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Advice for staging your guitar amplifier


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Most performers and their bandmates, when first starting out, don’t have a clue about how to project the best guitar sound in a variety of venues, rooms, bars, and clubs.


The topic of the Public Address (PA) systems (and vocal microphones) is worthy of another blog altogether, but for now, let me give you my best advice when it comes to setting-up your guitar amplifier at a gig.



Small venue


I would place the guitar amplifier on an amp stand that allows for a slight upward tilt. It would be located on the outboard edge of the stage so that it isn’t blasting directly into the microphone stand line-of-sight. The general orientation of the amp would be facing directly into the center of the room.


Volume level would be quite high, because I wouldn’t mic the amp.



Medium venue


I would place the amplifier on an amp stand that keeps the amp level. It would be located immediately to my outboard side (left side) at thigh-level, so that it faces back toward the drummer. (This assumes no monitor speakers in the mix. The drummer can usually hear the bass guitar at any gig, but the guitar sound can be elusive, and can get lost in the mix.)


Volume level would be moderate, since I would mic the amp with a Shure 58 cardioid microphone. The mic cable would be simply hung over the amp, and the mic would be laying flush against the face of the amp, mid-speaker.


That microphone would be cabled to a medium-capacity PA system, at least 300w, and its position in the cable-lineup on the PA head would be the very first after the vocal microphones. The signal would be dry in the PA, with no PA reverb applied.



Large Venue


Same location and general set-up as the medium venue, but I would use a Shure 57 microphone to mic the amp to the PA.


That mic would be placed in a mic-stand, and the head of the Shure 57 would be positioned 3 inches from the face of the amp speaker, at a slight (20 or 30 degree) angle. Dry signal again, and I would use a much larger PA system, at least 800w.


It’s a given that we would have at least two monitor speakers at the front of the stage, pointed back toward the drummer.



All Venues


In all cases, the amp would be close enough to my body so that I can reach over and make adjustments to volume, tone, and effects settings. And it goes without saying, the amp would be close enough to me that the pedal board cable going to/from it aren’t unnecessarily long (to avoid signal degradation).


I use a pedal board with (in this order) a talk box, distortion pedal, boost pedal, phase shifter pedal, and an ElectroHarmonix Mel 9 mellotron emulator.


In a smaller venue, I run a quality cable to/from the amp and my pedal board, and at a larger venue I use my wireless rig, the Line 6 Relay G30.



That is all, I reckon.


Please share with us your advice and your experiences.




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I guess for me, I don't like the amp tilted up.


The "cone of death" created where the speakers are coming right at me,, Ugh, no like!


I tend to put them on the floor, about a foot or so off the stage, and we tend to fire the amps cross stage, (semi circle with drums in the middle.)


If you're lucky enough to have a good pa/sound guy the PA has got to do the talking. amps are just for the peeps on stage.


if you're going stage mix, then that changes everything, and it's much harder to get hear what's going on once things get underway. and guitarist especially have to really work on volume control (rhythm/lead etc).

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