Please…this is not a license to play your Mesa Boogie octal rectifier (I’m assuming that’s the correct way to say ‘8 rectifiers, but I’m not sure…because it doesn’t exist…I was just trying to make a point via exaggeration……hmm…note to self…points made by exaggeration seem to become less poignant when you explain them in parentheses) up to its full 100 watts of tube power. No. Don’t. But there are times when a little more stage volume is necessary, not for tone (gasp!…there’s more important things than tone?!), but for the live feel of the band.
For instance, the other night at a church, where I can usually play at my amp’s full 30 watts, I switched down to 15, because the normal drummer was not playing. The new drummer was really, really good; just not as loud. Loudness does not equal skill, guys. No matter what Oz Fox says. (For those of you who don’t know, Oz Fox was one of the original Stryper guitarists. I saw him guest with Guardian one time…oh yes, I said Guardian…this was like 1998…and his guitar was so loud, my knees were literally buckling. Then he went over to the house speakers that were the giant, 12-foot JBL ones sitting on the stage, and…I am not making this up…turned them up. It was like, ‘My amps are already at 11. Where can I get more volume? Hey, look! A bigger amp!’ It was at that point that I decided to cover my ears. And I still heard every note he played.) But the regular drummer is really good, too; one of the best I’ve played with. He just pounds the very life out of those drums.
This is Stryper. And I’m almost positive they’re all dudes. And you think, well, it was the ’80’s. Things have gotten better since then. Ya, maybe not so much. This is from their latest album in 2006:
Oh yes. They dumped the transvestite thing for…what is that? Naked men being born in honey-mustard? Maybe bad taste is just bad taste, no matter what decade you’re in. And someone please help the one on the bottom right, because I think he’s being choked by the umbilical cord. And in fairness, Stryper did do a lot for the Christian music of their generation, and a lot for the Lord. But to say there was no cheesiness involved…well, let’s just say that there absolutely was cheesiness involved. And if you don’t believe me, did you even look at the above pictures?
Anyway, so I’m down at my amp’s 15 watt setting during practice, and the volume on stage is fine. You can hear everybody, and everybody’s playing fine. But there’s a feel that’s missing. And I realize that the band is not being driven by anything. Now, if you asked them, they probably wouldn’t say something needs to be louder. But it’s a perception thing. You can tell when there’s just no energy. And sometimes, a little push can make all the difference. So I flipped back up to the 30 watt setting, but turned the master volume down some. And then I waitied until the song started to build, turned on my volume pedal, and built into the song’s crescendo at my now louder volume. And you could see the energy it gave. Everyone was now ‘feeling’ the music, and the song started to take off. The worship leader motioned for another chorus, the drummer started to hit his peak, the other guitarist wanted to break into a solo, and the bassist and keyboardist started pounding. And take note that I said the other guitarist wanted to break into a solo. This means that I was not solo-ing when I turned up. Getting your guitar feel to drive the band more doesn’t work if you start with a solo…it takes what you intended to be unselfish and for the band, and makes it sound like you’re being ego-ish. (I think the correct word is probably egotistical…definitely don’t feel like deleting it, though.) You gotta do this with rhythm.
Now, it didn’t have to be me. It could have been any of the instruments coaxing the others to crescendo. It just happened that I noticed it first. And please, please, please (for the love of everything you hold dear, please note this), note that I did not turn up much. Just enough to where the stage volume of my guitar could drive the band a bit more. But the sound tech probably did not even notice. It’s a subtle change, but one that needs to happen sometimes. There are points sometimes when you have to stop worrying about what you’re playing, what your tone sounds like, wondering if maybe by some slight chance Edge is going to show up to church tonight and what he’ll think of your delay tones (admittedly that’s probably just me…but unfortunately, it is not made up), and listen to what the band needs from your feel. Not from your sound, but from your feel. And then, if the feel is lacking, you just might have to turn up a little.
And you’ll know if you’ve turned up too much. Ya. From every other person in the band, including the sound tech (he’s probably the most important person in the band). The nice ones will just kind of back off on their instrument and then wait until the song is over to say something kind and non-committal like, ‘Did it sound to everyone else like the monitor mix just went down? I’m having trouble hearing.’ The not so gentle ones (usually the background vocalists…just a quick side note…do not make them angry!! And I mean that in the best possible way, background vocalists. I love you, but I really do not want you to be angry with me) will say something like, ‘What’s that horrible screeching sound coming from somewhere on the right side of the stage, right where that guitar amp is?’
Yep. You’ll know. So try to find that place where your sound is quiet enough to not overpower the mix, but loud enough to drive some good feel out of the band. And Stryper is funny.