Small Gear For Big Bands Part 1
Performing musicians playing clubs and smaller venues are often faced with crowded stages and variable house sound capabilities. Most band members own compact vehicles today for economic and environmental reasons. Moving and setting up large amps, drum kits, and PA systems can be a problem. It’s time to consider small gear for all players. A trend has developed even in large venues to reduce the size and quantity of stage equipment as the large hired sound systems provide all front-of-house (FOH) volume. Power acts such as Metallica and ZZ Top are now seen performing with no amps visible.
This concept can be created by club acts as compact powered PA speakers and low wattage amps provide the tones and volume desired. The PA system becomes the source of all high volume projecting into the audience reducing stage volume and the balance battle that can occur among performers. This is also beneficial to preserving hearing of the players.
The evolution of guitar amps, bass combos, digital keyboards, digital drum kits, powered PA speakers, sub-woofers, and monitors make this transition possible. We’ll discuss guitar amps in this first installment. Check (www.earcraftmusic.com) at the “Blog” button for postings to follow.
Very small guitar amps can always be miked to provide a feed into the mixer for the FOH PA that captures both the amp and speaker sound. Amps by a number of manufacturers including Line 6, Roland, and Blackstar include a “Speaker Emulation” or “Line Out” socket that feeds the amp signal to a mixer line input providing “cabinet” sound without a mike. This prevents other instruments bleeding into the guitar channel. The internal speakers provides coverage with reduced volume.
Players that already have a small tube combo amp with a plug-in speaker connection or power head can use a device like the Mesa Boogie “CABCLONE”. It replaces the speaker providing silent output suitable for direct PA connection as well as headphone monitoring. This unit supplies a “load” to the amp protecting it from damage. A “Through” output allows the combo speaker or separate cabinet to provide on-stage monitoring.
These same amps and devices can be used to provide “DI” (direct input /direct injection) for connection of guitars to recording studio boards and audio interfaces popular with Home/Project studios. This technique eliminates sound bleed of other instruments and improves the quality of a feed from less than optimal mikes and acoustic conditions in smaller untreated spaces.
Next time we’ll examine the approach for bass players. Size reduction of the rig, while more challenging than a guitar setup, can be accomplished. That big room-filling bottom can still be provided!