Change Sound of Your Amp: Change the Speaker

The sound of your guitaramp comes from various aspects: The design of the amp, the type of valves being used and the speaker. Changing the speaker of the amp can have some interesting results: A stiff amp may now sound more responsive, the amp may break up in a different way, the brightness of the amp may have been tamed. These are just a few aspects I mention, difficult to predict how your amp will sound, just giving you a general overview of how the sound of your amp may have changed.

In case you use amphead and separate speakers, changing the kind of speaker you use will be very easy: Just plug amphead into different speakcabinet and listen to the results.
Using a combo? Some combo amps have a jackplug on the lead of the speaker, this jack plug is then connected to the speaker socket of the amp which lets you connect speaker to the amp. If your combo does have a jack plug connected to the speakerlead connect this jack to a different amp: You are now using the speaker of your combo to connect to a different amp. Often the speaker lead found on the exhisting speaker of your comboamp will be short. You may be able to plug your speaker into a connnectorbox which will let you plug speaker into box and then let you connect this box to a larger speakerlead which may be able to reach your amp. In case you are not really sure how to get this connection done, speak to an engineer or a friend who is well-versed in technical details as such.

                     Using Speakers You Know:

Trying different speaker onto various amps may work best if you use speakers you know, since you know their character and will be able to notice the differences in sound straight away. Working in this manner also avoids you having to buy new speakers, speakers you are not sure what they sound like.

Overal, this experiment will open up your ears to particular characteristics of your amps, observations which will make you understand your amps better.

Have fun and hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Using Small Amps with a P.A System

There are those moments you love to use a small amp during your gig or rehearsal. Smaller amp may sometimes be more practical, or maybe a particular amp does have a sound you would like to use.
Smaller amps do not have the body bigger amps have. In the context of bass and drums they may loose their presence and character. Use them in the context of a larger P.A and monitor speakers and there may not be such a problem.
All of this will depend on the band set-up: If you are playing with another guitarplayer and this person uses a much bigger amp, you may find yourself competing on the volume level.

If you are the only guitarplayer you may get away with it: Use the monitorspeakers as part of your amp: Get your guitarsound coming from the monitor as well, try to blend in the level of the monitor with the level of your guitar amp. Once you have the right level you may like the sound, and it may be big enough for the band to work with.

Once your guitarlevel comes through the main P.A the levels can be set in such a way that noone will notice that you are playing through a small amp. Needless to say that you will need to match your level with the rest of the band, once that is in place your guitarsignal can go anywhere.

Happy Playing.
See you soon again,
Eddie

Learn to Play Better Solos: Play Vocal Melodies

Playing melodic guitar solos may not be a natural instinct for some of you. Most people start of playing pentatonic ideas in various keys and areas of the fretboard. Playing pentatonic ideas is certainly a good idea to enhance your solos but what about playing parts of the vocal melody?
Usually the melody of the song is the strong part which most people seem to remember. Why not play parts of this as you solo, it will add a bit of variation to the song and it may also get you focused on playing melodic ideas instead of finger pattern ideas.

Once you can play a complete vocal melody, why not take this melody up to a different part of the fretboard. Find the part when you like playing most, try to add some bends to melody. By doing so you may make the melody more suitable for guitar, all depending on your style and approach of playing.
Experiment for now and see what works for you.

Happy Playing and hope to catch you soon again.
Eddie

Soundcheck Guide: What To Check First?

For this article a rough guide on soundchecks mainly aimed for those of you who need to set up the sound of their own band during gigs (and rehearsals) without the help of an additional soundengineer.

Start off with your vocals, get the lead vocalist the sing on their own. Once sound is there, get the lead vocalist to sing along with the drums (either whole kit of just the parts you are miking up) Because all the various sounds need to be in balance with the drumkit’s volume level, it is important to spend the time on getting the levels of the kit right, next to all the other sounds.

Once vocals and drums are in balance, get the bass to play along with the vocals and drums.
Once these three are in balance add guitars. Guitars are the easiest, you will always hear them, because they sound bright, regardless how loud the guitar player plays. Try to match the guitars with all the other sounds. Check for the moments when guitar will play solos usings single notes, this level may need to be a bit higher compared to playing chords. The guitarist should get a good, balanced sound from his/her amp, once this is in place, the overal sound of guitars through the P.A should be fairly easy.

Once all instruments are in the mix, play a few songs, or just parts of songs, look for the loudest parts to get the levels of the P.A in place. Every song does have different dynamics, and you need to set the master volume of the P.A in such a way that it can handle the different dynamics, since you cannot correct once you start playing during the gig.

All of this can be rehearsed during rehearsals, the sound may not be the same, as the rehearsal room is probably smaller than the gig venue. The procedure will be the same, and once people get into the routine it will make life easier, and you will get your sound much quicker.

Happy Sound Checking.
Hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Amp and Monitor Set-Up during Rehearsals and Gigs

One of the common problems people experience during gigs (and rehearsals) is not being able to hear each instrument, instruments may be too loud (or quiet) in the mix,  sometimes the vocals may not be clear enough.
Thinking about where you place each amplifier and monitor speaker can help you to overcome this problem. Instruments should not be competing with each other for volume, each instrument should sit comfortable in the mix to create a well-balanced sound for the whole band.

