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Going Ampless

The struggle is real for electric guitarists in church. How can I get good tone out of my amp so that my instrument sounds good without being so loud that other instruments must turn themselves up to be heard, or the amp is heard in the congregation? It’s not just a problem in small buildings but is also common in larger church settings. Guitar amps are one of the top three contributors to excessive stage noise.


Why is stage noise a problem?

When the noise from the stage is equal or greater than the sound coming from the front of house speakers, we lose the ability to mix the entire group. What the congregation hears is not what we might intend for them to hear. Stage noise is beyond the control of your A/V team and should be addressed so that we can work toward creating an environment that doesn’t distract the congregation from worship.


How can it be fixed?

The solution entails finding a way to allow guitarists to hear themselves with a nicely dialed in amp sound without having to crank up their amp. Ideally, guitarists will hear themselves through the monitors. There are some options that you can try out if you have a guitar amp that is too loud. You could try putting it in another room and mic it, or you could build an isolation cabinet around the amplifier. Now, there is an even better option that has been made available for a while which could solve your problem. The answer is not to use a traditional amplifier.


Companies like Boss, Strymon, Line 6, TC Electronic, NUX, and others are producing guitar pedals that are virtual amplifiers. These produced no stage noise besides what you have in the monitor mix, or none at all if you use ear monitors. They work with cabinet simulators or impulse response (IR) amps as well. They reproduce the sound of different, real-world amplifiers, and let you play digitally through them. There are a lot of articles you could read online about this topic, and I encourage you to do so, but for the purpose of this article, I encourage you to ask yourself: Will the tone from a digital recreation of a tube amp going to replace the tone that you would achieve from the real thing? This is for you to decide. Maybe one day, it will. From the initial development of this concept of modelling amplifiers to the technology that is available now, it is clear to see that there has been a tremendous amount of progress in this area. There are banks of IR’s that you can download onto one of these pedals that will do a fairly good job of getting your favourite amp into the device, and then getting your signal into the sound system. 


Ultimately, our focus as worship team members and leaders is to make sure that whatever we do, our focus remains fixed on facilitating the interaction between God and His people. Reducing stage noise and continuing to improve not only our playing but the tone and quality of our instrument being heard is important. We want to add to worship and not distract our congregations. The focus should always be on God’s life-changing power in the lives of those who worship as we play for them. 

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