MISHASUCKS.NET/GEAR_GEEK: PERIPHERY GUITARIST BULB ON THE IMPORTANCE OF MID-RANGE GUITAR FREQUENCIES AND HOW TO TWEAK YOUR LIVE TONE
I know all of you guise have been in the situation where you are at a show trying to enjoy a band, but all you hear out of the guitars is just “pshshhrhhhshrhhshhsh” or something similar to distorted white noise and that flubby low-end fart sound that we all know and love dearly. Fingers be a movin’ but the sound remains pretty much constant.
Now there are several potential reasons for this: some are out of your control like a shitty sound guy, system or room, and those things can make even a great sound engineer have an even worse time than when you French fry when you were supposed to Pizza. But there are aspects within your control which can facilitate or sometimes even remedy those issues to a degree. And that’s what I want to talk about. For those of us who play shows regularly and/or tour we can bitch all day about the things out of our control that make our lives miserable, but sadly those things aren’t likely to change any time soon. But I feel like I see a lot of people who could make their live tone that much better before it’s even miked up, as it’s near impossible to polish a turd, especially not with a line check that’s less than five minutes.
To start off, for those of you who don’t know, the guitar emits mid-range; that is its job and focus. I don’t care if you tune to drop L flat, the timbre of the instrument means that if you want it to be heard you need to focus on the midrange in your tone. So first thing’s first: sorry BBE and all clones, but you need to go. Great for the studio, but terrible for your live sound. They basically make your sound “bigger” by accentuating the highs and lows (aka white noise and the farts) and as a result your mids (aka your tone) gets pushed even further back. Tthis is great to have your tone sound like a recording when you are jamming along to your favorite bands’ albums, but in a live context, whatever little mids you have left will be eaten up by the other instruments.
The first big problem I see is the fact that a lot of people set their tones when jamming at practice or in the bedroom. Because the higher the frequency goes the more directional it is, when you are standing next to your halfstack it sounds pretty good because the highs aren’t being shot right at your ear. But if you were to put your ear to the speaker inches away from the grille (as the mic would be doing) you would hear a horribly harsh tone. So the first thing I would recommend doing is setting your amp with your ear to the grille (ease off of that treble and presence buddeh!), and then at the same height but 5, 10 and 20 feet away so you would hear what the mic is hearing as well as the people In the front row. You will find that when playing next to your amp it will sound horribly dull (as only the low-mids will really be cutting through) but the mic will be picking up so much more of your tone and your notes and you will find yourself cutting through the mix a lot better! As far as the low end, it really depends on the amp’s voicing, but once again: it sounds great when you crank it in the bedroom, but you don’t want to compete with your bassist’s low-mids. Trust me, he will win, and your amp will flub and fart out. Your amp may sound less huge as a result, but trust me, in the live mix everything will just sit so much better and have its own space!
Something very important to note at this point is that these are just general sound concepts and different amps react very differently. For example, on my Engl Invader, the EQ is incredibly straightforward and you can just get more mids by turning them up, plain and simple, so I usually set my bass and treble at about 5 or 6 and mids are cranked, but that only works for that one amp. On other amps, the EQ’s react very differently so you need to learn your own amp. I used to have a Series 1 Mesa Rectoverb (those series 1’s are amazing!) but you are literally better off setting that amp without looking at what the knobs say. For example, if you want more mids, you actually have to turn the treble down below 2 to end up with a huge mid boost, the mid knob acts more as a high mid/treble knob, and the presence knob will give you high end sparkle or fizz depending on how you set it. Get to know your amp and experiment with it, but once you know how to get certain sounds from it make sure you set it the way the crowd, and even more importantly, the microphone would hear it. Embrace the mids and you will cut through much better live! Oh, and your dick will surely get bigger too!