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7 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

On Stage: Guitar Not Heard In the Mix

The human ear naturally perceives midrange frequencies more prominently, and the guitar tends to sit naturally in that range. However, many factors in a live mix can make the guitar hard to hear for both the guitarists themselves and the audience, and it’s not always the guitarist’s fault. If your guitar is getting buried by your band, there are a few things you can try.

If you can’t hear your guitar, the simplest cause is that it is a volume issue. Your amp simply may not be loud enough or the soundman may not be putting enough guitar in the monitors.

If you have a wireless system or a long instrument cord, a good way to troubleshoot this is to walk out into the audience area during sound check and see how it sounds in front of the stage relative to the other instruments. The reason why you should do this is because onstage, if your amp is directly behind you and/ or on the floor pointed at the back of your legs, you won’t be able to hear it well, but the audience may be getting blasted with guitar. Going out into the audience area will help you get a much better perspective on your overall sound, from your stage volume to the tone of your guitar.

On a similar note, the placement and position of your guitar amp matters. If you have a combo amplifier like a Carvin Audio Belair, try tilting it upwards so that the sound projects toward ear level. This will also reduce the stage volume you need and result in a cleaner band mix in the FOH (Front of House-meaning sound system).

If you can only hear your guitar distinctly during parts of songs where no other instruments are playing, you may need to adjust your amplifier’s equalization and gain settings. Scooping out your midrange may sound great when you’re playing on your own, and is quite fitting for heavier styles of rock, but sometimes it can get your guitar lost in a band mix. The bass will dominate the lower frequencies while the cymbals compete for the high end, so it’s important to have adequate midrange content to fill out the sound. Feel free to make adjustments to your bass and treble controls, too. Not enough bass can make your guitar sound thin, while too much can make it sound woofy (and upset your bassist!) Too much treble bite can be tiring for the audience members’ ears and too little can make your sound muddy. Make small adjustments one at a time until you find the sweet spot.

In conjunction with setting your equalization optimally, using too much gain and distortion can make it harder for your guitar to sit in the mix. A guitar amp like the Carvin Audio V3M has tons of gain on tap and chances are you can actually get by with using less gain than you think you need. Applying too much distortion to your signal may obscure the dynamics of your guitar playing, so try backing it off a bit and seeing if your guitar comes forward in the mix.

Next time you find your guitar being lost in the band mix, try out these tips!


  • Posted On September 29, 2016 by Tim

    A solution I have found to help hear my D28 in a bluegrass band is to place a personal monitor at about waist level, pointing up, right in front of my vocal mic stand. The personal monitor is fed from the mixer via the headphones channel. This allows me to control the monitor volume and to hear the mix that is being heard thru the mains. If I can’t hear my guitar in the monitor, I know it can’t be heard from the mains, so I adjust accordingly. My acoustic is a D28 played thru a Shure Beta 57 and it works out just great with the personal monitor.

  • Posted On September 28, 2016 by Brian Henderlong

    I like to use the Carvin Legacy because it has a 6db variable volume boost switch which gives you the right volume at rhythm and at lead. If you listen to the radio the lead is always a bit up in the mix. I have never met a sound man who wanted to care if your lead gets herd.

  • Posted On September 28, 2016 by C. Taylor

    Another issue, especially in a church band is a “piano-centric” sound engineer at the mixer. This was the case at a church where I played. I first noticed the total absence of guitar on an “off day” where I was not playing. The guitarists could have just left their strings and cords at home. After many appeals, the only option was to find somewhere else to play. Sounds guys can be like IT specialists, so know when to let go.

  • Posted On September 28, 2016 by Bill Greene

    Excellent article Carvin!

  • Posted On September 28, 2016 by Steve Gray

    Stack guitar amplifiers look impressive, but they have been unnecessary with the improvements in PA systems. Guitar amplifier stands for combo systems are available that can tilt toward you so you can hear yourself. Get the sound you want on your amplifier and mic it. Neil Young gets a very heavy overdriven or distorted sound when he plays live using a small classic tube amp that is miced and broadcast through a massive concert PA system. Let your PA sound man properly balance the sound to the audience and through your monitors.

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