• Playing guitar in a band VS in your bedroom

    gilmourish - playing guitar in a band

    What’s it like to play in a band? I get that question all the time. Playing in your bedroom is something completely different compared to playing with a full band at rehearsals or on a stage. In this feature we’ll look at some important things to keep in mind when you’re making that transition.

    I’m sure many of you are much more experienced than I. I’ve been playing in bands and recording for nearly twenty years but I don’t consider myself a touring musician. We do a handful of shows every year and spend most of our time in the studio, writing and recording.

    Still I’ve been through most of the frustration and hopelessness of trying to find my place in a band as a guitarist. We all want to be heard and for everyone to recognise our amazing tones but it can be a real challenge to get there.

    Bedroom VS stage

    Most of us has spent days, weeks and years in our bedroom practicing and fine tuning our tones. We know all the sweet spots and every nuance of our gear. The natural step is to form a band and conquer the world.

    Your bedroom, or livingroom, is a relatively small space and most amps will provide almost stadium-like power filling every corner of your room. Each pedal is hand selected to fit the amp and ambience.

    Everything will change once you translate that to a rehearsal room or stage. It might be obvious that you’d need a bigger amp but you’re now sharing the frequency spectrum with drums, bass, keyboards, vocals and perhaps a second guitarist. Unless you know how to fit into that mix, your guitar often end up completely lost.

    What sort of guitarist are you?

    Before you start replacing pedals and tweak your amp, you should have an idea of what sort of guitarist your are. Or, what sort of band you are and what that band need.

    We all want to be lead guitarists but maybe you already got one. Maybe your band doesn’t want solos or maybe you want a bit of both? Both rhythm and leads.

    Solos and lead work needs to cut through. Your worst enemy are the cymbals and keyboards but too much low end will fight with the drums and bass as well. Mid range is the key ingredient. Your ears are designed to focus on the vocal range, which lies in the mid range, so your solos and leadwork should have more mid range than bass and treble.

    This is one of the more frustrating aspects for translating your bedroom tones to a band because too much mid range in a bedroom will often sound way too harsh and you will lack some of that low end and sparkle.

    That’s why pedals like the Tube Screamer is often misunderstood. Alone, it sounds thin and “boxy” but in a band, nothing cuts through more for your solos than a good old TS9.

    Rhythm playing is different. You don’t want too much mid range as you would take up the space of the vocals and other lead instruments. Rhythm playing should be balanced well within the overall mix of the band and this will also allow you to cut through when you hit more mid range oriented tones for your lead work.

    You can balance the amount of mid range, boosted or scooped, with different amps, amp settings, pedals and pedal settings. Read more about choosing the right pedals for your amp here.

    Know your place!

    The hardest part for any guitarist is to know when not to play. It doesn’t really matter if you’re an instrumentalist like Steve Vai or a part of a band like David Gilmour. Your music need dynamics and space. Regardless of how long or short that space is your listener will be exhausted if you just go on and on trying to show off all your skills in one song.

    David Gilmour comes from the old school of bands having one guitarist sharing the stage with a keyboard player. David is a master at knowing when to play and what. The rhythm playing is delicately underlining melodies and or strengthening chord progressions. He leaves a lot of space for the keyboards and knows when to allow space to create more dramatic lead work.

    Guitarists like Jimmy Page and Richie Blackmore mastered the difficult art of complimenting the vocals and leaving space for the dramatic interaction between the two instruments. They never fought each other but used rhythm work and leads to create a dynamic sound.

    I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud!

    Volume is tricky because you want to be heard and you want to be able to hear your own playing, but you also need to fit into a mix, which again goes back to knowing what sort of guitarist you are or what your part is.

    My best tip is to have a volume pedal ready on your board and use it to create dynamics in your tones and playing. Not just for muting the volume.

    Consider your playing as if you listened to an album. Some parts are mixed louder or lower than others depending on whether it’s lead, rhythm or effects. If you just keep everything at 10 then your mix will be messy and without dynamics.

    On stage, a sound technician will balance the mix but it’s not always the case if you’re not traveling with one that know your music. Using a volume pedal to create a mix for your self, will help the sound technician to create a better mix for the audience.

    This is even more important when you’re in a small rehearsal room where everything often gets too loud and dense. If you’re playing both rhythm, solos and perhaps some ambient stuff you should always use a volume pedal to create that balance and mix between your parts.

    As we discussed above, different types of pedals, with more or less mid range and compression, will also help you control the overall volume.

    What do you bring to the table?

