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Title: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 10:00:33 am
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them. If they switch to a louder setting, I can tell and turn them down, but if they switch to a lower volume setting, sometimes I don't notice and they disappear in the mix.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Stu McDoniel on December 16, 2011, 10:18:42 am
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them. If they switch to a louder setting, I can tell and turn them down, but if they switch to a lower volume setting, sometimes I don't notice and they disappear in the mix.
A band that has there $%it together can control their own dynamics and individual volumes to each other and sound good right out of the box.  Ive ran sound for many big blues acts where all I had to do
was basically get levels and they control their individual volumes and overall band dynamics on their
own with very little done on the FOH.   The electric guitar and amp is a beast of its own and most
guys tell you they cant get the tone they want until the volume is at 11 (which is "one" more then 10)
All jokes aside it goes with the quality of the musician to be able to discern the issues you are describing
above.   
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 10:23:51 am

All jokes aside it goes with the quality of the musician to be able to discern the issues you are describing
above.   

I've worked with Nashville musicians on occasion, and those guy really have their stuff together. I've also worked with really great guitar players locally that don't, and it really takes away from their chops when they can't level their volume. It just blows my mind that they can't tell their volume is all over the map. I don't mind mixing. I don't mind having to make a few adjustments here and there, but when I have to make changes  DURING A SONG every time the guitar player switches from clean to dirty, well that's a bit much.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 16, 2011, 10:28:30 am
and most guys tell you they cant get the tone they want until the volume is at 11

This is true but can be worked around(a 50watt valve amp is overkill in all circumstances). With the changing of volume it is a muso thing, with guitar if clean is softer than drive then they are doing it right(only way to get the same level is to use two amps and do you really want to do that). If a guitarist walks onto stage with a pedal board the size of the console(it does exist) you had better hope he's not going to use every pedal. Keys is a different annoyance but it's just down to working with those part time bands...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 10:45:26 am
This is true but can be worked around(a 50watt valve amp is overkill in all circumstances). With the changing of volume it is a muso thing, with guitar if clean is softer than drive then they are doing it right(only way to get the same level is to use two amps and do you really want to do that). If a guitarist walks onto stage with a pedal board the size of the console(it does exist) you had better hope he's not going to use every pedal. Keys is a different annoyance but it's just down to working with those part time bands...

My experience has been that their clean tone is typically much louder than their distorted tone.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 16, 2011, 11:09:22 am
My experience has been that their clean tone is typically much louder than their distorted tone.

Then they have no clue about their instruments... I'd suggest educating them since you are the engineer, if the refuse to listen accept the cheque and buy a compressor. Go read up on valve amps as well as how distortion is achieved in them, it will be an eye opener about the levels and will give you a leg to stand on if a guitarist tries to go against you.

There are hundreds of topics on how to get the guitarist levels down on stage and very few about keeping levels relative. If a guitarist has a solid state amp(most will) and they tell you crap about tone and volume you know that you are working with a nitwit... Feel free to pm me about this topic since I'm willing to stand up for guitarists that know what they are doing.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jamie Miller on December 16, 2011, 11:39:24 am
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them. If they switch to a louder setting, I can tell and turn them down, but if they switch to a lower volume setting, sometimes I don't notice and they disappear in the mix.


I don't pretend to know a lot of the ins and outs of the sound world.  That's why I mostly read and rarely post.

But, I run sound off of stage for my band and when setting my line levels, I have our other guitarist run through all of his channels and pedals and adjust them so they are even.  After the first couple of gigs doing this it has been pretty consistent and only takes a few minutes to do.

He's also very understanding of my situation and easy to work with so that helps greatly.

Okay.  Back to mostly reading. ;)
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jonathan Betts on December 16, 2011, 12:06:11 pm
Are the guitar amps on the ground pointed at their knees like most? I always bring extra amp stands to my shows and suggest that they point them up at their ears. All the seasoned guitar players I work with do just this allowing me to fill their sound out with the PA.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Robert Weston on December 16, 2011, 12:56:02 pm
If they can't their amps up toward their heads, try this...

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/CSPA43/

...not saying they have to use this specific type/model, but some kind of sheild is probably needed.  They can turn themselves up to get the "tone" and not blast anyone.

A band that I occassionaly run sound for just employed similar sheilds to their guitar rigs... damn, what a difference!!
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 16, 2011, 01:13:34 pm
if they have sound check, have them check their clean, crunch and lead sounds. Clean and crunch should be the same level and yes, you can do this with pedals and such. Lead should be set at a level agreed to by you and them that's thicker/louder, but not deafening.

Remind them that their levels for their 3 different sounds will vary by venue and that's what the knobs on their amps and pedals are fore -- they're not set and forget. Otherwise they'd be recessed into the pedals with set screws...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: RYAN LOUDMUSIC JENKINS on December 16, 2011, 01:21:57 pm
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them. If they switch to a louder setting, I can tell and turn them down, but if they switch to a lower volume setting, sometimes I don't notice and they disappear in the mix.

This should all be taken care of during a line check/sound check.  You need to ask to hear the different sounds the guitar player has and have him/her adjust them to be usable in your mix.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 16, 2011, 01:32:41 pm
if they have sound check, have them check their clean, crunch and lead sounds. Clean and crunch should be the same level and yes, you can do this with pedals and such. Lead should be set at a level agreed to by you and them that's thicker/louder, but not deafening.

Remind them that their levels for their 3 different sounds will vary by venue and that's what the knobs on their amps and pedals are fore -- they're not set and forget. Otherwise they'd be recessed into the pedals with set screws...

