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Guitar tone won't translate

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by KingRazor, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. When I mix at my church the guitars always seem to sound like nothing but treble. As if they had grabbed both the mid and bass knobs and turned them all the way down and cranked the treble all the way up.

    But then when I stand on stage with the amp blowing in my face, it sounds great. Nice sweet highs, low end punch, everything I could ask for from guitar tone.

    So there's some sort of disconnect going on. When I'm standing in the sound booth the guitar tone sounds harsh and piercing, when I stand on stage in front of the amp it sounds great. Perhaps something to do with the reflections in the room?

    PS the guitarist has just a 15 watt combo on a stand pointed at his face. He's really trying to do his part. I'm just trying to get the sound he's hearing to translate to the audience, and it hasn't worked out well so far.
  2. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Are you mic'ing or D/I'ing?
  3. gumtown


    May 7, 2007
    New Zealand
    Depends on many things, check these..
    Are the guitar amps mic'ed or going direct.
    Are the mic's correct or not damaged/good quality.
    If mic'ed try different positions and angles facing the amp's speaker.
    How is the channel EQ'ed
  4. They are mic'ed but the problem remains even if I mute the channel, it's just made slightly worse by the mic, which is an SM57.

    Most of the time I run with the guitar channel volume on the board bottomed out because it already sounds both too loud and too harsh/trebly even without the mic.
  5. MooseLumps

    MooseLumps Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2007
    Sometimes it's hard to get away from the whole "garbage in, garbage out" thing. If you have a decent condenser mic around, you can cram it against the grill cloth, turn off the bass cut and see if some proximity effect helps. Also, try some masking tape on the grille between the mic and the speaker, and try aiming for the edge of the cone. A di signal Will likely be brighter than the mic signal, but you can high-pass the di signal and mix it in with the mic signal. Also, if the amp is too loud for the room, you will have a hard time correcting for it In house. Put the amp in a back room with the mic and put the guitar signal in his monitor and foh.
  6. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Sounds to me like the amp just isn't sounding all that great on it's own if it sounds bad when it's not even going through the PA. Also, possibly too loud if you need to turn the fader down on the board and it still sounds bad.

    What is he running?
  7. gumtown


    May 7, 2007
    New Zealand
    What if you shut down the main PA volume? Does it sound the same?
    I am thinking about sound bleed to the other vocal mics, perhaps needing gating on them all individually.
    Other than that, the guitarist is playing way toooo loud. His amp should only be a stage monitor for himself, try getting him to turn down, face the amp away from the front.
  8. The amp sounds great if you're standing right in front of it, it's only when you walk out into the room that you start to only hear the high end and it starts to sound harsh. He's running a Fender Blues Junior.

    He has it pointed at himself, not at the audience.

    Would love to put the amp in a back room, but we can't really afford an in-ear monitor setup, and a wedge would present the same problem (and wouldn't sound nearly as good).
  9. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    You need to experiment with moving the mic. Closer to the edge of the speaker will give you more low end. Also try different angles.
  10. 57s can be harsh... placement may be part of it...
  11. Massimo636


    Aug 3, 2011
    Don't point the mic directly at the center of the speaker. Try turning it on its axis slightly to the left or right and/or move the stand left or right from the center of the speaker. That will decrease the harshness of the sound.
  12. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    It's mostly about amp settings, mic placement, and mic choice. Remember that standing in front of an amp sounds very different compared to putting your ear against the speaker. So the mic and the player are hearing two different things. More often than not it's necessary to adjust the amp to favor what the mic picks up as opposed to what the player hears. If the mic'd sound is good you can always give some guitar back to the player through the monitors.

    But before you touch the amp let's look more closely at the mic. The SM57 is a perfectly suitable mic for guitar as long as you know it's two main quirks:

    First and foremost, like most dynamic mics of its kind, the 57 has a pretty sizable "presence peak" around 5kHz (more than 5dB) which is responsible for most unpleasantness related to guitar. Address this first before grabbing the highs (12kHz shelving filter) prematurely. Also keep in mind that the closer you put the mic to the center of the guitar speaker, the more this frequency range will be exaggerated. Remember the very top end of a guitar speaker's fundamental frequency response is about 5kHz (harmonics notwithstanding).