    A question that I get a lot is a concern about how to approach a new band. You’ve given the spot in a well established band but will they appreciate your style and tones?

    First of all, assuming that the band has hired you after hearing you play, you should be confident that they really want you because of your abilities. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have asked. That being said, you should have some idea of what they want and what they expect you to contribute.

    It all depends on what type of band you’re joining and what sort of guitarist you are. When we bring new musicians into the band, for touring or recording, we do so because we want to add something new to the sound but we also want someone who will understand what our band is all about.

    I think any band would like to be challenged but as a hired or new musician you should also know a bit about how the band like to work and find your place with some humility. It’s a fine balance and you shouldn’t be afraid to be yourself and be proud of the musician you are. Who knows, maybe you add something that will be a great new element to the band.

    Please use the comments field below and share your experience!

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38 Responsesso far.

  1. Walter H. says:

    Bjorn, you did it Again my friend solved another mystery tone question. You suggested David would use a Fenger Bassman amp. On my 2003 Fender Cyber Deluxe amp pre sets (it has 16) is a ’59 Bassman! I set it as a preset on my foot switch and played with it engaged last night. I Never even thought about using something called “Bassman” for a std guitar. A Very deep, warm sounding tone with just a touch of gain from the amp and with my Catlinbred Echorec added on for fun, it’s even more fun.
    I taped into Airbag and your solo music for the first time. Great job to you and your mates! When I hear songs over the 5 minute mark and still want more, or it not to end, I’m in. Keep it up, it is inspiring to us all.
    Walter

  2. Walter.H says:

    Bjorn, You are Amazing! The articles and content on this site have kept me glued to them for days, Thanks from All of Us!
    After exploring the playing in the bedroom article and the Amos and pedals too, I immediately changed my 2003 Fender Deluxe settings to enhance the Mids and I lowered the treble and bass as you had suggested. I also adjusted the compressor blend and sustain up. There it was a clean non bombing bass and clear treble not pointy or sharp. The Mids and volume came up as never before. I bought this amp in 2003 and will confess, it’s still brand new. I never really explored the realm of what it could do until recently and then I found your sites. One thing this amp can do though DSP is 5 different Fender amps as in Blackface,Tweed, Modern, British & Dyna Touch, all with different settings adding gain, 16 in all. I’m trying to not use the effects in the amp as you can not input that into a looper, as I found out after buying a looper. I had it set to the Blackface type with low gain.
    Which main amp type would be best to try to get David’s tone with? Bjorn, any other suggestions or advise would be much appreciated.

    Thanks

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for the kind words! I think you can cover David’s tones with any Fender model if you know how to set it up and what pedals to use. David mainly used vintage Fender models and the Bassman in particular. These had a bit more mids and compression, which compliments most pedals.

  3. W.Huhn says:

    Bjorn. You always hit it out of the park. I am enjoying this site and appreciate your effort and thanks for caring.
    I’m out of bands and into my music room that I have created out of the office I never used, Perfect. The room is about 12 X 12.
    Amp:2003 Fender Cyber Deluxe. 65 watts, 12″ Celestion G12T-100.
    Guitars: 2003 American Std. Stratocaster HH. Neck pu:Black Cobra, Bridge pu: Sidewinder. Fender doesn’t seems to know about these pick ups but I have a 5 way selector and the DS-1 switch that allows the Humbuckers to be split into single coils.
    2017 PRS SE Custom 22 Semi Hollow with the std PRS Humbuckers and std 3 way selector switch.
    I’ve accumulated the following pedals listed in order on board.
    TB = true bypass B = Buffered
    Pigtronix Philosiphers Tone micro Compressor. TB
    TC Electronics MojoMojo Overdrive. TB
    EHX Small Stone Phaser. TB
    MXR Analog Chorus. B
    Catlinbread Echorec TB or B
    MXR Carbon Copy delay TB
    MXR Reverb TB or B
    Wampler Ethereal (Delay&Reverb) TB or B
    Digitech Jam Man XT Looper. B
    All powered by a Truetone CS7 power supply.
    Probably a bit much?
    The Echorec was just added and not sure still about placement and all the buffered vs no buffered order stuff either.
    What would Bjorn do with these if he just won them in a raffle? BTW You can’t say sell them! At least don’t sell all of them.
    Thank you again for all you do for All of Us…

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for the kind words! Awesome setup you got there! I guess my philosophy has always been that it’s never too much if you really use it and know how to use it. Some have small setups. Others has these huge boards and amp rigs. It doesn’t really matter. What I do think matter is that you shouldn’t stuff on the board just because it looks nice or you have an effction for a certain pedal. The cleaner your board is, the better signal and tone you get. The more you experiment and learn how each component work and interact with the other, the more efficient your rig is the more you can concentrate on playing and creating music, with great tones.