Clean and crunch should NOT be the same level and clean should be softer. Go do a little research about guitar amplifiers then come back. Start at valve since that is the sound every guitarist is trying to get.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Sam Zuckerman on December 16, 2011, 02:26:00 pm
I work with a lot of college bands and to them louder is always better; however louder is not always constant. There are a couple bands I work with that know their levels and the levels of the other members, with them if I hear something drop out of the mix I know that it's because that's how they want it (and it sounds good.)

I usually keep a compressor patched in on my guitar channels. Not becuase I assume that all guitarists don't know how to turn a knob but because I often don't get a sound check and have no idea what levels they will be at. After the first song is usually when I can make a good compressor setting then have a good show with consistent levels.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jay Barracato on December 16, 2011, 02:41:12 pm
Clean and crunch should NOT be the same level and clean should be softer. Go do a little research about guitar amplifiers then come back. Start at valve since that is the sound every guitarist is trying to get.

Something tells me that Ned doesn't really need to do all that much research about tone, amps and guitars.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Clint Miller on December 16, 2011, 03:02:57 pm
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them. If they switch to a louder setting, I can tell and turn them down, but if they switch to a lower volume setting, sometimes I don't notice and they disappear in the mix.

I think its worse now with the advent of digital processors...  some guys have meticulously adjusted their presets so their levels are where they need to be.  I especially notice this with one of the tribute bands that I run for.

I have more of a problem with guys sandbagging their levels so they end up so loud that I shut them out of the main mix!  I'll have club owners come over and ask me to turn down and I'll show that the guitars are muted in the main mix.  I hate that because it not only makes them sound bad, but it makes me look incompetent.

I try to get them to turn down and let me control it in their monitors, but it turns into a volume war with other members of the band.

The sheilds do help, but there's nothing you can do if the band members simply disregard everything you say.  If they are playing low enough that you can still control their volume, use hard limiters... You'll hate the sound, but it will be better than getting slammed and then losing them from the mix.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 16, 2011, 03:04:05 pm
Jean-Pierre, search my posts; I think you'll find I know far more about valve amps than you can start to spew out and I'm still learning from people on this forum. Your reply to my post makes little sense.

In my opinion, if you're playing, the clean and crunch/dirty level for rhythm should be about the same. If not, when the guitar player switches songs or channels, you get unexpected jumps in level. That sounds to me like the same nightmare of the keyboard player with different patches.

If you enjoy having multiple levels for the guitars you're mixing every time they add overdrive or change amp channels, by all means, but I try to limit myself to 1 level for rhythm, regardless of clean/dirty, and 1 level for lead.

Thanks Jay for your reply.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Adam Wh3tham on December 16, 2011, 04:02:14 pm
Clean and crunch should NOT be the same level and clean should be softer. Go do a little research about guitar amplifiers then come back. Start at valve since that is the sound every guitarist is trying to get.

This is one of those amazing Foot in Mouth Post that comes along every once in a while when someone doesn't know who they are talking to...

I'd find it way more amusing if he did this to Bob L.  8)
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 04:30:12 pm

 but I try to limit myself to 1 level for rhythm, regardless of clean/dirty, and 1 level for lead.

Thanks Jay for your reply.

exactly. when the guitar player gets that right, it makes for an easy night for the sound man! And the other band members onstage.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 16, 2011, 04:49:12 pm
Jean-Pierre, search my posts; I think you'll find I know far more about valve amps than you can start to spew out and I'm still learning from people on this forum. Your reply to my post makes little sense.

In my opinion, if you're playing, the clean and crunch/dirty level for rhythm should be about the same. If not, when the guitar player switches songs or channels, you get unexpected jumps in level. That sounds to me like the same nightmare of the keyboard player with different patches.

If you enjoy having multiple levels for the guitars you're mixing every time they add overdrive or change amp channels, by all means, but I try to limit myself to 1 level for rhythm, regardless of clean/dirty, and 1 level for lead.

Thanks Jay for your reply.

Assuming channels is nice enough but once again I have to mention that true vintage(because that is what we all want) has no channels. It's drive loud or clean soft again I tell you go do a little research.

I don't care who someone is and what their reputation is if I find their statement wrong it remains wrong. Vintage valve is what I'm referring to not modern since I am talking about guitarist wishing to emulate a sound they know. Vintage valve has one setting, loud. Turn down the volume to get clean since drive comes from literally over-driving the valves in the power amp... I wasn't clear what I was talking about but in the end it remains true, clean should be softer than drive in all senses of tone. Now if you wish to point me to anything(that isn't channels) that negates that logic please link away.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 04:58:33 pm
[quote ]
 Vintage valve has one setting, loud. Turn down the volume to get clean since drive comes from literally over-driving the valves in the power amp...
[/quote]

I'd hate to have to mix a guitar player who had no way of controlling his guitar voice other than volume. In this case he would have to have two amps to have a clean and dirty voice at the same volume. Vintage is great to a point, but I'm glad we've progressed beyond a single channel amp with no master gain.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 16, 2011, 05:15:12 pm
In this case he would have to have two amps to have a clean and dirty voice at the same volume.

I said that before, this is done by many guitarists and sounds amazing...

I can tell you now you won't hear much difference in volume between drive and clean since who in their right mind writes a song that is clean and heavy over-driven in one song?