    Second, 57's have a fairly sharp drop in low end starting at 200Hz so by the time you reach 100Hz you're -5dB and by the time you reach 50Hz you're -10dB. But before you go crazy with the bass knob, this isn't as bad as you think. The lowest fundamental frequency on a standard tuned guitar is 80Hz so grabbing the bass knob on your console (typically an 80Hz shelving filter) will do very little to fatten up the overall sound but is fantastic for making mud. All that's needed IMO is flatten out the 100-200Hz range by boosting a little 150Hz. Be careful here because too much bottom may sound good by itself but doesn't always work in a mix.

    If you take care of those two quirks, the 57 is remarkably flat between 200Hz and 4kHz which, coincidentally is where most of the guitar sound lives. Meaning if the sound source is good and the placement is right, the 57 won't let you down.

    If you still struggle with a thin guitar sound regardless of mic placement, then a different mic can help. I like the Sennheiser 421 on guitar as well as the Heil PR30 and Sennheiser e906 (which has a switchable LPF). These mics have better low end response and aren't quite as brash on transients. But they have their own quirks which you have to be mindful of so there's no free lunch.

    If you can't buy more mics, try adding a second SM57 to cabinet. If you ran both mics at equal volume (same gain and eq settings) you'll get a 3dB boost due to the summing. But if you take one side and apply more subtractive EQ, you'll get a 3dB boost of everything that's left, namely the stuff you want. Or process the second channel separately by adding EQ and compression and then blending with the "dry" track. There are many ways to skin this proverbial cat (no animals were harmed in the writing of this post).

    One last important factor: SPL. Dynamic mics are less sensitive and will inherently sound thinner at low levels. On club stages this is never a problem but in today's houses of worship SPL is the new 666. For them I recommend a small, inexpensive iso-cab like the AxeTrak (http://www.jlhproducts.com/axetrak/).

    As always, YMMV, IMO, AARP, KISS

    And if you made it to the end of this post, you should win a prize or something.
  13. ^ Good post:bassist:
  14. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Mixing in church can be tough. We have a stage at ours. There's a door leading off the stage and a closet on one side. We ended up putting the guitar amp IN the closet! That's the only way we could isolate it enough to let the guy turn up at all. So then you don't have to blend the stage and FOH at all. The guitarists didn't like it at first, but he got over it. We use IEM's anyway so there wasn't much difference.
  15. odineye


    Dec 29, 2011
    Bear DE
    Great info, and I'd say the best path to start looking for a solution but, from what the OP has described so far I'd have to say the end of your post covers where the problem is... SPL.

    The 57 is a great utility mic and it can take some really high spl. But in my experience, at low volume their low end and midrange really start to get lost, leaving them sounding pretty thin.

    This is probably one of the only times you'll hear a sound man say this but... The guitar may have to be turned up a bit. :bag:

    The Axetrak is a good idea, but another lower cost solution that I've usually had success with is a simple gobo. It doesn't have to be anything fancy either. I know a guitar player who just flips the soft case from his pedal board up in front of his amp at every gig and has one of the best FOH tones I've heard heard in a long time.
  16. What we really want to do is put the amps in a back room so we can blare them without interfering with the stage sound. We just need a good in-ear monitor solution.

    By the way I tried pointing the mic off-axis and it did help a bit. Thanks for the tip. Also, explaining the fact that the guitar player was hearing his tone from a good 4 or 5 feet away while the mic was hearing it an inch away made him realize that there's a little more to it than just shoving a mic up against the grill and calling it a day.
  17. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Is the amp/mic near a wall, or is there another mic nearby that might be picking up a amp's signal? Phase cancellation, possibly?
  18. The multi-track recordings I've done don't appear to indicate that as being an issue.