23 January, 2009

I've Come To A Realization

I tend to play a song better if I've practiced it regularly for at least a few days (with an accent on the 'regularly') before performing it. Unfortunately, I'm the spontaneous type (at least in this one respect), and I tend to get bored playing the same song over and over again - besides, praticing is so much work.

That's not the realization I've recently come to, though - I've known that for a while. What I've recently realized is that I hardly ever practice my guitar with it plugged in...despite my devotion to the "electric" in "electric guitar". And my guitar actually sounds fantastic unamplified. It's quiet - which is also nice because I can play without disturbing anyone - and I can get such sweet subtle notes by varying the force of my picking.

Anyway, when I play live, it has to be amplified, otherwise nobody will hear it and I'll be booted off the stage. Besides, I love a solid, crunchy tone. That's what "electric" guitar is all about. But here's the problem. Since I practice unamplified, when I finally get out there on the stage and plug in, I'm not prepared to deal with the amplification. For one thing, I don't have the same practice making the guitar give me the sounds I want when it's amplified as I do when it's unamplified - and the two are very different beasts.

Furthermore, I don't have the settings on the amp optimized for what I wanna play. And this is important, because different songs require different attacks. Different levels of distortion work best for different songs, and some songs require a sweeter, cleaner tone. And when I get up there on stage and plug in, my amp's not ready. And when I'm in the moment like that, I don't have the concentration or the will to hold off and set the amp up right. So many a song is ruined by using a sub-optimum setting - and in turn, my confidence shatters, and then my playing suffers.

I had a really great tone the other week when I played Rockin' In The Free World. At least from where I could hear it. It was nice and crunchy, but not so much as to drown the chords. But getting a good tone by luck is the exception and not the rule. What I really need, in addition to continued practice with my guitar itself, is practice with my amp also. The problem with that is a) making a lot of noise can be a problem when you're not in the right spatiotemporal venue, and b) even if you use headphones, it's that added effort that's bound to turn me off of the idea of practicing and doing instead something easier.

Sack up.

Well, there's no doubt about the fact that I need more practice wrestling with the amp. Another trouble is the volume level. The same tone can sound different at different volumes - in particular, you tend to get more distortion at higher volumes. But it's not always easy to judge how much volume you'll be able to get at a particular venue - and it could depend on the mood of the crowd from day to day.

Do you have any idea what sort of things I'd be able to accomplish if I had a fully soundproof chamber? Imagine playing (and singing) as loud as I want, minus the self-consciousness.

Go ahead, imagine it.

I bet you'd like to spend some time in that box, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment