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Post new topic Are The Nuances Of Steel Guitars Lost On The Bandstand?
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Author Topic:  Are The Nuances Of Steel Guitars Lost On The Bandstand?
Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post Posted 21 May 2018 1:04 pm     Reply with quote

You've spent time and hard-earned money to get the perfect pedal steel guitar. It has just the right tone, timbre, vibe, string separation (and whatever other vague descriptive terms you can come up with) and it makes you smile every time you play it.

What happens once you get on stage with 3, 4, 5 other musicians? Once the sound levels go up and all the music and noise is bouncing around the room, what happens to that perfect guitar? Does it still sound the same as it did back at home or in your studio?

All those nuances are still there; but, can you still hear them on stage with that loud crash cymbal ringing in your ears and the bass vibrating the entire stage? Can the folks in the audience and on the dance floor hear them?

Are the subtleties and nuances of your favorite pedal steel guitar lost on a loud bandstand?

Lee, from South Texas
Down On The Rio Grande
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Ollin Landers


From:
Chapel Hill, NC
Post Posted 21 May 2018 1:51 pm     Reply with quote

I was out to hear a friends band last Friday. On the break I was talking with the guitar player about just this topic.

He was playing a semi-hollow Tele with stock fender Humbuckers. The conversation went something like this.

ME: I was surprised you were able to get such a nice jangly sound out of those humbuckers.

HE: Thanks for saying that. When I switch the coil tap or use a specific effect most people just say it got loud.

So yes. I think it does make a difference to some people. But it always makes a difference to me even if I can't hear it all the time.
_________________
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Randy Schneider


From:
Central Texas, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 3:12 pm     Reply with quote

As an audience member, it's hard for me to pick up on too many subtleties. If I'm close to the stage, I've generally got some sort of earplugs in...
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Kevin Fix


From:
Michigan, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 5:10 pm     Reply with quote

My EQ settings stay the same. If the band gets loud I may have to increase my Reverb setting a little. My master gain is set wide open and my pre-gain I adjust to how loud the band is and what I need to effectively use my volume pedal properly. I am using a NV 112.
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Peter Leavenworth


From:
Madbury, New Hampshire, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 5:54 pm     Reply with quote

I think this speaks to a bigger issue of developing professionalism and onstage listening. Occasionally, volume gets out of hand by accident but more often it’s by players who aren’t used to LISTENING to the whole music presentation, and subsuming their own part within it. Jamming at bluegrass festivals with acoustic instruments or at informal private jams aren’t critical but playing in public as paid entertainment means, I believe, holding yourself to higher standards. Players should develop habits of always support vocalists, which often means generally staying out of the way. Actually, I often stop playing or play at a whisper for verses or when someone else is soloing - just like the mix on a professional recording. Less is nearly always more in terms of listenability. Once players patiently treat their performances with truly open ears, every instrument’s subtleties will be available to listeners.
_________________
1996 Mullen PRP D-10, 1974 Emmons D-10, 1976 Emmons D-10, early 70s Emmons S-10, Carter S-10, Milkman Sideman head w/Telonics 15" speaker, Fender DeVille 410, Music Man HD130, Wechter/Scheerhorn and Beard Dobros, 1962 Supro lap steel, Gibson 1939 RB-11 banjo, Gibson 1978 RB-250 banjo
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Greg Lambert


From:
Illinois, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 6:56 pm     Reply with quote

I have played at a few steel conventions and the problem with hearing the subtleties are not there. But then again the back up musicians are in the professional realm.
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Dan Robinson


From:
Colorado, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 9:28 pm     Reply with quote

I don't know if a blanket answer is valid. But I can say with confidence that the nuances of MY steel guitar are lost (if I had any to begin with).

Randy Schneider wrote:
If I'm close to the stage, I've generally got some sort of earplugs in...

Same here. Out front, or on the bandstand, I always use some sort of hearing protection.

The usual pattern at a gig is:

I use in-ear monitors, custom mix, NOT turned up loud. Yes I can hear the subtleties, tone control adjustments, picking position and attack, intonation, bar technique...

During first break the band says, "We can't hear the steel. You're not loud enough."

Begin second set. Bass player with 500-watt amp turns up his volume. Drummer starts full-body workout. Need I say more? I remove In-Ears, insert good foam ear-plugs, listen to my own amp instead of a monitor, reduce reverb level so it doesn't get [more] muddy, and hope for the best.

With apologies to Ronnie Milsap, subtleties are "Lost in the 60's Tonight." Don't get me wrong, I like playing out, and prefer it to sitting at home wishing I was. But this seems to be the current "state of the art."

Refer to "never-ending stage volume" thread.
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Georg Sørtun


From:
Mandal, VA, Norway & Weeki Wachee, FL, USA
Post Posted 21 May 2018 10:46 pm     Reply with quote

If you want to get heard in "loud" situations, cut the bass (seriously), turn up the mids and overall volume, and dig in. At high levels bass gets muddy anyway, so leave that range to the bass-player and the drummer.

If that doesn't cut it, forget all about "subtleties" and "nuances" and add distortion…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UASaVxkN_o8
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Lee Baucum


From:
McAllen, Texas (Extreme South) The Final Frontier
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 8:39 am     Reply with quote

Randy Schneider wrote:
As an audience member, it's hard for me to pick up on too many subtleties. If I'm close to the stage, I've generally got some sort of earplugs in...


Agreed.

I wonder if musicians who don't play steel guitar would ever pick up on the subtleties that are important to us.

I'm sure that non-musicians could not care less.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 9:14 am     Reply with quote

I agree with Georg, raising midrange before volume is the way to go with an amateurish stage sound. I have been lucky to play with more great musicians than slobs, and the good ones have noticed my sound and my playing as much as I do theirs.

If you stay true to your playing style and bring the subtle nuance to the stage every time, your band mates and audience might not notice it for what it is, but they might notice that something is making the band sound good.
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Pat Chong


From:
New Mexico, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 12:02 pm     Reply with quote

Music is just like a conversation, where each one takes his/her turn to "say" something. It is hard to do that properly, though, when someone loudly dominates the "conversation".

However, if it is not buried too much, people can pick out what they want to hear........Pat
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Bill Moore


From:
Manchester, Michigan
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 12:51 pm     Reply with quote

Georg is right. What sounds good at home usually won't sound that great on the bandstand. At home, we like to hear a nice kind of bassy tone, mids turned down, without sharp highs, and it does sound better at home. Playing with a band, this tone just blends in with the bass and drums, and gets muddy. If you play louder, that makes it sound worse. With a band, I cut the bass some and turn up the mids, make sure the highs are clear sounding, and try not to add too much reverb and delay. It's a cleaner sound that you can hear over the clutter of the other instruments, without getting too loud.
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Steve Spitz


From:
New Orleans, LA, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 4:28 pm     Reply with quote

I’m of the thinking that if you have to find a personal EQ solution to cut through a too loud stage volume problem, you’ve lost the battle.

Yes, I agree you want to find that sonic space in the overall mix, where you can be best heard.

I think subtlety from any of the players is decreased if the band lacks dynamics, or if they don’t understand simple ensemble protocol.
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Steve Spitz


From:
New Orleans, LA, USA
Post Posted 21 Oct 2018 4:33 pm     Reply with quote

I’m of the thinking that if you have to find a personal EQ solution to cut through a too loud stage volume problem, you’ve lost the battle. Hard to display any nuance at that point.

Yes, I agree you want to find that sonic space in the overall mix, where you can be best heard.

I think subtlety from any of the players is decreased if the band lacks dynamics, or if they don’t understand simple ensemble protocol.
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