When you are performing live, getting your tone is the most important thing. But how exactly do you achieve that? Although many people claim that very sophisticated and expensive gear is what you need, you should know that this is not the secret to a great sound on stage. The key is knowing how to choose and use the equipment you already have.
Cover photo: Angeline Saris (Photo by Kurt Winter in Omaha)
As you may know, playing live means being covered by the crowd and not being able to hear your guitar properly. That can be the fault of the monitor desk, of the sound person, or the mix. However, musicians often make mistakes themselves – not knowing the pedal settings, not working properly on the amp settings, or simply not knowing how to position the speakers onstage. So, here are six tips “stolen” from pro guitarists that can vastly improve the way your sound is heard live.
1. Experiment with Delay
The more intense a sound will be, the better it will be heard. To achieve that, you can try to add a bit of a delay, or even reverb if you feel confident enough. First off, the sounding delay must be quite clean because you need a type of delay that can be found between the pre-amp sections and power amp, not from a pedal that is plugged at the front of the amplifier.
Since manufacturers have already taken care of these effects through loop machines, all you need is to decide which one of the two you wish to use. You should use parallel effect loops if you wish to obtain effects based on time. Also, you should definitely have a processor for effects to use the loops correctly.
2. Use the Equalization Knobs on Your Amp
The main benefits of understanding how the EQ knobs work are the fact that they can give a few new characteristics by changing the guitar tone and also space for your live sound. A guitar can be EQ’ed inside the amp, and on the soundboard. The most control will come from the soundboard since it has more knobs than the guitar amp.
Now, during a live show, the role of the sound technician is vital for creating the right amount of space for each instrument. However, you can contribute to that as well by setting a guitar a bit lower and one a bit higher. This way, they will have a good presence in the high mids and the lower ones.
You can also use the EQ knobs for modifying the overall tone.
3. Be Comfortable
Although having your equipment and sound system in order is vital for a good live show, making sure that you are comfortable enough on stage is important as well. That depends a lot on your inner self, and usually, every live performance helps you understand a bit more about yourself and how to make an even better show the next time.
There are two important criteria that influence this particular state. One concerns the band members, and how you manage to obtain a balance between the professional and personal level. The second criterion refers to the image that you present. From your hair to the guitar strap to your boots, a guitarist must always mind the way he or she chooses to dress.
4. Make a Simulation with the Cabinet
There are a lot of sound issues that must be dealt with when it comes to live shows, from knocking the mic out of position by mistake, to finding the amp’s “sweet spot,” and to the quality of the room in which you play. That is why the best way to overcome all of these problems is to perform a simulation with a high-quality speaker cabinet.
This simulator emulates the sound of your cabinet, and this way you will be able to send a sound that is direct to the mixer. The amp can also be used to monitor better the sound.
5. Know which is the Right Volume
Since a guitar tone is affected by the volume knob and not just by the gain knob, it is very important to adjust the volume properly. The tone coming out of the amp is influenced by the volume knob. A lot of amps sound better when they are between 5 and 8 – turning them too loud will usually distort in an ugly way.
6. Delivering a Good Quality Performance
To maintain and gain fans, a guitar player must perform properly onstage. That’s why dynamics and a lot of rehearsals are imperative.
Performing in front of a crowd can be frightening. There are so many things that can go wrong, even when you are a pro. That’s why you need to make sure you prep your guitar before the show.
How do you prepare for a concert? Share your tips below.