My first "band encounter", I'm shocked, help.

Discussion in 'The Squawk Box' started by Milchy, Sep 17, 2017.

  1. Milchy

    Milchy Junior Member

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    Mar 14, 2012
    So long story short, been playing in my bedroom all my life, usually headphones or volume as low as possible. Amps I've used is blackstar ht5/yamaha thr10/guitarrig/amplitube etc.

    Recently, I was put in a band setting (you know, with other real people... and a drummer...). The things that shocked me:
    1) I couldn't hear myself - and they looked at me like I was a madman for asking them to "turn stuff down"
    2) Did I mention stuff was really deafening LOUD?


    3) The tone of loud guitars (at least with the amps that were there, set to 11) sucked so bad, It was nothing like what I've experienced before. It was very "edgy/spiky/unpleasant-piercing/" it felt like it had no character to it, be it if you played soft or hard, played a downstroke chord or an upstroke... so little "oomph", just flat out loud... noise.

    All of this made playing the electric guitar... very...(I cant believe this) unpleasant...

    My question is... is it just me, or is this a totally new world I've set foot in? Is it possible to make it sound more... bedroomy... more sterile/controlled as opposed to "the sound just flying everywhere". Sorry no examples as I'm too lazzy to youtube, but if I'm crazy about this then just tell me, if stuff is really this different then you probably know what i mean

    I realize that the "best" way to handle this would be to mic my little amp to a PA, saddly I dont have the means to do this.

    And I don't know why I even came here, I suppose I need a "classic rock/approaching metal" type of amp for a band setting, but would a "good" amp behave the way I'd want it to? I guess this is the reason why everyone is all head over heels about 100W heads/cabs, while im happy with my amplitube?

    Last edited: Sep 24, 2017
  2. Stevie 202

    Stevie 202 Senior Member

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    Dec 31, 2011
    Don't worry mate.

    Playing at high volume is in itself a whole nuther skill.

    And like all skills it's one that needs to be practice practice practiced.

    Once you get the hang of it it's the most fun you can have while vertical.

    Unfortunately, it's not easy on the ears sometimes, but what are ya gonna do?

    It helps to try to coordinate with the other people in terms amp settings and volume so you're not all over each other...each member needs their sonic space.

    You can't all just plug in and bash away or it'll sound like shit.

    Keep at it as often as possible and things will improve.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
  3. NotScott

    NotScott Silver Supporter

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    Nov 25, 2012
    This. Playing in a band situation requires a different skill set with different technique than playing at home. Dynamics come more into play the louder you get and your technique needs to account for this.

    Also, the amp settings that may sound good at low levels at home, will typically sound too bright at band levels.

    Again, playing live with other musicians is a different skill set that requires time to develop. You will get there.
    winexprt, ecosse, freebyrd 69 and 6 others like this.
  4. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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    Sep 23, 2008
    What amp were you using? Couldn't see that in your post.
  5. Milchy

    Milchy Junior Member

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    Mar 14, 2012
    Ah, well, it was an old looking marshall combo, it had identical switching to this: but it did not have the switch next to presence, I don't quite recall it having any visible writing on the panel indicating a model either
  6. drew365

    drew365 Senior Member

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    Oct 23, 2011
    So is that a 20w amp? I normally won't attempt to play live with a band with anything less than 30w, as a general rule. It really all depends on the drummer. If he is brutally loud, everyone else will be also and you're going to get lost in the noise floor.
    As far as the other guys sounding like poo poo. Your observation was probably correct. It's difficult to get a good full sound and come through the mix, unless everyone is mic'd and fed through the PA. High piercing tone will get you heard, but possibly not in a good way. It takes a lot of tweaking to get a good balance.
    I recently was getting buried by the other guitarist in our band. I tried getting everyone to turn down, but volume creep would just keep happening. So I went through all my settings and went to practice loaded for bear. I'm now heard fine. Sooner or later the vocalist will realize he's screaming every song.
  7. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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    Sep 23, 2008
    Well there's probably 2 or 3 things that really affected your experience.

    1. That was probably not enough amp if it was like the one in the picture. Those were solid state amps if I recall and certainly don't have allot of oomph.

    2. Sounds like they play too loud. If you're uncomfortable in the environment it's too loud and it leads to ear fatigue which leads to people turning up more. A bad situation. Some guitarists are just a$$holes and want to be the loudest in the room at all times.

    3. You have to be aware of your tone when playing with drums and bass. What sounds thin alone actually often works well when playing with others because you cut through better.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
  8. Gridlock

    Gridlock Senior Member

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    Nov 30, 2011
    Playing with the right people is important. Liking the same or similar music, a little compromise, and some respect is required.

    Rock music is meant to be played at volume. Not crazy loud. You definitely need the right equipment to be heard and don't expect a rock band to play at bedroom volume levels.

    You will learn pretty quickly that what sounds good at low practice volumes, does not always sound that good at band volumes. Especially when your changing guitars, amps,and pedals during each jam.

    I've been lucky and have been in three pretty long term bands, where we all got along, and respected each others musical tastes.

    I'm currently working on a new band where four of us rehearse in a 14x14 room. Each time we get to gether we each pick a song for the band to work on. I missed not being in a band (2007 my last band stopped jamming and gigging).

    As per tone, I've always been crazy serious about attempting to have good tone. I'm not best guitar player, but I think my tone is pretty much there. The right amp, guitar, and tone settings for the situation is key.

    Jamming with others is definitely a learning experience that will take some trial and error to get there. Don't give up, playing good live music in a band and in front of people who are enjoying your music is so cool and something you'll never forget.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2017
  9. tzd

    tzd Senior Member

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    Oct 21, 2011
    Welcome to the real world, you'll realize there is a lot to learn.

    1. Get wireless or a long guitar cable so you can stand where the audience is when you are playing. Then you will hear how things really sound like. You might not hear yourself on stage if the amp is at your feet facing the audience, but the amp could already be very loud to the audience.

    2. If your practice amp cannot get loud enough to keep up with the band, get a tube amp of at least 25 Watts and 12" speakers.

    3. Get an Amp Wedge to tilt your amp at an angle so it faces you a little more.

    4. A suitable volume pedal in the effects loop of your amp is the most important pedal you can have if you are playing in a band without a sound guy to adjust your sound for you.
  10. northernguitarguy

    northernguitarguy SWeAT hOg

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    Feb 22, 2009
    We jam in a basement, all facing each other. Bass player tight to drummer. Everything is mic'ed, drummer and bass player use IEM's. IMO, the drummer's snare sets the volume threshold; all volume should be adjusted accordingly and to taste. The drums are an acoustic instrument, and all others need to be in concert with this.

    I disagree that a low-watt amp isn't loud enough to jam or gig. I've been using them for a couple of years. I certainly have enough volume in the jam room, and if I need it at a gig, I have as much as I want on tap with the PA (within reason due to feedback).

    Personally, this is why I think big amps are inferior for jamming. They need to be pushed too hard to get to the sweet spot and by then they drown out even the loudest drummers.
    bulletproof, Sournote, kiko and 4 others like this.
  11. Bobby Mahogany

    Bobby Mahogany Senior Member

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    Feb 25, 2012
    Instruments volume should be "to match the drum" in the "mix".
    And in small practicing places, (and even on small venues)
    many will put (plexiglass) panels in front of the drum to dim it a little.

    Also, when playing in a room, we will tend to look for a nice rounded tone
    that's pleasing to the ear. In a band set-up, you have to focus in the mid-range
    frequencies in order to "pierce through".
    Listen to some isolated guitar tracks on Youtube, you'll know what I mean.
    I have heard tracks form Joe Perry where in the mix they sounded fine
    but isolated the tone was almost unbearable to listen to.
    It's all a matter of balancing the frequencies across the band.

    Some people tend to play too loud, that is often a/the problem.
    Wearing earplugs is never a bad idea.
    As short life is, it's long enough to make you deaf.

