Listen To Your Ears
In the relentless pursuit of tone, it’s important to hear your rig as clearly and naturally
as your audience does. Over the years,
I’ve found that every squawk, squeal and
pick slide I’ve ever done has not only been
inspired by the way I heard my rig, but rated
for quality based on that, too. If it sounds
to me as tone-heavy and full as I intended,
then I had a good night. If my reference is
off, and I can’t hear it as well as I should
have, then I feel like I stank up the stage
and embarrassed the other players, who had
to endure my vibeless racket all night!
use his guitar and not sound like him. So
everyone has their own “brown sound” or,
as I’ve often heard coming from amplifiers
in local clubs across the country, more of a
“silver sound.” Blah!
right or wrong using the same miniature
point of reference.
Often, it’s not the playing or the tone
that is deficient, but my reference that is
skewed. For over twelve years now I’ve
One tip I can give is whether you’re recording or playing live, using amp modelers
(Line 6 POD Pro, Behringer V-Amp Pro,
Waves GTR3, etc.) or actual analog amps, I
find that it’s not a good idea to try to “get
it to sound good” in the headphones or
ear molds with the expectation that it will
also sound good out front. As I mentioned
earlier, those small speakers are no way to
judge the wall of sound you want to get
out of your rig.
As guitarists, we’re the fortunate ones
when using molds. They are particularly
unpleasant for bassists and drummers.
There is a noticeable lack of low end, and it
does hinder the “feel factor.” On the Toby
tour we supplement with subs on stage that
are crossed over at 80Hz. They have only
kick drum and bass in them, which gives
the whole stage some otherwise absent
low-end feel and fullness. It works best on
wood stages, not as well on concrete. Our
drummer, Dave McAfee, also use a “butt
buzzer,” as do most drummers using in-ear monitors. These are basically speakers
attached to the bottom of the drum throne
that come off the same feed as the subs. It
makes his drums feel massive where he sits,
and the in-ears give him clarity.
Unfortunately, bassists suffer a little more
from the in-ear application. The band guys
who stand behind us on the set are in
heaven because the subs are under their
feet and they have the perfect combination of brilliant in-ear mixes and low-end
subs. Unfortunately for our bassist, Chuck
Goff, he’s down front with me, where it’s
hard to get the low-end vibrations on many
stages. On those nights he says his bass
sounds like a gnat buzzing around his head.
Naturally, that makes it very hard to perform with confidence.
In-ear monitors are a good reference, but pay attention to the sound of your cabs, as well.
been using ear molds as a monitor ref- When using real amps, I always set tone
erence, with my amp pointing into the based on what is coming out of the cabi-dressing room hallway, instead of monitor net. When using amp modeling I’ll try to
wedges with my amp tipped at me where ball-park my tone in the headphones, then
it can move the hair on my legs. I’ve got- fine-tune it by listening through the PA, so
ten used to the fact that what I’m hearing I know what it will actually sound like to the
in those ear molds, with a speaker smaller audience. Sadly, your personal in-ear refer-than my pinky nail, is no way to judge my ence during your show will probably suffer.
tone. A lot of guitarists over the years have In the many years of hearing my guitars
asked me about my sound: how I get it, through ear molds, I’ve learned that what
what equipment I use… and I always tell I hear in those tiny little speakers is not an
them that tone is a very personal thing. adequate representation of what my rig
Eddie Van Halen said in an interview years really sounds like. However, in that time I’ve
ago that anyone could plug into his rig and also learned to know when my rig sounds
There is something about having the band
blowing back at you through a monitor
wedge at 120dB that is enticing, but still I
highly recommend ear monitors, no matter
what type of music or what type of venues
you’re playing. Once you get adjusted to
them, you’ll find it a better way to go than
monitor wedges. For a reasonably priced,
great-quality custom mold, check out
livewiresforyou.com and Keep Jammin’!
Rich Eckhardt is one of the most sought after guitarists
in Nashville. His ability to cover multiple styles has put
him on stage with singers ranging from Steven Tyler
of Aerosmith to Shania Twain. Rich is currently playing
lead guitar with Toby Keith. His album Soundcheck is
available now, with another due this summer.