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Advice on Acoustic Guitar?

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  • Advice on Acoustic Guitar?

    I'm just starting to incorporate my acoustic guitar into our church's worship band that currently has a piano, organ, drums, and bass. I guess I have a couple of questions:

    1. What type of amp is good for an acoustic guitar in a worship band?
    2. What is the best way to make my guitar heard? Right now we're putting a mic up to my amp but that doesn't always work. I have a very cheap 15W amp right now.
    3. Any other advice would be extremely helpful! I am the first person to play guitar at my church so this is very new to me


    Thanks!

  • #2
    Any particular reason that you want to play through an amp? The vast majority of the acoustic guitarists I know run direct into the system (normally with an acoustic-electric guitar).
    Eric Frisch
    www.ericfrisch.com

    Comment


    • #3
      Congratulations! You've got the best, most versatile, most expressive, most musically awesome instrument in the mix!

      I recommend, first and foremost, you tuning your guitar a full step down. Most 'F' songs sound better in 'G' and most 'D' songs sound better in 'E' and it's a three way tie as to whether 'Bb' songs sound better in 'C' (capo 0), 'A' (3), or 'G' (5).

      Get yourself six different types of capos!!! A full capo, cut capo (3 strings), reverse cut capo (other three strings), (five string capo), four string capo, "third hand" capo and a spider capo (the last two appear to do the same thing, but work up different parts of the neck). Master them.

      Study music theory. Baloche has a primer, but I would then learn it from a classical musician's perspective.

      Print out a copy of the notes on your guitar neck, and craft that all-important final home-tone of the song you play. Use a combination of multiple capoes and basic CAGED shapes to craft these. Keep in mind that you want to honor both the melody, and you want to emphasize one of three notes: a root note (if it's a song where one makes a decision for action, or a song that emphasizes weightiness e.g. God's Kingship), a third note (if it's a song aimed to teach, or, if it's a song about embracing humility), or a fifth note (a song of being in God's presence). Have the exact same note reside on two adjacent strings, perhaps above the melody.

      This is a fun exercise, but it will make your instrument complement the song perfectly, whether you're playing w a group or not...

      Enjoy!
      Nick
      Nick Alexander
      Host, The Prayer Meeting Podcast
      Worship that is Contemporary, Traditional, Charismatic, Contemplative, Spontaneous, based on the Church calendar, play it whenever you want.
      Find out what Nick Alexander can do for your conference, retreat or workshop.

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      • #4
        Hi MoreFreshFruit,
        I've never used an amp for my acoustic (I run into my POD X3, then direct into the system), but a couple of mates who I admire greatly use Marshall AS50D's I believe (though they may use the AS100D). I guess it depends on your system and what's available.
        If your current amp has a line out (either direct, or XLR), then that might be your best option, to use your amp to provide foldback for you, and send the tone to the desk. If you don't have a system, or aren't able to connect up to the system (for whatever reason), you'd probably be best upgrading to a 50w or 100w amp. That will allow you to boost your volume, without having to feel like you have to pound your guitar to be heard. The AS100D looks like it would be the most versatile, having a dual XLR output which means you could hook up to the system if desired. Of course it all depends on your budget.

        If you stick with mic'ing up your amp, make sure you get a good microphone. Try it at various positions (both distance from the speaker, and off-centre/on-centre), as that really does affect the tone that is sent to the desk. If you're having trouble getting the mic to pick up the sound, try turning up the gain at the desk, and reducing the volume slider. You'll have to be careful though, as boosting the gain can result in feedback. Best to try and get the levels right on a Saturday afteroon when there's no-one in the church.

        As for other tips - Learn your capos, and learn your transpositions. I only use the one capo, and I work out what fret I can play it in with the most open chords. My favourite trick is the 5th fret capo - it puts it on the 5th note of the original chord. So for example, a D chord can now be played as an A, an F chord as a C, Bb as an F, etc. It's a very simple way to get some different voicings as well. I might play a song in A - which might have a lot of open chords - up on the fifth fret because it gives some different voicings which make it sound nice. Unfortunately, the only way to figure it out is to try it out.

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        • #5
          Most electric amps do not sound good with acoustics. Unless you are going to run an acoustic amp, go directly to the system with a DI box. If you want, get a delay and maybe an OD pedal, or a multi. You can buy a cheap on for about $50 to play with.

          I keep two capos in my kit - a standard and a regular cut capo. I also keep a decent instrument mic (a Sennheiser e609) just in case the gremlins strike. Also spare batteries for the pre-amp. And spare strings. Always have spare strings.

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          • #6
            I use an Ultrasound acoustic amp at church. It's beautiful, lightweight and is delivers a great sound. I used it as a monitor and then run a direct out from it to the board so it serves as a preamp, but it has some nice built in fx so I don't have to worry about bring chorus or anything.

            At home and gigging I use a Fender Acoustasonic amp, same principle, but this baby cranks and has two channels + a mic input.

            You can run direct into the board, just make sure you have a go Direct Box.

