The Electric: Amp Isolation

Each Week I’ll try and address different aspects of the practical side of playing electric guitar in church music.

This week we’ll talk about Isolating Your Guitar Amplifier. 

Stage Volume is one of the Most Common Technical Issues for a church Electric Guitar Player.

Electric Guitars by their nature require amplification. They are NOT acoustic instruments. The reality is however that for many churches, stage volume is a constant issue and the amps (guitar, bass, keyboard) are constant culprits. The problem for the sound guys is keeping stage volume under control and the problem for the guitar players is that amps, especially tube amps, liked to me cranked a little for the best tone.  What’s the solution?

I don’t know how many sound guy’s I’ve heard say “go digital”. So and So uses a Line6 POD, why can’t you? I owned a PODXT Live for about 4 years. They are good, they work, they just don’t sound right. There is something off in the sound. Plus, if you’ve already invested in a decent amp and a few effects pedals, why would you spend another $400 for a POD HD or $200 for a used XTLive off Craiglist? I’m not going to totally dismiss this option outright. I used a POD for several years and they are passable, and if that’s the route you want to go then more power to you. But for a lot of us we want that real amp, and for a lot of worship leaders, we want that real tube amp sound in our band. What do we do? Amp Isolaton.

How Do You Isolate Your Amplifier?

This can be accomplished a few ways.

-The church could spring for an Amp Isolation Cab. I’ve heard from guys at other churches and guitar shops that they are effective, but at the price and if you have more than one amp its hardly cost effective.

-You could use a drum shield. It works the same way as with a drum set. You can create the “fish bowl” and just mic the amp. Honestly, this is something that I hadn’t really considered until I looked into it for this post. I think it’s a very valid solution, the problem with it from where I sit is the footprint it creates on a stage, and I’ve rarely seen a church stage were space wasn’t at a premium.

-How I do it, and I fully admit this is the poor man’s method. Calvary:Arlington rents a school, and off to the side of the stage is a small office to the side of the stage so we can just run a long XLR chord for the mic out to the Amp placed in the office and crank the thing. (I do have to daisy chain 1/4 cables through a DI box).

Do I Actually Need To Worry About This?

Amp Isolation solves the problems of stage volume from the electric guitar. But what if you want that problem? What to i mean? Well, if you have an acoustic and an electric, or just a piano and bass, you need to fill in the sound that a full band would normally fill the room with. The bigger the band, the more I want to isolate my amp. But if it’s just me and a leader on acoustic, I want the amp in the room to fill the soundscape of the room.

Remember that not every problem needs to be solved, and when you solve an issue you often create another one. If stage volume is an issue it’s up to you, the worship leader, and the sound crew to figure out if it needs to be solved, and if so, which method works best for all parties involved.

One thought on “The Electric: Amp Isolation

  1. Pingback: Vocal Range, Hymns and Other Questions « Real World Worship Leading

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