               Vocals:

Most people like the vocals to be a bit higher in the mix compared to the other instruments. Often a touch of reverb can help you achieve this ideal. It may be a good idea not to make the vocals to lound to start with, add reverb to make the vocals breath and go from there. Try various reverb settings. What you will find is that each song may require a different reverb setting. This may be good if the band does have a sound engineer who can monitor what is going on durnig the gig. Most of us will have to find a compromise in a reverb setting which works for most songs.  Make sure you know your equipment well enough to make small adjustments during the gig. Keep it simple for yourself with the adjustments you make, often you will not have much time to make adjustments, the better you know your equipment the less change you will make a mess of the sound.

              Guitar Amps and their Speakers:

Guitaramps do not project very well: Stand close to your amp and you may not be able to hear the details of your sound, even though your volume may be quite high. You can overcome this problem by angeling your speakercabinet a bit, if your are using a combo, just place the amp on something which will lift the amp a bit. Personally I like to angle my combo against something, the speaker will face up with the result you can hear the amp much better, and you can also hear the details in the sound. If possible, move a bit away from your amp, you will hear the sound much better, you may even like to turn down your volume a bit.

For all the different amps you are using with your band, try to set the amps up in a circle. Each person (hopefully) will be able to hear each individual amp. Try to match the volume of each amp, think about how someone plays. Some guitarplayers dig in hard in their strings, their volume may be a little less compared to the guitarists who play naturally quieter. Another piont is thickness of strings: thicker strings produce more volume compared to slinky strings. All of these deteils matter when you trying to get a good balance for each indidviual instrument.

             Monitors:

You can treat the monitors as little amps which contain the whole mix of the band. Most people in small bands will only use a handful of them, which means different bandmembers should share a monitor. Bassplayer and drummer may be able to share one monitor, while the guitarist and vocalist may be able to use the other one. Make sure each bandmember is happy with the monitor mix, do not start the gig (or rehearsal) before each bandmember is happy with the sound. Once everyone can hear what is going on your gig will be much better (and enjoyable).

            Size of the Room:

Work with the size of the room. A typical problem people encouter is: Turn amps up too loud, the sound cannot go anywhere because it does not match the room. The result is a deafening sound where no one can really hear anything at all.
Do not set the levels of your amp (and P.A) with your eyes, listen to the sound and work from there onwards.
When you play in a small room your amps can be quieter as when you play in a much larger room.
Listen to the acoustics of the room, any echo when you snap your fingers? Again, when you play in a echoy room you do not need to be too loud as the sound will reverbrate. Try to deaden some of the echo, but if not possible, try to work with the volume of the amps. Try to keep the volume as low as possible and let the echo of the room amplify the sound.

    
      Personal Taste:

A lot of what I mentioned before does not only depend on facts, there is also a lot of personal taste involved. When playing with others you need to check on how other people would like the sound to be: Some people like it to be loud, while others prefer a more quiter sound. Hopefully you can come to a happy balance where everyone can enjoy their own sound and the sound you all make together as a band.

Hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Brian Jones and Backing Vocals with the Rolling Stones

When it comes to finding out who did what on almost any Rolling Stones album you have to use your ears: Get familiar with the sound of the voices and guitar playing styles of each individual member.
Most people will be aware that Brian never sang a lead vocal with the Stones, but he did sing some backing, most of it can be heard on the first album: “Walking the Dog” may be the best, noticable example: Listen to Brian voice in the chorus, it is raspy with a slight growl, not like Keith’s who had a very smooth voice in the early days.

The next example where you can hear Brian’s backing is “Tell Me”  In this case his singing is much further down in the mix, but you can hear it, along with Keith’s smoother voice. Observe the guitarsound, very similar to “Satisfaction” minus the fuzzbox, perhaps same guitar? Most of Keiths guitars were lost during the stay at Nell Cotes, during the “Exhile on Main Street ” period. The guitars you hear on later albums do sound different, the Strats and Teles became more mainstay instead of the Gibsons.

The last example where I believe you can hear Brian’s backing vocals is “Can I Get a Witness” Again listen to the backing, there are the “Aaaaghs” and the phrase in the chorus. Like before, Brian voice is lower in mix than Keith’s but just listen carefully and you can hear it.

Why do we not hear Brian’s voice on any more songs later on? Maybe due to what happened to the Stones and Brain, it is hard to tell, you need to read between the lines and the facts which are out there.
Personally I think, his voice does have character and it is a pitty that we do not hear it clearer on any more songs, but then again, the Stones changed their music and Brain changed and things became very different.
That first album is very special, great recording, great feel and, even though, many of those first songs were covers, they still sound like they had made them their own with their own feel and style.

Hope to see you soon again,
Eddie

Using Power Chords and Avoiding Cliches

When you are learning a new skill in a new field you will be introduced to habits most people have, particular things which are done simply because they work. Learning to play the guitar is very similar in this respect: Certain chordshapes are being used in particular ways, simply because they sound good when played in that way. Each style of music seem to have its own approach when it comes to using chords and how to play them, and what kind of sound to use them with when playing these chords.
Once you have been playing the guitar for a while and have more experience under your belt it helps to have a look at the cliches, understand them, be aware of them and know how to break them or use them for your own purposes.
For this short article I want to highlight the powerchord and how to break free from its particular useage.