    Hang in there, it's good to be in a band, even if only for friends and family.
    And if these guys are annoyingly loud and bad sounding,
    find better mates to play!

    bulletproof, Sournote, Rhust and 2 others like this.
  12. Pokerstar

    Pokerstar Senior Member

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    Apr 7, 2013
    Some very good advice here - two other suggestions. 1. Where is your amp? Is it on the floor? Of so, either an amp wedge (mentioned above) or a stand will really help. 2. try using a longer cord and move forward and listen to the band from out front while you are playing, she what the mix sounds like, as well as your tone. 3. Ear plugs. they are a lifesaver. (ok, 3 suggestions, math and I don't get along)
  13. sonar

    sonar Senior Member

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    Sep 10, 2008
    Get earplugs and try again...

    or don't.
    ht-57 and Matt_21 like this.
  14. Pop1655

    Pop1655 Premium Member

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    Aug 25, 2014
    Great post OP!
    Great thread!
    Great read.
    Hope it keeps going.
    bulletproof, El Pablo and Guitar Rod like this.
  15. rabidhamster

    rabidhamster Senior Member

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    Jun 4, 2008
    When a band cant get on the same page with tone/volume, and it's painful, I generally don't play with them again.

    If they can't hear what's wrong right away, and they don't want me to fix it, were not meant for each other.

    Unless it was just your tone/gear that wasn't working, then it's definitely that amp
    freebyrd 69, bulletproof and Pop1655 like this.
  16. yeti

    yeti Senior Member

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    Aug 19, 2008
    The drummer sets the volume, correct but here's the rub as I see it....if he /she can't set the volume at appropriate practice levels then he/she isn't worth playing with. Practice is for learning the songs, no need to be loud, as a matter of fact, if you practice loud you probably aren't getting better as a band....ever.
  17. Splattle101

    Splattle101 V.I.P. Member

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    May 30, 2008
    Lots of really good advice in here.

    The key is the drummer's volume and, as Yeti said, a decent drummer is able to do more than just pound them into the floor.

    Pointing the amp at your head is a good idea too. Stands, crates, whatever it takes to get the speaker pointed at your ears instead of your ankles.

    In relation to the harshness of the sound (if it was your sound that was harsh), some of that might be due to the solid state amp. Solid state amps can sound good, but they generally don't sound too good if you have to turn them up past 50% of the master volume. If you're going to hang with a drummer, AND you want to use solid state amplification, you'll need a lot more power so you can run the amp at 50% or lower.
    freebyrd 69, bulletproof, LPV and 3 others like this.
  18. Classicplayer

    Classicplayer Senior Member

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    Sep 6, 2007
    Less than 24 hours ago, I attended at concert; a mixture of classical, semi-classicle and 60’s jazz and all there were trained musicians who could read. Enjoyable, for their skills (yes), but rather loud compared to hall size. Five instruments: electric 7-string guitar, standup acoustic bass, cello, African styled percussion augmented for some songs with a mirimba.....add one soprano and we have a mixture of too much midrange, not near enough highs and at times a too loud soprano. They were not mic'd and no sound person seen. I'm sure they sounded decent in practice in another venue, but there should have been someone at audience distance critiquing them for the mix. The only really enjoyable part for me was when all played their extended solos. Each instrument at times got "buried" in the overall mix, especially the leader who was playing 7-string electric acoustic into a small acoustic amp.

  19. LPV

    LPV Senior Member

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    Sep 23, 2008
    So true. And it's amazing how a good drummer can adjust their volume like any other musician. I get a kick out of the "our drummer is awesome but he's really loud" comments. Your drummer has great timing and chops but if he can't find his place in the mix - he's not awesome.

    2 tell tale points of drummers that need practice a) can't adjust their volume b) get excited live and pick the tempo up from practice.

    Our drummer is a great guy but he's new to playing live. His volume is fine but at a show a couple of weeks ago we did what felt like a speed metal version of rock n roll hoochie coo. When he counted us in I was like "oh sh!t here we go". But he's an awesome dude with great chops and an IQ above that of living room furniture. Hard combo to find in drummers.
  20. mmd

    mmd Senior Member

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    Sep 24, 2012
    Finding good tone and balanced levels in a rehearsal room (just in a band in general) is tough. A lot of good advice in this thread. I'll add my experience/thoughts to what has already been mentioned.

