Using the proper self-monitoring setup as described above, the musician doesn’t need the same level of volume. This means you get volume control. It’s time to grab a microphone.
Follow these instructions for setting up a microphone:
1) Using an instrument microphone, attach it to a small microphone stand and put the head of the microphone about 2 inches from one of the amp’s speaker cones. If you’ve got a Shure SM57, that’s a good one for this type of application.
Note that some amps have more than one speaker, so pick one.
2) Next, set the microphone so it’s pointing at the outer edge of the speaker cone. Listen to how it sounds in the house speakers. Now move the microphone to the near center of the amp speaker and listen in the house speakers. Note the difference between the two sounds. The farther away from the center of the speaker, the more treble you will hear in the amp.
Be aware that the center of the speaker doesn’t produce sound waves, so don’t point the microphone there. Experiment with several locations on the amplifier’s speaker until you find the spot you like.
3) Once the amplifier is set up and the microphone is in place, you need to find a volume level on the amplifier that’s loud enough as a monitor but doesn’t blow away everyone on the stage. This might take some trial and error and a little assertive pushing on your part if the musician is used to using their amp as the main volume source.
Let them know their only concern is the volume for self-monitoring and that you’ll take care of the house volume.
The Take Away
Proper on-stage amp usage is about directionality, proper microphone placement, and on-stage volume control. Respect the musician’s views on amplifier tone and their needs for self-monitoring.
A common question I get via e-mail concerns controlling guitar amps on the stage. You can do it. It just takes a bit of time and the willingness to talk with the guitarist.
Ready to learn and laugh? Chris Huff writes about the world of church audio at Behind The Mixer. He covers everything from audio fundamentals to dealing with musicians. He can even tell you the signs the sound guy is having a mental breakdown.