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Hearing etc...

6/9/2000 5:40 PM
Jay Doyle
Hearing etc...
On the topic of hearing quality etc. I offer my take on the subject. Keep in mind that my electronic experience has been with effects and absolutely NONE with amps.  
I understand the wish to be able to hear the differences between one type of wire with another, on type of resistor with another, one type of cap etc. BUT when I finally test out my equipment for the quality of sound I ask the opinion of a friend of mine who can't play a lick on any instrument and just simply enjoys music. I then ask him how it sounds. If he likes it (or at the least, can appreciate the sonic changes) AND I like it, I consider it a success.  
The reason I do it this way is because the people whose opinion I truly care about in terms of my tone (other than mine of course) are the lowest common denominator, the audience. I believe that once your amp has been miked, amplified on the club's sound system and mixed with the other instruments in your band, there won't be one damn person in the room that can hear the extra layer of harmonics coming from your non-shielded preamp tube amp. If you believe different, I would like to hear why.  
Fact is, the differences between most of the "subtle" mods that a lot of people here espouse, are improvements only to those that can appreciate them. I just don't think that your average audience (which is who we should be doing this for, almost as much as ourselves) can tell the difference. This does not make those mods worthless, however. If the change in tone helps you to practice and create more music/enjoyment for yourself, than it is ALWAYS valuable. But before someone gets anal about this mod or that mod, they should consider the final outcome and who is REALLY going to hear it and be able to appreciate it.  
Jay Doyle
6/10/2000 8:37 PM

Wow - why did none of us mention this.  
I once spent months trying to get the perfect Les Paul/Marshall 50 blues tone. I was really happy during the first gig with the new gear, and at the end an old friend, not a musician of any sort, says "guitar sound was a bit thin tonight."  
Jay , you're absolutely right, because I was getting a tone that pleased me - but not the people that had come to hear me play. I've been working on trying to get sounds that do both ever since!
6/11/2000 3:42 AM

Simply put, if I like my tone, I play my best. More than half the folks in the audience can't tell if I'm in tune or not, why would I want their input on the subtleties of my guitar sound? (and do they care?) I as the "artist" (or whatever) have to be happy with the elements of my performance first and foremost.  
It all reminds me of that record, err, CD producer joke.  
Q: "How many producers does it take to make a CD?"  
A: "I dunno, what do you think?" ;-)  
I hear what you're saying, I just repectfully disagree.  
FWIW I bounce all my creations off of other musicians to get feedback.
6/13/2000 6:12 PM

To a certain extent, I think some of those with more than one amp or guitar are already beyond the *lowest common denominator* concept.  
It is very sensible when playing to the average audience to feel that they will not appreciate anything more than an average guitar & amp, anything better might be wasted. This is the major part of the instrument business, and music stores have always had more than enough average amps available for average players to fully entertain average audiences with no tweaking whasoever.  
To conserve their few outstanding amps & guitars, those players who have them will usually only use them in performances where the above average response will not be wasted. For average audiences they use their lesser gear.  
For the few players who are or aspire to be above average players, along with those who might not put the priorities of the average audience as important, that seems to be the driving force behind tweaking. In a situation where any average Fender, Crate, Marshall, or Peavey will do, it might be considered excessive to use a boutique amp or worry about what kind of tubes or speakers you have. Some think its a waste of time to even rehearse for *average* gigs where they think the audience will not care.  
Then there are those who just always want to sound their best without wanting low denominators to come into the equation, and will put in the effort. There is only so far you can go with guitar, amp, speaker, & tube selection before internal tweaking of the amp or other instruments will be necessary to approach the desired output for these picky players. And that's just one of the reasons Ampage attracts so much interest in this area . . .
6/13/2000 6:45 PM
Rick Erickson

Hi Jay,  
Q{BUT when I finally test out my equipment for the quality of sound I ask the opinion of a friend of mine who can't play a lick on any instrument and just simply enjoys music.}  
I have a friend like that too, only he plays a little bit. His ears are pretty well fine tuned to hear the nuances that mine might overlook. He has also taken the time to demonstrate the differences he hears in things like RCA Blackplate 6L6's, Telefunken 12AX7's etc. in a way that I could relate to and understand. Sometimes it isn't what you hear but what you don't hear that makes a difference. For example, if you ears aren't ringing after playing an amp full out then that's a noticable improvement over a set of tubes that do hurt your ears. It would seem that overtones that aren't sonically apparent do effect the ears. I was rather surprised to have this demonstrated to me.  
We still disagree about various things, he's a carbon comp. resistor fan for example, but that will be another experiment for another day.  
A soundman can make or break your band. I play weekends with a local band and pretty much use the same gear at every show. One night we had a different soundman who uses a very obscure mic on my amp, I think it's called a Monarch (made in Japan). At the end of the night I had guitarists comming up to see what the heck I was using because my guitar sound was blowing them away. Several of these guys were players that I admire so it meant a lot to me. The next gig our usual soundman came up to me after the first set and told me he thought my guitar sounded thin. He's a guitar player himself and we've been having dissagreements about my tone since he started working with us. It really upset him when I mentioned that the week before, (with a different soundman) my tone was blowing people away. I didn't mean to ofend him, I was just trying to explain that my guitar and amp are capable of some very good tone through the PA - given the proper microphone, placement & tweeking at the board. In short - you may have a killer stage tone but if your PA equipment & soundman aren't on top of it then it may never reach the audience.  
6/13/2000 7:48 PM
bill m.

i agree, fwiw, with ALL of you. :)
namely, that one has to take multiple "constituencies" into account to get one's "best" tone and performance: oneself, other band members, friends with good ears, other musicians, the average audience, etc.
it's like other kinds of communication issues: the sender thinks he's sending the message he wants the receiver to get, but that doesn't always happen due to sender's vocabulary choices vs. receiver's vocabulary and emotional slant, etc.
thus the sender has to constantly check his inner subjective view with other outside views to fine tune his presentation--the musician should check his perception of tone and performance with others' perceptions.
this is what les paul was telling me a week ago monday at the iridium club in nyc: you are inviting the audience members into your living room, so to speak, to have a good time. your mission is to make them happy, lp said--and you have to check how they are doing with your show moment to moment, attending to their body language as well as their applause or catcalls, to decide how long to play a song or solo, or what song to play next....
masters of musical skill and performance, take muddy waters as another example, know and use this--and this makes them great communicators in music.
my four cents (2 from me, 2 from lp),bill
6/14/2000 3:51 PM
Mark Hammer
Idol worship
I'm envious. Mr. Polfus is one of the few musical folks I would really like to meet (A dream come true would be to have him sit in on Mr. Rogers). If this guy has not received an honorary degree in engineering yet from some university, then something is very wrong.

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