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Author Topic: musicians amps on stage  (Read 1003 times)

Tom Herr

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musicians amps on stage
« on: May 17, 2021, 11:50:45 am »

I have been in the music industry most of my life. I have been on the sound and lighting end as well as a performing musician with countless hours experience in both areas. Worked with national and locals in both capacities. I have played rock, blues, country, some gospel and quite a bit of contemporary christian music.
Now I am running into houses of worship that don't allow amplifiers on stage. Seriously, why would you hamstring a musician like that?
I understand the desire to control the mix and that there are musicians out there who are half deaf, but why punish the entire lot over a few?
I am now approaching 60 years of age and am quite capable of playing at a moderate volume. In some respects taking away a guitar players amp is like taking away the sustain pedal from a piano player. Yes you can add compression to increase sustain on a digital simulated amp but that is not the same as the warm natural sound of a good tube amp. And yes digital has improved but still has a long ways to go. In ear monitors completely eliminates the ability to position ones self to key in on different instruments on the stage. There is no way that I can simulate thru in ears what I am able to do on a stage with live amps. You would have to have foot controlled volumes for each channel in the mix. And for those of us who play with groups who insist on playing songs that have not been rehearsed for a long time, there is no substitute for being able to turn down on stage while getting your ears in line with the amp so you can find a part during the song without disrupting the song.
IMO we are trying so hard to have complete control over the mix and crippling the musicians in the process.
I always believed the sound engineers job was to enhance and bring out the best of what the musicians were doing, not to restrict and take away from their talent.
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Scott Holtzman

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2021, 12:24:45 pm »

I have been in the music industry most of my life. I have been on the sound and lighting end as well as a performing musician with countless hours experience in both areas. Worked with national and locals in both capacities. I have played rock, blues, country, some gospel and quite a bit of contemporary christian music.
Now I am running into houses of worship that don't allow amplifiers on stage. Seriously, why would you hamstring a musician like that?
I understand the desire to control the mix and that there are musicians out there who are half deaf, but why punish the entire lot over a few?
I am now approaching 60 years of age and am quite capable of playing at a moderate volume. In some respects taking away a guitar players amp is like taking away the sustain pedal from a piano player. Yes you can add compression to increase sustain on a digital simulated amp but that is not the same as the warm natural sound of a good tube amp. And yes digital has improved but still has a long ways to go. In ear monitors completely eliminates the ability to position ones self to key in on different instruments on the stage. There is no way that I can simulate thru in ears what I am able to do on a stage with live amps. You would have to have foot controlled volumes for each channel in the mix. And for those of us who play with groups who insist on playing songs that have not been rehearsed for a long time, there is no substitute for being able to turn down on stage while getting your ears in line with the amp so you can find a part during the song without disrupting the song.
IMO we are trying so hard to have complete control over the mix and crippling the musicians in the process.
I always believed the sound engineers job was to enhance and bring out the best of what the musicians were doing, not to restrict and take away from their talent.


While you may know how to play at a decent volume, most do not.  You can put your amp in an iso cabinet too if you feel the need.  In the church environment they want a silent stage so the engineer has absolute control over the volume and presentation of the instruments.


Old dogs can learn new tricks.  A good stereo mix can give you that stage presence you want in your ears.  The truth is most engineers don't know how to mix IEM's.  I can also tell you that a whole litany of heritage acts, prior to the pandemic, were traveling with Kemper's and ears only.  They sounded pretty damn good to me and the audience enjoyed the show.  Not one person came up to FOH and asked where Randy Bachman's amp was!


If you take the same tact in dealing with the these churches that you did in your note then you must be a real peach to work with.  At least you used your real name.  That puts you in the upper 1 percentile!



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Tim Weaver

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2021, 04:14:13 pm »

You can have your amp. In fact I have a whole closet just for amps. It's painful to go in there when the Steel Player is playing.


Radial SGI let's you put your amp as far away from you as needed and there is no penalty for "extra long cords". The SGI allows you to dial in the amount of input impedance so it behaves exactly like your amp does.

In ear monitors give you and entirely clean slate to dial up as much or as little direct vs ambient sound that you need to "feel" right. The bonus is that you'll save your hearing and become a much better player in the process. You'll hear every little thing your amp does, and that translates into cleaner, better playing.

Not "Feeling it in the chest" enough? I have buttkickers embedded in the stage to give the deck a little rattle if needed. It's very little, but the guys certainly notice it when it's not there.


Any other complaints?

Are you being paid to be there or Volunteer?
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Erik Jerde

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2021, 10:44:59 am »

Church music is about connecting people to God via worship.  Everything else is subservient to that end.  Usually that involves moderate not high room SPL and a vocal that is more prominent than at a concert.