    1. Less gain is more. Want a bigger, fuller sound? Add mids and reduce your drive. I have always found that my treble naturally increases as my volume increases. I have also found that if I reduce my gain just to the point of a note beginning to sustain, I have enough. Volume (and better technique) will take care of the rest.

    2. Bedroom tone and Band tone aren't equal. As mentioned above if you adjust at home at low volume, things will be too bright when cranked. As the years have progressed my method for dialing in my live tone is as follows:

    • Go to the rehearsal room (or rent a space for an hour or two) it REALLY helps if, at least, the drummer can be there if not everyone.
    • Turn the amp up (I used 60-120 watt tube amps, and I would run the master about half way up)
    • Set your EQ flat (check what this may be for your amp - I would just run everything at 5)
    • As you play adjust your gain to give you just enough drive to "crunch" or where single notes just start to sustain.
    • If you sound muddy REDUCE your bass.
    • If you need "cut" INCREASE your mids.
    • If you sound harsh REDUCE your treble.
    • Don't "look" at the controls and think it's "wrong" - let your ears decide.
    • Once you have a tone that seems to "fit" adjust your gain and volume again to where you are heard but not overpowering.
    • You may need to "fine tune" your EQ - add back a little treble to give that "extra" sheen of clarity...
    • Remember, a BASS handles the low-end....the DRUMS will eat the MOST frequencies - including the HIGHS.
    • Remember, an electric guitar is a MIDRANGE instrument.
    • If you have pedals, you will need to rework a lot of those settings to "fit" also.
    • TAKE A PICTURE WITH A DATE STAMP. (if you go back home with your amp chances are you WILL mess up your band tone to make it sound good at home. having the picture will enable you to get your sound "back" - I say that lightly because every time you mess with it you will have a hard time getting it back)
    For example, the tone settings I would use on my Rivera amps were:
    • Gain - 6-7
    • Bass - 2-3
    • Mid - 6-8
    • Treble - 3-4
    • Master - 5-7
    • Presence - 2-4
    It sounded TERRIBLE alone, but in the band it sounded HUGE and CLEAR. For reference, I play hard rock/classic metal.

    Other factors to consider, most of which are outside of your control....

    • If the bass player is using a "hi-fi" tone (lots of highs and lows) you will have a harder time dialing in your sound. He will be eating a lot of your frequency range and the two of you will blend into one sound, causing your band to sound "weak" because of the perceived lack of low-end. I have experienced it MANY times over the years, and I have found MOST bass players unwilling to work with their tone. I have always sacrificed MY sound for the betterment of the band. If the BAND sounds good people will respond better than if the band sounds crappy as whole but the guitarist sounds killer.
    • Drummer dynamics DO matter, but not as much as fresh heads and proper tuning. When a drummer keeps fresh heads on their kit, the drums respond better and have "tone". This also allows the drummer a better chance to control their dynamics and volume because their instrument is "alive". Proper tuning enables a drummer to use less dampening, which again allows for better dynamic control because they won't have to BASH and POUND to get the drum to resonate. (I have been a drummer for almost 20 years now, and these words are the TRUTH no matter how a drummer wants to explain it away :) )
    Everyone in a band has to work together to make the band sound good. You can be LOUD and still sound great. It comes from sculpting a sound together where each instrumentalist understands their job in the band.....
    • Guitar - melodic support via leads, rhythmic/melodic support to accompany vocals
    • Bass - foundation support via creating a groove that propels the rhythmic pulse of the songs (helps people FIND the pulse)
    • Drums - time keeper and rhythmic drive
    • Vocals - what people (non musicians) really care about. If the vocalist can't be heard people won't dig the band - this transcends genre, unless you want to be a band for musicians only.....
    Good luck, man. It takes a lot of work and a different skill set to be in a band!!

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