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Problems playing outside


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Yes, if you mean that playing outside affects the way your amp sounds and that its not loud enough, Rocco is spot-on.   You get used to the sound of your amp in a closed room - where the sound bounces off walls, and is abosrbed by the things in the room, and of course it will sound different outside.  Guitar amps, as a rule, don't disperse the sound out very well, so its better to keep them at a reasonable level and mike them to the PA.

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You do want to pay particular attention to dispersal of sound. Your tone will sound muddy standing anywhere but well in front and center.


The major problem you face is that high frequencies have fairly narrow dispersal, while low frequencies are almost omnidirectional. So if you're standing anywhere but in the high-frequency "cone of death", high frequencies will be significantly attenuated. When you're indoors, high frequencies bounce around. When you're outdoors high frequencies go out and never come back.


I have a friend who busks outdoors. His solution is to boost high frequencies as much as he can. I call it the "cone of death", because in his particular case, if you step into the cone in which high frequencies are being dispersed efficiently your ears bleed.


The cone of death is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 40 degrees wide on a 12" spider iv 75 for standard guitar frequencies (~80 to 5k hz is what the specs on a 12" guitar speaker work out to).


Stand as far in front as you can, and crouch down to hear what your tone actually sounds like to everyone else. If you're standing close the high frequencies will go out under your knees; if you're off to the side, all you'll hear is low frequencies. You can also tip the amp up a bit to give yourself more working room to hear what you actually sound like. A workable strategy is to get the amp as high as you can and stand in front of it.. Preferably about 5 feet high, and at least 10 feet in behind you if you value your hearing.


You can get ok tone; but chances are pretty good that what you will hear is not what everyone else will hear. Pretty difficult to work with. But any solution short of a full PA and stage monitors outdoors is going to have the same sort of problems. 


You'll also be playing a lot louder than you ever would indoors. There's a distinct risk that you can fart out the amp as you hit max volume.


You should be prepared to add a significant amount of reverb if you're playing somewhere that has no natural reverb. And you'll probably still have to tweak eq.


No reason why you can't be loud with 50w. No reason why you can't be really loud with 100W. You didn't say how big your amp was. I've played a 75w spider IV outdoors. It's ok. Loud enough for my purposes (jazz, so I'm not pushing the amp hard).


I'm much happier playing though a 200W PA speak though, because it has a high-frequency horn that spreads the "cone of death" over a very wide angle horizontally (about 120 degrees). But it still needs to be raised because vertical dispersal of high frequencies is still pretty tight.

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We just did an outdoor gig last weekend and  what the fellas are saying is true. There are no walls bouncing the sound around back and forth. I was using a two maxed out combos a 60 and 40 watt, one on a tilt stand and one knee level about 15' apart (no pa mic'ing was available). The two amps spread the volume out better. The 60 watt (on the stand) was ear splitting if I ran in front of it, but tolerable off to the side, the 40 watt being lower allowed for it to be set back farther so the fellas could have reference and not be overwhelmed & yet project the sound off into the crowd at a different height. As it was an informal affair and no real sound check friends in the crowd let us know about the rough mix and it worked.

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