In a modern worship setting that need for a lower SPL has necessitated remote amps or modeling and often drums in a box.  Sound engineers have gotten really tired of having to be the SPL police because leadership has given a SPL ceiling and then hired animal as the drummer and a guitar player with the knob stuck at 10.

If you want to have your amp on stage then the beat way to go about it is start by playing inside the rules they have.  Do a good job, develop positive relationships with the engineer.  Then once you have a relationship broach the question of just trying it out.  Be prepared for a no.  It may not even be their decision to make.  There may be reasons behind that no that youíre not aware of and they donít have the desire to get into.  Donít be a dick about it if you donít get the answer you want.

I for one prefer drums out of the box, amps and all that on stage.  Unfortunately there are some rooms and some players where it just isnít possible while serving the main goal.  Keep the goal in mind and be part of the team working toward that.
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Debbie Dunkley

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2021, 06:08:22 pm »


I understand the desire to control the mix and that there are musicians out there who are half deaf, but why punish the entire lot over a few?
....... In some respects taking away a guitar players amp is like taking away the sustain pedal from a piano player. Yes you can add compression to increase sustain on a digital simulated amp but that is not the same as the warm natural sound of a good tube amp. And yes digital has improved but still has a long ways to go. 

I agree - 10+ years ago! Tom, it is possible to get amazing tone without using backline these days - certainly good enough that no-one including the player will notice the difference. The last 2 guitarists I worked with (both in their 50's) used Fractals and they sounded amazing. FX in stereo is made easy and so effective.

Regarding iems.... well I am a big fan myself and once you have the right mix, quality ear buds and most importantly, great isolation, you can have the most amazing stage experience. I understand not everyone likes them but I really think if those who have tried and given up had persevered, they would have conquered the iem experience. My husband is a bass player and sings and he has said he would NEVER EVER go back to a wedge. Many of my other band colleagues feel the same way. I'd use them myself except I run the sound remotely from FOH whilst wirelessly singing and I need to hear what everyone else is hearing...
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Andrew Broughton

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2021, 06:29:30 pm »

I have been in the music industry most of my life. I have been on the sound and lighting end as well as a performing musician with countless hours experience in both areas. Worked with national and locals in both capacities. I have played rock, blues, country, some gospel and quite a bit of contemporary christian music.
Now I am running into houses of worship that don't allow amplifiers on stage. Seriously, why would you hamstring a musician like that?
I understand the desire to control the mix and that there are musicians out there who are half deaf, but why punish the entire lot over a few?
I am now approaching 60 years of age and am quite capable of playing at a moderate volume. In some respects taking away a guitar players amp is like taking away the sustain pedal from a piano player. Yes you can add compression to increase sustain on a digital simulated amp but that is not the same as the warm natural sound of a good tube amp. And yes digital has improved but still has a long ways to go. In ear monitors completely eliminates the ability to position ones self to key in on different instruments on the stage. There is no way that I can simulate thru in ears what I am able to do on a stage with live amps. You would have to have foot controlled volumes for each channel in the mix. And for those of us who play with groups who insist on playing songs that have not been rehearsed for a long time, there is no substitute for being able to turn down on stage while getting your ears in line with the amp so you can find a part during the song without disrupting the song.
IMO we are trying so hard to have complete control over the mix and crippling the musicians in the process.
I always believed the sound engineers job was to enhance and bring out the best of what the musicians were doing, not to restrict and take away from their talent.

So, what I hear you saying is that it's all about you?
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Matthias McCready

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2021, 09:49:30 pm »

a digital simulated amp but that is not the same as the warm natural sound of a good tube amp.

Tom,

Have you used a Kemper or a Two Notes Torpedo? Both of these sound as good as an amp. Seriously get a friend and do a blind A/B (create a profile of your amp), use the same cab, and volume match them.

Can a Kemper or Two Notes sound bad? Sure, but so can a real tube amp.  ;)

To be fair, how much have you invested in a good set of custom molded IEM's? If not you should give it a try.
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Luke Geis

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2021, 11:25:49 pm »

As a player/performer of 27+ years and having worked for 20 years as a sound engineer, I can say that I have always been in search of a way to get my sound at bedroom volume. I like tube amps.... I like the sound from my amp... I have not found a digital replacement for one yet. What I have found is a digital replacement for a speaker though!  I recently picked up a Two Notes Captor X!!! Immediately I was happy. I could have my sound silently. The Two Notes Captor X is the best thing since sliced bread for guitarists that MUST have a real amp. It is convincing enough for me. It may be the best $600 I have spent on guitar gear in a long time. Look into it, I think it is the solution you may be after.
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Matthias McCready

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2021, 10:29:53 am »

As a player/performer of 27+ years and having worked for 20 years as a sound engineer, I can say that I have always been in search of a way to get my sound at bedroom volume. I like tube amps.... I like the sound from my amp... I have not found a digital replacement for one yet. What I have found is a digital replacement for a speaker though!  I recently picked up a Two Notes Captor X!!! Immediately I was happy. I could have my sound silently. The Two Notes Captor X is the best thing since sliced bread for guitarists that MUST have a real amp. It is convincing enough for me. It may be the best $600 I have spent on guitar gear in a long time. Look into it, I think it is the solution you may be after.

