We have all played at those gigs where we roll in with our guitar amp, plug in and play, get told by a sound engineer (like myself) to turn down. All the crowd can here is your guitar, cause the sound engineer can not get a clean vocal, but when you turn down you “can’t hear yourself”. Been there? As a guitarist myself too, I have personally been there, and on the other side of the fence I hate being that sound engineer to tell people to turn their amps down.
There is an awesome solution which every guitarist should consider doing, and it will create a more comfortable gig for not only yourself, but other members of your band on stage, and the audience too.
Before we go into what this solution is, lets think for a minute why you can not here yourself. Most of the time, you have your amp on the floor, yeah? Where is the speaker pointing? Yes, it is pointing out to the audience, at the same height as your knees and the audience’s head.
A guitar amp speaker (or speaker cabinet) is generally a point source type speaker, which means, the direction that speaker is pointing, is the direction the sound goes. Most guitar speakers have a very narrow spread of sound. This is really important because this will help in the placement of your amp and the placement of the amp is where lots of guitarists become stuck. You see, because most guitarist place their amps on the floor of the stage, the direction of the sound is hitting their knees, and on most stages, this height will be the audience’s head, or close too. As a result the total energy of your sound now is hitting the audiences head.
Does the following sound familiar, you as the guitarist can not hear because your drummer is hitting those cymbals (which are your head height), so you turn up your amp. This makes it louder in the audience and on stage. As a result, the rest of your band now struggles to hear themselves, and turns their amps up. Now your singer is struggling to hear themselves in the foldback and asks the engineer to give them more volume, which the engineer does, since the singer increased their volume, you as the guitarist is struggling to year yourself now, (as the wedges are angling up to your head), and you turn up more. As a result the sound engineer has cut all instruments out of FOH speakers as they are battling with your stage sound. Soon all the audience is hearing is the stage sound and foldback monitors. Am I right??…Yuck!! This vicious cycle happens regularly on gigs all over the world, purely because we as guitarists and musicians don’t understand how sound works.
When I realised this was happening to me as a guitarist, I than wanted to know why. Why was this happening, what ca n I do to make this work better for me. I realised that when playing on stage and your amp is mic’d up by the sound engineer, your guitar amplifier is “your foldback” as such. This means that where you setup your pedals on stage is where your amp should be directed, so the centre of the speaker hits your head so you can hear your sound. This will give you a better picture of your sound and tone. I tried a few different things, like putting my amp on milk crates or chairs, just to raise the guitar amp. This worked ok, but meant I had to have a milk crate with me to raise the amp, or hope that there is one at the venue. I then tried leaning it back on a wall at back of stage. It was ok in some venues, but others, there was no back wall as such so this made it a little trickier, (and some venue owners do not like you leaning stuff on their walls).
I than discovered the amp stand. I purchased a QuikLok one for $70, which worked amazing! This meant I could position my amp anywhere on stage, lean it back at various angles so the sound of the amp hit ears instead of my feet. I realised after doing this, my tone was not as amazing as I through as I couldn’t hear all the little details of my sound until I angled the speaker back. You will notice this yourself too, and you can strive for a better sound on stage for yourself.
Having an amp stand allows you to be super flexible with your amp placement, you can keep with tradition and have it at the back of the stage, angled to your head, you can place your amp on the side of stage facing across stage so you are on and your band members can hear your amp clearly at low volumes.
By making your volume loud enough to hear yourself, but low enough so the sound engineer can get a good mix out front is a challenging thing, but it is necessary so your audience has a great experience and doesn’t walk away with only hearing guitars and no other instrument. I recommend talking with your sound engineer prior to the gig, so you both have an understanding of the sound you are after and they can assist you in giving you this sound.
If you are interested in an amp stand, come down to our studio to check them out to see how they will benefit your sound.