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Tip of the Day: Hearing yourself, desired tone and audience impact

David Barrett Admin's picture

The magic combination is to hear yourself well on the bandstand, be pleased with your tone and have the confidence that your sound is BIG in the house. If you can’t hear yourself well, you’ll play too hard, putting undue stress on your harmonicas (I’ve destroyed MANY harmonicas playing too loudly) and hinder your dynamic range. Achieving what you hear to be good tone on the bandstand inspires you to play at your best. The louder a single-source is (an amplifier not mic’d), the less likely you’ll hear the same sound on the bandstand that the audience is hearing in the house. As Aki stated recently in this regards, “sometimes you just need to trust the amp,” trusting that it DOES sound good out there, even though it may not to you on the bandstand. Lastly, in a performance, your impact on the audience is paramount. If you’re not achieving a BIG sound that leaves an impression on the audience, then why are you there?

In my opinion, it’s paramount to mic your amp—of ANY size—through the house PA system so that your sound can be distributed evenly throughout the house; this eliminates hot and dead spots in the house from a single-source amplifier. Secondly, larger stages are relatively easy to hear yourself—you can get away from the amp (the amp gets louder the farther you are from it—within reason, commonly 6 to 15 feet) and get it off the floor (as close to ear-level as possible). It’s the smaller stages that cause issues in being able to hear yourself—the amp is commonly too close to you and on the floor—throwing sound to the back of your legs and not fully forming its true volume for you to hear. Mic’ing the amp also allows you to run some of your sound through the monitors. A common issue in the world of live music is not having a sufficient PA system or quality of sound engineer able to avoid feedback issues (or in many cases, you’ll share a monitor with the vocalist and they don’t like having the harp in their one source of hearing themselves). In our recent test, when mic’ing the single amp through the house PA, it worked out nicely due to the fact that one of the house speakers was behind us, essentially enabling us to hear ourselves better (like a monitor). In the end, for pro players to hear themselves well, without having to rely on good house monitors (of which we know is commonly not the case), the common solution is to play one amp really loud (not as desirable) or two amps louder, but neither overwhelmingly loud… and in the case of the MegaTone monitor, a truly self-contained system. We'll explore all of these on the bandstand in the Bassman Chronicles soon.