      • Walter H. says:

        Bjorn, thanks for taking the time to look over my rig and your kind comments. You Called my set up “Awesome!” That means a whole lot coming from you. You are straight forward and I am wide open to your input. I really love the tones I’m getting with it.
        If you would add a Fuzz effect pedal based on my info, Which One would Bjorn add? I would or can remove something if needed.
        I’ve built my board only since March 2018. It’s new as I am to this world of ambient tones and effects pedals. I agree that you could go crazy if money and space wasn’t important, both are. I use only top line cables and as short as possible too, The amount of signal chain length is very important.
        Last night I rearranged, again, the pedal order to split the buffered and true bypass better. Also I can stack reverb and delays before and after each other now. It added some clarity and I even noticed a slight volume increase. Bjorn, you have been an immense help,
        Do you recommend a site for learning specific Pink Floyd material?
        Thanks from All of Us for All that You Do.
        Walter

        • Bjorn says:

          Glad I can help :) Fender amps are often a bit too bright and too open sounding, or lack compression, for vintage style fuzz pedals. Lots of guitarists swear by that combo but you’ll probably find it too bright and fizzy sounding for David’s tones. Any fuzz would do but you might just want to check out a more modern distortion, which often is easier to set up and will give you very similar tones. I’ve written about this issue here.

  4. Seth Heaster says:

    Thanks!

  5. Seth Heaster says:

    Well the amps were on the floor probably 6 inches from my feet. I have a Fender Stage 160 and a Peavey VT Classic. Both of which are 2X12s. On both amps I have the treble set to about 8, mids to 10 and bass to 7 and a half or 8.

    • Bjorn says:

      Seems that you might have increased the treble to compensate for hearing a darker tone caused by the amps being set very low and close to you feat. You probably don’t hear the speakers good enough. I’d try to lower the treble and maybe try to raise the amps.

  6. Seth Heaster says:

    So over this past weekend I played with a couple of guys I found on Craigslist. The whole aim is to make a Pink Floyd tribute band. While we were playing I felt like I had way too much treble in my mix but when I play at the same volume by myself it’s fine. I’m not sure if it was because of my position in relation to my amps be cause the were pointed at my calves and I was about six inches away from them. I also don’t know if it was because of the fact that I forgot my hearing protection and my ears were being compressed because of the crazy volumes and my brain just interpreted that as having way too much treble. Any advice or idea what it may have been?

    • Bjorn says:

      Probably your position. Was the amp pointing towards you? I like to have it behind me about at my back’s height. That way I can hear it properly, it’s easy to reach for adjustments and it doesn’t drown on the floor or go straight to my ears.
      Could be your settings but usually you would get less treble from the guitar when mixed with cymbals etc. When you’re playing alone, your ears will compress only that sound so that’s probably why you perceive it as less toppy.
      What sort of amp and speakers do you have and what’s your settings?

  7. Phil B says:

    Hi Bjorn,

    I just joined my first ever band: It’s an interesting concept with a cajon/drummer and an accoustic guitar player and singer originally. They cover all sorts of tracks from modern to old school rock stuff primarily. They were looking for a electric guitar player like me and so I joined them recently. We immediately decided to add Comfortably Numb and Mother to the setlist :D Comfortably Numb went reasonably well, but we had trouble with Mother so far …
    Anyway I brought my board and used my Laney CUB (15W mode and like half master volume), which does totally fine in our small rehearsal room. We recorded some tracks and instantly noticed, I needed to turn up my amp more to get heard. It felt fine because I stood in front of my amp, but I guess further away and with all instruments, it’s too quite.
    I intend to use my Hiwatt T20 on stage, when we eventually perform for the first time, but it’s gonna be a quest to find out, how loud to play and adjust pedal settings accordingly.

    I also need another OD pedal now I think for either volume boost or a light OD setting for rythms … I have a Keeley Phat Mod (for high gains eventually) and Boss BD-2.
    What else could I invest in, Bjorn? Maybe a Tube Driver-esque pedal?
    We as a band don’t intend to use like guitars and amps like in the original songs, so I don’t need a specific sound, pedal or something, just something that goes well with the Hiwatt and Laney.