PS: new multi channel amps have separate power amps for that so theoretically they are not one amp much like two channels on a desk contain two preamps.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Mark Long on December 16, 2011, 05:25:01 pm
I can tell you now you won't hear much difference in volume between drive and clean since who in their right mind writes a song that is clean and heavy over-driven in one song?
Seriously? Many songs build from clean/soft to heavy or overdriven. Bottom line is that any guitarist, keyboardist, drummer, whatever that doesn't manage their volume and dynamics in the best interest of the band and the song is a self absorbed dweeb. And yes, I'm a guitar player...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 16, 2011, 07:20:27 pm
who in their right mind writes a song that is clean and heavy over-driven in one song?

90% of the guitarists that I respect.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Gene Lollis on December 16, 2011, 07:49:43 pm
I'd hate to have to mix a guitar player who had no way of controlling his guitar voice other than volume. In this case he would have to have two amps to have a clean and dirty voice at the same volume. Vintage is great to a point, but I'm glad we've progressed beyond a single channel amp with no master gain.

As a former guitar player (I am still recovering) I can speak from experience and say truthfully that the best combination of tone and stage volume For most guitarists will usually come from a "low" wattage tube amp. I have seen some amazing guitarists get jaw-dropping tones, clean and dirty while maintaining consistent volume by mostly knowing their gear and LISTENING! Great tone is in the hands, the gear needs to accomodate the player's ability and help, not hurt the process of making the song. Too many people are about gear alone, they show up, turn up and believe that the crowd gives a crap about their freakin Marshall or 5 Les Pauls. As for running sound and dealing with it, we can only hope to control it and take it a gig at a time.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Charest on December 16, 2011, 11:31:57 pm
... I have seen some amazing guitarists get jaw-dropping tones, clean and dirty while maintaining consistent volume by mostly knowing their gear and LISTENING! ...

Can I get an amen?  :)
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 16, 2011, 11:51:07 pm
Can I get an amen?  :)

me too. I've worked with some really great artists that had the full package. And many wannabees that had all the riffs but no control of their tone and volume.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 16, 2011, 11:59:57 pm
I said that before, this is done by many guitarists and sounds amazing...

I can tell you now you won't hear much difference in volume between drive and clean since who in their right mind writes a song that is clean and heavy over-driven in one song?

PS: new multi channel amps have separate power amps for that so theoretically they are not one amp much like two channels on a desk contain two preamps.

Jean-Pierre,
 
I don't know a whole lot about the subject but I think that perhaps 99% of the multi channel guitar amplifiers produced today rely on multiple pre amplifiers with multiple gain stages utilizing a single and common power section.
 
I also believe you're mistaken when you state that a 50 watt tube amplifier is over kill for any gig.
 
I also state that Ned Ward is correct in that many players rely on three (3) basic tones, clean, grind or light distortion, and a lead tone. The difference between the grind and clean tones is seldom volume, but just as stated, clean or grind. The use of these tones will depend on the song being played. A lead tone will usually be about 6-10db louder than either the clean tone or grind.
 
I could be wrong though being my knowledge is limited.  ;)
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 17, 2011, 06:09:01 am

Jean-Pierre,
 
I don't know a whole lot about the subject but I think that perhaps 99% of the multi channel guitar amplifiers produced today rely on multiple pre amplifiers with multiple gain stages utilizing a single and common power section.
 
I also believe you're mistaken when you state that a 50 watt tube amplifier is over kill for any gig.
 
I also state that Ned Ward is correct in that many players rely on three (3) basic tones, clean, grind or light distortion, and a lead tone. The difference between the grind and clean tones is seldom volume, but just as stated, clean or grind. The use of these tones will depend on the song being played. A lead tone will usually be about 6-10db louder than either the clean tone or grind.
 
I could be wrong though being my knowledge is limited.  ;)

Quote
2. Channel A Pre-Amp Gain Control
Sets the gain level for channel A. Lower settings give clean sounds - higher settings for medium drive and
crunch rhythm.
3. Channel B Lead Gain Control
Sets the gain level for boosted Channel B. Lower settings give slight overdrive - higher settings for maximum
drive and sustain.

Off of mashall JCM 900 dual reverb manual... This specific amp happens to have master volume so it can be controlled older amps didn't. I may be wrong about the power amps but it makes no sense having only one power amp, that is something Ned May be able to tell me. I made my position clear on what I am talking about.

Apologies if you've already read this. I'd have to assume that modern amps with master volume uses pre-amp valve overdrive and not power amp but does not change my opinion that clean should be softer than loud, therefore multi-channel amps may have different pre-amps and use a common power amp but once again driving the level to 11 will give you power amp drive and will result in you needing to turn down you volume to get clean...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 17, 2011, 06:50:43 am
I will have to agree that turning the amp volume to full output will of course lead to distortion in both the preamp and power sections of the amplifier. Combine that with a speaker or speakers that won't handle that full output and Jimi comes alive.

I think that many Fender amps from the late 60's and early 70's had a master volume control. I also think I remember many people not liking that feature, but could again be wrong. Perhaps Ned will chime in and confirm.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 17, 2011, 08:15:39 am
I will have to agree that turning the amp volume to full output will of course lead to distortion in both the preamp and power sections of the amplifier. Combine that with a speaker or speakers that won't handle that full output and Jimi comes alive.

I think that many Fender amps from the late 60's and early 70's had a master volume control. I also think I remember many people not liking that feature, but could again be wrong. Perhaps Ned will chime in and confirm.