I have been a real fan of their products.

I have a player I work with every week who uses 2x of the Torpedo Live units (the rack mounted load box). The tone is just stellar.

Even three years ago a lot of the guys I work with had their custom amp/head combo they brought; and I have noticed in the last few months just how rare that is becoming. I am of course still more than happy to mic up an amp (got to use that ribbon mic for something!  ;) ) but tone wise there are so many great options now.
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Debbie Dunkley

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2021, 10:47:10 am »

As a player/performer of 27+ years and having worked for 20 years as a sound engineer, I can say that I have always been in search of a way to get my sound at bedroom volume. I like tube amps.... I like the sound from my amp... I have not found a digital replacement for one yet. What I have found is a digital replacement for a speaker though!  I recently picked up a Two Notes Captor X!!! Immediately I was happy. I could have my sound silently. The Two Notes Captor X is the best thing since sliced bread for guitarists that MUST have a real amp. It is convincing enough for me. It may be the best $600 I have spent on guitar gear in a long time. Look into it, I think it is the solution you may be after.
The guitar player in one of our bands uses the REVV which has the Two Notes reactive load and cabs built in - he says it's the best sound he has EVER had - exceptional player too.
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Ed Taylor

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2021, 11:41:53 am »

Church music is about connecting people to God via worship.  Everything else is subservient to that end.  Usually that involves moderate not high room SPL and a vocal that is more prominent than at a concert.

In a modern worship setting that need for a lower SPL has necessitated remote amps or modeling and often drums in a box.  Sound engineers have gotten really tired of having to be the SPL police because leadership has given a SPL ceiling and then hired animal as the drummer and a guitar player with the knob stuck at 10.

If you want to have your amp on stage then the beat way to go about it is start by playing inside the rules they have.  Do a good job, develop positive relationships with the engineer.  Then once you have a relationship broach the question of just trying it out.  Be prepared for a no.  It may not even be their decision to make.  There may be reasons behind that no that youíre not aware of and they donít have the desire to get into.  Donít be a dick about it if you donít get the answer you want.

I for one prefer drums out of the box, amps and all that on stage.  Unfortunately there are some rooms and some players where it just isnít possible while serving the main goal.  Keep the goal in mind and be part of the team working toward that.

nice even-handed response Erik..thanks.  I too am/have been , both...player and audio guy...and director of worship& arts for 2500 seated church.
An old school Red box from Hughes would go a long way into keeping a guitar signal sounding like a guitar, and a drum shield meant the sopranos (we know how they can be) up front are at least a little bit happier.
The one thing I've noted, you get the stage quiet, get everyone on ears and things get sterile. The musicians start playing to "track" rather than playing like a band...there's something extra that happens on a tight stage in an old bar where you're on top of eachother and stage volumes are moving you. You actually play together.  I want that for my church again. I miss it when I'm on guitar or bass or keys  or vocals.
I even miss it when I'm back at FOH position.
the organics are gone.
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Brian Jojade

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2021, 02:57:16 pm »

In a church environment, controlling stage volume is of utmost importance.  I've been to services where the preacher does his thing, and then the band kicks in and it's at rock concert volume.  Not appealing in any way whatsoever.  Additionally, you're often in a relatively small space which makes it even more difficult to keep things under control.  Also consider that where the sound quality actually matters is in the seats, not in the musician's ears.  Yeah, it's got to be reasonable so that the musicians can play, but that's about it.

An interesting concept is if you participate in a studio recording.  If you sit back and try to listen to the musicians within the studio, it probably won't sound that great.  However, in the mix position, isolated from everything, the engineer can put it all together to get an amazing mix.

Performing live means you have to figure out how to get that amazing mix to mesh nicely throughout the room with the slop that is created on stage. Remember that your guitar amp might sound great on stage and in the first couple rows, but after that, the coverage is all over the place.  Now the sound guy has to compromise either the sound in the first few rows, or all of the other rows to get the best mix.  Usually it's somewhere in between so that everyone suffers a little.  The question then becomes, is the 'tone' difference of using a modeled amp worse for the listeners than the compromises that the sound guy needs to make to even things out for everyone?