Most of you will have heard of the term powerchord, it is simply two notes put together to give you a strong sound which will work in a lot of musical styles. The two notes being used are usually the Root and the fifth. Some guitar players like to use three notes, in cases like this most players will go for: Root, Fifth and an Ocatave above the Root. Personally I like the lean approach of the the two note powerchord: Very smooth for moving around on the fretboard while still giving you enough power in the low end.
 
Are powerchords only used in Heavy Rock and do you really need to use distortion to make them come alive? No, you can use them on acoustic guitar, you can use them in any setting. Whenever you have the need for a strong backing with low notes, powerchords will give you what you need.
The advantage of a powerchords is that the chord is neither major or minor, and therefore it can be used in any musical setting. Great in cases you are not sure about which chords are major or minor, you can always fall back on powerchords. True, but they will only give you a certain sound, and if you use them too often your sound may get a little stale, but that observation goes for many chordshapes: It is always a good idea to vary your shapes with whatever you play, as long as it can support the song you are playing you are doing fine.

Hope to catch you soon again,
Eddie

Thicken up Your Vocals: Use Delay or Reverb

Delay and Reverb are often used for guitar to thicken up the sound. You can play with the settings of your reverb (or delay) to get a particular sound, some settings may make your guitarsound more midrangy, while others may add more brightness or add a bit of fullness to the overal sound.

What is possible for guitar is also possible for vocals. There are these moments when you think your voice sounds too thin, you can work with the EQ settings on your mixer, you may try even various microphones to see which one gives you the best sound. If you still feel there is something lacking why not add some extra reverb to your vocals. You may even use the pedals you use for guitar to add some reverb to your vocals. Here are a few pointers you may find helpful:

                     @ To create a natural sound do not add too much reverb.
                    
                     @ Work with the overal mix: Listen to the sound of guitar, bass and drums before you add any reverb. Your vocals need to ride over the mix smoothly. If you do it right you will not even notice the reverb, You will only notice it when you sing without having any of the other instruments playing. A lot of people make the mistake to add too much reverb (or delay) with the result it makes the mix sound unnatural. Of course, you can go this way if you want it as special effect, but try not to add to much reverb if you strive for a natural mix and voca lsound.

                     @  The amount of Feedback from your delay will thicken up the sound, the amount of Time for the delay will add brightness to the sound. Work with the settings to achieve a natural sound.

                      @  Different rooms may ask for different settings, be aware of this. Settings which work for rehearsal room may need some tweaking when you play in another room (or venue)

Happy experimenting.
Eddie

Get a Fuller Guitartone: Mix your Direct and Line-out Level

There are these moments when the sound of your amp and guitar is not enough: The sound could benefit from some extra thickening. Most people thicken up their sound during recording by double tracking: Record one part, and record same part again on another track. During mixdown both guitartracks can be used to create a fuller sound. One track may get some extra bass, or brightness from the EQ to add extra fullness and spark to the overal guitarsound.
All very well, but what can you do during rehearsals and gigs to add more body to your exhisting guitarsound you may wonder?
Why not try the same approach:?

Use a Y box (or cable): This box will spit your guitarsound into two signals, one signal is sent to your amp while the other signal is sent to the mixer. The source sent to the mixer is your direct guitarsound. This sound will be the fullest.
Next you can use a microphone to take the signal of your ampspeaker into the mixer, or you could use the line-out at the back of your amplifier.
Personally I like Line-Outs, as there are no extra microphonestands to bother with, also no extra microphone (which sometimes gets knocked over accidentily)
Line-Out signals may be a bit thinner compared to signal from microphone, but remember, your direct sound and line-out are mixed together to create one guitarsound. The overal sound should be thicker and stronger.

In case you use a lot of pedals you will need to place the Y box at the end of your pedalchain, this to make sure the sound of your pedals is also going straight into your mixer.

Experiment to see what work for you, but overal you should get a stronger and fuller guitarsound which may work better in the mix of bass and drums.

Happy experimenting.
Eddie

Song Writing: Creating Variations of One Song

There are these moments you work on one song and you wonder: “How would this song sound if I fingerpick the chords instead of strumming them?” “What about if I use distortion instead of clean sound for the backing?” “What about playing the chords higher up the fretboard using a Capo?” When you try any of these variations changes are you will be changing more than just the way where you play the chords. Before you know it, the feel of the song has changed and the song may sound like something completely different.

When you are just starting out with writing you are probably happy to keep your songs the way they come out in the first place. Once you have been writing for a little while you may enjoy the experience of playing around with your songs to give them a different feel or to put them into a different style. There are those songs where you know they will work in a different settting, while others may look less obivious for the treatment of a different style.

Being able to put your songs into different styles will open your eyes to different possibilies for your song, it will also turn you into a better songwriter. Try it to see if it works for you.

Hope to see you next time,
Eddie