My claim on the clean vs drive level was opinion and if anything I owe Ned an apology for going against him since he is right about the levels being equal since it's up to taste. I know from experience many people don't like the master volume control, I'm a vox and marshall man myself.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 17, 2011, 08:43:48 am
My claim on the clean vs drive level was opinion and if anything I owe Ned an apology for going against him since he is right about the levels being equal since it's up to taste. I know from experience many people don't like the master volume control, I'm a vox and marshall man myself.

none of that matters if you are mixing a band live. All that matters is that the guitarist maintains an even volume level. Nobody cares about the guitarist's tone if he's drowning out the rest of the band. In my opinion, and as others have voiced, if the guitarist can't maintain a proper volume onstage, then he isn't a good guitarist, because maintaining proper volume is half of being a great musician.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Rob Spence on December 17, 2011, 08:57:51 am
I've also worked with really great guitar players locally that don't, and it really takes away from their chops when they can't level their volume.

Those are not great guitar players!
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Rob Spence on December 17, 2011, 08:59:06 am
none of that matters if you are mixing a band live. All that matters is that the guitarist maintains an even volume level. Nobody cares about the guitarist's tone if he's drowning out the rest of the band. In my opinion, and as others have voiced, if the guitarist can't maintain a proper volume onstage, then he isn't a good guitarist, because maintaining proper volume is half of being a great musician.
Even volume isn't the goal. Proper level is.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jamin Lynch on December 17, 2011, 09:13:13 am
none of that matters if you are mixing a band live. All that matters is that the guitarist maintains an even volume level. Nobody cares about the guitarist's tone if he's drowning out the rest of the band. In my opinion, and as others have voiced, if the guitarist can't maintain a proper volume onstage, then he isn't a good guitarist, because maintaining proper volume is half of being a great musician.

It doesn't matter what you tell the musco's, they don't listen to the sound guy anyway.

It's the same old story, the drummer beats the crap out of the drums which makes the bass player turn up too loud, then the guitar player cranks up, the key board player has patches from hell, and the singers all want their monitors turned up.

Even if you get a band to take your advice, it's all back to normal after the second song anyway....so you just have to deal with it.

It's pretty rare that you get a band who will work with the sound guy to obtain that perfect mix between stage volume, quality tones and house volume. But when you do...it's magic.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 17, 2011, 10:45:56 am
Those are not great guitar players!

There are some great guitar players that play WAY too loud.  Start with Eddie Van Halen and progress through most of the metal bands that are famous.  I'm sure Hendrix played too loud and he was no slacker.

However, these guys aren't doing themselves, their band, or their audience a favor by playing that way.  The worst part is, these too loud rock icons are idolized by kids that play on the much smaller stages I work on.  The kids don't realize that their rock gods are good, despite the volume, not because of the volume.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 17, 2011, 11:05:09 am
There are some great guitar players that play WAY too loud.  Start with Eddie Van Halen and progress through most of the metal bands that are famous.  I'm sure Hendrix played too loud and he was no slacker.

However, these guys aren't doing themselves, their band, or their audience a favor by playing that way.  The worst part is, these too loud rock icons are idolized by kids that play on the much smaller stages I work on.  The kids don't realize that their rock gods are good, despite the volume, not because of the volume.

AND! The rock gods can get away with that kind of volume because of their fame and because of the huge arenas they play in. That kind of level in a bar will get you kicked out and nobody will ever hear you play.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 17, 2011, 11:59:32 am
If we're going to rant, can we include drummers that wear earplugs so they can play louder
.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Guy Luckert on December 17, 2011, 11:59:51 am
]
Quote
It's pretty rare that you get a band who will work with the sound guy to obtain that perfect mix between stage volume, quality tones and house volume. But when you do...it's magic.

music to my ears !!
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Tim Padrick on December 17, 2011, 12:59:13 pm
Forget the research - how the amp does what it does matters not - the more you inform the player, the more his eyes will glaze over.  Just tell him to turn down or you'll break out the gobo.

That wonder Marshall tube distortion from the JCM900?  Clipping diodes!
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 17, 2011, 01:03:51 pm
I will have to agree that turning the amp volume to full output will of course lead to distortion in both the preamp and power sections of the amplifier. Combine that with a speaker or speakers that won't handle that full output and Jimi comes alive.

I think that many Fender amps from the late 60's and early 70's had a master volume control. I also think I remember many people not liking that feature, but could again be wrong. Perhaps Ned will chime in and confirm.


I'm pretty sure Fender added master volume to the silver face line in '72, partially as a reaction years-late to the more distorted Marshall sound; all the amps except the student line (Champ, Bronco, Bantam, Princeton) received it. The dreaded pull-boost was added in mid 70's (I believe '76), but as long as you don't use it, it doesn't negatively affect the sound.   I had a Music Man 410-65 back in '83 that had a master volume, but that was the last amp for me that had one...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 17, 2011, 01:18:35 pm
Much like PA gear, the wrong guitar amp for the wrong venue is the wrong amp. There's a reason so many Fender Twin Reverbs are for sale on eBay and Craigslist. Do they sound great? Yes! Can most mortals crank them up? Heck no.
I've got a variety of guitar amps from 5 watts to 85 watts that let me get the sound I need in the space/venue I need.
 - '65 Bandmaster, turned into a 2x12 combo
 - '65 Showman with 64-65 Bandmaster 2x12 cab
 - '74 SF Princeton
 - '77 SF Princeton Reverb
 - Dr. Z Mini Z Head, 1x12 Cab

We played outdoors Thursday for 6-700 folks; for that show I brought my Bob Leonard Showman, but kept the volume down. I had another guest in our band use my Bandmaster combo. For small bar shows I'll bring just my Princeton Reverb, and if I know we have really good people running FOH and Monitors, I've brought my 5 watt Dr. Z Mini Z with its 1x12 cab.