My feeling on this is typically, NO.  A quieter stage is the way to go.  Give full mix control to the sound guy who is IN the area where it needs to sound good.

To solve this, there are a few options.

1. No amps. This gives the sound guy maximum control.  You still have to deal with loud instruments, but the less you have to deal with, the easier it is for their job.  Eg, a regular set of drums can overpower just about anything and maintaining a quiet stage becomes nearly pointless.  If you move to all electronic instruments, you can have a nearly silent stage, which is great for church type events.  Yes, there are some trade-offs regarding the purity of sound, but in a small venue, this option would give you the closest to a 'recorded playback' sound that you could get.

2. Allow amplification, but set very specific guidelines on how loud each player can set their equipment.  In theory, it could work.  In reality, I'd want to be paid a hell of a lot more to be the 'asshole' that always has to tell people to turn their gear down, or point things in another direction.  From a volunteer standpoint, yeah, I wouldn't be the guy for that.

3. Not care at all and let musicians make the decision.  Result of this is the experience of volume of the music probably not matching the volume of the service.  Note, I say probably. It's possible to get professionals that know what they are doing, but those are few and far between, especially in a volunteer environment.
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Erik Jerde

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2021, 05:22:49 pm »

In a church environment, controlling stage volume is of utmost importance.  I've been to services where the preacher does his thing, and then the band kicks in and it's at rock concert volume.  Not appealing in any way whatsoever.  Additionally, you're often in a relatively small space which makes it even more difficult to keep things under control.  Also consider that where the sound quality actually matters is in the seats, not in the musician's ears.  Yeah, it's got to be reasonable so that the musicians can play, but that's about it.

An interesting concept is if you participate in a studio recording.  If you sit back and try to listen to the musicians within the studio, it probably won't sound that great.  However, in the mix position, isolated from everything, the engineer can put it all together to get an amazing mix.

Performing live means you have to figure out how to get that amazing mix to mesh nicely throughout the room with the slop that is created on stage. Remember that your guitar amp might sound great on stage and in the first couple rows, but after that, the coverage is all over the place.  Now the sound guy has to compromise either the sound in the first few rows, or all of the other rows to get the best mix.  Usually it's somewhere in between so that everyone suffers a little.  The question then becomes, is the 'tone' difference of using a modeled amp worse for the listeners than the compromises that the sound guy needs to make to even things out for everyone?

My feeling on this is typically, NO.  A quieter stage is the way to go.  Give full mix control to the sound guy who is IN the area where it needs to sound good.

To solve this, there are a few options.

1. No amps. This gives the sound guy maximum control.  You still have to deal with loud instruments, but the less you have to deal with, the easier it is for their job.  Eg, a regular set of drums can overpower just about anything and maintaining a quiet stage becomes nearly pointless.  If you move to all electronic instruments, you can have a nearly silent stage, which is great for church type events.  Yes, there are some trade-offs regarding the purity of sound, but in a small venue, this option would give you the closest to a 'recorded playback' sound that you could get.

2. Allow amplification, but set very specific guidelines on how loud each player can set their equipment.  In theory, it could work.  In reality, I'd want to be paid a hell of a lot more to be the 'asshole' that always has to tell people to turn their gear down, or point things in another direction.  From a volunteer standpoint, yeah, I wouldn't be the guy for that.

3. Not care at all and let musicians make the decision.  Result of this is the experience of volume of the music probably not matching the volume of the service.  Note, I say probably. It's possible to get professionals that know what they are doing, but those are few and far between, especially in a volunteer environment.

I've worked in #1 and #3.  #3 with true world class pros (consummate side-men/women not stars looking for the spotlight) can be amazing.  Not really because the volume isn't an issue but because of the quality of the musicians.  I do #1 most of the time but I prefer real cage-free drums and a drummer who can play the room.  Fortunately I usually get that these days.  It's pretty nice!
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Tim Weaver

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2021, 06:06:24 pm »

My situation is probably 1.5. They can and do have amps which can be as loud as they want. But I put them in a closet where my mains amps and monitor desk are. It's side of stage and has doors that remain closed. I provide SGI's for the guitar guys that want amps. My current and most stable guitar player has a modeler of some kind. I think it's from Fractal Audio? idk.
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Mark Norgren

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Re: musicians amps on stage
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2021, 08:05:23 pm »

My perspective comes from a musician.  I find that my stage volume follows the drummer.  Some drummers play crazy loud!  You have to be able to hear yourself and others on stage.  Put the drummer behind some plexiglass, most stage volume problems will disappear.  MHO
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Re: musicians amps on stage
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