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Don't swap electric guitars during a live performance

Discussion in 'Safety' started by EPAC_Matt, Apr 11, 2004.

  1. EPAC_Matt

    EPAC_Matt Member

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    .. unless you want to render everybody in the audience deaf. Yep..

    Today was an easter church service that they were doing in our theatre and I ran sound for it.

    Our adult tech wasn't kidding when she told me this show would be 100x crazier than the play I had previously run sound for. We had about three wired mics, two omnis hanging over the choir, a few lavs we had to keep track of, and three electric guitars patched directly into our board via direct inject boxes.

    The show was running fine I guess but for one song, one of the guitarists swapped his acoustic-electric guitar with an electric guitar. We hadn't done a sound check or set any levels for that guitar (we didn't even know he had another guitar!) so when he started playing, people paniced and started clutching their heads. Sure, I had taken the levels down on our mackie as soon as I could but it was still quite uh.. loud.


    Yea.. good times :?
     
  2. Mayhem

    Mayhem Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    As a guitarist myself I know that it is often necessary to change guitars during a performance, for a variety of reasons such as a broken string, or a different set up or sound (I use to have a guitar set to a dropped D tuning for 2 songs out of a 42 song set list!)

    From my own experience, I know the difference in volumes from one guitar to another and would certainly adjust my levels to compensate. Of course, I always insisted on having my cab miced and not going to the desk via DI.

    The problem with DI is that can often bypass the control that the guitarist has over his volumes. Some prefer to control the volume via the guitar and other by the amp.

    It is highly likely that the acoustic guitar had a transducer and active circuitry in it, which would make the signal higher than your standard electric guitar fitted with passive pick-ups. Depending on the method of DI’ing you use, you would (and it sounds like this was the case) end up with a much larger input hitting your desk than the one you had set up for.

    Also, the experience of the guitarist will impact upon these situations. For me, my preference for a mic in front of my cab meant two things. 1) the tone and characteristics of my speakers were picked up and reinforced and 2) I knew that I had the control of the volumes for each of my guitars and my effect settings (ie clean, crunch, lead etc, all of which alter slightly in volume). In essence, it is the end product going to the mix. Of course, I ensured that all these were covered in sound check and discussed with the SE as to my preferences.

    This is a learning curve for both of you. Firstly, it is a good idea to check with the guitarist if they are using more than one guitar (and most will). If you are using a DI this is imperative. Secondly, I would expect that a guitarist would want to do a sound check with all guitars (I know that I certainly did as different guitars have different sound characteristics), and you should suggest to them that they do one. Also ask about their different variations in sound and how that is likely to impact upon your job.

    Coming from both sides of the desk I can understand what goes on inside the head of the guitarist and the SE (I have not worked drummers out yet). Neither wants to make each others job difficult and both want the best possible sound. However, there are subtle things that can cause big problems and like most things, a lack of understanding of the other persons area heightens these problems. A willingness to learn, experience and tolerance will make you both better at your crafts.

    I hope that this is helpful - Rock on!
     
  3. digitaltec

    digitaltec Active Member

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    You ever heard of the mute button or turning the volume down on the amp?
     
  4. DMXtools

    DMXtools Active Member

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    For the local-band shows I do, there's rarely time for anything more than a quick line-check before each band goes on. Guitarists frequently change guitars. It's really important to pay attention and anticipate a volume change - when I see someone switch to a different instrument, I back his channel off quite a bit and solo it. Then, when he starts playing, I can adjust very quickly. A couple bands I work with have pretty versatile musicians - they trade places (and instruments) between songs and again I have to anticipate the need for some tweaking. If you're paying attention, your hands are already on the relevant faders before they start the song.

    John
     
  5. VipermanGTX

    VipermanGTX Member

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    Yeah man, i don't know how to explain that one. Its happends, thats why i love havning two guitars on two wireless systems, no pops or loud noise. No worries man, you'll know next time.
     
  6. digitaltec

    digitaltec Active Member

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    Use multible amps. One guitar per amp.
     
  7. Mayhem

    Mayhem Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    A mute button on a guitar amp - Nigel Tuffnall (Spinal Tap) would die if he heard that suggestion Chris 8O

    Some guitarists use an A/B switch to bypass the amp and send the signal to their tuner and will use this when changing guitars. However, when you snap a string mid song you just grab your second guitar and try to get back into the song as quickly as possible.

    DMXtools has summed it up nicely in saying that the SE needs to keep an eye on what is going on. On several occasions I have been onstage and seen the SE at the bar having a drink, only to have to push back through the crowd to get to the desk to correct the mix. Remember, Eyes and Ears!

    One rig per guitar would make for one hell of a back line considering I use to take at least 3 guitars to a gig, as did the other guitarist and the bass player would have two. Thnakfully, our drummer only had the one kit!
     
  8. digitaltec

    digitaltec Active Member

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    But what im saying is when a guitar player switched out guitars you have ot mute the channel. Any good sound tech whould. Now again im not much of a sound person but when I was with Hoobastank the FOH whould drop the channel volume evertime a guitar swap happpened. IDK.
     
  9. Mayhem

    Mayhem Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Sorry Chris - I read "You ever heard of the mute button or turning the volume down on the amp?" as a dirrective to the guitarist not the SE (as the amps are usually FOH and therefore not close to the SE).

    So yes - good point
     
  10. dj_illusions

    dj_illusions Active Member

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    So true, as a SE before going into LX i used to mute everything that wasnt been used or if something was been changed around, it just became second nature that if something was happening that shouldnt or wasnt been used it would be pulled out of the mic or turned off!
     
  11. The_Guest

    The_Guest Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Here is a tip you should remember with just about anything in sound, always FADE UP, not down. The audience much rather listen to something listen to something a little too quiet over loudness (possibly feedback). Whenever something is moved around or a new source or a new speaker is about to talk into a mic. I always fade it down and just continue to bring it up right as they began to speak to avoid any painful or obnoxious volumes. Just don't fade it out too much, just make it so you know you won't have any problems if you have a loud voice or something incredibly inconsistant on your hands.
     
  12. mr_sound

    mr_sound Member

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    Another little trick that I do.....I turn down the levels on the things I have really loud in the mix after each song. They always seem to start a song louder and gradually go softer. Same thing on the monitors. If you've got them cranked, cut them back a bit between songs, or if the band is playing multiple sets, during the set breaks. Their ears get a chance to readjust and they still think your monitors are cranked. This also gives you somewhere to go if they still complain about wanting more...which they always do.
     

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