At home, I have a switcher that lets me switch between clean and dirty amps - great for recording. So that I don't get confused with Eric Johnson or other multi amp guys, I only bring one amp to a show -- and a pedalboard. With a pedalboard, I can get the level of overdrive I want that works for the stage volume level. It also gives me the versatility to have my maximum clean and crunch levels be the same, which helps for FOH. Before soundcheck, I am fiddling with the volume level of my Barber Direct Drive pedal to match up clean/crunch levels. During sound check, I'll play both clean and crunch, and then set my lead level with my Keeley Katana Boost. That way, FOH and I both can agree what level the solo should be.

We do have issues - our other guitar player turns down when asked in sound check, and then turns back up. We caught him doing this at the show, and after the first song we all told him to turn down as it was all we heard on the stage. After that, sound was great.

3 things can help guitar players who insist "I can only get my sound with my (insert inappropriately loud amp) cranked all the way:
1. An attenuator, such as the Dr. Z Airbrake, which limits the speaker output yet still gets power tube distortion. Yes, it does alter the sound somewhat, but it can also make unusable amps usuable.
2. A Load box speaker simulator, such as the Palmer.  Lots of A level bands are using these and ditching cabinets entirely - Rush is now having fun coming up with wackier and wackier "back lines."
3. a foot kicked squarely in their ass.

For the first 2,  charge $50 per use  (you hook it up, not them). If they refuse Options 1 and 2, Option 3 is on the house...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 17, 2011, 04:22:58 pm
none of that matters if you are mixing a band live. All that matters is that the guitarist maintains an even volume level. Nobody cares about the guitarist's tone if he's drowning out the rest of the band. In my opinion, and as others have voiced, if the guitarist can't maintain a proper volume onstage, then he isn't a good guitarist, because maintaining proper volume is half of being a great musician.

Being a muso is having the right volume not having everything sound the same. If you need clean the same level then it must be the same level if not make it softer but louder is never an option. I do run sound live for a back, multiple times a week and some of the guitarist do run their clean softer and it works because the entire song is softer... I don't want musos to be equally loud and have us make them work on the PA, I want musos to fit into the mix without much work from the engineer since most of us have no idea what the band wants to achieve.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 17, 2011, 04:31:00 pm
Being a muso is having the right volume not having everything sound the same. If you need clean the same level then it must be the same level if not make it softer but louder is never an option. I do run sound live for a back, multiple times a week and some of the guitarist do run their clean softer and it works because the entire song is softer... I don't want musos to be equally loud and have us make them work on the PA, I want musos to fit into the mix without much work from the engineer since most of us have no idea what the band wants to achieve.
the band has no idea what their guitars sound like in the audience, since they are onstage. It's my job as the sound man to put everything in it's proper place in the mix. Ideally the audience would not be able to hear the guitar amp at all, only what my mic picks up. When you listen to a CD, how much do you hear the guitar amp? None at all, only what the mic picked up during the recording. Live is no different. All sound coming off the stage is clutter in the audience. If the club manager tells me the level is too loud, and I turn everything else down but the guitars are still loud coming off the stage, then I can't make the band sound good.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Jean-Pierre Coetzee on December 17, 2011, 04:52:24 pm
the band has no idea what their guitars sound like in the audience, since they are onstage. It's my job as the sound man to put everything in it's proper place in the mix. Ideally the audience would not be able to hear the guitar amp at all, only what my mic picks up. When you listen to a CD, how much do you hear the guitar amp? None at all, only what the mic picked up during the recording. Live is no different. All sound coming off the stage is clutter in the audience. If the club manager tells me the level is too loud, and I turn everything else down but the guitars are still loud coming off the stage, then I can't make the band sound good.

This I do not agree with. Many bands can control themselves. You need to set up a good mix in the PA but after that it should be up to the band to make it work. You wont know that the rhythm guitarist is going to pull off some amazing solo in the 4th song while the lead guitarist drinks his beer, the band does and the rhythm guitarist should know to turn up his level. That is what I am talking about not having very little PA. The rant about drummers is too true, they are generally the most noisy(I used noise on purpose).
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Sam Zuckerman on December 17, 2011, 04:54:48 pm
If the club manager tells me the level is too loud, and I turn everything else down but the guitars are still loud coming off the stage, then I can't make the band sound good.
This is by far the biggest problem I face working in small clubs.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 17, 2011, 05:30:55 pm
This I do not agree with. Many bands can control themselves. You need to set up a good mix in the PA but after that it should be up to the band to make it work. You wont know that the rhythm guitarist is going to pull off some amazing solo in the 4th song while the lead guitarist drinks his beer, the band does and the rhythm guitarist should know to turn up his level. That is what I am talking about not having very little PA. The rant about drummers is too true, they are generally the most noisy(I used noise on purpose).

It's my job as sound man to be vigilant about what is going on with the band, and if a guitarist takes off on a solo, it is my job to make sure everyone in the audience hears it. Guitar leads should be the same level as lead vocals. It certainly helps if the guitarist turns up for the lead, but as with one of my bands, quite often he forgets.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 17, 2011, 08:28:44 pm
Hey Ned. How am I doing so far. Sure wish I knew something about guitar and amps.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Tim McCulloch on December 18, 2011, 01:57:38 pm
Great tone is in the hands, the gear needs to accomodate the player's ability and help, not hurt the process of making the song.

Brilliant and absolutely true.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 18, 2011, 02:15:37 pm
Brilliant and absolutely true.

