As much as we all talk about repertoires of music, sources of inspiration and an enormous palette of techniques, performance stories, jokes and momentum – every bit of these items can be wiped out in seconds with bad sound during a performance.

For years I neglected this crucial element by simply not spending enough time properly educating myself on how to get a good sound during a performance. Now, this is one of my main concerns prior to a performance of any kind. Whether in a recording studio, a live radio interview or TV setting, a concert performance regardless of room size, I spend as much time as needed to focus the ‘camera lens’ on my sound.

There is not any one particular good sound. There are actually many as it comes down to a matter of preference. Some like a dry sound with no effects. Some like a wet sound with reverb, delay, and chorus in various combinations and with different levels of intensity.

I tend to prefer the option of having a good microphone sound to expose the true sounds of a very good instrument along with the power available from a magnetic pickup, good DI box (preamp) and possibly a bit of reverb and slight delay. I also like the option of achieving a dry sound for particular tunes, such as a faster tune where the effects may tend to wash out the music.

Currently I’ve been playing with an LR Baggs magnetic M1 passive pickup in my Northwest Breedlove 12-string guitar while running it through a Baggs Venue DI box in combination with an Artist Elite AE 5100 Audio-Technica condenser microphone. The new Anthem pickup unit by LR Baggs, with its studio quality internal microphone as an added feature, is a strikingly natural sound for my Rod Schenk 6-string guitar.

The other key for good sound is properly setting the equalization for each room by combining just the right amount of microphone and pickup, resulting in the proper gain structure, which involves master volume, channel gain settings, preamp gain settings, and a good ear.

The goal for me is to capture the sound in the room just as I might focus a camera for that perfect shot of stunning clarity. I now realize more than ever that it’s my responsibility during every performance to give the audience as close as I can get to an IMAX movie worth of an experience.

I often even perform in 3D.

Originally posted 2011-02-01 19:56:09.