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            • #7
              Kent Morris talks about eq'ing Paul Baloche's $10,000 McPherson to sound like a $50 guitar from Sears. The rich deep acoustic sound we guitarists like when we're playing by ourselves can really muddy up the mix when we're playing with a full band. He recommends taking out a lot of the lows and mids so the sharp percussive sound of the acoustic cuts through the mix. You can do that on your built-in eq or on the board/amp.

              I've got some free videos on chord voicings and other guitar technique here and here. Drop me an email jon(at)worshipteamcoach.com if you have any questions. Love to chat guitar.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by NickAlexander View Post
                Congratulations! You've got the best, most versatile, most expressive, most musically awesome instrument in the mix!
                Except for bass, that is...

                Great advice so far. Where I have seen acoustic guitar players struggle is unusual key signatures. The advice on capos is good, I haven't seen too many acoustic players tune down a step, but that would work too- as long as it's not confusing. If possible, maybe have two guitars- one at standard tuning and one down a step.

                As far as sound, many DI boxes have the 1/4 in, plus the balanced DI out and a 1/4" out. If you are using an acoustic/electric, you can run your line out of the guitar into the box, run the balanced DI line to the board and the 1/4 line to a small amp you can use for a monitor. This gives you a monitor and the house a clean signal.

                As far as effects, keep it to a minimum. Maybe a light touch of chorus (light) or reverb, but it's important to keep that natural sound. Part of that is running your on-board preamp EQ flat to start with. It's tempting to boost or cut things you hear, but for the house to have a good starting point, start with a flat EQ. Too much low boost brings mud, too much high boost can bring in high-frequency noise, etc.

                Be prepared to transpose a lot of your own music. Piano players aren't always akin to the needs of acoustic guitar, so you might have to take a song sheet in one key and transpose it to something you can use with a capo or drop tuning. There are online tools that can help with this.

                Learn more than one chord position. This is another area I see less experienced acoustic players struggle. They learn first position chords, but don't learn the alternate barre chords or 'cheater' chords. Also, playing alternate position chords can really add a cool sound to fill out the overall spectrum.

                Learn not to depend on the sheet of music- pay attention to what's going on around you and wean yourself off staring at the song sheet. (I wish more people would do this). Pay attention to your rhythm section and what the leader is doing. Add to it.

                Good acoustic players really do add a lot to the dynamic. You can play rhythm, some real nice fills and phrases in key spots, especially on more intimate songs. Don't limit yourself to just playing basic rhythm. If you can play fills or start off songs, work it out with the leader to get those opportunities.

                Have fun! Enjoy it! Praising (and playing) with joy is contagious- not only to your team, but to the congregation.
                If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Thank you guys for all of your advice, it was really helpful!

                  I definitely agree with learning how to use a capo for some weird keys. I have already learned to just being blank lead sheets to practice so I can fill them in. Also, I have always wondered if I should just use my amp for a monitor then just run my guitar through the system. Unfortunately I was told that that would destroy the tone of my guitar by someone which not so much experience so I took his word for it.

                  Which brings me to one more question. Last month, we started to incorporate not only my acoustic, but an electric guitar, and a bass. Along with these instruments we have piano, and organ, and drums. I am finding that all of the guitars are having a lot of trouble blending together...it sounds like we're all competing to see who can be the loudest. Plus, we all just use our amps, which leads to a horrible roar on the platform. Now, how does your worship team do it? Should all of the guitars run through the sound system?

                  Thanks so much for your help!

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                  • #10
                    Here's what we do. All of our acoustic guitar players, bass guitar players, and electronic keyboard players run straight to the mixing board. Drums are micd to the board. The electric guitar amp is micd to the board. We use an Aviom system for the instrumentalists' monitors. The WL and other singers each have a mic to the board, and have floor monitors.

                    The Aviom system eliminated the guitar volume wars. Before the Aviom system, we were much like you described. Everybody turned their own amp/monitor up, so they could hear their own playing. One would get too loud, then the other would have to turn up, so they could hear their own playing over the others. Not good.

                    As the acoustic player, during the amp war peiod, I just decided to not become yet another combatant. I did not use an amp for the acoustic guitar. I figured that I really did not need to hear myself playing on the stage. Just knowing that I was playing the right stuff, at the right time, was enough. I didn't need to hear it all to know that I was playing it right.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MoreFreshFruit View Post
                      Which brings me to one more question. Last month, we started to incorporate not only my acoustic, but an electric guitar, and a bass. Along with these instruments we have piano, and organ, and drums. I am finding that all of the guitars are having a lot of trouble blending together...it sounds like we're all competing to see who can be the loudest. Plus, we all just use our amps, which leads to a horrible roar on the platform. Now, how does your worship team do it? Should all of the guitars run through the sound system
                      I would venture that most of us have been in this sort of situation at some point. As far as I'm concerned, the only real way to do it is to get everything into the system and make sure you have really good monitoring so everyone can hear what they need. Much like Nick, we send everything through the system and into our in ears - we mic amps (offstage or facing backstage) for electrics and run acoustics, bass & keys direct.
                      Eric Frisch
                      www.ericfrisch.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        last two posts - frisch and nick98338 - are offering great advice on monitors, onstage amps, etc. If you can't afford wireless in-ear or avioms (or even HearTechnologies scaled back personal mixer system), Frisch had a great set up at his church using some inexpensive headphone amps. I stole it from him (the idea, not the equipment) at my last church to get my band on in-ears and cut stage volume way back. It'd be worth a conversation with him.


