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  • ChrisMartin 1:46AM

Today's Birthday


when to amplify?

matty42matty42 tyrone, pa✭✭✭
edited May 2013 in Welcome Posts: 67
Some friends and I are heading towards doing some small gigs and some local open mikes. just some local bars and restaurants, nothing too large. At what point is amplification needed? Gypsy style guitars can be pretty loud. Are the natural acoustics enough? If not, what would be recommended pick up and amp wise that would sufice, but not break the bank.

Playing amplified will be a new experience for me so I am really coming at this as a novice. Other than of course when I had my 100 watt marshall stack in high school! haha! But acoustically I'm not familiar with when just a guitar is ok or at what point amps need to be brought in.



  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 391
    Difficult question to answer really, and one that my bands struggle with from gig to gig. I think it's certainly preferable not to amplify - if you can be fairly confident you'll make enough noise that the venue owner/audience won't be bugging you to crank it. My general rule for gigs that I feel responsible for (ones I'm being decently paid for) is that past around the 50/60 people mark, there is a chance I might need to amplify, depending on room size/acoustics, and I should be prepared. But then, I only turn on the amp/PA if it's an absolute necessity. Doing so is always a compromise, and often turning up just makes people talk louder, which is actually counter-productive. Usually for a cafe/bar/restaurant type gig, we play strictly acoustically, as we all play/sing pretty loud, and taking into account that the audiences are there to talk to one another as well as see the band.

    As for pickup and amp, if you're going for an acoustic sound, I think a small generic PA system and an Audio Technica clip on mic like Michael sells here are the best options. Also, you can buy a decent PA setup that will cover the whole band for significantly less than it would cost to buy an AER amp for just one of you, which is the only standalone amp that really sounds good for acoustic guitars to my ear. Some people complain of feedback problems with the mics, but these can be solved by either putting the mic inside the body of the guitar, or just playing louder and giving the mic more signal to work with (generally a good idea anyway).

    If you like the Django electric sound, a Stimer pickup and a small, cheapish tube amp like a Fender Pro Jr would sound great and very 40s authentic too.

    Some bands I've played in have experimented with the one-mic-in-front-of-the-band thing with varying success also. When it works, it's great, and the historically authentic thing to do, but when it doesn't, it's a disaster - especially if you're doing your own sound. Once turned up to a little festival gig with 20 mins to setup and no gear of our own (not a huge stage though - maybe 120 people or so in the audience) after submitting a stage plot, only to be told that we'd be doing our own sound, and that they only had 3 SM57s for us to use, so we set them across the front of the stage vaguely spread across the width of the band, set the gains equally, and it worked really well...somehow...

    At the moment I'm trying to find the right single mic to put in front of the three singers in a vocal band I'm in, to get the Andrews Sisters sound really happening, but it's proving very, very difficult.

    It takes a bit of experimentation and experience to get a feel for what setup suits the venues you are likely to play in, and how much you can get away with just bringing your guitar to the gig.

    Good luck,

  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    While we all love that acoustic sound, this music needs to be sufficiently loud enough to be visceral. Our group (HC of DC) amplifies for almost every gig, even if the amount of amplification is just a touch above the acoustic level. The reason is we never know when not amplifying will not be sufficient. So, we always bring amps and almost always set them up, even if we don't need that much amplification. Gigs have a way of starting out quietly and getting louder as the progress.

    What has worked well for our group has been individual amps for each instrument. Very versatile and each player is responsible for his own sound. We have all settled on Acoustic Image Corus amps, including the bass player. These work great for guitars, violin, bass and singers, are reasonably light and have plenty of power and EQ options. They have two channels with full features on both which comes in handy very often. There are other amps that are similar, but the AI Corus does work very well. A dedicated PA system is a nice way to go, but it is usually heavier, more complicated, takes a fair amount of floor space. Someone has to buy it for the band and lug it around.

    Pickups are always an issue. You will read many pages on this here on the DB forum, so I won't go into details except to say there doesn't seem to be one universal solution, best to have backups. I carry an AT clip on mic, a stick on contact mic and a magnetic pickup to every gig. Usually use the contact mic (AKG C411PP), my fellow guitarist in the group (Joli Gadjo) uses his AT mic. The mag pickup is the bailout option, when nothing else works, the mag will get it done.

    So, go forth and as Joli Gadjo says, "BE LOUD".
  • We primarily play in situations where we must play amplified, that is where simply playing louder will not work.
    Our simple and cheap solution for restaurants and small spaces has been (2) Roland Street Cubes (allowing for a vocalist, two guitars, and melodica) and a bass amp at the bass players discretion. This system works 80% of the time. We basically can be in and out of a space in 10 minutes. EQs are preset and we just work on volume in the first song and adjust as a room becomes louder, without being obnoxious. The key for us is understanding the ratio of being present and being the focal point of the room. In most situations, we are background music, so we try to be present. If it is a performance, we adjust our volumes.

    In larger rooms for larger weddings and private parties, we use a PA with a single floor monitor for the vocalist.I'll have to add that I brought my Compact 60 to a recent wedding gig and the band was really pleased with the sound. The other guitar player may purchase one for himself, as he is also the vocalist.
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    My take is that if you can not hear yourself you need to amplify.
    Playing acoustically is nice but its not always practical.
    Any mic will get you where you want to go, if you have a monitor.
    If you have no monitor system you use your amp as your monitor and if possible run a line out from the amp to a PA.
    The ultimate plug and play is a electromagnetic pickup. Sounds a bit corny but it does the job.
    Requires a different touch. Going electromag is almost another instrument.
    I have a couple of different mics I use. a Carl Countryman that I can tape to the area of the sound hole and a DPA that has a mounting device that suspends the mic where ever you like it.
    They both work.
    The Audio Technica works.
    Its all about having a hyper cardioid mic . Feed back can be a big problem with internally mounted mics. The resonant frequency of the body needs to be EQ'ed out . Which is why often the send from the body mic is tending to be high frequencies , your external mic or pick up for the mids and lows.
    Some folks try to use the clip on mics full range and thats usually a mistake.
    *******************Lets face it, sometimes its just about covering the gig.***************************
    I did a show a few weeks ago with a French guitar with the DPA mic through the PA. Pop music loud but the tunes I used the French guitar on were a couple of Eastern European Gypsy dance tunes. Turbo folk style. Worked out just fine as long as the sound men got me in my monitor.
    If your not getting paid ? Play acoustic and pass the hat !
  • Tele295Tele295 San Buenaventura (Latcho Drom), CA✭✭✭ Gitane DG300, D500
    Posts: 629
    I almost always plug in, even at a restaurant or small wine bar. I'm a big fan of the K&K pickups, and Michael offers one that requires no drilling or getting your hand stuck in the oval hole $85 is a lot easier to swallow than several hundred $$ for a Stimer type.

    The K&K goes well with most amps, but we usually use the Carvin AG100D, as it has two guitar channels plus an XLR vocal channel. The small Roland acoustic amps work well, too.
    Jill Martini Soiree - Gypsy Swing & Cocktail Jazz
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