I remember when Crosby, Stills, And Nash were in their heyday. Steven stills had some incredible guitar tones. Wondered what he used to get them. Then I heard him do the same thing on an acoustic guitar. It was all in his hands, not the equipment.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Tim McCulloch on December 18, 2011, 02:21:38 pm
I remember when Crosby, Stills, And Nash were in their heyday. Steven stills had some incredible guitar tones. Wondered what he used to get them. Then I heard him do the same thing on an acoustic guitar. It was all in his hands, not the equipment.
This is also why the same drum kit sounds different when played by different drummers... same kit, mics, tuning, even sticks... yet it will be very different.  My old, addled brain remembers this being part of "playing technique", but I could be wrong, like that Bob Leonard guy. ;)
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Lee Douglas on December 18, 2011, 03:18:36 pm
If the club manager tells me the level is too loud, and I turn everything else down but the guitars are still loud coming off the stage, then I can't make the band sound good.

This was my night last night with a local celeb band.  Knew it was going to happen no matter what I said during set up.  One of the guitarists thought it would help if he pointed his amp toward the back wall.  Unfortuantely it was a wall of glass.  Knowing what was going to happen, I kept a word document open on my computer in a large font that simply said "The only thing I have any control over is the vocals".  And as expected the owner came charging up three songs in.  I clicked up my little sign and gave him an appolegetic shrug and a look of frustration.  He smiled, patted me on the shoulder and left me to it. 
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 18, 2011, 05:17:47 pm
This is also why the same drum kit sounds different when played by different drummers... same kit, mics, tuning, even sticks... yet it will be very different.  My old, addled brain remembers this being part of "playing technique", but I could be wrong, like that Bob Leonard guy. ;)

I've done many gigs where the drums were shared. Like you said, nothing changed except the drummer, but it didn't sound like the same kit.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 18, 2011, 06:33:17 pm
Hey Ned. How am I doing so far. Sure wish I knew something about guitar and amps.
I'd guess you're doing fairly well Bob - and I'm still learning from you, Steve, and everyone else here as well, so I wish you knew a little something about guitar and amps...  ;)


Here's there most recent version of the pedalboard.


Green true bypass loop is now set up with:
Loop A: Keeley boost into AD9 delay - this would be my solo level for clean, dirt or crunch.
Loop B: Ibanez chorus - old and kind of noisy, but analog and warm.


Boss Delay on the end is there until I get my Flashback returned from TC Electronic - I tried to upgrade the firmware, and it bricked.


after the delay, it goes into the Radial Big Shot ABY for when I'm playing through 2 amps at home.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: mike endzel on December 19, 2011, 12:17:07 pm
Nice pedalboard Ned!  I have the same Direct Drive!

Regarding guitar players that show up with a clean tone that is louder than their distorted tone:  these guys are trying!  They've set their levels at home while playing alone, and to the untrained guitarist, these levels will sound even.  In a mix, it's easy to tell the dirty tone is too low.
Title: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 19, 2011, 02:57:15 pm
Thanks Mike - really like the sound of that Barber. The Timmy is super transparent for adding subtle grit. The Keeley Fuzz is great - and unlike a lot of other germanium fuzzes, it plays very nicely with other pedals.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Mike Reilly on December 20, 2011, 09:56:02 am
why is it guitar players can't tell their volume changes drastically when they switch channels or change effects? Most of the guitar players I've worked with over the years have this problem. Keyboard players are worse. Every patch has a different volume. It seems like it would be evident to them.

Just my 2 cents on the original question . . . .

I think it's a combination of "can't see the forest for the trees" and procrastination/laziness.  I think they can tell their volumes are different, they just never seem to get around to doing anything about it.

Coming up with new sounds or perfecting "your" lead sound is fun and exciting - sitting down at home & switching back & forth between 50 key patches slightly tweaking each so all the levels are balanced is tedious & like, y'know, WORK.

Guitar players can get so worked up about fine-tuning their distorted rhythm & lead tones that they never really think about the volume difference between those sounds and their clean sound til they get to the gig, and then it's "oh yeah, I should do something about that . . . . "
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 20, 2011, 05:13:42 pm
Some of them maybe.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: mike endzel on December 21, 2011, 11:04:56 am
Just my 2 cents on the original question . . . .

I think it's a combination of "can't see the forest for the trees" and procrastination/laziness.  I think they can tell their volumes are different, they just never seem to get around to doing anything about it.

Coming up with new sounds or perfecting "your" lead sound is fun and exciting - sitting down at home & switching back & forth between 50 key patches slightly tweaking each so all the levels are balanced is tedious & like, y'know, WORK.

Guitar players can get so worked up about fine-tuning their distorted rhythm & lead tones that they never really think about the volume difference between those sounds and their clean sound til they get to the gig, and then it's "oh yeah, I should do something about that . . . . "

When I first started playing guitar in bands, I THOUGHT I had my levels set evenly!  Then I went and played with the band, and my distorted tone disappeared.  It's a trick that distortion/overdrive play on the untrained ear.  Something about the fizz on the distortion makes it seem louder than it really is.  As a guitar player, you need to focus more on the body of the tone when setting levels.

When guitar players show up like this, chances are they are fairly inexperienced playing live.  OR they're idiots!  Or not very observational....
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 21, 2011, 07:18:45 pm
When I first started playing guitar in bands, I THOUGHT I had my levels set evenly!  Then I went and played with the band, and my distorted tone disappeared.  It's a trick that distortion/overdrive play on the untrained ear.  Something about the fizz on the distortion makes it seem louder than it really is.  As a guitar player, you need to focus more on the body of the tone when setting levels.

