a balance between being inspired/our enjoyment, and the audience’s enjoyment. And then, of course, it depends on what, specifically, we’re talking about. If you want to bring your Dumble, Klon, and ‘59 Strat to the gig, and you don’t care if they get damaged or stolen, knock yourself out. But, if you’re too worried about your nice gear and want to leave the good stuff at home, and it means you play a MIM Strat into a HRD, don’t whine about not being inspired and you can’t enjoy the gig. Or, if you just can’t swallow the idea of playing the show without three full stacks in a wet/dry/wet setup, but it takes you a semi truck to move and two hours to set up. That’s when the part about the audience can’t tell the difference , and you have to ask yourself if you play for the music and the people, or yourself and the gear... if the gear is that important, might as well be playing in the basement.
  9. jblake

    jblake Member

    Feb 1, 2015
    Nashville, TN
    If you have a holy grail piece of gear that gives you 100% tonal bliss but also has functional quirks and is not readily replaceable, what percentage are you willing to sacrifice for a bulletproof and easily replaceable alternative?

    I'd love to gig an Echoplex, but a mass-produced analog delay is close enough and convenient enough to get the job done.
  10. Laurence

    Laurence Silver Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2006
    OK in the CA
    The sentiment, or the phrase itself, seems to be born out of our obsession with detail and some denial by ourselves that we really are part of the problem.
  11. GeorgeNada

    GeorgeNada Member

    Jun 28, 2017
    Some folks prefer to focus on other aspects of being a guitar player and a musician. I get the mind set If your main goal is to create music for an audience, and that audience can’t notice or doesn’t care about subtle differences between pedals why spend your time, money, and attention on it?
    MilwMark, Not Orange and kdm1218 like this.
  12. Humble Texan Fan

    Humble Texan Fan Member

    Oct 20, 2015
    Scandinavian as in 'dynamite'
    Audible or not it's there to make the guitarist their best.

    Most 'audience arguments' come from non-guitarists or guitarists who either don't know gear or don't love their gear. The rare case of a guitatist admitting to the secondary experience being quite different from the first hand one.
    Laurence and sixesandsevens like this.
  13. desire machine

    desire machine Member

    Jul 15, 2017
    Well the audience can definitely tell the difference between different types of pedals .... and can tell difference between ability and comfort playing which will be affected by pedals.

    I think “ the audience can’t tell” is more a matter of don’t get hung up on perfecting minor details or sweat small mistakes.
  14. captaincoconut

    captaincoconut Member

    Dec 8, 2014
    I played some of my best shows with some of the sh*tiest gear. Seriously, no one cares about your six different low gain pedals you bring to the gig. Get over it.
  15. stevieboy

    stevieboy Clouds yell at me Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2006
    Under the whang whang guitar star
    The audience can’t tell the difference, because they’re not listening to a comparison. And most wouldn’t know what you were comparing, if somehow you could be.

    What the audience does do is hear what they hear. They don’t care about about the details, but they are capable of liking what they hear. Sounding good is real. Playing good is of course the major part of that, but everything goes into it to some degree.

    I figure that you should just try to sound good, whatever that means to you and however you go about it, and hopefully that will come across to the audience.
  16. Comanche5

    Comanche5 Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    Vancouver, Canada
    It's more about not sweating the small stuff. Look, it's one thing to dwell on these small details in your home, but get on stage and there are way more factors that are going to alter your sound. Stage size, stage material, room dimensions, amp placement, mic, mic placement, mixing, EQing, monitors, FOH, etc. Do you even know what you sound like in the room while you're on stage? Alright, after that $hitstorm, pop in your earplugs (unless your stupid). Yeah, why did I spend so much time dwelling on Boss vs. Strymon?
  17. Robot B9

    Robot B9 Member

    Aug 20, 2018
    Science has proven that most audience members are dumb. You can’t argue with science!!!!
  18. markjsmith

    markjsmith Member

    Feb 5, 2008
    Mission Viejo, Ca.
    I think the main thing comments like this are for is to not let let a lack of gear or not having the coolest newest thing stop you from playing or being creative! Yes good gear is important, but some sounds that are great don't need the newest most expensive stuff to be achieved!
  19. BlueRiff

    BlueRiff Member

    May 19, 2016
    The degrees of difference of certain pedals is much smaller that the degree of guitarist tone obsession between the same pedals. I agree - at the volumes being played out front to the audience, I think pedal tonal subtleties get buried. At least from what I’ve heard.
  20. rockon1

    rockon1 Member

    Aug 12, 2005
    Playing gigs at local bars I started caring less actually , to make things easier and in the end more enjoyable for me. For a long time I'd schlep bigger than I needed, then I started to
    downsize. Lunchbox head, 1 x12 cab, etc. These days Im happier if I can grab my mini board and plug into a backline amp. The last gig I did I used a $25 mini pedal on my mini board for dirt and nobody said my tone sucked, lol. Actually I got quite a few compliments on my playing though which was nice.
    uab9253, DrSax, Weeziewow and 8 others like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice