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Low volume playing...

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by DHart, Nov 17, 2020.

  1. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    Key factors in what this thread is all about are

    1) not playing in a band, and
    2) not performing.

    I play purely for my own enjoyment: for practice, continued learning, and composing my music.

    When I was younger, playing loud was something I really enjoyed. And of course that involved playing in bands and performing. And, playing louder does allow getting tones and effects that don't happen at low volumes.

    As I've gotten older and not playing in bands, nor performing, I have really enjoyed playing at relatively quiet volumes. I'm talking volumes that might only slightly be heard in the next room, with the doors closed.

    The only amp that I use these days is my Yamaha THR10, which sits on the music desk beside me, close to ear-level.

    [​IMG]

    This is an amp that is able to give excellent tone, even at very low volumes. I do play a clean style, with little to no overdrive, which is easily done well at low volumes.

    Another element here is the style of music - pop, jazz, indie styles don't tend to rely on high volume as hard rock and metal styles might. I'm not into hard rock these days.

    One strange phenomenon in this scenario is that when I'm playing with a hollow body electric, I often hear as much of the sound coming off the guitar itself as from the amp. Kind of a weird effect, so I tend to bump the amp volume a bit higher when playing the hollow-bodies.

    Of course, that doesn't happen with my solid bodies and semi-hollow guitars, as they are not loud enough acoustically to be heard over my amps volume.

    Minding my hearing ability, as I age, is another factor. (Decades as a musician, firearms enthusiast, and motorcycle rider take some toll on the ears.) I've noticed some mild hearing loss at this stage in my life - sometimes harder to understand what people are saying, especially if they mumble softly - so I enjoy going easy on my ears.

    I'm guessing that there are a lot of us who play at home, without a band, for practice and composing music that might feel the same way about enjoying low volume-playing?
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2020
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  2. bftfender

    bftfender Poster Extraordinaire

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    Def grasp the situation. sure does scale down some gear also.

    Not playing in a band, not by choice at this point. Soon as the opportunity arises..on it !
    Set up the opposite..all the amps running at normal volumes & made an ISO area. Never changed volume in 30 years, just became better at protecting the hearing.

    Make so much music that having the hearing go would be tragic. No doubt as i get older, volume becomes less & less important but the amps i prefer were intended to be used at band level.

    That's what i do, then practice..writing...in the studio & live all stayed the same. Learned a consistency after all the years & instead of forcing things down into a zone they don't do so well. Just roll with what i know.

    Even if i pack in the gigging..the sheer joy of an amp in it's intended zone just works best to me. best thing i ever did was make the ISO room, put the recording gear & preamps in there & run 5 mic cords out to the room. Flick a switch & instant record. Do record the drums down in the band room tho. That's the real fun racket & stress reliever

    It pretty cool so much gear is available to us these days no matter what we want to do, at any volume even silent headphones.. Makes continuing n making music something we can do pretty much all of our life as we adjust in age & health
     
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  3. WingedWords

    WingedWords Tele-Afflicted

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    20200213_113740.jpg

    Yes, count me in. I don't play out now, and the only amp I've kept is my first one from around 1973 or 74. WEM Westminster, about 10 watts, a 12" speaker. I set volume on about 3 or 4, and rarely have the guitar volume right up. Bit of reverb from a pedal and I've got all I need.

    But on the other hand, I bet everyone here secretly agrees with

    “The disgusting stink of a too-loud electric guitar; now that’s my idea of a good time.”
    — Frank Zappa
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2020
  4. Eeeeeagle

    Eeeeeagle TDPRI Member

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    I love playing at low volumes. I don’t have many friends that play so most of my playing is around the house. I also only own one amp, a 68 Princeton Custom, and love the sounds I get at low volumes vs. cranked. Plus, it helps me hide some mistakes!

    I’ll even add that I often play a Strat or Tele unplugged in the evenings with little ones in bed. I tend to enjoy this time as much as any but that may have more to do with it being time to “wind down.”
     
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  5. Mur

    Mur Tele-Afflicted

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    I record low volume because of tone, especially from tweed era amps.
     
  6. Masmus

    Masmus Tele-Meister

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    When I was younger fortunately I listened to Pete Townsend and always wore ear plugs. but when I started playing in clubs I turned my stacks down and let the sound guy do his job. I found that I liked a quiet stage better.
     
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  7. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Interestingly enough, my sweetest super-low-volume sound comes from an old Marshall 1960b cab with a semi open back.
    It's loaded with four different Celestions and I use whichever one or two I select.
    The warmth that comes out of the front and back (with a solid pine wall behind it) is unlike any of my other amps turned down, and it's not dependent on which head I drive it with.
    For those cleans I can select Celestion Blue, Gold, or G12H30 55hz. The G12M20 isn't great for cleans.
    Running either an 18w or 50w Marshall that low I need to use the guitar volume knob to additionally warm up the tone.
    No treble bleed of course.
    Not a bassy sound, just warm and really fat and full.
    The little bit of treble cut provided by a simple 250k volume pot really sweetens up a low volume sound, seemingly better than leaving the guitar vol full and turning the amp down more. Really, even better than a 5w Champ turned down too.

    I talking about volume low enough to not wake my wife sleeping in the next room at 2AM.
     
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  8. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I find it hard to be inspired playing with amps etc all by myself. Most often I just pick a guitar out of the rack and play it unplugged. The entire "going for the tone" thing just disappears for me in that situation.
    I guess for me it's much about performing. I do learn a couple songs a week though just for giggles. I guess for me music has always been the challenge of pulling it off, and once a song is learned... meh... unless I can show it to someone who's listening...
     
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  9. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    @DHart - are you listening through the THR speakers or though those studio reference speakers? If the studio speakers, what "output" are you coming from and what kind of cable do you use?
     
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  10. mfguitar

    mfguitar Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Unless I am trying to dial in a new or updated sound I rarely plug in at home. I suppose I might find some inspiration with an amp but I pretty much know what the guitar will sound like. When I do record at home I like the available plug in models and headphones just fine. I have been messing around with a TH recently and it is convenient but I am not sure if it is any better than just playing unplugged.
     
  11. richiek65

    richiek65 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Quit my band recently for a few reasons, but hearing loss/tinnitus one of the bigger ones. Quite enjoying the low volume playing, but I do miss that whoomph you get from the amp at gig levels.. Ah well..
     
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  12. JRapp

    JRapp Tele-Meister

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    Yes, indeed. Beautiful clean tones. I tend to use a 5C3 or a 5E5A in the studio. Bravo!
     
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  13. tubeToaster

    tubeToaster TDPRI Member

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    I have gotten use to and actually enjoy playing at lower volumes as I’ve grown older. I build amps and have a dozen tube amps that I can’t turn up loud because of neighbors in nearby houses. So frustrating. I have my pedal board set up to sound good at low volumes. But I find myself playing through my Champion 20 , Tech21 Trade Mark 10 or 5F2A most of the time.
     
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  14. Telecaster88

    Telecaster88 Tele-Holic

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    I've had hyperacusis since 1995, and went about twenty years without being able to play guitar at all, so now everything is done very quietly. My amps (SF Champ, SCX2, Vox AV60) are generally on two and a half or three or so. I use no distortion, it's all clean. I have fun with pedals a bit, but a little compression and a little reverb are really all I need. I've been recording a little at home, but mostly I enjoy the meditative feeling playing gives me.
     
  15. MilwMark

    MilwMark Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    As far as quiet tones, my experience is that at home I need to stay under 70dB to keep my family, my neighbors and my hearing happy. Maybe 75 dB if my family isn't home. 70 dB is vacuum cleaner volume. 90 dB is lawnmower. Most gig amp speakers are at least 93 dB sensitivity - they produce lawnmower volume when fed a measley 1w of power.

    My experience is also that practicing electric unplugged is bad. Bad for tone. Bad for attack. Completely unrealistic for how a guitar/amp respond under stage volume.

    Conundrum. All is compromise. My best compromise is a Roland MicroCube, by far, for non-silent practice. I had a THR for long time and see the allure. The MicroCube just does edge/slightly overdriven/overdriven (the territory I like to occupy) better for me. And is a bit more convincing dynamically at low volumes. If I want a little more representative experience, and am willing to go silent, then I use the Waza Air Headphone amp.
     
  16. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Afflicted

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    I've played unplugged solidbody electrics more than acoustics. Some days, its easier to just relax and noodle than actually play. As far as mistakes, your neighbors probably don't notice. Hopefully.... ;)

    It's one of things a tweed does. I can't say I use low volume often when recording the 5e5, but I've never rattled s preamp tube retainer off the chassis playing low :)

    I'm a fan of loud. Not just the sound, the air moving and thump. Not saying I've worn plugs with shooting muffs to experience just those things, but I enjoy the sensation.
    Lower settings are good for more relaxed (less mad scientist for me) stuff.

    Interesting thread. When I was in a townhouse, I rarely used the 75, but didn't completely avoid it either. Good to hear about preferences other than mine.
     
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  17. Cali Dude

    Cali Dude Tele-Holic

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    Yeah, tinnitus is a real issue, now that I am older. Years of playing in loud bands has done damage. When at home, I am usually playing low wattage amps with attenuators.
     
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  18. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Afflicted

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    That cab sounds really useful. Which 50w Marshall do you use? I've never owned a non-sf bassman 50w head, and I've been kind of curious about Marshall's in that power range.
     
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  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    The 50 is a 1986 made in 1974.
    The 18 is a 1974 made in, wait let me rephrase that!

    It's an old 50w Bass head and an 18w TMB clone.
    The vintage original has a PCB and the new one is all hand wired like the old days...
     
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  20. DHart

    DHart Poster Extraordinaire Gold Supporter

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    I've done both. With the M-Audio BX8s there is a massive fullness to the tone, even at VERY low volumes. That's the beauty of Hi-Fi equipment for reproducing a tone originating from a guitar amp! The THR10 creates the tone I want, with EFX I want, and the BX8s simply reproduce it.

    Unlike most guitar amps which usually sound best cranked, Hi-Fi gear can produce excellent tone and fidelity even at low volumes.

    I go stereo headphone jack out of the THR10, to a splitter, then into the Line In on the BX8s. Sounds awesome.

    Much of the time, I just use the THR10. It sounds awesome on its own, though with a less "BIG" sound stage.
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2020
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