                        One of the best (and toughest) things for most of us musicians to learn about monitors is to add only what keeps us in time and on pitch. I really appreciate Nick's heart:
                        Originally posted by nick98338 View Post
                        As the acoustic player, during the amp war peiod, I just decided to not become yet another combatant. I did not use an amp for the acoustic guitar. I figured that I really did not need to hear myself playing on the stage. Just knowing that I was playing the right stuff, at the right time, was enough. I didn't need to hear it all to know that I was playing it right.
                        It's a tough and mature choice you don't see many musicians making. But it's ultimately not about us. The whole dying to self thing needs to happen onstage, too. Not saying we play blind (or I guess, deaf), but often we don't need as much "me" as we think.

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                        • #13
                          Yep, many of us have been through the volume wars. They can be frustrating.

                          There are a couple different things you can do, besides what's already been mentioned- particularly if IEMs and headphone amps are outside the scope of your solutions.

                          Every band needs to learn how to blend together. This has to be facilitated by the leader, but you can help. The natural tendency is to want to hear yourself above everything and it takes time for people to learn how to blend and be comfortable at a lower volume. The main thing this will affect is the house sound. If the stage volume is bleeding over into the house, your sound guys will get frustrated. It will take time and patience. But, there is a realistic expectation that the stage volume will be kind of loud, especially with acoustic drums and a couple guitars. Some people struggle with that, too- especially singers. A somewhat objective measure is using an SPL meter if you have one. They can tell you how many decibels you have on stage. However, they don't always account for frequency- some frequencies sound twice as loud at 60dB as others.

                          Stage layout can make a big difference. Some strategic layouts can alleviate a lot of the issue. Think about where everyone is at. For example, don't put the singers in front of the drums (or guitar amps, for that matter). Some solutions for guitars are amp stands, so the guitar player can point the amp at them to help them hear it, or pointing the amp sideways across the back of the stage. You could also lay the amp flat so the sound goes up. There are also boxes available where the amp can go inside and be miked, so you still get the good tube sound without the huge volume.

                          The thing with most guitar amps is they are usually very directional- the sound goes in a narrow pattern directly in front. This is important to understand because many guitar players wind up with the amp at their feet, and it isn't loud at their ears because all the sound is blowing past their feet so they crank it, but 15 feet in front of the amp it's ear splitting. Another thing, especially with tube amps, they really sound best as they are cranked up- that's what makes the tubes do their thing. So just telling them to turn down isn't always the best idea. If the guy has a small amp, a lot of those are solid state, and depending on the quality, a lot of solid state 'distortion' and effects settings can be harsh. Les experienced guys don't always pick up on that as easy, so maybe a little amp tweaking would help too. Some guys even use a quality guitar pod and run through the house. Guitar players don't often like to do that because they are at the mercy of the sound guy and sometimes that 's a valid concern.

                          As far as the bass, the bass amp should be near the drummer so the two can hear each other and work together. The drummer is the one who needs to hear it most. Your bass player shouldn't need to use anything over a good 200W combo tops. He don't need a half stack. If that's all he has, that's different, but you don't need to shake the floor. Believe me, I like rattling dentures and tickling toes, but not at 9AM on Sunday.

                          Pay attention to what's behind the drums. If it's a brick wall or other solid surface, the sound will resonate off the wall and add to the problem. You have the sound from the drums, and by the time the sound bounces off the back wall and you hear it again, it could be out of phase with the original sound, and it sounds muddy. If you can get the plexiglass barrier and some sound deadening panels, it would help. Also try to get your drummer to use softer sticks and play quieter. I know a lot of drummers don't like to hear that, but they can do it. Another thing to think about is the drum kit. They don't need a massive kit with 4 crash cymbals, 4 toms, and a double bass pedal and a bunch of other stuff. They aren't Neal Peart or Keith Moon. A basic kit removes the temptation of 'it's there, I have to hit it'. Most of the best drummers I play with have very simple kits.

                          As far as piano and organ, this can create a sonic mud issue as well. Both of these instruments have a wide spectrum and many people trained to play them are trained to play by themselves but not always with other instruments. What usually happens, the organ player is playing a bass key on the floor plus a really full chord with a lot of bass and mids in it, the piano player is laying into their bass key and mid range chord, plus a guitar player playing first position chords, then throw in a bass player playing heavy at the end, there is this wall of very unpleasant sonic mud because everyone is competing for the same sonic space. Piano and organ players need to learn to lay off the bass keys when they are playing with a bass player, and spread out a bit. Someone can play higher chords, or layer in some light stuff over the top of the other, these kinds of things. Again, it's back to the band learning to listen to what each other is doing and working together. It will fill out the sound and alleviate some of the volume issue.

                          Hope this helps,

                          Mike
                          Last edited by Mike on Bass; 08-26-2011, 09:44 AM.
                          If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.

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                          • #14
                            Thanks for the advice, everyone! You have no idea how much this helps.

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