    Thanks for this article btw … realy pays of for me now that I’m playing in a band. ;)

    Cheers,
    Phil

    • Bjorn says:

      Congrats Phil!
      The Tube Driver is perhaps a bit redundant since you already got two BD2s. How about a delay? My best advice would be to get pedals based on what songs or material you’re gonna play.

      • Phil B says:

        Thanks!

        Oh I should have made a clearer point … I do have on my board now: Muff(VA Ram’s Head), Phat Mod, BD-2, ElecLady, TC Flashback and Dawner Prince Boonar ;)

        I was just referring to OD/Distortion pedals when I mentioned the Phat Mod and BD-2.
        I guess I should just tweak the Phat Mod for light/medium OD settings on stage and use the Muff for distorted tones. The BD-2 is set as a volume booster now.

        If I were to get another OD pedal, what would you suggest?

        • Bjorn says:

          I don’t know. You have two very versatile overdrives already. Perhaps something with a bit more mid range, like a OCD or TS9?

          • Phil B says:

            If its not too much then with the Laney and Hiwatt :D, but I think I will stick with those 2 for now and use the Volume control on the guitar to roll back the OD for rhythms.
            Additionally I have a Volume pedal for adjusting the overall volume ;)

            Sort of exciting and scary to test the settings with loudness and cutting through the band mix, although I (only) have to deal with drums and an accoustic guitar for now ;) We will all likely not be in a proper PA system, when on stage, so I think just my amp has to provide the right amount of volume then.

  8. Brad Roller says:

    Awesome article as always! I cab relate to this because, having left my last band not too long ago, I went from being able to play in a decent size room, with ambience, to a small room in my house, playing along to backing tracks. Learning to get a good tone in a small room can be just as challenging as in a big room or stage, IMO anyways. Im hoping to be jaming with others soon, I was in a religious band but I got burned out on the whole “gotta be a perfect human being and example” so I decided to step away from the band. Btw, I just bought a MJM red london fuzz. Im going to be giving Germanium a try for the first time, wish me luck. I’ve always used silicon fuzz for my tones, to achieve long sustained notes but I think , (or rather hope) this will fit in just as nicely, for different applications. Im all about guitar volume control, creating overdrive and full blast fuzz and after hearing and reading your review from 2007 :) ……(damn time flys) Im feeling confident it will be right up my alley. Although this is the newest model, i hope they haven’t changed the circuit. Anyway, great article! Im like a fat kid in the candy store anytime you post a new article! Cheers!

      • Brad Roller says:

        What Airbag song was it, that you recorded a solo on using the bc109 fuzz?? There was a video you uploaded going over that tone. Ive been looking for it but cant find it! Thanks

        • Bjorn says:

          I know I used it on the solo on Redemption but there might be other stuff too.

          • Brad Roller says:

            Thats what I thought! There was a video of you going over that song at one time. By the way, I ordered some bc-109c transistors and had them out into my jhf1 fuzz and man what a difference. Idk if you have had a similar experience, but when I roll my guitar volume back now, with the bc109s , the overdrive I get is much better sounding. It doesn’t get as thin sounding as it did before. Around 6 or 7 it sounds alot like my powerboost at full overdrive. I guess it sounds a bit warmer. Then at full blast fuzz, I get a bit more sustain and sounds a bit sharper and still warmer.

            • Bjorn says:

              Yep, the 109s responds extremely well to the guitar volume. As you say, backed down a bit it gets that slightly twangy bite similar to the Powerbooster.

  9. Seth says:

    Hi Bjorn, I’m in 10th grade in high school and I have a Pink Floyd tribute band with fellow students. If you recognise the name, I do a ton of research and I try to get David’s tones as close as possible with spending a good amount of money while still trying to retain some sort of small budget, just like the rest of the guys. There is a talent show in about a month. We are playing Comfortably Numb. I’m going to play the Pulse version of the solo because in my opinion, that is the best. I am almost certain people will get bored around the middle, but I’m hoping that when I’m running everything at full for the end (creating the dynamics like you said will a volume pedal and one I built myself that controls the volume of the amp with the RT-20) where he does the swinging part at the end that people will come back into interest for that. What are your opinions on that? Do you think it’s a logical expectation to hold. And what if we play Another Brick In The Wall (again from Pulse) after that. Do you think people will get tired of us being on stage? I’m trying to appeal to everyone, but definitely more the adults than fellow students.

