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In most rehearsal studios I play, I often face the same problem: the amplifier (even sometimes being a half-stack) is laid directly on the floor, and there's not much space for me to stand except right in front of the amp. This means that my ears will be in the very worst spot to listening the guitars: right above the cabinet.

So, while I can't hear myself well, the volume is good for my bandmates. I'm interested in learning clever positioning tricks or other solutions to hear myself well without ruining the ambient mix for everyone else. What can I do?

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6 Answers 6

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Assuming that the volume level is what may be expected in a small rehearsal room with acoustic drums, one of the more effective solutions may be somewhat counterintuitive: get a pair of ear-plugs.

Now, apart from reducing the overall volume reaching your ears (which is generally a good idea), ear-plugs will also filter out a lot of the more extreme frequencies, especially in the lower part of the spectrum. The resulting sound tends to be more defined, allowing you to hear what everyone (including yourself) is doing more clearly.

Another thing you might try is to swap places with someone - either the bass player or the second guitarist (if there is one). Chances are they are having a similar problem for exactly the same reasons and thus you both stand to benefit.

One thing I've done over the years in rehearsal situations was to position myself so I can train one ear on the amplifier (that means standing sideways to it) - the config being a half-stack on wheels, standing on the floor. Despite the fact that my ear was still somewhat above the main output cone of the speakers, it allowed me to hear better than if I had my back to the amp.

Lastly, you can try sitting down next to the amplifier (provided you have the room and can locate a stool or chair). This should improve matters somewhat.

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The ear-plug idea seems interesting, I'll try that =D –  Rafael Almeida May 16 '11 at 13:30

This is a common problem both in the studio and when playing live. I'm surprised more guitarists / keys players aren't more switched on to this.

Some (most?) amps are pretty directional so it absolutely does matter where you stand.

Options :

  • Amp stand (or rock the amp nbackward) so it points at your ears more, as Clay points out.

  • "Feed each other" - stand across the rom from your amp, and have your bassist/other guitarist etc so the same. You'll be able to hear yourself way above your colleague's amp, evn though it's right next to you.

  • Point the amp sideways. This may seem odd but of course what you're doing is not aiming it at anyone in particular so the sound 'bleeds' around the rrom, meaing you're more likely to hear something similar to everyone else. I've done this at smaller gigs too ended up pointing the amp diagnoally into the wall. Worked a treat. It woorks even better if you can aim it sideways a bit and stand where it's aiming.

  • Put a baffle in front of it. Recently I played a gig where the stage was raised about 5" so all amps etc were at the audience's ear hejight. At sound-check the bass drum and my guitar amp were very harsh. So we put a bag about a foot in front of the bass drum and the guitar amp. It kind of muffles the sound a bit but stops that very dirctional "Cone" of very loud sound, and allows the more spread out sound to take over.

Of these, my favourite is turn the amp sideways a bit and stand where it's pointing. Ask your colleagues to do the same.

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Get an in-ear wireless monitoring system! A few months ago we made this change in our band and the difference is amazing for me (I'm a drummer). Five of the 7 band members use it, the other two remarked the other day about how much quieter the room is now. I can hear everything crystal clear now with none of the high-frequency roll off from using ear-plugs. My ears no longer ring after playing for two hours. I use a set of inexpensive Sennheiser CX-200 twist to fit earbuds. They drop the room volume the same as a good set of earplugs. We use the system for practice and live. It was so nice at the last live gig not to have to deal with monitor feedback.

While you get decent sound with just the singing mics picking everything up, we now hang a mic in front of both guitar players and have a kick/snare/hi-hat and two overheads for the drums. The guitar players claim that the sound is not as nice as listening to their amp directly, but they are hearing more of what the audience hears now.

I think the transmitter is the Shure PSM2000, I only know I just had to buy the Shure P2M receiver piece as the singer already had the transmitter portion. Two guys in the band bought entire systems on Craigs List for about $280 (instead of $600).

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Speaking of ear plugs don't just use those yellow sponge ones, get some decent ear plugs such as Hearos. They're not expensive and they reduce volume without making the sound muffled.

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I always lean my cab against the wall so it tilt up at about a 30 degree angle. And I usually have it to my right for the same reason as @Faza, I listen to the rhythm and the singer with the other ear.

It's simple and convenient.

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I wish I could do it with the half-stack that I play on =D –  Rafael Almeida May 16 '11 at 23:59

Two words: Amp Stand. It will get it off the floor and angled towards you.

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Probably the best way to go, obviously. Any clever workarounds for when the studio/you don't have one available? –  Rafael Almeida May 16 '11 at 19:36

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