When guitar players show up like this, chances are they are fairly inexperienced playing live.  OR they're idiots!  Or not very observational....

This is what I was thinking when I started this. There must be some reason why the distorted sound sounds louder to the guitar player than it really is, because so many times their clean tone is MUCH louder than their distorted voice.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 21, 2011, 09:35:55 pm
This is what I was thinking when I started this. There must be some reason why the distorted sound sounds louder to the guitar player than it really is, because so many times their clean tone is MUCH louder than their distorted voice.

I've been speaking "guitar".
I'll try speaking in "P.A." instead

One word answer:   Compression

When you strum on a distorted guitar, that's about as loud as it is going to get.

When you strum on a clean guitar, there is a LOT of room to get louder.
When the show starts, adrenalin meets headroom and makes clean volume.
Volumes don't match.

Hows that?



In reality, it's more than that.
Record a guitar at 85 db clean.
Record same guitar at 85 DB distorted.
play back and A / B them
The distorted one sounds louder
(but only by itself - add the band and it changes!)


Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 21, 2011, 10:39:34 pm
Steve, after the holidays.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 22, 2011, 08:26:13 am



In reality, it's more than that.
Record a guitar at 85 db clean.
Record same guitar at 85 DB distorted.
play back and A / B them
The distorted one sounds louder
(but only by itself - add the band and it changes!)

this is something that I want to try. Using a DB meter to check the levels. I know that what a DB meter picks up and what the human ear considers loud does not always line up. I'm wondering which way it will go with the DB meter. It might or might not be a good way to get the guitarist' voices leveled.
Title: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 22, 2011, 01:48:47 pm
Steve - excellent point; it's why I  have the Keeley compressor in my chain to keep my cleans reigned in.
Title: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Samuel Rees on December 22, 2011, 03:30:30 pm
I work with an unpaid gig for a friend a couple times a year mixing his band for <150 person crowds. The guitar player has a dsp based line 6 amp. He uses 6 separate 'patches' during these shows and it kills me because all the patches have higkt varying output levels. Suddenly he will hit a patch on his Ethernet attached pedal and he will drop out of the mix and everyone will instantly ask for more guitar in the monitors. It's kind of a tough place because the player insists that he needs all these patches because of the variety I music they are playing. I know a guy in a nationally touring act who has tons of pedals but always makes sure the relative volumes are in a manageable pocket, I wish everyone could set up their rig that well.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 22, 2011, 03:53:27 pm
I work with an unpaid gig for a friend a couple times a year mixing his band for <150 person crowds. The guitar player has a dsp based line 6 amp. He uses 6 separate 'patches' during these shows and it kills me because all the patches have higkt varying output levels. Suddenly he will hit a patch on his Ethernet attached pedal and he will drop out of the mix and everyone will instantly ask for more guitar in the monitors. It's kind of a tough place because the player insists that he needs all these patches because of the variety I music they are playing. I know a guy in a nationally touring act who has tons of pedals but always makes sure the relative volumes are in a manageable pocket, I wish everyone could set up their rig that well.

this sounds way too familiar! Seems a simple prospect that if all of a sudden he can't hear his guitar in the wedge after he changes voicings, well, ? I put up with this all the time. And if at one time the whole night the guitar disappears, somebody will scold me because they can't hear the guitar.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 22, 2011, 10:28:45 pm
this sounds way too familiar! Seems a simple prospect that if all of a sudden he can't hear his guitar in the wedge after he changes voicings, well, ? I put up with this all the time. And if at one time the whole night the guitar disappears, somebody will scold me because they can't hear the guitar.

Here is one process to get guitar players (or keyboard players) to get their patches closer

Set up your rig (except no amp)
Plug into a tape deck or mixer, or something that has an accurate meter
Play patch one - look at meter.
Play patch 2 - adjust volume to match previous meter reading
Continue through patches till done.  Save.

This takes your ear and perceptions out of it.  It's not always perfect, but it gets you close

One other thing, I always suggest that people have all their patches the same and then that they have a clean boost pedal at the end of the change for solo volume bump up rather than building the volume boost into the preset.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Steve Hurt on December 22, 2011, 10:43:56 pm
Steve - excellent point; it's why I  have the Keeley compressor in my chain to keep my cleans reigned in.

I use a Barber Tone Press .  It's on 100% of the time.
Haven't tried a Keely, but would like to!
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 22, 2011, 11:59:58 pm
I have a pair of grey Ross compressors and one of the newer black Ross compressors. My compressor stays on all the time as well. A definate requirement in the world of touch sensetive amps. Tends to keep those Fenders under control.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: MARK PAVLETICH on December 23, 2011, 03:59:25 am
I have a pair of grey Ross compressors and one of the newer black Ross compressors. My compressor stays on all the time as well. A definate requirement in the world of touch sensetive amps. Tends to keep those Fenders under control.

The hard bit is admitting to yourself that if it wasn't for those damned guitar players 75% of us wouldn't have a job.......... Thus they are a necessary evil and we must inevitably compromise our sonic puritan streak so that these egos can enjoy themselves, and thus make what it is we do possible.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: David Parker on December 23, 2011, 08:27:22 am
The hard bit is admitting to yourself that if it wasn't for those damned guitar players 75% of us wouldn't have a job.......... Thus they are a necessary evil and we must inevitably compromise our sonic puritan streak so that these egos can enjoy themselves, and thus make what it is we do possible.

you said a mouthful, all very true! If it wasn't for all the crap we put up with, we wouldn't be needed to form it into a neat little package.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 23, 2011, 12:31:29 pm
I use a Barber Tone Press .  It's on 100% of the time.
Haven't tried a Keely, but would like to!
The Barber is quite the pedal - parallel compression in a stomp box? Wish I'd been able to A/B it with the Keeley before buying.