    • Bjorn says:

      I wouldn’t worry about what people think. If you want to go up on that stage and play guitar to your favourite tunes then give it your best and let them know that. People get bored if you are bored or insecure. It’s better to rock like a maniac than to worry too much about tone and making sure everything’s perfect. Good luck!

    • Tom W says:

      That’s awesome you are so young and keeping the great music of Pink Floyd alive! Keep playing on!

    • Keith Richards (seriously- blame my mother) says:

      Sorry, I will be blunt here as a player, mentor and manager in the industry since 1981. Will the organizers of the show set a time limit? That may answer some questions for you. You want to appeal to the parents more than the students, but you’re afraid of boring people- but you’ve just said you plan to play to half the audience. When you say the audience will get bored in the middle, is that because you get bored in the middle? Do you get bored because you would rather be playing a big ripping solo? Too often young bands play for themselves, and forget about the audience. Also one way to lose the audience is to play outside your abilities.

      When you say the middle, do you mean between the solos? They set up the second solo.

      Are you doing a Pink Floyd tribute (being a jukebox note for note) or playing a Pink Floyd song (your way)? Your challenge is to work out what to play, because they’re not going to let you go for 9 minutes+. Do some preparation. Load the song into Audacity, and start dropping bits out of it to see how it sounds.

      • Seth Heaster says:

        I definitely don’t get bored of playing that solo. I’m my opinion it’s one of David’s finest moments and one of the most emotional solos of all time, so obviously, THAT is DEFINITELY the solo I want to play. And yes the organizers have set a 15 minute time limit, however if we do the Pulse version of Comfortably Numb, and the Pulse version of Another Brick In The Wall (minus the second solo of brick in the wall) it gets us just below the time limit. And it may sound stupid, but for a bunch of sixteen year old kids, if the whole audience hates it except one person, we will feel on top of the world.

  10. James Tea says:

    Great post and something I often struggle with. I’m going to dig out my old volume pedal and see what it does. It’s an old clunker and probably sucks tone like a vampire but it’ll give me an idea, maybe I will upgrade if you have any good suggestions. I like to think I can use my volume control on stage but I get that it’s not the same thing. I used to use the volume pedal to create swells and a sort of reversed note effect, it’s been gathering dust for a long time.

  11. Talking about pedals, The Rat is kind of pedal that doesn’t sound good in bedroom, ’cause of its lack of bass. But in a band full and alive in high volume amps, it is a beast! Great pedal to rhythm and lead!

  12. inkslingers1 says:

    This is a very timely article, Bjorn, as I am just going through the final technical rehearsals before gigging new material next week. What is most difficult is pleasing other band members. One says you’re too loud, one that you’re too toppy, another that they can’t hear you and are getting lost. You get all that right then swell up the volume pedal for your solo and now that’s too loud! Tis a nightmare!

  13. Thomas says:

    The above is very true! After carefully dialing tones and pedals, people come over, turn up their amps and just start playing. It often doesn’t sound remotely like the song covered and you can’t easily stop to play with dials. You’re lucky just to be heard through the mix at all and then it’s on to another song and you can’t choose every one of them. I relax and perfect myself much more alone at home. Maybe if I hired session players?

  14. OK Bjorn~ I need your opinion if you”d be so kind. After reading your numerous tidbits of info on amps and compatible pedals, I am shopping for a bedroom/small venue friendly Laney Amp. I’ve been all over Reverb and Ebay and this is what I’ve found. 3 Laney VC 30-212 class A tube(New in box, but sitting in music store for 4 yrs. Guy sd 1599.00 MSRP: will sell & deliver for $520.00; another identical amp(slightly used or $475.00, and lastly a VC 15 1-10 mint cond in box for $350.00 total. In you opinion what do you think wld be the best application for my inviroment. P.S. Cost is always an issue…isn’t it? Thank you so much for loaning out your vast knowledge and helping us wannabes. You are truly a D. Gilmour knowledge god not to mention one helluva great guitarist! Sincerely R. Hockensmith

    • Bjorn says:

      Thanks for your kind words! Sorry for my late reply. I never comment or recommend in regards to price or value but the amps you suggest are both based on those old Vox amps, which can be tricky for David’s tones in a bedroom as they lack that mid range. The Laney Lionheart provides a bit of both. The clean channel is typically Vox while the gain channel, which has a lot of headroom, is closer to an early Marshall Plexi/JTM with more mids and compression. It will hold up in a bedroom and provide a nice platform for your pedals.

  15. Zane says:

    Hello Bjorn,
    You mentioned using a volume pedal in the mix to better control things, where would you suggest putting said volume pedal?

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