How can I be heard through the mix ( a non scientific approach to sound)

I read a lot on the forums here about amps and sound and drummers etc. Most of the threads continue for a week or so and then die off. This thread is to talk about things like:
*How much power is enough?
*Do I want a 410 rig or a 115?
*How do I get louder?
*How do I “cut through” the mix?

If you have or will play bass very long, at some point, you will get together with friends at a barbecue or something and play live music. It’s virtually inevitable. When you do, you discover that sonicly speaking, things don’t sound or work the way they do in your music cave with backing tracks.

When I encountered this back when, my immediate answer was more power. (MuaHaHa!) I have since learned that it is seldom the answer after playing in several acoustically challenging situations and talking to a lot of sound engineers.
Before you spend money upgrading your amp, (not that new better gear is bad) come here and talk about it. Most of the time, solutions are simple and not really all that expensive.
Maybe you are playing in an open air type setting or you have a particularly egotistical drummer. What ever the situation, shared knowledge is better.


Excellent thread idea. Thank you @Gorch


Thank you. I hope it takes off.


Hell yeah! Bring it on!


Did you ever wonder why a regular guitar amp at say 50 watts would absolutely scream in a room the size of a school gym and a bass amp at 100 watts is barely heard? The guitar with half the power drowns it. The answer is frequency.
The guitar freqs are higher meaning they are smaller, lighter, and faster. It can be compared to throwing a baseball. Anyone with half an arm can launch a baseball at 50 mph without significant effort.
The bass on the other hand has lower freqs. They are heavier slower and larger. This is like launching a bowling ball. It takes considerably more effort to launch at a much lower speed so the power expended is significantly higher.
The baseball has a lot of speed but not much energy. It will hit a solid object and bounce or fall. A bowling ball has less speed but much more energy. It will do some damage when it hits something. So for the sake of easy math, you are tossing a bowling ball at one 10th the speed with 10 times the energy. So a 500 watt bass amp would produce the same sonic effect as a 50 watt guitar amp. Your mileage may vary but that"s basically the nuts and bolts of it. Just a conversation starter…


This part is fun.


well actully that’s probably enough, but

Step 2: Ibanez TS9/Boss OD-1/many other mid-wailing distortions

They may not be everyone’s favorite overdrives but they will definitely cut through the mix :slight_smile:

Modern metal seems to be really in to the Darkglass sound too and you can make that super punchy in the mids while keeping the signature low and high end boosts.


Mids and compression is key in my experience as well. The the mids introduce freqs to space that usually isn’t being competed for by other instruments so the tone tends to stand out. i.e. presence.


I like a clean tone myself so I just run an Eden DI with preamp, enhancement, 3 band EQ and compressor.


It also has a frequency shift on the mid control…


Parametric mids is a very nice feature on a preamp.

Compression is a good plan as well as you note, to lift up your tone to the level of the attack. Especially for pick or slap. I generally don’t turn my compressor off.


Lol. mine stays on too.


I am calling it a night. See ya’ll tomorrow.


To expand on this, it’s impossible to answer the power question without knowing the sensitivity . Small changes in the sensitivity mean very large changes in power requirement. If I look up Eminence 10” speaker spec sheets, depending on the model, they will produce anywhere from 90-96 dB measured 1 meter away with 1 Watt of power driving the speaker. Each 3dB loss in sensitivity requires doubling the power to make up for it.

So, if someone is driving their 90 dB sensitivity rig with 800 watts of power, that means I can drive my 93 dB sensitivity rig with 400 watts of power and match them. It also means I can drive my 96 dB sensitivity rig with 200 watts of power and still match them.

It’s not possible to know how much power you need without also saying what cabinet it’s driving.

Using the same ratios as above, the 90 dB rig could be sounding fine with 100 Watts. If it is, you could power a 96 dB rig with 25 watts and get the same result.

You can think of this in reverse too. If you are running at 250 Watts and don’t have enough, you are going to get a 3dB bump by going to 500 Watts, not much.


I think I need a chart for this.


@eric.kiser that would be good. It is a difficult subject to imagine. I’m still baffled how a 12" speaker can sound like 15" one by using a wee box of “Voodoo” :rofl: :guitar:


Nope. I just looked up some of that. It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than chart for me to wrap my head around it.


Log math is counter intuitive. The only really thing to realize is that power alone isn’t the whole story. And it takes very large changes in power to make a difference. There’s almost no difference between the sound coming from 300 Watts or 250 Watts. If you aren’t doubling your power, there’s really no significant change.


Serious question. How many watts does it take to for someone to feel like they’re being hit in the chest with your bass?


About 10 if they sit on the cabinet.


Just got back from practice. Fabulous question from Dave T. That is what everybody wants to know in a nut shell, How much power is enough. As Dave pointed out, there are a lot of nuances to this. Let me take a non scientific approach to it.
My rig is 2 ea. 500 watt 212 cabinets. I have played them in single rooms, small churches, big churches, even in prison (no, I was not a resident). I have also played them in open air. Same stack, probably the same guitar most of the time. Let’s look first at the differences in acoustic situations and how I use my stuff.
Rooms: 4 or 5 guys sitting around playing, percussion is a cajon with no amplification playing to an audience of about 15. First, I’d only use half of my stack with the gain dialed back on the amp or the volume dialed back on the guitar Either way, I get it set so the TONE is what I want. then I adjust my level to blend with the group and more often than not I turn my amp to face the wall away from the audience. I have no clue what my dB level is, but i’m into my amp just enough to get the TONE I want and still blend well.
NOTE: let me stop at this point and say that there is much much more to the science of it but the function of it is pretty simple. You don’t need to measure the room and calculate your average wave length at a given freq band in order to get a pleasing tone, be heard, and have fun. I’m more about function.
Let’s go to the other end of the spectrum…
Open air concert: This is an acoustic extreme if your not in an amphitheater. I’m talking about a platform in the middle of a field. First off, much more power will be required to produce the same net result as the room because there is nothing for the sound to bounce against.
In this situation again, I look for my TONE first. I make sure I sound like I want to sound. THEN I position myself on the stage and place my amp in a split up configuration to reach both sides of the STAGE(not the audience). Yes, its turned up higher than before but it still isn’t dimed out. The only people who need to here my amp besides me is the band. There is a sound engineer with bazillion watt subs who is taking care of the audience. All I do is feed him a signal. He mixes it and sends out the product. I’m probably twisting my amp to about 60% thats both cabinets and levels at about 2/3. I still have no clue what my dB level is but I make sure I sound like I want to sound and the band can hear me. The sound company does the rest. If I had to guess at how much “power” I was using… meh 600 watts total. Did I need that much? probably not. The settings were set with TONE in mind and not volume.
Very unscientific. Very simple. Very fun. Still effective at the back of the crowd. I have more to say on this but I’ll stop and let folks weigh in on the approach.