Bob's right (as usual); compressors do help to tame Fenders as well as my mini Z. Can't imagine not having one now.

Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Tim McCulloch on December 23, 2011, 02:41:36 pm
The Barber is quite the pedal - parallel compression in a stomp box? Wish I'd been able to A/B it with the Keeley before buying.


Bob's right (as usual); compressors do help to tame Fenders as well as my mini Z. Can't imagine not having one now.

Ned, the difference is that you and Bob are *musicians*.  You take the right gear to the gig and use it appropriately as *ensemble* players.

The reality is that too many guitar players (at the level LAB Loungers will encounter them) are engaged in mental/pseudo-musical masturbation.  "My tone!" is nothing more than too loud distortion that is fundamentally indistinguishable from "My OTHER tone!" which is also too loud.  Toss is the propensity to use a 4x12 cab w/50 or 100w amp and any hope of "band" is gone.

After 30 years of doing this for a living, my admiration for good guitarists continues to grow, but so does my dismay for the others that deface the music and ruin any chance of ensemble playing.

I like Steve Hurt's suggestion about using a recorder's metering, but let's go one step further.... actually record the guitar.  Send it to the amp (Re-Amp) and have the rhythm player or drummer play along.  With any hope the guitarist will notice his level problems.  If he doesn't, there is a good chance your local zoo needs another ape in their exhibit.

Have fun, happy holly-daze.

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 23, 2011, 06:09:07 pm
Thank you for the compliment Tim. Another issue most lesser experienced players have is not understanding that the perceived on stage level is actually much lower than that experienced by the audience. We have always refered to it jokingly as the cone of silence. That area on the stage where you can stand and talk in normal tones while pumping 125db from your guitar amp. Walk out 20 feet and you'll find out just how well you sit in the mix.... or not.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 26, 2011, 02:44:02 pm
Tim - thanks also for the compliment, although I don't consider myself in Bob's league - I'm still learning and reaping the benefits of better tone!

Bob is totally right - you can have an 85 watt tube amp up halfway, tilted back, and 4 feet away it sounds fairly quiet. It's also why they have longer guitar cords to Bob's point so you can hop off stage, play out front and notice how loud or not your amp is in relation to the whole mix.

Or just listen when the sound man asks you to turn down your amp...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Nils Erickson on December 26, 2011, 05:12:36 pm
Electric guitar, like most other instruments, can be plenty dynamic.  I see no need for it to be at the same volume at all times, as some have said.  Play to the group and singer, play to the song, pick the right amp for the gig (I have around 10, but the Deluxe Reverb gets used almost always).   Sounds like basic stuff to me.

Same as with other instruments: good players fit in and play at the right volume. If everyone gets a monitor, then it is even easier...   ;)

It's a balancing act with everyone; the band, crowd, sound guy.  It doesn't always work. 
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Ned Ward on December 27, 2011, 05:26:49 pm
Nils - no one here has been saying it needs to be at the same volume all the time - what I've been saying and others is that the Maximum level for clean and crunch should be the same; beyond that, feel free to use the volume knob to vary the sound below that. This of course is assuming the guitar player isn't sandbagging his guitar volume during soundcheck...
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Bob Leonard on December 27, 2011, 05:46:19 pm
Nils, What Ned says above.

The use of a compressor with guitar, in my case the Ross, is to generally tame the dynamics of the amplifier, not rid the amplifier of dynamics all together. It would be ridiculous to think that a song could be played with feeling without the subtle nuances of volume and dynamics. And of course a compressor can be over used as well. Apply to much compression and you can eliminate all sense of touch and feel. Some people find this to the benefit of thier music, most do not.

Gain stages and effects pedals should be matched to one another. Gain through most pedals should be set to unity with probably the exception being the pedals used for lead or solos, or if you use the guitar volume they can all be set to unity gain and the guitar output increased as needed. This is where many begginers will sandbag the old sound guy. I have found, as has Ned, Steve, and all of the other successful players lurking and responding out there, that once you have established a good mix on stage and established a base line for your levels, everything else will fall into place as long as you can set your ego aside.
Title: Re: Guitar Players Levels
Post by: Tim McCulloch on December 27, 2011, 07:05:43 pm
Nils, What Ned says above.

The use of a compressor with guitar, in my case the Ross, is to generally tame the dynamics of the amplifier, not rid the amplifier of dynamics all together. It would be ridiculous to think that a song could be played with feeling without the subtle nuances of volume and dynamics. And of course a compressor can be over used as well. Apply to much compression and you can eliminate all sense of touch and feel. Some people find this to the benefit of thier music, most do not.

Gain stages and effects pedals should be matched to one another. Gain through most pedals should be set to unity with probably the exception being the pedals used for lead or solos, or if you use the guitar volume they can all be set to unity gain and the guitar output increased as needed. This is where many begginers will sandbag the old sound guy. I have found, as has Ned, Steve, and all of the other successful players lurking and responding out there, that once you have established a good mix on stage and established a base line for your levels, everything else will fall into place as long as you can set your ego aside.

Worth a listen -

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/27/144316386/the-guitar-passions-of-sharon-isbin-and-steve-vai