Lou Hinkley

Amplifying the Acoustics

articles from Acoustic Musician Magazine

Amplifying the Acoustics #4


Location, location, location; it means everything in real estate and is not to be ignored with acoustic guitar amps. Getting a good sound from your amp and being able to hear it, is often just a matter of moving away from the amp.

The proximity effect is apparently natures way of getting our ears to lie to us. You the artist, are right next to your amplifier and something sounds weird yet everyone else in the room says it sounds great. If you really do have to sit right next to your amp then take time to listen to the amp from a point at least eight feet in front of it before radically adjusting EQ to compensate for that "weird" sound.

From a mechanical standpoint, when a guitar has a transducer (saddle or sound board pick-up) or internal mic the entire top of the guitar becomes a microphone diaphragm. Even my five year old niece knows what happens when she points a mic into a speaker. First rule, treat your guitar as if it were a mic and do not point it directly at a speaker. This immediately brings us to the problem of stage monitors; all those speakers positioned for you to hear them and where they point to the backs of the microphones; and directly at the front of your guitar. Having your own amp positioned behind you, and reducing the level of guitar in the monitor mix will go a long way towards solving stage feedback and sound quality problems.

If possible experiment with the placement of your speaker as a means to solving feedback or resonance problems before resorting to EQing your sound. Placing the speaker behind you and directed towards your ears is often best, having the amp right next to you, where the speaker is on the same plane ( in line not airline ) as your guitar can present resonance, proximity and feedback problems.

Performers use their amps in many ways, sometimes as the only sound source, such as a coffee house performance. On most stages your amp is your reference, your key to consistent quality sound with whatever PA you are using. Many performers mic their acoustic instrument amps for the mains signal source and to fold back through the monitors for greater stage volume as needed. What this has to do with location is that if you adjust your EQ to solve a problem caused by the location of your amp, you might be trashing your sound for the audience.

Acoustic Musician / April 1997