Bob Craypoe (also known as R. L. Crepeau) is a musician, writer, webmaster, 3D artist, and creator of the Punksters comic strip series.
I have noticed that when I have made various music equipment purchases over the years, some of it worked well for a live performance and some of it really didn’t. So now, before I purchase any music equipment, I try to decide what I really hope to use it for. As far as I am concerned, I really only have three different uses for music equipment. Those would be recording, practicing, and live performance.
There are certain things that work great for recording or practicing but not so well for live performance. So if your goal is to improve your live performance skills, then you need to make sure that the equipment meets certain criteria. That’s what this article is about.
Ease of Use in a Live Setting
Not all equipment is user-friendly. In fact, some modern effects units can be a bit confusing when trying to get the sounds you are looking for. That’s fine if you have the time to sit and play around with things at home. But in a live setting, you don’t want to have to adjust a bunch of settings between songs. You really just want to maybe just tap a foot switch here and there to get the sounds you want.
To simplify matters, you may need to program everything in your effects units well beforehand and set things up for easy access when you are playing live. I prefer effects units or pedals that allow me to use a simple foot switch to switch to the sounds or features I want to access.
Recently I found a way to add drums to my solo performances. I thought of using a drum machine but that would be a nuisance because the drum machine I have isn’t really simple to use for a live setting. Nor is it easy to set up. So I did a workaround. I created drum loops and stored them on my Digitech JamMan loop pedal.
The Digitech JamMan loop pedal allows me to store loops in 200 storage locations. Another 200 would be available for storage with the use of a micro SD card. I can easily create the drum loops on the computer and then transfer them to the pedal. Then I am able to use a footswitch to select the loop I want to play. The pedal is small, fits in my guitar effects pedal board very easily and it is durable. But most importantly, it is easy to use in a live setting.
When you are in a live situation, you just want things to be simple. You want to be able to concentrate on your performance, not on which buttons and settings you have to tweak for each song. So ease of use should be a big factor when thinking about equipment to be used for live performances.
When you are playing out, your music equipment can really take a beating. So you should make sure that the equipment you intend to use for live performance is durable and/or well-protected. If the equipment you are using is somewhat fragile, at least make sure you have decent cases that protect it well when you are transporting your gear around as you go back and forth to gigs.
There are also things you can do to minimize wear and tear on your equipment as well. A guitar pedal board is great to use for the sake of making things easy to set up and limiting wear and tear on your guitar pedals. Plugging and unplugging your effects units all of the time puts obvious wear and tear on the input and output jacks. Having everything already connected on the pedal board reduces that wear and tear. Then you also have a case for the pedal board as well to provide even more protection.
There are certain brands of equipment that I have used over the years and when they finally go on me, I replace them with the same brands. I have literally had some amplifiers and powered mixers that have lasted me decades. When they finally go after decades of use, I get the same brand because I know I will likely get a good number of years of service from them. However, if something does not last long, I am reluctant to purchase that brand again.
Quality of Sound
Not all equipment provides a good quality sound for live performance. Some things are just fine for practice purposes but may sound terrible live. So piecing a bunch of low-quality components together usually leads to a poor quality sound. I know good quality stuff costs more but it is usually worth the extra money. Besides, the better quality stuff is often easier to get a good sound from than trying to tweak the sound coming from garbage components. With junk, you can play around with the various settings for hours and have it still sound terrible.
Good quality equipment set up right will give you an amazing sound. So buy the good stuff and really learn how to use it. You can experiment with the equipment on your own time and during rehearsals. Do what you can to find the best overall sound. Then when you show up at the venue, you will already know how to set everything up to get the best sound from your equipment. But it all starts with good equipment and knowing how to use it.
Knowing What to Look For
To really know what to look for when making purchases of music equipment to be used for live performance, you have to analyze the equipment in your mind and think to yourself as to how you would use it in a live setting. If you run it through your mind and you start to see limitations, you might want to consider another piece of equipment that may be more likely to work better in the capacity that you want it to fill.
I confess that I am guilty of having purchased certain pieces of music equipment that I initially thought would work well in a live setting but ended up not being so good for that purpose. I believe that I made those mistakes because I did not run through it in my mind first. But nowadays you can actually find PDF manuals online for pretty much any piece of equipment being sold out there. So you could look it up and download the manual and see what the various features are before you even purchase the item. That’s one way of preventing buyer’s remorse.
Think it All Through
Like I said above, run it all through your mind as to how you want to use the equipment. If you see limitations, consider buying something else. Just put a lot of thought into it before you even buy anything. Know what you need and look for something that will meet that need.
© 2018 Bob Craypoe