5 Tips the Pros Use To Sound Better Live

Tips for getting great sound playing guitar live on stage

When you’re playing live it’s important to make sure that you’re coming across in the best way possible. This usually means that you’ll need to employ the same tactics that guitar legends use to blow their audiences away and dominate the spotlight.

But how exactly do these players achieve such amazing live tone and build their fan bases by the hundreds?

Here are some tips and tricks that will help you sound like a professional in no time…

#1 – Preparation

Have you ever noticed that famous guitar players always have sleek and shiny frets? Not only does a clean guitar look great, but it plays better too! It’s important that your fretboard is 100% clean before you restring with a fresh pair of strings.

Click here for best practices when cleaning your guitar!

On average, most famous guitar players replace their strings after every live show. Fretboard cleaning and conditioning is also very important during this process, as a dirty fretboard will cause a new pair of strings to go dead instantly.

New strings and a perfectly clean fretboard will not only result in great tone, but also your instrument will play more smoothly and you will feel more at ease. This is an important aspect for live performances.

If you have high pH acid levels, you may be prone to getting more sweat on your fretboard and strings. Some people (such as myself) have a tough time getting their fretboard clean with ordinary clean methods (steel wool, spray on products etc).

I use a product called Gorgomyte, which is the best cleaning and conditioning solution I’ve used. Many famous guitarists also use this product to achieve clean and shiny frets. It’s a chemically treated cloth that you can simply rub down your fretboard and it’s instantly clean.

#2 – Tone

Professional guitar players never underestimate the importance of good sounding and reliable gear. Your gear can go a long way to motivating you to perform at your highest possible level.

You don’t need to have expensive and heavy equipment, but what you want to avoid is solid state amplification. Solid state amps produce odd harmonics which sound discourteous, especially when mixed in with a rock band.

A good tube amplifier, such as the Fender Deluxe is an invaluable investment for any serious guitarist. If you’re gigging in smaller venues, preferably you want to go for something that’s easy to transport.

Guitar amplifier

#3 – Get Comfortable

If you’re performing live on stage, you want to make sure that you take the necessary steps to be as comfortable as possible. This is the “secret sauce” that many people in show business know and understand.

This has a lot to do with you as an individual person. You should be using each live performance to assess where you need to improve so that you can make each show better than the last.

The main criteria that famous musicians usually strive for is:

  • Image – It’s not called “show business” for no reason. You should take the necessary steps to ensure that you fit the profile of a gigging guitar player. This means you should always dress for the occasion. Look at your favourite guitar players and copy how they dress. If you’re looking good, you’re feeling good about yourself.
  • Band members – Usually finding the right people to play with can take a bit of time to get it right on both a personal and professional level. As a guitar player, your performance is strictly dependant on the rhythm section (bass and drums). You normally want to be on the lookout for the best drummer and bassist (mainly drummer) that you can find.

#4 – Sound

Sound is important – sometimes more than most people realize. If you’ve played live before, you may already know that sound isn’t the easiest thing to control. You have good days and bad days, but ultimately you want to strive to only have good days.

A good sound engineer can go a long way to ensure that you perform and sound at your best. In many cases, a sound engineer should be treated as an additional band member. This, however, is impractical for a lot of smaller bands. My advice here would be to take a basic sound course in order to obtain the necessary skills required for surviving on your own.

A soundcheck before the gig can go a long way to ensuring that you are comfortable with the levels of the instruments on stage. At best, you want to avoid your guitar coming through the monitor speakers as much as possible, and rather to use your amp as your personal stage monitor.

You also want to make sure that your amp is miked up correctly. If you want to avoid the hassles of using a microphone, you can use a high quality cabinet simulator such as the Palmer PDI 09. This will allow you to send a direct signal from your amp to the mixing desk.

#5 – Performance

If you want to maintain and build a following, it’s vital that you give your all to your live performances.

Most professional musicians spend about 4 to 8 hours or more per day working on their live product. This means putting together an appealing production and making sure you are as rehearsed as possible.

During your set, you should also make sure that you incorporate attributes such as dynamics. By varying the volume of your set, you can draw people in and lock their attention. If you’re playing your entire set at the loudest possible volume, you will bore your audience with a monotonous listening experience.

One thought on “5 Tips the Pros Use To Sound Better Live”

  1. Do you have any input on how to get good tone from an effects unit like the BOSS GT-10? When listening through the head phones, the sound is phenomenal but when playing directly into the system,(as opposed to using an amp, which is what I prefer to for convenience ), the sound is lacking in the depth and boldness heard through the head phones. Even when playing through an amp the sound isn’t what’s desired. I’d really appreciate any thoughts you might have on this dilemma. Thanks

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