Can't cut through the band mix? It's your AMP not your guitar.

Hey guys/gals,

Lynn Burke here, owner of Blues City Music. 

Today's blog deals with a very popular issue brought to my attention on a weekly basis, that being, "no matter how loud I turn up my amp, no one can hear me, it's just muffled".  No worries, we can easily address that.

First and foremost, your electric guitar is a mid range frequency instrument, and if you think "Scooping" the mids of your amplifier, or turning them way down is the way to go, you are sadly mistaken.  Do this, and you are now competing with the bass guitar frequencies as well as the kick drum and floor toms of your drummer's rig.  You will lose this battle every gig making you tonally invisible. 

Years ago, I played a gig in a large venue utilizing my Soldano SLO-100 and a 2x12" cabinet.  Other than a late 60's or early 70's non mastered, 4 input, Marshall Plexi or Super Lead, the SLO-100 has the most amazing mids of any amp made today.  No wonder the majority of major label players from Clapton to Haynes to Mars to Lynch all use SLO's on a regular basis.  They CUT. 

The other guitar player in my band was using a Mesa-Boogie Dual Rectifier Road King and 4x12" cabinet, which has a heavily scooped mid section.  He couldn't even cross mid stage in front of the drummer without my SLO on the other side of the stage eating him for lunch and blanking out his amp.  Not volume, but tone, note clarity, and articulation.  Front of House sound guy loved it. 

Second problem with not being heard is do you really have the right amp for the venue, type music, and band size?  Trying to throttle a 100 watt head and 4x12" cabinet at this venue is impossible.  You'll have the master volume turned way down with the pre gain turned way up trying to achieve some kind of gritty tone at low volume.  Big mistake.  All you get here is pre amp buzz with zero tone and certainly minimal sustain.  Try to run your master volume up to compensate, and the Front of House sound guy will just cut your volume at the console. Wrong amp for the gig.

In retrospect, you should grab a 25-50 watt 1x12" combo or 25-50 watt head and cabinet allowing you the ability to turn the master up. This wakes up the output section of your amp.  Now, you don't have to "dime" your amp in this situation, but being able to open it up to breathe will certainly make your tone that much better. 

Next, dial in your tone stack.  Remember, more is not always better.  Listen intently with your ears without getting all wrapped up in the drama of where your knobs are set.  Set them one at a time, but you have to keep your mids turned up.  Then for more bite or attack, add the presence.  This is basically adding high frequencies back to your tone via a negative feedback loop. 

Finally, make sure you run your guitar volumes around 8 for your rhythm tones so you can roll up to 10 for your lead riffs, or if your drummer starts playing a lot louder.  This way you'll cut even that much more over the total mix of the band. 

Don't forget to incorporate pick attack, picking location (closer to the bridge for more treble), and tone knob adjustments on your guitar as well when necessary.  Above all, listen. 

Keep rocking !!!  Give us a call if you have any questions or comments. 

Lynn Burke / BCM Owner

James L. Burke III
James L. Burke III


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